FantasyCon2018

Thursday & Friday

My FantasyCon this year obviously included one of the most important (for me, anyway) key ingredients:

Plenty of beer was drunk throughout the weekend. I usually try to arrive on the Thursday before the convention, and so this year, as BFS Secretary, I volunteered to host a pub meetup social evening for any early bird attendees. We descended on the local Deva Tap Brewery’s bar in the old railway station office, and I was joined by several writers and editors for a few beers. That particular brew was called Simcoe, a nice bitter sweet real ale that went down rather well.

Following that, we returned to the hotel bar and I made the foolish decision of trying to match a certain Rogue Irishman on shorts of brandy and rum. Let’s just say Friday morning I was feeling rather delicate…

This did give rise to one of my favourite little moments of the weekend. Listening to the Rogue Irishman regale the nearest sets of ears about obscure conventions nobody’s ever heard of, Ian Whates of NewCon Press turned to me, and we mouthed to each other in perfect unison: “What is he on about? I have no idea!” and then fell about laughing. I am however, now fully briefed on the minutiae of AsiaCon and the Chinese bid for WorldCon. Who knew?

Friday morning was a blur of hangover and a sore neck from pillows that felt like concrete (thanks Kat for letting me borrow a nice feather-filled one from her slightly more upmarket room!). By teatime I had bought many books, and attended the PS Publishing launch to procure Thana Niveau’s new collection Octoberland and get it signed by her and Alison Littlewood, who wrote the introduction. Then it was off to a meeting of the BFS Committee where we discussed the last year and our upcoming plans, followed by a quick stop for food before the evening entertainment of the FantasyCon Disco. Highlight of that was managing to get Mark West and Phil Sloman copying some very dodgy dance moves to a Jackson 5 hit that I probably made up on the spot.

Saturday

My birthday. Or as I geekily like to call it, levelling up another cycle of XP. I’m now on level 38, if you must know. And no, I know I don’t look a day over 30, thank you, you’re too kind.

I was publicly ousted as the birthday boy in the breakfast restaurant when chief RedCloak Marguerite Kenner made an announcement to the room, and led a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday”. I may have tried to hide beneath my hoodie. Later in the day, I was gifted with a lovely little birthday cake (which was really delicious!) from Steve Harris and CM Franklyn.

This was followed with buying more books, some of which were also signed. Obligatory con book haul picture:

I managed not to spend a small fortune on books this year, I’m very proud of myself.

Once in the bar (escaping the karaoke) I managed not to buy very many drinks, care of people offering me “one for the birthday”. One turned into many, and I eventually went to bed tired and happy.

Sunday

This was the day I had been nervous about for the last few weeks, drawing ever nearer. Partly because of the BFS AGM (prior knowledge to a major announcement led to nervousness over the potential ramifications of such) and then a certain item on the scheduling with my name against it, entitled “FantasyCon2019”. Gulp.

For those who haven’t heard the news on the grapevine, incumbent BFS Chair Phil Lunt had announced to the rest of the Executive Committee (Lee, James and myself) the other week that he would not be standing as Chair again this AGM. We needn’t have been overly worried, however, as PR Officer Helen Armfield decided she would stand as the new Chair, stood unopposed and was voted in.

Next up: The Announcement. FantasyCon2019. Many had heard rumours and mutterings (Chief RedCloak Alasdair Stuart made me laugh when he told me about overhearing a group discussing the possible venues at breakfast that morning, and was highly amused when he and Marguerite walked in wearing their red hi-viz vests and the group promptly stopped talking about it) but we officially confirmed it: start practicing your highland fling, we’re going to Scotland! The Golden Jubilee Conference Centre in Glasgow, to be precise, on 18th-20th October 2019. That’s two birthdays I’ll be celebrating whilst at FantasyCon. Hmmm.

So far, all the feedback I’ve received after this announcement has been really positive. Steve J Shaw of Black Shuck Books cornered me in the Dealers Room afterward, jokingly berating me for “not caring about those of us who live south of the river” but then congratulating me on being brave enough to be the first to take FantasyCon out of England in a very, very long time.

I’ll blog separately about FantasyCon2019 in another post, but suffice to say I am very excited by the response I’ve received so far to the news.

