Ian Hunter reports on the 2018 British Fantasy Convention
Another year, another autumn, another Fantasycon, the 43rd, in fact. One of the joys of attending Fantasycon is that it is a moveable feast, and after Peterborough, Scarborough and Chester in recent years, the 2019 convention was in Glasgow. Well, when I say Glasgow, it was really in Clydebank at the Golden Jubilee Conference Hotel, a good 7 'or' 9 miles (depending on who you believe) outside of the city centre, so the usual treat of visiting pubs and restaurants wasn’t going to happen this year. Since I also stayed a 45-minute drive away there didn’t seem to be much point in staying in Clydebank either, although having got lost on the drive home on the Friday night and almost ending up in Helensburgh, which was way off the beaten track, I did wish I had stayed.
One of the attractions of the venue was that the convention was all on one level, a great help for anyone struggling to get around. Another attraction was the venue bar, café and restaurant, with the awards banquet food earning high praise.
My first Fantasycon was in 1988, thirty-one years earlier, a combined event with the World Fantasy Convention in the Ramada Inn in London, where the guest of honour was James Herbert and the special guest was Diane Wynne Jones and the Master of Ceremonies was one Clive Barker. I’ve been more or less every year since then and have fond memories of getting to know places like Brighton or Nottingham or York.
Fantasycon always looks for panel suggestions and a couple of those I suggested did happen this time in the form of panels about Scottish fantasy writing (which I ended up moderating), and a panel about Scottish beasties. I also ended up on another panel about YA (Young Adult) genre fiction, one about the supernatural in science fiction and a poetry panel, as well as sitting in on the Fan Fiction reading event and the Poetry Open Mic, which I always read at, in the hope of “mugging”, er, well, finding new talent to submit poems to the British Fantasy Society Journal. Sadly, my suggestion for a panel based on the BBC Radio 4 show “I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue” didn’t get selected to go ahead. Ah, well, one year.
As usual, Fantasycon had something for everyone with a wide range of panels, discussions, book launches, workshops and special events like the Fan Fiction reading event, which was a hoot, and dominated by stories about a goose trying to steal a bag of “golden rods” from a child. I think that means stealing a bag of chips. There was also a reading of an erotic fan fiction involving a giant squid and Hogwarts school – and I mean the actual Hogwarts building. I’ll never look at an ink-splattered building again, in what was surely a Fantasycon first. This was followed straight after by the poetry open mic, an altogether tamer event. Meanwhile for those inclined the Friday night had a karaoke, while there was a disco on the Saturday night.
There really was a wide range of panels worth attending, ranging from discussions about James Bond, Alien, Mary Poppins and Doctor Who, to discussions about subjects as varied as sentient pets and the role of the arts in fiction. There was also a range of workshops including some on gaming, public speaking for authors, putting the science in science fiction poetry, using visual references for characters, and crafting and marketing. I even attended a panel by leading members of the UK Chapter of the Horror Writers Association which prompted me to re-join that organisation.
This year’s convention had three guests of honour – fantasy writer Jen Williams, horror writer Paul Trembley and science fiction author Dr. Una Maccormack, well known for her tie-in work, particularly with Doctor Who and some of the Star Trek franchises. Sadly, Williams had to pull out of the convention, but the other two guests were on hand to be interviewed and to host a “kaffeklatch”. Ramsey Campbell also hosted a kaffeklatch which was great fun hearing Ramsey talk about a variety of subjects including his early writing career, his writing schedule, his novel “The Influence” becoming a film, and even The Three Stooges.
Fantasycon is well known for almost wall-to-wall book launches, and I’ve often thought in the past that you could simply attend book launch after book launch and never go to anything else. 2019 was a bit quieter, but there were still launches by the likes of PS Publishing, Luna Press, Eibonvale Books, and The Shadow Booth, among others.
The convention also saw the presentation of the 2019 British Fantasy Awards for 2018 works.
This was the first time that Fantasycon had ever been outside England and while some regulars, publishers and writers didn’t make the trip north. I certainly enjoyed it and Glasgow was to be linked under the “Cities of Steel” banner with Sheffield in 2020, but as I write this, that has changed and the convention will now be in London. I’m looking forward to it already.