Ian Hunter reports on the 2015 British Fantasy Convention
Last year Fantasycon was in York, very early in the year, and the for the previous few years it had been held in Brighton, but for years before that it was in Nottingham, so this was almost like coming home. The great real ale and craft ale pubs were in the city centre, as were the Indian restaurants, the only problem that Fantasycon was not, it was being held at the University’s exhibition and conference centre which was a twenty minute tram or bus ride away, then a walk through the university grounds past the football training or the hockey training or the American football training. Like some of my friends, I stayed in the City Centre and travelled, which meant that I didn’t catch everything that was happening – multiple programme strands meant I couldn’t anyway and I did miss the Joe Hill kaffeeklatsch on the Saturday morning all because I attended a very late night heavy metal karaoke in the Salutation.
The convention kicked off on the Friday with the official opening ceremony led by Mistress of Ceremonies, Juliet E. McKenna, and introducing the major guests – Jo Fletcher, John Connelly and Brandon Sanderson, then we were straight into a series of panels about fantasy writing, pulp writing, horror, historical fantasy, fairy and folk tales, how to survive the end of the world, humour, weird western, diversity in SFF, love and romance. The evening ended with a tribute to Graham Joyce, multiple British Fantasy Award-winning author who had died the previous year (he was supposed to be the MC at the 2014 Fantasycon but couldn’t attend and died not long afterwards). There was also the Round-Robin Poetry Slam, hosted by Allen Ashley which I attended and read at, and distributed my home made 'classic Cthulhu monster flyers' trying to encourage poetry submissions to the BFS Journal. Fortunately attending the poetry event meant that I missed the karaoke bash, a lucky escape for my ears, I reckon, and everyone else’s ears if they heard me sing, phew!
Saturday was more of the same, but with even more book launches – if I counted correctly there must have been some thirty books being launches over the weekend, sadly Kim Newman wasn’t there to promote and sign his new novel, and it was noticeably that the major publishers sell their £7.99, or £8.99 books for a fiver, thus we had new books by Mark Morris and Adam Nevill at this price (with free beer at the Nevill launch of Lost Girl, with Paul Meloy acting as barman) while the independents were selling their books from anything between £10 and £25 and sometimes even higher. What was also particularly noticeable was the huge queue for the Brandon Sanderson signing, which went on and on and on. Luckily, I had nabbed him the day before to get a book signed – yes, a miserly one book, but they are weighty tomes to fit on a suitcase going into an airplane hold, and I had to leave room for all the other books I expected to buy or be given. Saturday also saw the return of an old-style Adrian Cole lecture, something which was a bit of a tradition at Ye Olde Fantasycons. The learned Professor Cole didn’t disappoint with a lecture on zombie sharks, though I reckon David Attenborough has nothing to worry about.
After the usual programme of unusual panels, interviews and workshops, Saturday night ended with the Fantasycon version of the panel game 'Just a Minute', the 'Super Relaxed Fantasy Club' – consisting of drinks, readings, drinks, Q&As, and, uh, more drinks, which was followed by a disco, bring back the raffle, I say.
Sunday saw slightly less in the way of programming as the day was dominated by the awards banquet and the awards ceremony, but we did have the British Fantasy Society AGM, more kaffeeklatschs with the guests of honour, and a mass signing ceremony in the dealer’s room which hosted tables by the usual suspects like PS Publishing, TTA Press, Book Books, Pendragon, etc, etc.
All in all, it was great to be back in Nottingham – well, almost and I see the city is the venue for next year’s Novacon, mmmmm. As for Fantasycon 2016, it is already being organised and is taking place in Scarborough with seemingly amazing room rates – anyone for a fish supper?