Ian Hunter reports on the 2022 British Fantasy Convention
Ah, Fantasycon 2022, the convention that almost didn’t happen, as organiser, Lee Harris, announced during the summer that the convention couldn’t go ahead due to financial issues, but the leading lights of the British Fantasy Society quickly stepped in and surveyed the members about various options for holding an event – online, in person, one day only, two days, awards ceremony only, etc, etc, and very quickly stories of Fantasycon’s demise were dismissed and it was back as a two day event on the 17th and 18th of September. Not even the death of Queen Elizabeth could drive a stake through the heart of the convention, although the late Queen’s funeral on the 19th of September did make things tricky getting anywhere that day, especially trying to get home, but that was something to worry about after the convention which was still taking place in the Radisson Red Hotel and Conference Centre, Heathrow. I didn’t stay there but stayed at a hotel next to the entrance to the Radisson Red, a mere couple of minutes away. Not being an Eastercon regular, that part of the world was unfamiliar to me, but a quick flight down from Glasgow and a hop on a bus and I was there, along with fellow members of the Glasgow Science Fiction Writers Circle who were there with fingers and toes crossed as some of us had been shortlisted in the Best Short Fiction and Best Artist categories of the British Fantasy Awards.
Although the programme was taking place over Saturday and Sunday, things did kick off informally on Friday night with attendees invited to meet in the bar and there was a version of Dungeons and Dragons being played called Dungeons and Disorderly with audience participation and suggestions which made a very different, fun start to the proceedings.
While there was no official dealer’s room at the convention, there were plenty of book launches and publishers were encouraged to come and display their wares in one of the larger rooms, which they did, and my wallet gave a great sigh of relief that there was no sign of PS Publishing, launching, at least, eight books, over the weekend, and I only added two short story collections to my hand luggage.
The Guest of Honour was Liz Williams, author of the Detective Inspector Chen series, a particular favourite of mine, as well as The Fallow Sisters trilogy (so far), the Banner of Souls books, The Darkland space operas and several stand-alone novels. Apart from being interviewed as Guest of Honour, Liz also appeared on several panels throughout the weekend, and one of her short stories was featured in the convention book.
Three hundred people attended the convention and the programme took place over five strands, each in different parts of the convention centre, and kicked off on Saturday morning with a panel of Portraying Families in SFFH; Getting Unstuck – a Workshop with Peter Newman, aimed at helping writers move that pesky work-in-progress towards the finishing line; Writing for Anthologies, which brought together editors of anthologies and writers who had managed the trick of having their work accepted by several of them. Liz Williams appeared at a panel of looking at how language, food and culture influence Fantasy World-building.
There was also a panel I attended led by marketer, Lauren McMenemy on the topic of “Building an Audience as an Author” looking at things like author branding, social media and marketing yourself. As someone who let their website wither and die, mainly because of having to continually post “stuff”, I found this to be very informative, although I still haven’t set up that new website, shhhhh, don’t tell Lauren.
Left: Lauren McMenemy on “Building an Audience as an Author”
At 11am, events really got into the swing of things with the start of the readings strand and the first of the book launches, there were also panels on familiar topics such as “Writing Humour” writing about marginalised villains; and also writing genre non-fiction. Classic monsters; folk horror; writing in shared worlds; the language of horror; writing dialogue; science in science fiction; climate fiction; religion in science fiction, fantasy and horror; history in science fiction; fantasy and horror; and ghosts, of course, were just some of the topics also discussed by panels throughout the day. Sadly, former BFS President, Ramsey Campbell, couldn’t attend because of illness, which meant he wasn’t on several panels, at his book launch for Fellstones and everyone missed the real treat of hearing him read live. Saturday also saw the traditional Poetry Round Robin, hosted by former BFS Chair, Allen Ashley, and because of circumstances the Awards Banquet and Awards Ceremony took place on Saturday night instead of Sunday afternoon.
The programme continued on Sunday with a familiar mixture of panels, workshops, readings and book launches as well as the British Fantasy Society AGM. Panel topics included writing about older characters, monsters, folklore and fairytales, writing for audio, editing, and finding an agent. I attended two very interesting workshops on self-publishing and reading aloud on the Sunday. The former led by self-published author, John David Cartwright; the latter by two friends from the Glasgow Science Fiction Writers Circle, E. M. Faulds and T. H. Dray, who had both been shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award Short Fiction category, but sadly, didn’t win, although our fellow Circleteer, Jenni Coutts won the Best Artist Award., Go, Jenni, first of many, no doubt.
E. M. Faulds and T. H. Dray deliver their Reading Aloud for Performance workshop.
Given the circumstances surrounding the convention, I thought it was one of the best in years with a diverse bunch of attendees, and some great programming strands, particularly the hands-on, practical workshops, so hats off to the organisers for doing such a great job. Highlights for me included the launch of C. C .Adams “Misery and Other Lines” which included a quiz about London Underground stations helped along by the use of a duvet cover showing the different underground lines; and also the Folk Horror panel where Steve Toase made some interesting comments about films such as “Dead Man’s Shoes” and “Winterbone” where organised crime takes the place of cults and strange religions in isolated communities.
C. C. Adams and his London Underground duvet game.
Finally, while it was great to meet up with old friends, particularly John Aitken, who produced one of his famous pub maps for the Convention. His map this time, was sadly, a sparse affair due to the location of the convention, but we made good use of The Three Magpies across the road, and I’m sure we’ll make even better use of last year’s Fantasycon map of Birmingham 2021 as the convention returns there next year.