Saturday, 31 October 2015

British Fantasy Convention 2015

So this was my first British Convention, I was really nervous and terrified that no one would speak to me or that, even worse, Graeme Reynolds who invited me would pass me by!   Wow was I wrong..... thankfully.    I walked into the hotel bar, spotted Graeme and was instantly given a HUGE hug and he handed me a signed copy of High Moor 3 (more on that later!), and that's basically how the convention went for me.   A bit of terror, huge hugs, the bar and lots of books.

The first panel was The World As We Know It (Edward Cox, Jan Edwards, Peter McLean, Al Robertson & Sue Tingey with Penny Reeve as moderator).   

Unfortunately I was unable to hear most of it due to the microphones either not working or the guests not realising you needed to actually lift them up. It was a shame not to have heard it as the panel were clearly having a laugh at something! 

The joy of learning about new authors and seeing my favourites in the flesh is hard to describe. Whilst I want to worship them and lick their toes I do enjoy finding out that they are human and not something to be worshipped making me much more loyal.     

The panel itself was very illuminating, Edward Cox has some very interesting concepts and Al Robertson took getting on board a plane to new levels of sci-fi; basically showing that daily life is actually magic.    

I loved hearing how they write about elements/characters/storylines and how they develop them.  Of course mythical critters, folklore and mutually assured dragons is how we are going to achieve World Peace, so glad I found that out.

The second panel I attended was Chills, Shocks & Empty Bladders: Writing “The Fear” :the amazing Ramsey Campbell did not overshadow the other guests (Neil Buchanan, Sara Townsend, Simon Bestwick & Lynda Rucker with Emma Audsley as moderator) in the slightest, he merely proved what an awesome gravitational force he is and what a total gentleman.   I really liked the smaller, more intimate, venue room.   

The one comment that really struck me was that horror is cathartic, for me that was a revelation. Having had this phrase pop into my head several times now I can fully appreciate how horror saved my sanity from an early age and has stayed with me as the one constant in my life; whatever monster was in those pages I could deal with, I could escape from; it made the real  monsters in my life less scary, that holds true today.   

It did make me snigger that they all confessed to being scaredy cats and who knew that Rupert the Bear could be so terrifying! But then again Worzel Gummidge scared the poop out of me as a kid; what normal person takes their head off!

After this I was dragged off for one of the worst meals of my life in the hotels brasserie, for some reason they had decided to reduce their normally lovely menu to three choices that did not appeal in the reading, ordering or eating of them. I have seen more fish (in my seafood pie) in an empty anchovy can and the salad looked like it had just had CPR. Forget extra drinks or even the offers of pudding as the waiters chose to ignore us after plonking the plates down.     I suppose we should count ourselves lucky we got to sit down at all really as the first attempt at arranging a table was met with disgusted looks by the head waiter and a flat refusal to sit eight of us together despite an empty restaurant, when two of us went back and asked for two tables of four suddenly all was well, perhaps dragging them together is what then got us the shoddy table service.

However, this experience may have blotted the day, it did not ruin it as I was far too excited and was happily now following my new friends off to my first “reading” with Chris Barnes and Matt Shaw; a fabulous story was narrated in that beautiful Scottish accent, although I feel I have now marked my card by telling my new friends that his version of the horrifying Connie in the High Moor series will forever only bring Mrs Doubtfire to mind post enjoying the audio version.

The real and very gorgeous boys.....

As we sped into the evening I continued to stalk my new convention buddies (Carrie & Neil) into the Conference Theatre for The Atrocity Exhibition, not sure what I was expecting but an hilarious game show was not it, but I was delighted with an hours’ worth of giggles and interesting non facts. Wonderfully hosted by Donna Scott who kept forgetting her own team names (Mark West & Kim Larkin-Smith vs Gareth L. Powell & Emma Newman) but did keep those naughty people in check although giggling deliciously at their often bonkers answers did provide me with a few more smirking moments.  I think the highlights for me where the face eating, murder beavers and button holes!

The next reading was by Carrie Buchanan who captivated me with her breathy, heartfelt reading of her brothers Road to Palladium; it was no surprise then to find out she is the voice of Stormblade Productions.

After deciding that the Karaoke was not my thing I headed back into the reading room armed with a fresh drink to be delighted and horrified by further readings; Will MacMillian Jones was so kind as to give me an almost private reading and then remembered me the next day whilst I was trolling the Dealer Room (he did convince me to buy a 1st Edition of one of his YA books for my nieces xmas present!).   Other delights were Terry Newman, Simon Bestwick, Marion Pitman, Michael Millar and the joyful Craig Saunders.   Poor Craig, after the reading I managed to trap him (on a chair) against the wall, in the bar, with a bribe of a Guinness whilst I picked his brain on life, the Universe and everything.

I went to bed at the reasonable hour of 2.30am, I understand that others stayed up until 4am!

Up with the lark like a kiddo on xmas day, I ran down to breakfast and managed to snag one of my favourite authors (Graeme Reynolds of the Highmoor trilogy) all to myself!   It was a real pleasure moment as I gazed at him over a plate of sausages, eggs and beans; I think I managed to speak coherently but then again he could have just been hung over and nodding in all the right places, or trying to keep his brains from falling out; and here is proof of my beautiful signed book.

and in return I was able to present him with a little gift too! (lets hope he doesn't find the little microphone and satnav receiver inside!)

The next panel was Monster Mash-Up: Were-vamp-zomb-zilla….With Wings! (Carrie Buchanan, Cassandra Khaw, Tim Lebbon, Will MacMilliam Jones & Adele Wearing – Jon Oliver was moderator).  

