|Laura Mauro. Photograph by Michael Kelly.|
Belonging is important. Finding a tribe, a group of people who share your values, the things you care about and love.
This is a time of year when absent friends come to mind. Today, the day after the con ended, Facebook reminded us all it's Graham Joyce's birthday. October was the birth month, too, of Joel Lane; November will be the fifth anniversary of his death.
Talking to the fantasy author James Bennett this weekend, he told me about his first Fantasycon. He was nervous, if not terrified - a young gay man, taking his first steps into a community he wasn't sure would welcome him or not. Joel saw that, took his hands and said, simply: "You belong here."
Yeah. That sounds like Joel.
That word came up again this morning, while I was reading different people's con reports on Facebook. The author Eliza Chan spoke about how the convention put to bed any fears that she didn't belong.
The British SFFH community gets a bad press in certain quarters, and it isn't deserved. I've always found it to be a friendly, welcoming and open community. No-one who loves the fiction we create and celebrate at Fantasycon should ever feel as though they have no place here. They do. I hope no-one has ever been made to feel otherwise.
The awards ceremony was, for me, a high point of the convention, when I got to see my dear friend, the lovely, talented and ridiculously modest Laura Mauro win the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story for the brilliant 'Looking For Laika'. I don't think I've ever seen someone more genuinely gobsmacked to win. (And I've seen a few.)
A couple of people who are normally mainstays of the convention (for me, anyway) couldn't make it this year - Lynda E. Rucker and Sarah Pinborough. The August Derleth Award went to Victor LaValle's The Changeling, but I was standing by as Sarah's stunt double in case it went to Behind Her Eyes. She sent me a short acceptance speech, and here's part of it:
"Fantasycon as ever evolves and changes and we may bicker on the internet and get riled about stupid things that mainly don't matter, but when push comes to shove, we are a family. Fantasycon has been there since the very start of my writing career, and it was through coming to Fantasycon every year that I made so many good friends, and gained so much inspiration to try harder and do better."
Yep. Exactly that.
So: if you love horror, SF or fantasy, Fantasycon is a place where you will be welcome. Doesn't matter what the colour of your skin is, your gender, your sexual orientation, whether you're cis or trans. Never doubt that you belong here. And never hesitate to let others know that they do too.