Author and Scriptwriter

'Among the most important writers of contemporary British horror.' -Ramsey Campbell

Monday, 20 September 2010

Warning: Epically Long Post

Every year I mean to blog about the fun I've had at Fantasycon, and every year I fail to. But not this time! No, this year, finally, there is a Bestwick blog about the event. Assuming you ever wanted the thing in the first place, or felt its lack in your daily life...

Anyway, off we go. Be warned, this is a long one, so you may want to have a cup of tea/coffee/Pepsi Max/whisky/other beverage of choice* (*delete as applicable) to hand...

Well, wow. That was a fun and hectic couple of days.

Arrived later than usual- just shy of six pm., courtesy of a lift from Paul and Cath Finch- with 30 mins to spare till a reading. Tottered round the bar greeting, handshaking/hugging familiar faces and uttering forlorn and desperate pleas for attendees.

A dozen people (at least!) showed up- cheers to Ally Bird, John Travis, Joel Lane, Lord John and Lady Kate Probert, Caroline Callaghan, Gary Cole-Wilkin and the lovely Soozy Marjoram, the fabulously talented artist Daniele Serra and David 'Diamond Dai' Price (and anyone else I've missed out.) Especially good to see David, who I've known for many years, as he suffered a major heart attack earlier this year. Happily he seems to have recovered and back to his usual (if slimmer!) ebullient self, although he was bemoaning his enforced abstinence from good ale. Here's to many more FCons, Dave!

The main event at the reading was 'Pax Deorum', written back in 2000, but dusted off and rewritten. A number of people thought it must have been written specially, given that the Con coincided with the Papal visit. (Ah well, at least the horrid little man is on his way back to Rome now.) For the curious- well, if I say it's a 'vengeful ghost' story of sorts you'll understand.

The Friday night panel ('Get Real') went down very well and was a lot of fun, with much discussion of the Gray Friar Press anthology Never Again, which was launched on Saturday. Sadly this meant missing the heavy metal karaoke competition being organised by Abaddon Books. But as Joel Lane commented elsewhere today, 'The things I missed would make up a second great weekend in themselves'...

Had to weave my way to my hotel afterwards- but more of that anon.

Saturday- to the dealer's room to moon over titles but resist the temptation to buy... then a marathon signing event! First the Solaris anthology The End Of The Line, and then Never Again. One word of warnng to anyone about to do something like that- you'd never believe that signing your own name repeatedly for two hours could be that knackering! But it's better than no-one turning up, especially given the latter book's cause. And it also meant I got to meet Alison Littlewood, who was sat next to me (her first signing!), who's an incredibly nice lady.

The End Of The Line doesn't get its official release until November, but will be well worth getting. The copies that Abaddon/Solaris' Jon Oliver brought with him sold out at warp speed, so even the authors have to wait till next week to read it!

My old friend John B. Ford turned up as well, but we only got to speak briefly. I haven't seen him in years, but him and his wonderful late wife, Lynne- still sadly missed by all who knew her- were always good friends to me. Here's hoping we get to meet and catch up at much greater length soon.

Managed to make the fabled FCon Curry, organised by the lovely Soozy (amazed to discover she's not a teacher- organising a group of writers must be very like riding herd on a class of rowdy teenagers. Especially male writers...) which was great fun. Stayed in the bar during the awards ceremony but was delighted to hear of so many worthy winners- Conrad Williams' stunning and compelling One took Best Novel, Sarah Pinborough's The Language Of Dying (an emotionally wrenching and beautifully written piece) Best Novella and Rob Shearman's deceptively light-toned Love Songs For The Shy And Cynical Best Collection. Lots of other highly-deserving winners, of course, but these were all ones which I'd read, loved and rooted for.

Midnight brought the dual delights of John Llewellyn (aka Lord) Probert reading 'His Beautiful Hands', Oscar Cook's contribution to the original Pan Book Of Horror, which was re-released at the Con, and the sight of Simon Kurt Unsworth passed out, utterly spackered on god knows how much booze. Even moaning into his ear pretending to be Satan didn't wake him up (always a sign someone's far gone.) Finally revived him with Joel Lane's help and watched him wander off toward the Park Plaza Hotel.

And then Sunday. Woke up to find a note from my liver on the pillow beside me, saying it was leaving and going to an abused livers' home. Luckily it didn't get far before I caught up with it and talked it into coming home...

And then the farewells, the hangovers... and Bestwick on the rampage in the dealers' room as what money remained in the small budget could now be blown. Meant banning myself from even looking at the PS Publishing table, sadly, but I'll be seeking out Ramsey Campbell's The Seven Days Of Cain, Gary Fry's The House Of Canted Steps and Rio Youers' End Times as soon as the pursestrings allow. All aboard the Finchmobile and back up to the wastelands of the north through increasingly torrential rain.

