FantasyCon is an annual event hosted by the British Fantasy Society which takes place in the spacious surroundings of The Britannia Hotel, Nottingham. The convention is open to everybody, although BFS members get preferential membership rates.
The website (http://www.fantasycon.org.uk/) states: “At FantasyCon, you can meet your favourite authors, attend book launches and listen to panels. Or, if you prefer, you can sit in the bar with friends old and new and perhaps win a prize in the acclaimed FantasyCon Raffle!”
I went primarily as an observer, to sample the delights (and the beer) of this auspicious event. As a writer who is relatively new on the scene it was a great opportunity to say “Hi” and shake the hands of some of the publishers I have had the privilege of being published by, including Steve Upham of Screaming Dreams Press, Lee Harris of Hub Magazine and Terry Martin, the man behind the exciting new publication Murky Depths. It was also a chance to sit in on some very interesting discussion panels, my favourite being “Crafting the Short Story” in which Christopher Fowler, Stephen Jones, Tony Richards and living legend Ramsey Campbell waxed lyrical about their favourite short stories and what made each one so special. The moderator was Peter Crowther of PS Publishing who was absolutely brilliant, managing the discussion in a relaxed and highly amusing way. I also enjoyed “New Directions in SF”, with Ian Watson and John Grant sparking off each other to such entertaining effect.
The overall highlight for me was the British Fantasy Society Awards ceremony on the Saturday night. It was wonderful to be sitting at the same table as Allyson Bird and Vincent Chong when Vincent won the award for Best Artist for the second year running. (He provided the cover art for Allyson’s stunning debut collection ‘Bull Running for Girls’, amongst many others). A great moment. The entire ceremony was never less than entertaining, from the inspiring moment when Ray Harryhausen won the Special Achievement Award and Stephen Jones read out a letter from the great man himself, to Joel Lane’s exclamation (“F*** me backwards!”) after winning the award for Best Short Story. I’ll never forget his face as he walked away from the stage proudly clutching his statuette.
If there were any downsides to the event they were the age-old restraints of money and time: I regret not being able to buy more books. There were so many wonderful novels, collections and anthologies on sale; and although I aim to purchase as many as possible over the coming months it’s not the same as picking up a copy at FantasyCon and having it personally signed by the author. The other slight downside was not having the time to talk to more people. For example, I met Paul Meloy on the first night and never got a chance to talk to him about his collection ‘Islington Crocodiles’. But things like that make me determined to return next year. Next year I aim to be a member of the BFS. Next year I hope to be able to make recommendations for consideration, and then vote for the authors/stories/artists/publications I think are deserving of the prestigious awards. And that, in a nutshell, is what FantasyCon is all about. It is a welcoming, gracious society and you cannot help but be drawn into their circle. When you’ve been once, you just have to go again—for the experience, for the fascinating company. And yes, okay, for the beer, too.