Fantasycon

FantasyCon 2012

 This weekend sees the annual convention of the British Fantasy Society, FantasyCon, which is heading back to Brighton for the second year in a row. It’s a hugely friendly event with authors, editors, agents, readers and publishers all getting together to spend time together. And there’s a disco. And bars which never seem to close…

I’ve been involved in the background of this one for the first time, helping to organise the reading slots which will be running from the Friday afternoon through to the Sunday lunchtime. We were incredibly fortunate that – thanks largely to the overwhelming success of last year’s event – we had a fantastic pool of potential readers to pick from, and we’ve put together a reading programme which should have something for everyone, including Kate Griffin, Will Hill, Joe Abercrombie, Adam Christopher, Gary McMahon, Mike Carey, Stacia Kane… and more, mixing familiar names with debut authors and up-and-comers.

And that’s just the readings. There are all sorts of book launches, parties, panels, signings and events spread throughout the weekend.

I may have been running around working on this one, but they aren’t letting me off yet. I’ll be popping up a few times across the weekend – so if you want me, I’ll definitely be at these events (and will probably be running around or lurking in the background at a few others. I’ll be the one with a vaguely panicked expression…)

FRIDAY 28TH SEPTEMBER:

4 – 5pm, PANEL: YOUR FIRST CONVENTION. (Fitzherbert Room)

I’ll be discussing conventions with Guy Adams, Tim Lebbon, Joanne Hall and super-con-organiser Mandy Slater: how they work, what to do (or not to do!) and how to get the most out of them. Whether you’re an FCon newbie, a convention virgin or an old hand at both, come along.

8.30 – 9pm: READING. (Room 134)

Solaris are launching their new MAGIC anthology at FantasyCon, so I’ll be reading my short story from that, “Bottom Line” for the very first time. If there’s time, I’ll also try and squeeze in a very short excerpt from BLOOD AND FEATHERS. That’ll be a section I’ve not read before (basically, come to enough events I’m reading at, and you may well hear the whole book by the end of it….)

11:30pm – midnight: JUST A MINUTE (Regency Lounge)

This is the scary one. I’m playing the legendary game against James Barclay, Rob Shearman and FCon Guest of Honour Muriel Gray, all under the watchful eye of Gollancz’s Gillian Redfearn. Swing by the lounge to watch us all fail to talk for a minute without hesitation, repetition or deviation on any given subject. Heckle, cheer, laugh… whatever. But bring your moral support. And gin.

SATURDAY 29th SEPTEMBER

2 – 3pm: MAGIC LAUNCH (Bar Rogue)

Along with other contributors (including Rob Shearman, Alison Littlewood, Thana Niveau and Will Hill) I’ll be signing at the launch of the fantastic Solaris anthology. I’ve read a couple of the stories in this now, and I can promise you it’s worth it…

5 – 6pm: launch of A CARNIVALE OF HORROR: DARK TALES FROM THE FAIRGROUND (Regency Lounge)

Another anthology launch: this time, a collection of dark circus stories, edited by the Paul Kane and Marie O’Regan and featuring my story “Face of the Circus”. I’ll be signing, as will Rio Youers, James Lovegrove, Muriel Gray and the cover artist Ben Baldwin.

I’m incredibly excited about both these anthologies, as I’m very proud of those stories and I’m thrilled to be in such amazing line-ups.

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Someone asked me whether I’ll be at the Big Solaris Give-Away & Signing on the Saturday afternoon: the answer to that is “sort of”. I’m not actually involved (I think the lovely Solaris crew will all need a bit of a break from me, to be honest…) but I may well be hovering somewhere in the background and I *will* be around most of Saturday afternoon – most likely either hanging out in the bar or running interference on launches and other events. So if you have a copy of BLOOD AND FEATHERS that you’d like me to sign, just keep an eye out for me and I’d be delighted to oblige!

As an aside, we’re also running a CHARITY CUPCAKE SALE on the FRIDAY AFTERNOON from 2 – 3pm (I think it’s in Bar Rogue, but please check the programme). All cakes are being made specifically by a group of crack volunteer bakers and have a fantasy theme. I’m told there *will* be some GF / vegan choices too, and all proceeds will go to the National Literacy Trust.

My contributions will have a Once Upon A Time theme, and (barring bakery disasters, which are entirely possible, given this is me…) be:

Rumpelstiltskin’s Revenge: chocolate & rum cupcakes with chocolate fudge icing… and plenty of gold.

Snow White: rose-flavoured cupcakes with vanilla icing

The Dark Curse: blackberry and lemon marbled cakes with chocolate icing

So there you go. FantasyCon’s shaping up to be a fantastic (gettit?) weekend all round. Weekend memberships are now sold out, but there may still be some day tickets available for the Saturday.

