Convention Review

Chillercon UK 2022

Ian Hunter reports on the Chillercon UK Convention in Scarborough,
Great Britain, 26th – 29th May 2022.


All good things come to those who wait, which can certainly be said from the viewpoint of the attendees of Chillercon as it was a cracking convention: one of the best I have ever attended. Why was that, I wonder? Could it be because it was devoted entirely to horror? Or because it was very professionally run, before and during the event? Or because of the Guests of Honour? Or the book launches? Or the panels? Or all of the above. Yes, all of the above, that’s why.

Of course, it wasn’t meant to be Chillercon at all. It was supposed to the Horror Writers Association’s annual Stokercon convention, with the presentation of the Stokers in their various categories and taking place for the first time in the UK way back in 2020.Yes, 2020, so what happened? Well, a certain pandemic got in the way, and Stokercon moved on to a different place in a different year, as it must, but hats off to convention co-chairs, Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane for sticking at it and delivering a great convention, despite various re-arranged dates and false starts because of that pesky CoVID-19. Then there was even an almost last-minute hiccup with some ceiling problems at the impressive Grand Hotel (if you’ve been to Scarborough before, you’ll know the one I mean, towering over part of the town’s beach) which was one of the two convention venues when some asbestos was exposed and everything had to be moved over the road to The Royal Hotel. This resulted in some of the contents of the impressive-looking pocket programme, illustrated by Les Edwards, being made redundant as there were no events taking place in the Grand at all, leading to a revised Scheduling Addendum, with changes also highlighted on the notice board at the foot of some very grand stairs.

In this age of convention codes of conduct, warnings are necessary…
This was given prior to 'Grady Hendrix's Evening With the Final Girl Support Group'

Sadly, exposed asbestos wasn’t the only problem that the convention had as CoVID-19 struck again, preventing Alexandra (A. K.) Benedict, the Mistress of Ceremonies from attending, that also had the knock-on effect of preventing her partner, writer, Guy Adams, from attending as well, which meant his masterclass on “Writing for Audio” didn’t take place, but other masterclasses were available, and a whole lot more.

There were almost 300 attending to see four guests of honour: Gollancz Editor Gillian Redfearn who was being interviewed by her husband, horror writer, Joe Hill; American horror writer, Grady Hendrix; author and critic, Kim Newman who is one of my favourite writers whose works adorn several shelves in Hunter Towers; and the film-maker, producer, director, and screenplay writer, Mick Garris, whose many credits include directing the TV versions of The Shining and The Stand, as well as directing other Stephen King “stuff”. There were also two special guests in the shape of writer M. R. (Mike) Carey, and actor Robert Lloyd Parry who did a reading and also performed on the Saturday night as M. R. James. All of these guests popped up in the programme in several places, sometimes in one-to-one interviews, sometimes making presentations, being involved in pitch sessions or taking part in panels or Kaffeeklatches.

Back row: Grady Hendrix & Mike Carey
Middle: Kim Newman, Mick Garris
& Robert Lloyd Parry
Front: Paul Kane & Marie O'Regan

The programming consisted of two panels streams, and streams devoted to readings, masterclasses, Kaffeeklatches, pitch sessions, launches and parties. The programme kicked off officially with an opening ceremony on the Thursday afternoon, then it was straight into a series of panels on such topics as horror games, horror comedy, book covers, podcasts, folk horror and horror science fiction. Thursday also saw the start of the readings sessions which continued until Sunday morning when yours truly took part in the last reading session, and people actually turned up to listen despite clashing with the mass signing event.

Jenny and Ramsey Campbell with Barry Forshaw

Stephen Volk, Mark Morris,
Tim Lebbon & Paul Finch

Catriona Ward &
Kim Newman

Friday saw the programme widen to include panels, readings masterclasses, kaffeeklatches, pitch sessions and launches. That day saw panels on anthologies, indie publishers, how to get a story published, monsters in horror, horror tie-ins, as well as panels on horror comics, having an online presence, the role of reviewers and subverting feminine tropes. The first of the masterclasses started with publisher Jo Fletcher, agent Ian Drury and prolific horror editor Stephen Jones dealing with the subject “Why Contracts Matter?”. Kaffeeklatches took place with horror writer Tim Lebbon, guest of honour Mick Garris, and Quercus' Jo Fletcher Books imprint publisher Jo Fletcher. There were also pitch sessions with Joe Cash from Troma Studios and literary agent Meg Davis from the K Agency to whom I pitched my supernatural crime novel which is still available if anyone is interested (hint, hint). We were also treated to several publisher events and launches from the Sinister Horror Company, Pigeon Park Press, Phantasmagoria (an excellent publication, this time launching their Brian Lumley special edition – check it out) and PS Publishing who always make a dent in my wallet, although given that accommodation also included breakfast and dinner, there was no need to bother with lunch, which meant even more money for books. Readings went on to midnight, but the day finished on a high for me as guest of honour Grady Hendrix (one of the nicest guys you could meet) treated us to a highly entertaining and funny and sad and poignant talk/presentation about Final Girls in book and film.

Ian Hunter & Grady Hendrix

Saturday was more of the same, a mixture of panels on topics such as film and TV adaptations, Gothic horror, getting your novel published, Young Adult horror, crime and horror crossovers, body horror, greatest ghost stories and scriptwriting as well as interviews with Kim Newman (conducted by Stephen Jones which could have gone on for a few more hours), Grady Hendrix and Mick Garris. The readings continued as did the masterclasses, this time on making your first film, adapting for comics, and putting fear on the page with award-winning author Catriona Ward which I attended, which was fun and informative. There were some big hitters like Ramsey Campbell, Stephen Volk, Mike Carey and Robert Shearman hosting some Kaffeeklatches, and more pitch sessions to publishers, agents and film producers.

Book launches continued throughout the day from PS Publishing’s Absinthe Books imprint, as well as launches from Alchemy Books, Black Shuck Books, and more from PS Publishing, but rather like the previous day, the highlight came late on as Robert Lloyd Parry treated us to a ghostly encounter with a performance as M. R. James.

It was a shorter programme on Sunday, consisting of the last of the readings, a mass signing session which included signings by many of the major guests and the panellists, or just attendees who had something to sign. That was followed by a banquet, with events rounded off by a Dead Dog Party.

Robin Lloyd Parry performs
as M. R. James

Simon Clark, Kim Newman, Robin Furth and Mark Morris

And that was Chillercon, but special mention should be made of the work of co-chair Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane, and their team. Despite things out of their control, like a worldwide pandemic and collapsing ceilings, Chillercon oozed quality illustrated by the convention bag attendees received with included a great convention book edited by Marie and Paul, with a great cover by Les Edwards which included guest profiles and short stories from the likes of A. K. Benedict, Mike Carey, Stephen Volk, Mick Garris, plus a prose poem from Neil Gaiman and…what the heck is that?...a play from Kim Newman? We also were treated to novel extracts from Joe Hill and Grady Hendrix. The convention bag also included various publisher freebies, a guide for writing for children and teenagers, free books from PS Publishing and other publishers and a swanky tote bag from Flame Tree Press publishing and also a gorgeous notebook from Flame Tree Press using Bruce Pennington’s cover illustration for The Green Brain.

Finally, on a personal note, I have to mention my good friend, John Aitken, former Stockholder and Dead Letter Drop editor for the British Fantasy Society who always produces a map of real ale pubs for each convention he attends. Sadly, he couldn’t make the rearranged date so I felt duty bound to visit as many pubs in his honour that were on his map. I won’t say how many in case my wife ever reads this, but real ale, and horror? What’s not to love?

Ian Hunter


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