Last weekend, I attended my second British Fantasy Convention (FCon to those of us who are confortable with the parlance of the knowing, oh yes), and I had a whale of a time. At last year’s FCon, I was involved in the signing for the Mammoth Book of best New Horror 19, but seeing as I didn’t make the cut for Mammoth 20, and seeing as the launch of my Ghostwriter Publications collection fell through, this year I wasn’t involved in any ‘work’ so I was able to just enjoy myself. And boy, was it fun!
Highlights of the weekend included going for a curry on the Friday night with Mark Morris (who really, really needed to go to bed and get some sleep!), Stephen Volk, Tim Lebbon, Rob Shearman and 14 other horror luminaries. Both the food and company were great, and the beer flowed… On Saturday, I ended up doing some real work, signing 250 sheets for the forthcoming limited edition of the Very Best of Best New Horror (sitting next to Ramsey Campbell in the main bar). As well as writer’s cramp (I thought it’d take about 10 minutes but it took me almost an hour!), Steve Jones bought me a drink and Ian Watson, the Master of Ceremonies, brought me a glass of sparkling wine. Not bad for a Saturday lunchtime. Shortly after, I did a reading of my stories The Knitted Child and The Baking of Cakes, which seemed to go down well. By this time, Steve Duffy had turned up so I finally got to meet the great man, which was excellent (and reassuring – it’s always slightly worrying meeting someone you’re friends with online in case they’re a dick in real life, which Steve most assuredly isn’t). I also managed to see Gary McMahon and John L Probert’s joint reading – Gary’s farting ghost story was moving, funny and disgusting and John’s story (performed with gusto and relish) was another of his superb, blackly hysterical tales. I went to the signings of the Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 20 and the BFS 2009 yearbook (getting personalised signatures in my books at both of them – nerd? yep.)
Saturday night, and it was more curry, this time with the mob from the Ramsey Campbell message board (again, about 19 of us!) and then it was back for the BFS awards where we watched Allyson Bird win for best collections (hurrah!) and the Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 19 win for Best
Anthology (double hurrah!). Then it was to the bar, and the evening gets hazy…I remember regaling Ray Russell with tales of IVF, and Joseph D’Lacy trying to persuade me to try a weird cocktail (I resisted, dear reader, sticking with the far more sensible option of Jack Daniels and ice). The evening ended up in Sunday morning, with a crosswise stagger back to my hotel and far too little sleep before the last day of FCon arrived.
Sunday was a subdued affair, and a chance to have a last catch-up with friends new and old. I spent some time with Stephen Volk and Allyson Bird and a bunch of other people before taking my goodies and sloping off for the train. FCon 2009 was as much fun as 2008, and once again the thing that made it special was the sheer niceness of everyone I met. I caught up with old friends (Stephen Volk, Mark Morris, Ray Russell, Rob Shearman, Gary McMahon and all the others I forgotten to name, take a bow) and made some excellent new ones (Steve Duffy, Allyson Bird, Joseph D’Lacey, Matthew Riley (who had the good taste to introduce himself to me by saying “I’ve been watching your career with interest”!), Mick and Debbie Curtis, Emily McMahon, all the others who I’ve also missed, it was great to meet you!). I bought some stuff (although not much – I was being restrained), drank some stuff (mostly guinness – and I wasn’t that restrained!) and basically, had a blast. Roll on World Horror 2010 and FCon 2010, I say!
One last thing: although it hasn’t marred my FCon experience, a couple of things have caused some ripples since it finished – the discussion around the ommission of women writers from the new BFS In Conversation book and some of the online debate around Allyson Bird’s win for best collection. The former was a clear error, but Guy Adam (BFS Preseident)’s apology is, I think, entirely appropriate and should close the matter down. The attitude to Allyson Bird’s win, as expressed on the Vault of Horror board, is less easy to forgive – whilst I didn’t like the way the original post described Bull Running for Girls, it was at least simply an opinion on the book. However, Mark Samuels’ subsequent posts moaning about BRFG’s win being down to pressure from the publishers rather than people simply liking the collection are at best unprofessional (so you lost; grow a skin and deal with it) and at worst offensive and condescending both to the author and to the readers who enjoyed and voted for her collection (who, according to Mark, clearly can’t make their own minds up and have allowed themselves to be forced by external pressure to vote for a book that he clearly believes was less worthy of victory than his own tome). The post FCon world seems to be a bit tense and aggressive – calm down, I say! Life’s too short…
Oh yeah – writing and reviewing? Nope. Not at all. Try again next week.