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.