If you’re coming, I’ll see you in Brighton in a few days. The full programme is online here, with details of launches here. I’m looking forward to it….

Fantasycon 2011

I’m a little behind on things at the moment (I’m fairly sure I’ve still not got round to rambling on about the House of Fear launch yet….) as it’s been a pretty solid week. But really. Fantasycon. Wow.

This year’s convention, organised by Paul Kane & Marie O’Regan on behalf of the BFS, was held in Brighton, in the same hotel as WHC2010 (an event with the dubious honour of being my first ever convention!), and – ever contrary – Brighton laid on its best and hottest weather of the year. In a packed hotel. With enormous picture windows. And broken air-con. Score!

Minor niggles about the hotel aside (it’s an eccentric place, but the location as a Con hotel couldn’t be better) this was roundly declared the best Fantasycon ever, and the best convention many attendees had ever seen. Beautifully run and with a packed, varied programme spanning all aspects of genre writing and film (including film shows, masterclasses and panels on editorial practice, YA literature and how to scare your readers…) it was an excellent example of a convention put together with the broadest possible tastes in mind. As a result, the convention sold out, with 500 weekend memberships sold, and around 100 additional day memberships for the Saturday. To put that into perspective, that’s a higher attendance than Fantasycon has ever seen – including for the year when Neil Gaiman & Clive Barker were guests.

One particular high-point for me (nerve-wracking as it might have been, and indeed was) was that I got to do my first ever public reading from “Blood & Feathers”. The fact I was doing this in Brighton – where I now live, of course – and in the very same building that saw me walk in 18 months ago without the faintest idea what I was doing; in front of a surprising number of people, many of whom I’ve come to see as family… it was very, very special. I’m immensely grateful to everyone who came – and only partly because they didn’t throw things – and asked questions which were far, far too clever for me…!

I went to a couple of other readings, too: notably by Tom Pollock (whose book I’m so excited about), Adam Christopher (whose book I’ve already read… and am still excited about!) and Helen Callaghan‘s (which left me basically wanting to find myself a man who can rip a stiletto apart). I really do wish I’d been able to make it to Anne Lyle and Gaie Sebold‘s readings, but just couldn’t get there.

The YA panel was interesting – and, I think, the only panel I made it to, thanks to all manner of scheduling clashes. After a lively debate about what’s appropriate in a YA book, and the challenges of writing for a teenage audience – and the dangers therein (a point raised by Sarah Pinborough, who talked about having seen some YA readers “stick” there and not progress further) the panel wound up wondering what YA really was. It was a good panel, and it was great to see serious programming time given over to discussing YA.

I was proud to see how packed the Solaris Books event & signing was… mind you: free books, free wine… at Fantasycon, this is always going to guarantee a full house. Even better, they made the fatal mistake of putting me in charge of the bar for a while….. That was a good afternoon.

It’s particularly worth noting, I think, that there were a lot of first-time attendees there: newbies not only to Fantasycon and the BFS but to conventions in general. Hopefully, like me at my first one, they liked what they saw enough to keep coming back. With the exception of the disco. I could totally understand if that made them run like their lives depended on it in the opposite direction. I know. I was there. I’ll be sending the therapy bills to all involved.

For me, though, the convention was – as ever – about the people. I got to spend time with old friends, and to make new ones. Fantasycon is, in my experience, a very relaxed and sociable place – too sociable, maybe, as there were at least five people I would have liked to spend more time with (or indeed, any time at all with!). And let’s not forget the unique double-act that Bella Pagan and I developed on the Saturday night: standing around, looking similar…

Spot the difference...

 

Like all these things, it’s the people who make it. So enormous thanks to Paul, Marie and all the team who organised a convention we’ll all be talking about for years to come – for all the right reasons. And thanks to everyone who made my convention so much fun: in no particular order….

Will Hill, Rob Shearman, Vinny Chong, Jenni Hill, Jon Oliver, Mike Molcher (chopstick ninja!), Scott Andrews, Tom Pollock, Lizzie Barrett, Anne Lyle, Adam Christopher, Michelle Howe, Paul & Nadine Holmes, Mike Shevdon, Sarah Pinborough, Guy Adams, Rio Youers, Gary & Emily McMahon, Joseph D’Lacey, Adele Wearing, Amanda Rutter… and so many more people I’ve lost track of.

Thank you, FCon2011. You *rocked*.

The A-Z of Fantasycon

It’s not long now until Fantasycon, and I’ve noticed a lot of people on Twitter talking about it… including lots of people saying it’s their first one, and wondering what it’s going to be like. So, if you’re an FCon newbie, this is for you.

