Ian Hunter reports on the 2014 British Fantasy Convention
Just like the memory of the 2013 World Fantasy Convention which was tinged sadness because Joel Lane won a World Fantasy Award for his collection Where Furnaces Burn but was not there to collect it having been ill and who died in his sleep a couple of weeks later the memory of this year's Fantasycon is similarly scarred due to the passing of Graham Joyce, a multiple British Fantasy Award winner, the man who stepped into the breach and took over the running of the British Fantasy Society a couple of years ago and put it on a straight track, and who would have been the master of ceremonies at this year's convention. Graham had been ill for a while with aggressive lymphoma, and had posted pictures of his scar after his spleen had been removed a couple of weeks earlier, and I had hoped against hope he would make it to York (PS Publishing were even launching a collection of his short stories), sadly, he could not attend and died the day after the convention finished.
But we were lucky to have a convention this year. There was none last year due to the clash of the WFC in Brighton, but it was very early, in September instead of October and came shortly after the World and European conventions and caught a few people on the hop. Also it was in York, instead of Brighton, and in Nottingham where it was been the last few years, and it is back in Nottingham next year, but not in the city centre but a tram ride away at the university.
Apart from timing there were some other gripes. The convention hotel, which was excellently situated right next to the train station and one of the best pubs in York (which became an unofficial con bar due to its selection of ales and prices), was a bit expensive on the rooms front, as were the bar prices, despite a supposed discount if you showed your convention badge, but even that involved a bit of haggling with the bar staff. The convention book was frankly rubbish, an A4 stapled job that someone remarked at the British Fantasy Society (BFS) AGM as looking like a 'taster' for the main programme book. However it did contain: a welcome from BFS President, James Barclay, and a word from Lee Harris, the convention chair, as well as features on the guest of honours artist guest Larry Rostant; author guest Charlaine Harris and despite gripes and grumbles it should be noted that Fantasycon was a great success and attracted a lot of attendees, some 440, partly due to the fact that Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse 'Dead' series was a major draw; and there were also features of the other author guest, Kate Elliot, and media guest, Toby Whithouse. Conrad Williams also wrote about Graham Joyce, the convention MC who sadly wasn't there. The booklet also contained a story by Kate Elliot, information about the BFS awards (for my sins, I was one of the judges of the Best Newcomer award), and the convention's harassment policy. Another gripe was the awards banquet, which for the first time in my memory was not sold out in advance, and there were adverts placed at registration telling everyone places were still available.
As for the programme, well there was the usual Fantasycon stuff. Conversations with the guests of honour, book launches, a reading room where I managed to get a slot and read some humourous poems and a funny Lovecraftian story people came, people laughed, I emerged unscathed. There were also workshops, discussions, quiz shows, even a disco, and a film show and the regular poetry bash organised by Allen Ashley which as poetry editor for the British Fantasy Society I feel duty bound to attend and keep an eye out for the up and coming talent we can publish in the societys 'Journal'. As usual there were lots of book launches you can spend almost the entire convention just attending book launches if that's your thing, or until your wallet spasms into a coma. I stayed elsewhere. I drank elsewhere. I attended what I wanted to attend. York had some great restaurants, and great pubs, and it was a good convention. Roll on Nottingham in 2015.