Do you ever get that feeling that someone is pointing at you? In a moment of terror at being singled out I became aware (like that scene from Jaws on the beach) that the lovely Adele Wearing, who I now know is from Fox Spirit Books, was pointing about my multitude of foxy items hanging off my bag, this of course endeared me to her for the rest of the panel and I nearly ignored what all the others were saying!    

The main comments and thoughts that stood out for me were the idea that monsters are just humanity's faults made into characters; how these artists brought those concepts to life differed enormously.    The other interesting comment was the “new” Asian monsters that are creeping into modern, Western horror; there was a word of caution from Ms Khaw that these critters should be given the respect they deserve from their origins in folklore and not bastardised too much.  It almost felt like a threat (wink) but it gave me the chills.    Some members of the panel, who shall remain nameless, forgot they were there when asked a question, so engrossed in the discussion were they; fully understandable!

12pm and a book launch for Adam Neville's Lost Girl was pretty impressive with a queue almost out the door for signings.   However, our little gang was huddled in the corner, after some more anonymous fan-girling (not me this time!) as we waited  to watch Jim Mcleod of  Ginger Nuts of Horror fame to be floored by a personalised book presentation; enjoy THAT post on his blog.

At 2pm the next panel was being seated and then unseated due to a fire alarm, there are rumours as to who set it off, my money is on the kitchen staff and those burnt to cinder repulsive burgers.   The panel was Turn Up The Volumes: Marketing & Selling Books (Sophie Calder, Jo Fletcher, Graeme Reynolds, Matt Shaw & Danie Ware with Adele Wearing as moderator).    I thought Adele did very well in not allowing any one person to overshadow the others PoV and both Graeme and Matt did admirably in showing that Indie Publishing is not only established but knocking socks of Traditional Publishing.   My only thought really as I was nodding away and rolling my eyes at some of the name dropping was: Where were the readers? The bloggers? The reviewers? Now I know I am biased but it’s often the word of mouth reviews or blog posts that get me interested in buying a book. That group of marketing should have had a voice, IMO.

I then had a mooch around the Dealers Room and again thought the organisers had missed the opportunity to provide tables for artists other than publishers; cover artists, audio, merchandise, films etc

At 5pm I was gobsmacked to see this little fella in huge boots jump on a table and start reading; apparently I had stumbled into the launch of GodBomb! by Kit Power. Later his reading at 23.45 was so very well delivered, not only was the story gripping and heart wrenching but his performance of the story made the whole audience jump in certain places and oooh in others, I asked him when it would be available on Amazon as I was very impressed with his launch reading too, only to be presented with a signed copy. Go me!   

Whilst the downside of the whole convention was the horrifying crap they dished up as food and then charged you exorbitantly for, the saving grace was breakfast.     Thankfully I was able to join a super cool gang of people for a very nice Indian meal and ended up giving a lift to the super cool Kit Power and his UBERcool parents! His dad was Twitteratting about the #Fcon2015  whilst waiting for his Cobra! 

Post poppadums and naan breads we dashed back for the disco, only taking time out for  another reading.   Neil Buchanan is such a calm, gentle and quiet man until you hear him read his work. It is not an over exaggeration to say that at his reading the originally rowdy (yes drunk, it was a theme) crowd were silent from about two lines in, all the way through to the end when for about 5 seconds we all sat there in shock (and me in awe) until a lady who was waiting to read next suddenly piped up with “that was disgusting”, followed by Graeme Reynolds croaking out “what is wrong with you?” which kind of summed it really.      I really fan girled about ten mins later when, walking down the corridor to the bar, Neil threw his script in the bin and I (nearly) screamed “what are you doing!” only to fish it out again and clutch it to my chest!  It’s now proudly sat on my shelf, my only regret is not getting him to sign in, but it does have his sweat on (sorry too much information huh). 

Whilst many of the readers were exceptionally nervous prior to their readings, without fail NONE of them let their work down.

Back to the Disco, without a shadow of a doubt the most fun time!    The only shame was it finishing at 1am?? Shocking! We are not 12 year olds at a school disco… this was hard core partying!   And by that I mean Hey Micky (which will stay with me forever, thank you Mark West) followed by Fire Starter, The Macarena, Dancing Queen and Ace of Spaces (or Nasal Spray as was whispered in my ear by Neil Buchanan; giving me a squirmy eye twitching moment – see back to fan girl moment).   Not only was this eclectic mix enjoyed by all I was astounded to see that the dance floor was 8/2 men/women…….. yup!   Although I did fear for some of their, and my, safety at some points; especially the guy who thought it was in a hybrid mix of Riverdance and Ring, a Ring of Roses!  When the lights came on we all skulked away to have much more chatting in the bar and I finally gave into sleep at 3am.

A greasy breakfast was most welcome on the Sunday morning as I seemed to have soaked up someone else’s hangover (I don’t drink) but managed to stumble to my final panel Sounds Like A Story: the science and psychology of audio fiction with the silky sexiness known as Chris Barnes (James Goss & Emma Newman with Alasdair Stuart as moderator – Del Larkin-Smith was off getting told he was organising 2016 Fcon!). 

This panel was probably the most informative of all the panels for me as it opened up a whole new world not least the amusing podcast Tea & Jeopardy by Emma Newman, a nice cup of tea, some cheeky cake, some brilliant interviews and a bit of jeopardy from the barking mad Butler Latimer.  

I am now making my way through Pseudopod too.      One of the funniest things I did jot down and then search out on YouTube was  ID4UK; basically it's the  Independence Day film with THE Sir Patrick Moore, it's a must listen and I guarantee you will giggle!

Thoughts overall - I LOVED IT!!  Have already booked my ticket for next year where I can join forces with my new Con bestie (Carrie) and terrorise Jim McLeod's knees...... 

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