A: the Royal Albion. This year’s convention hotel is bang in the middle of Brighton, and overlooks the world-famous Palace Pier. Everything you could possibly need over the course of the weekend is within easy walking distance – although as anyone who went to World Horror there in 2010 will tell you, do give yourself a chance to get used to the slightly… eccentric layout! Yes, half the rooms are in the basement, and yes, the lift is the teeny-tiniest known to man (and–according to some who attended WHC–haunted) but you know what? It doesn’t matter. You can’t beat the view.

B: the British Fantasy Society. Fantasycon is the annual convention of the BFS – which this year celebrates its 40th anniversary. The Society publishes its own quarterly Journal, available to members only, and holds regular Open Nights, particularly in London, which are always well-attended.

C: Vincent Chong.  Multiple-time British Fantasy Award winner, and one of sthis year’s World Fantasy Award nominees, Vincent Chong will, along with other artists, be taking part in “Artists’ Row”. There’s artwork on display and prints for sale: the Fantasycon art show is always strong, so make sure you find time to look around.

D: Dealers’ Room. No convention is complete without a Dealers’ Room, and FCon is no exception. Here you’ll find all manner of books, as well as small presses and the ever-popular Forbidden Planet table.

E: Eating. One of the highlights of Fantasycon is the awards Banquet, which takes place on the Sunday afternoon. It’s always fun, and even if you’re on your own, it’s a great way to start the build-up to the awards. You never know: you might be sitting next to a winner…

F: Finalists. Straight after the Banquet, it’s the British Fantasy Awards. These are closely-fought, and voted for by the membership of the BFS as well as attendees of this & the previous Fantasycon. The list of nominees for 2011 can be found here.

G: Guests. Every convention needs guests – and Fantasycon is no exception. This year’s line-up is incredible, and includes Gwyneth Jones, Joe Abercrombie, Christopher Paolini and more.

H: History of Fantasycon. It’s a special year for the BFS, and a special year for Fantasycon, too. As part of the weekend programming, keep an eye out for the “History of Fantasycon” item. You’re it’s present, but where has it come from… and what about its future?

I: Interviews & Panels: obviously, you don’t just come to Fantasycon to sit in the bar. Well, some of you do. But mostly, you come for the programming. And with the guests taking part in a wide range of programming–covering everything from editorial practice and the importance of online presence in modern publishing, to comics and SFF–and guest of honour interviews, there’s bound to be something to interest you.

J: Join in. It can be daunting coming to a convention, especially if it’s your first one or you’re coming alone. But don’t panic! Fantasycon is friendly, and there’s always bound to be someone else in the same boat. Get involved. Go to readings, join in the Q&A sessions, the film screenings, the entertainment. Without you, Fantasycon wouldn’t exist. Make the most of it!

K: Paul Kane. Paul is one of this year’s FCon committee, and a familiar face on the convention circuit. He’s also our resident Hellraiser expert: what he doesn’t know about it… well, we’re not sure there is anything he doesn’t know about it. And if you’ve not come across the Arrowhead trilogy (his re-invention of Robin Hood), you’re bound to have come across his short stories. Say hello if you run into him over the weekend… if nothing else, you can always pick his brains about Pinhead.

L: Launches. Fantasycon is legendary for its launches. PS Publishing, Angry Robot, Screaming Dreams and many other houses will be launching new books–not to mention the launch & signing of this year’s edition of the famous “Best New Horror”. On top of that, there’s the Quercus party for Jo Fletcher Books, and the Solaris event where you’ll have the chance to pick up some of their newest titles (and trust me, you’re going to want these.)

M: Mass Signing. Each year, FCon arranges the mass signing. There’s a lot of authors in the convention membership, and you probably have some of their books. In fact, you probably have a lot of their books (and if you don’t, there’s always the Dealers’ Room, right?). This is your chance to get that precious copy signed.

N: Newbies. Everyone has a first time at a convention, and yes, it can be a little confusing. That’s OK. This year, as every year, there’s a corner of the convention just for you: Newbies Corner. Any worries, questions or disasters–now matter how large or small–this is the place to go. You may not need it, but it’ll be there if you do.

O: Outside. There’s so much going on over the weekend that you may not think you’ll get out of the hotel. But if you do, there’s a lot to see. Brighton’s a fantastic city, and the Palace Pier with its arcades, fairground and–yes–ghost train–is at least worth a look. Further up the beach, you can see the skeleton of the old West Pier: now, sadly derelict, but more striking than ever. Go for a stroll in the Pavilion Gardens or wander round the Lanes–the notoriously twisty streets are all that’s left of Brighton’s original streetplan. And if you’re really feeling brave, there’s always one of the regular Ghost Walks

P: Sarah Pinborough. We’re very lucky this year to have the inimitable Sarah Pinborough as our Mistress of Ceremonies. Laden with awards and nominations, she’s written horror, thrillers, short stories, tie-in novels and has recently ventured into YA. She’s also a genuinely lovely lady, and is bound to make things go glamorously!