All in all, a terrific weekend. Got to meet back up with lovely people like: Ally Bird, John Travis, John Probert, Thana Niveau, Joel Lane, Gary and Emily McMahon, Jon Oliver, David Moore, Mick and Debbie Curtis, Gcw and Soozy, Charlie Black, Johnny Mains, Anna Taborska (one of the nicest and sweetest people you'll ever meet), Conrad Williams, Nina Allen, David Rix, Gary Fry, Wayne and Nadia Mook... I'll stop there because there must be loads more and any attempt at a full list would miss somebody out.

If you write horror or SF or fantasy or just-plain-odd fiction or just enjoy reading it and you've not been to FCon before- really, it's worth going. No-one's going to give you a hard time over your appearance (and this is coming from a guy who until recently was regularly told he looked like Ron Jeremy) and it's as friendly, welcoming and accepting a crowd of people as you could ever wish to meet.

My one regret is that there's no Award for 'Best Dressed'- but then Lord and Lady Probert would win it every year. Hell, there wouldn't even be a shortlist.

A couple of special thank-yous need to be said, because this Con very nearly didn't happen. The payroll department where I work screwed up (or mis-spoke, if you prefer) so that the overtime I'd worked specifically to provide a Fantasycon fund won't go through till next month, followed by a certain not-to-be-named-here hotel in Nottingham cocking up my booking. ('We can still book you in for the Con weekend, but the price will now be over £200') Fool that I am, I hadn't booked into the Britannia but into a different, nearby hotel, and there weren't any places left at the Britannia. So thank you to Sarah Pinborough who came to the rescue on Facebook with calming words and helpful advice- and also to everyone else who posted (within minutes of my initial deranged post.)

Secondly, all at the Jurys Inn Hotel, Nottingham. Not that close to the convention hotel but close enough to be within drunken staggering range: it's a very nice place to stay again, with cheap rates and, best of all, friendly and extremely helpful staff. So a big thanks to everyone there, especially Hilary and Michaela on the front desk! If you need a place to stay in Nottingham, I can heartily recommend the Jurys Inn.

And now I'll shut up.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Fantasycon 2010!!!

Today's the day! I shall be arriving in Nottingham this afternoon, despite the combined efforts of the payroll department and a certain Nottingham hotel (who shall remain nameless here) to balls it up.

Budget or no budget, it's time for a weekend of meeting up with friends I haven't seen in a long time, drooling over books I can't afford to buy, and getting rather drunk. Oh, and there possibly might be curry too.

Have a great weekend, whether you'll be there or not!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

My Gran

My grandmother, Lillian Iris Gillespie, is 100 years old today.

Off to see her later this morning. This is a woman who's lived through two world wars and the Great Depression (plus the current one.) Quite something, really. Her dad- my Irish great-grandfather, was the chief groom to the Earl of Stamford at Dunham Massey; apparently his skill with horses was remarkable. A genuine 'horse whisperer'. His skills saved my gran's life when she was a baby; she caught double pneumonia and he used a poultice on her that he used to treat sick foals (this was in the days before antibiotics.) If not for him, and the skills he had, she wouldn't have lived to grow up, meet my grandfather, raise my mother... and I wouldn't be here. One of those little stories which makes you a little awed by just how much chance, how many random factors, come together to make you who you are.

My great-grandfather was also in the Territorial Army- my Gran was actually born in an Army barracks in Liverpool- and fought at Ypres, losing an arm and possibly also being gassed (he died of throat cancer in 1945.) One of these days I really need to find out more about his family, the Lynams (and yes, I am apparently distantly related to Desmond of that ilk!)

Both of my grandmothers are still alive. It's only in the last few years that I've realised how incredibly rare that is, and how lucky I am. My Welsh gran will be 100 in another five years. I hope I'll get to go to another party like today's.

Happy Birthday Nana.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

My Fantasycon Timetable...

If you're attending Fantasycon this year, and you want to know what to attend/avoid, here's my itinerary...

Friday night (17th September)
6.30 pm. I shall be reading... and I've only just realised I'll be the first one up for the whole Con! Eek! So please show up and make a scared man a bit more relaxed. Currently planning to read an excerpt from the new novel I'm writing plus a short story.

Also on Friday night:

10.30pm. I'll be on the panel 'Get Real: Looking at how weird fiction can often be the best tool to address issues in the world around us.' Co-starring with: Joel Lane, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Lisa Tuttle, Stephen Volk and Allen Ashley. I'm truly not worthy.

Edited to add...

Saturday (18th September)
1.00pm. Launch for the Solaris Books anthology The End Of The Line, edited by Jonathon Oliver and featuring my story 'The Sons Of The City'. Co-starring with Ramsey Campbell, Joel Lane, Paul Meloy, Rebecca Levene and many, many more. It's gonna be a good 'un, this.

2.00pm. Launch for Never Again, edited by Allyson Bird and Joel Lane and featuring my story 'Malachi'. Also involving Ramsey Campbell, Joe R. Lansdale, Rob Shearman, Tony Richards, Lisa Tuttle, Nina Allan, Rosanne Rabinowitz, Kaaron Warren and Thana Niveau- among many other authors.

Sadly Chris Teague at Pendragon Press tells me that Angels Of The Silences won't be ready for the Con. That's a pity, but what the hell, it'll be out sooner or later anyway. Thanks anyway to Chris for publishing that little tale.

