Convention Review

Fantasycon 2021

Ian Hunter reports on the 2021 British Fantasy Convention
in Birmingham, Great Britain, 24th September Ė 26th September 2021.




Jury's Inn, Birmingham.

Well, this was a treat, given the state of affairs around CoVID-19, and the fact that an actual Fantasycon was held at all. Not a virtual, online event, but the real deal. My first Fantasycon was in 1988, thirty-three years earlier, a combined event with the World Fantasy Convention, but the next few Fantasycons I attended were in the legendary Midland Hotel in Birmingham, but I havenít been to Birmingham for decades so it was good to be returning there, armed with a John Aitken Fantasycon pub map.

John is a former British Fantasy Society stockholder and editor of the Dead Letter Drop which was part of the British Fantasy Society newsletter, back in the days when people actual wrote letters. His convention pub maps are pretty essential, and a good way to discover a new place.

Birmingham wasnít new to me, but the area around The Juryís Inn where the convention was being held had been extensively redeveloped, particularly around the canal, and there was even a bridge named after Black Sabbath. Coming down from Scotland, I did feel like a fish out of water as the CoVID-19 precautionary wearing of facemasks was mandatory for us Scots, but not in England at that time, and I seemed to be one of the few people bothering to wear a mask. Certainly, the hundreds, if not, thousands, of young people who were crowding the streets or queuing up to get into the many nightclubs around The Juryís Inn werenít wearing any.

Maybe that was why a few familiar faces and Fantasycon regulars, particularly in the horror field were missing, and PS Publishing, who always have a book launch or two at Fantasycon werenít there either, so my wallet didnít feel the strain that weekend, but Fantasycon being Fantasycon, there were plenty of other book launches going on by the likes of Luna Press, Alchemy Press, Grimbold Books, Black Shuck Books and Wizards Tower Press.  Apart from the books launches, there was a dealerís room offering a selection of small press titles, and other tables selling clothes and jewellery, and a variety of items, although it was noticeable that there were no major publishers there hosting a table, nor was there a Forbidden Planet table. As someone pointed out if you wanted to buy a book not published by a small press, you couldnít.


Part of the dealers room.


As usual, Fantasycon had a variety of strands, including a reading strand, a wide range of panels, discussions, workshops and special events like the karaoke. Sadly, the Fantasycon Raffle which was a legendary, and long, affair, dominating most of Saturday night doesnít really happen anymore, certainly not in that format, which might be no bad thing for some people. Yours truly ended up doing a reading, taking part in the Poetry Open Mic event, and sitting on two panels, one about Writing Groups, and one about Fantasy Literature. Those were just two panels among many, which looked at all aspects of writing fantasy from self-publishing, to author marketing, to podcasts, to carrying out research, as well as very specific topics such as representing seχuality, representing race and neurodivergency.

This yearís convention had three guests of honour Ė fantasy writer Jen Williams (who has recently branched into crime writing), Gollancz editor Marcus Gripps, and publisher, writer and editor, Ian Whates.  Sadly, Ian was too ill to attend in person.

All in all, Fantasycon 2021 was a smaller affair than normal, with those attending encouraged to take lateral flow tests and wear facemasks, but hats off to the organisers for pulling it together, and it was great to meet old friends in the flesh that I hadnít seen for almost two years.  Hereís to next yearís event at Heathrow, CoVID variants permitting!

Ian Hunter

Review of the previous physical Fantasycon here.


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