Q: Quercus. Quercus is fast-becoming one of the publishers to watch. And they’ll be at Fantasycon to launch their new imprint, Jo Fletcher Books–headed, of course, by Jo Fletcher. Several Quercus authors will also be at the convention.

R: Ramsey Campbell. Ramsey is the President of the BFS, and renowned for his horror fiction, which continues to influence so many of today’s writers. Catch his late-night reading if you can…

S: Society membership. This is the annual convention of the British Fantasy Society, and as always there will be a BFS table. Here you can get copies of the Society’s publications (which cover books and the regular Journal) or, if you’d like to join, sign up for membership. And even if you don’t, you should head over and say hi. They don’t bite…. hard.

T: Team. Like all conventions, FCon relies on a team of volunteers to run smoothly. From the committee–organising the hotel, the programming and the whole shebang–to the runners on the ground: managing registration, wrangling guests and generally running themselves ragged, they work incredibly hard to make sure everyone has a good time. Be nice to them, give them a smile and if you’re enjoying yourself, let them know!

U: Underground. Yes, alright. It’s tenuous, I know, but make sure you do venture downstairs in the Albion. It’s very tempting to spend the whole time on the one level, but there’s stuff happening in the ever-so-slightly creepy basement too. And (top tip) that’s where the loos are! 😉

V: Voices. Another feature of the Fantasycon programme is the readings. Throughout the weekend, authors will be giving readings (and, time permitting, a short Q&A) from works present or future. Catch a reading of an old favourite, or sneak a preview of something new. The reading programme promises to be as eclectic as the guests.

W: Workshops. This year, FCon is running several “Masterclasses”, covering how to work with agents, comics, screenwriting… all aspects of the publishing profession. The workshops are small, and space limited. See here for further details.

X: Extra-curricular. No, not just the bar (you’re spotting a pattern here, aren’t you?). In the evenings, as well as readings and panels, you’ll find entertainment included in the programming. Look out for the film screenings, the quiz, the raffle (oh, god. The raffle! You see, there’s raffles, and there’s the Fantasycon raffle. Just go along. You’ll understand…) and a host of other surprises!

Y: YA. Young Adult literature is one of modern publishing’s phenomena. Hugely popular, often controversial, and arguably read by as many adults as teens, it will be covered in programming, and signings. Several YA authors will be attending throughout the weekend, so if there’s anything you’ve ever wanted to ask them, here’s your chance.

Z: Zzzz. Sleep. You won’t get much. But that’s what next week is for, right?

So, there you go. That’s an entirely subjective, purely personal guide to Fantasycon for you. It’s a lot of fun, and while every year is different, it still has the same spirit.

And if you still want to know what it’s like, you can always read my write-up of last year’s FCon, in Nottingham.

More than anything, relax, and enjoy yourself. You’ve going to have a great time.

Fantasycon 2010

Szzgnplsk.

Aaaah snaaggrssts.

You’re going to want the version which assumes I’ve actually slept a bit, aren’t you?

Let’s start again.

Fantasycon is renowned for being one of the most relaxed conventions out there, and is a highlight of the SFF/Horror year in the UK. It’s fun, laid-back and – from next year, will escape the bounds of Nottingham and move to Brighton (have you booked? No? Why the hell not?) The programme isn’t too frantic and has a good mix of authors and guests. Readings, panels (Stephen Jones on how to get published? He’s thanked in virtually every book released by British horror authors – and a hell of a lot of American ones. That’s advice), signings, launches, interviews – and, of course, the British Fantasy Awards. It’s a thing of legend.

And yet with all this stuff going on, it’s still possible to just stop and talk to people – which is always the best part. The experiences I’ve had at WHC (where I turned up knowing absolutely no-one, and had made some extraordinarily good friends by the time I left: people I see and speak to regularly) and at Fantasycon (where I made even more, all of whom are delightful and with whom I hope I’m in contact for a very long time to come) are what conventions should be about.

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Pack Up Your Troubles

Well, I’m off to the bright lights of Nottingham for a couple of days, for Fantasycon. I’m really looking forward to it, as it’ll be a chance to catch up with lots of people–most of whom I’ve not seen since World Horror in March–and to meet some new ones too.

I promised myself I’d pack light, you know, just fling a few choice things in a bag tomorrow morning… FAIL. I’ve actually spent the last half hour sitting on my case and inching the zips on it together to get it to close. Sitting on it. This for a trip which will inevitably see me wearing jeans & a t-shirt a good 80% of the time, and for which I’ll be away the dizzying total of 2 nights.

Girls, eh?

Try not to break anything while I’m gone…