And once that's out of the way, I'll just have fun. Including forays to the Metal Karaoke that's also going on...

See you all there!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

In Praise of Johann Hari

It really can't be said enough times what a vile, abominable, hateful little gobshite Josef Twatzinger is. So here's someone else saying it very eloquently.

I have mucho respect for Johann Hari. He's one of the few people who backed the Iraq war on left-wing grounds that I genuinely believe acted in good faith. He'd actually been to that country and seen what an appalling regime Saddam Hussein's was. But, more importantly, he went back there after the war and he realised that he'd been wrong. And he said so, publicly.

Hari is an intelligent and very witty guy. In addition, he is deeply eloquent and passionate in his beliefs, but can also marshall an impressive array of evidence, as well as rhetoric, to prove his points. You'll find evidence galore on his website. So go check it out.

Oh, and as for Twatzinger- am I the only one who thinks he looks like the Emperor from Return Of The Jedi gussied up for Mardi Gras?

And does anyone else ever associate the words 'The cold dead eyes of a killer' with him?

The prosecution rests, m'lud.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Taking Stock; a long and self-indulgent post

It's been a busy week, what with a job interview to prep for and Angels Of The Silences to proofread (that one has to be finished today- luckily the brave and awesome chap that is Chris Teague of Pendragon Press knows no fear when it comes to cutting things a bit fine), but writing-wise things are on a bit of a pause.

I've put aside a half-finished novella and a new raft of changes to The Song Of The Sibyl to help put together a comedy series pitch for Radio Two, and after that found myself at a loose end. Whereupon the thought of new story collections came to mind. After all, there were a good few tales lying about loose, after thirteen years in the game. (Jesus, that pulls me up short every time I write it. Where the hell does the time go?)

So this meant (ulp) it was time to make an inventory of the uncollected stuff.

You have to picture: there are three computers in chez Bestwick- my laptop, the trusty and nifty little Netbook I'm writing this blog post on and my old desktop. If they were members of the cast of Dad's Army (pause while American readers google that one) the Netbook would be Private Walker (the spiv and wideboy who always got results), the laptop would be Corporal Jones (determined and thinking he was the bee's knees but prone to malfunctiong- that's what you get with Windows pigging Vista) and the desktop would be Private Godfrey (the doddery old one who looked like a strong breeze would knock him over.) The main reason it's still around is that it can still handle floppy disks and there might still be some useful stuff on some of them. Oh, and because that's where a lot of the old material is.

And so, the trawl began. Exporting stories, novelettes, novellas, nearly all unpublished, onto the pen-drive. Quality control was not a factor, just getting them all into one place.

That Protestant Work Ethic thing is securely embedded in the Bestwick brain, if noting else. When I started writing properly, in 1997, I aimed for a story a week. There are 26 stories listed from that year on the inventory. That doesn't include the completed novel, the two unfinished ones and the 20,000 word novella from that year, plus half a dozen lost stories (mercifully, in the case of several that spring to mind) and the ones that need retyping.

Most of the ones from that year and 1998 were published somewhere, but many of those that followed are yet to see print; back at the end of the '90s (I refuse to write 'the turn of the century', except that I just did) the small press scene imploded, losing a lot of markets. My brain seized up at the prospect of actually trying to work out how to post stuff outside the UK and the internet left me decidedly confused. And shortly thereafter there was a several years-long phase of hating nearly everything I wrote. The reasons for that are long and complicated and for another time, but a lot of stories were written and then thrown aside, convinced they were rubbish. There are thirty-odd unpublished stories from 2001 alone, and nearly as many from 2000. Those were two of the years I had the least confidence as a writer, and kept churning out tales in an effort to feel proud of one of them (thanks to Chris and Barbara Roden at Ash-Tree Press/All Hallows Magazine, who were one of the few markets I placed stories with at the time- that boost to the confidence was very welcome)

2002 saw twenty-odd so-far uncollected stories written, but after that short-story production slacked off. Longer projects beckoned, forays into script-writing, a number of novels that are damn well going to stay in their bottom drawer.

But anyway- the final count?

Over a hundred and ninety.

I'm not saying this to brag (well, OK, maybe a bit.) But it did come as a bit of a shock. And that's not counting another dozen to twenty that only exist in hard copy form and need typing up or scanning. Plus some only written in longhand that still haven't been typed up. Oh, and a couple of short novels that might be worth trying to place...

Obviously, there are a lot of stories here that don't merit publication; they're in the bottom drawer for a bloody good reason, and there they shall stay. But even so... there should be enough material for four or five other collections there. It's quite a sobering thought to see that much stuff accumulated.

One reason for writing: a kind of insurance policy against oblivion. A light that glows in the long darkness after your own's gone out (Christ, that's pretentious. But it's also true, so I'll let it stand.) There's a substantial amount of insurance there.

But bloody hell, 190+ stories? After thirteen years?

God, I feel old.

And so now back to Angels Of The Silences. And prepping for the job interview. And the meeting later today. I used to have a life...