The weekend was rounded off with the British Fantasy Awards Banquet and Ceremony, the BFAs ably administrated by Katherine Fowler for the second year running, and the ceremony put together and hosted expertly by Lee Harris. I even got to stand up and do a quick minute announcement on FantasyCon2019 again, which garnered even more support. Of all those coming up to me after the ceremony, I was really glad Claire North (aka Cat Webb) and I managed to have a brief chat. Always lovely to meet her, she is a truly amazing, funny and fiercely intelligent person with great writing skill.

After the first official meeting of the FantasyCon2019 committee and leaders in a local pub over dinner, we retired to the bar for the rest of the evening. The last thing I remember before bed was Rob Shearman sharing his love of various incarnations of the Doctor with myself and the Dutchies. Great conversation all round.

And that was FantasyCon2018. Busy, tiring, exciting, slightly expensive, but thoroughly enjoyable. I saw so many old friends, made several new ones, and unfortunately missed so many other people who were there but I didn’t get chance to say hello to.

My biggest love of course goes to all the RedCloaks and organisers of such an amazing weekend. The bar has truly been set high.

Oh, bugger.

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Short Story Day 2012

So, just to share my favourites with you. Do find them, have a look.

The Coventry Boy, by Graham Joyce. Set during the blitz of November 14th, 1940, a dark, brooding character study, and part of a later novel. Very haunting.

The House on Maple Street, by Stephen King. I love the feel of this story, the wonder, awe, and fear of the children as they realise something is not quite right with their house, and it may not be a bad thing.

Snow, Glass, Apples, by Neil Gaiman. This is a dark reworking of the Snow White fairy tale, with a gloriously wicked twist.

The Clock Strikes, by Tanith Lee. Another fairy tale reworking, this time Cinderella, including a cameo by a certain hooded, skeletal figure who often carries a scythe.

What are your favourite short stories? Let me know in the comments below.

Hit the ground running

Blimey, what a way to start the year! Sorry I’ve not been blogging, been really busy.

New Year’s Eve, me and the parents went to Marsden Liberal Club to see JB Goode play live for the evening. It’s always a brilliant gig, and, as I’d been hoping, Ben Carter from Evile was there. (If you haven’t gathered that Evile and HIM are my two favourite bands by now, you haven’t been paying attention, have you?)

I am ludicrously lucky to be able to say that I am on first-name terms with the drummer of my favourite band. I am deeply honoured to be able to talk to him, Ben if you read this: sorry if I bend your ear off too much! To spend New Year drinking and talking with him for most of the evening was just totally awesome.

Asking him about the upcoming Third Album was met with a response along the lines of “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you!” Given that Ben is built like a brick outhouse and kicks ten bells of shit out of a drum kit the size of the New York city skyline for a living, you’d be forgiven for wondering if he is actually joking.

He did, however, give a few little hints about the coming year for Evile, and his excitement quietly palpable. I wish him and Evile every success this year. For it to go without a hitch would be extremely wishful thinking, but they have good scope for strong achievements in 2011.

This pic pretty much sums up the evening for me:

That’s Steffy-Lou, Ben’s elder sister and the bassist/co-vocalist of JB Goode. This was close on midnight, everyone was well gone, so she hoiked herself, and the double bass, up on the bench. Yes, it is scraping the ceiling. Yes, it is bigger than she is. Yes, this picture is awesome.

As for achievements, what am I intending to get under my belt this year? Honestly, I have no idea. I’ve hit the ground running, though, enrolling on Jeremy C Shipp’s Yard Gnome Army Writing Bootcamp for the first 8 weeks of the year. I have the first big assignment, a 3000 word short story in first draft due in tomorrow, and am already getting good (more importantly, useful!) feedback from him on the smaller assignments. This is turning into a fresh, invigorating way to start the year.

My resolution of blogging at least once a week has already failed, but at least for good reason this time. Hopefully, as I learn to time-manage better over the next few weeks, I’ll blog a lot more often.

For now, know that I am writing, enjoying myself, and looking forward to another really good year. 2010 had way more ups than downs, I’m glad to say, I hope this year will be the same.

Also, if you haven’t yet bought the soundtrack album from Series 5 of Doctor Who, composed by Murray Gold, why not? It is amazing, gives a good feel for the overall series. You don’t always appreciate the music in a TV series, this album might open your ears a little.