Convention Review

Fantasycon 2023

Ian Hunter reports on the 2023 British Fantasy Convention
in Birmingham, Great Britain, 15th September – 19th September 2023


And here we are again, back in Birmingham, the home of many of my favourite Fantasycons from way back, and I do mean waaaay back, and from just two years ago when the city hosted Fantasycon 2021. Then, I certainly felt uneasy coming down from Scotland where facemasks were still being worn, down to Broad Street with all its hotels and pubs and clubs and lots of young people milling about who weren’t wearing face masks. No such worries this time, even the 2021 convention hotel changing names from the Jurys Inn to the Leonardo Royal Hotel couldn’t phase me.

As ever the convention was a mixture of panels, and workshops and readings and launches and interviews with the Guests of Honour. This time around the guests of honour were Tasha Suri, Alastair Reynolds and Ian Whates.

Tasha Suri was the winner of the British Fantasy Society’s own Best Newcomer Award, and since then has been nominated for several other awards, including winning a World Fantasy Award for her novel The Jasmine Throne in 2022.  Like all Guests of Honour she had her very own interview session, and she attended some of the regular fixtures of the Fantasycon programme such as the Welcome event, the Awards Banquet and the Awards Ceremony as well as appearing on several panels to do with world mythology, and world-building.

Natasha (Tasha) Suri

Alastair Reynolds

Ian Whates

In another life, Alastair Reynolds was a Doctor of Astronomy and an Astrophysicist for the European Space Agency, a job he gave up to become a full-time writer. Reynolds is a well-kent face on the British Science Fiction scene, having been nominated for the Clarke Award several times and winning the British Science Fiction Association’s Award for Best Novel for Chasm City.  He’s also won a Locus Award and seen some of his short stories appearing on screen in Netflix’s Love, Death and Robots series. ' As you would expect, apart from attending the aforementioned Fantasycon staples, Reynolds appeared on panels about “Futures and Science Fiction” and “Science! Pseudoscience! Science Fiction!”

Ian Whates is one of those sort of polymath people – not so much knowing a lot about a lot of things (although he probably does), but doing a lot of things, from being a writer of stories, novels, and novellas as well as being the editor of many anthologies, editor of PS Publishing’s ParSec magazine and founder of Newcon Press. Not surprisingly, he found himself on panels to do with writer’s experiences, publishing and editing.

Almost 400 people attended Fantasycon this time, with the programme starting off on late Friday afternoon, although registration opened in the morning and the Dealer’s Room opened at noon. What followed was a mixture of launches (from the likes of PS Publishing and Newcon Press), panels, and readings, with particular highlights being the Friday Night Poetry event run as always by Allen Ashley, which yours truly attended. Partly in disguise as a poet, and partly in disguise as the BFS’s poetry editor looking out for new talent. For those with stamina, a good set of lungs and perhaps poor hearing (or ear plugs), the Karaoke ran until 11pm.

Saturday saw the bulk of the programme running from 10am to almost midnight. Again, the programme ran across a number of events, from launches (from the likes of Luna Press, Darkness Visible Publishing, Flame Tree Press and Titan Books), Guest of Honour interviews, panels, talks, and readings. Many of the panels and talks were concerned with the “business” side of being a writer so there were panels on such things as building your own website, marketing and promoting your work, agents, doing the research, contracts and self-publishing. Yours truly sat on two panels entitled “The Muse” and “Writing for Younger Readers”. But of course, there were also fun panels covering things like detective fiction, Doctor Who, monsters and writing fighting.

Ramsey Campbell


Sunday is always a shorter day at Fantasycon. Sadly, gone are the days of the Sunday morning horror panel, enlivened by Ramsey Campbell, who was then the President of the British Fantasy Society, picking up a “bad” horror novel from the readers room and treating us to a reading. This year, Sunday included the traditional BFS AGM, a BFS launch (from stories produced by attendees at the Society’s writing retreat), an interview with Tasha Suri, panels about neurodiversity, audiobooks, publishing and editing, as well as some more fun panels about role-playing games, marmite characters, different forms of warfare, and making your characters suffer.

And that was it, Fantasycon was over for another year, and would be the last for a while under the wing of organisers HWS events who are running the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton in 2025, where it was back in 2013 and need to devote some time and energy to getting that organised, so the British Fantasy Society have stepped up to the plate (like they did for the convention in London last year which was under the threat of cancellation) to organise Fantasycon 2024, back in Chester where it was in 2018, but slightly later than normal, taking place in October, to give attendees of the Glasgow SF Worldcon some time to recover. I hope to see you at both of those.

Ian Hunter


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