Wednesday, 25 November 2015

For Tracy

Sometimes, things happen that really take the wind out of your sails.  Sometimes you lose people that mean a great deal to you and it's hard to comprehend that they're not there any more.  Sometimes things happen and you still, years later, can't understand them.

But sometimes, maybe, we can keep those people with us a little longer by ensuring their memory lives on and burns brightly...

Family party in 1981 - my cousin Carl on the left.  I'm not swinging a punch, I've got one of those weird 'magic fish' things on my arm.

On the anniversary of my sister passing away

Junior school photo - 1979

12 years - where did all that time go?
With Mum, Sarah and Auntie Lynn (who was visiting from South Africa), 1987

Thinking of you, TJ.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Sledge-Lit, Derby, 21st November 2015

This year saw the first Sledge-Lit event in Derby, which was billed as the “Edge-Lit Christmas vacation!” and held in the same venue.  Since I had such a great time at Edge-Lit 4 (see my report here) and like the Derby Quad, I thought it’d made a nice bridge between the brilliance of FantasyCon (which I reported about here) and next years Crusty Exterior meet-up.
In the Quad bar - Sue Moorcroft, me, James Everington, Steve Harris, Simon Bestwick, Peter Mark May, Dean M. Drinkel
Saturday morning was bright, clear and cold.  I picked Sue up from her house and, as she got in, she took one look at my fleece, smiled and said, “Haven’t you got a coat?”  “No, I’ll be fine with this,” I assured her, “we’ll be indoors.”  “Okay,” she said, “but I don’t want you moaning about being cold!”  I feigned moral outrage - I mean, as if I would ever moan about anything?  We set off and made good time up the M1, chatted all the way and found the Assembly Rooms car park with only the slightest detour required - we were deep in conversation and I missed the turn…  ahem.
Pete, me, Steve, in the bar
As we signed in, Steve Harris appeared, followed closely by James Everington, so we moved into the bar and sat with Peter Mark May and Dean M. Drinkel, who’d arrived on the same train.  There was a lot of chat - it’s less than a month since FCon but it always feels too long ago - and we decided to have lunch in the bar, since Sue recommended it and none of us fancied wandering out into the cold (the place we found at Edge-Lit was lovely but we had to eat outside).  Over the morning, the group around our table ebbed and flowed and we were joined by Simon Bestwick (full of his new-agent-news), Theresa Derwin, Steven Chapman, Simon Marshall-Jones and Tony Cowin.  I later spotted Pixie Puddin in the foyer and went to give her a hug (and bought her a cup of tea too, it was cold out there) then chatted with Cate Gardner, Priya Sharma and Gary Couzens as I made my way back to our table - good to see them all.  Our lunch turned up just before the crowd appeared from the last panel and I was glad we’d pre-ordered, as the bar quickly filled up.  I had a chicken & bacon ciabatta sandwich and it was bloody lovely.

As there was a gap in the programme, I led a small deputation to the Eagle Books stall, in the Eagle market, that Johnny Mains introduced me to in 2014.  As we went through the foyer I bumped into John Llewellyn Probert, Thana Niveau and Cate.  Had a chat with John - we worked out that we hadn’t seen one another since WFC in Brighton in 2013 so it was good to catch up and we talked about how staring mortality in the face (John had a major health scare a few years back) makes you re-assess things.  It was nice to say hello to Thana too.  I met Sue & Pete outside, saw Fiona Ní Éalaighthe and got a hug from her, waited for Steven and Steve, then we set off through the Market Hall and out to the Eagle market.  As it turned out, it was indeed bloody cold outside, though I was determined not to say anything in front of Sue (I think I might have mentioned it several times to Steve and Pete though).  Eagle Books was still there and still fantastic, everyone got something and we kept calling each over to share finds.  There was a tray of Richard Laymon books which prompted a discussion of his work - all of us, it seemed, were fans at various points but, as we explained to Sue, our attention wandered as the books got thicker and more misogynistic.  On the way through, I’d spotted a sign in the Market Hall for a retro-toyshop and we stood outside for a while, gazing into the windows (there was a ‘back in 30 minutes’ sign on the door), before giving up and heading back to the Quad.  I spotted Charlotte Bond in the foyer, had a quick hug and she showed me a copy of “Drive” that Chris Teague had given her for making the muffins at “The Lost Film” book launch.

"Rising From The Dead" panel selfie - me, Sue, Steve, Pete
Upstairs, Pete & I went into the small dealers room and I picked up a Black Static from Roy Gray and the last copy of “Fur Lined Ghetto #6” from Sophie Essex - always a pleasure to see her and Andrew Hook.  With Sue, we went into Cinema 2 for the “Rising From The Dead - Is Horror Ready for a New Golden Age?” panel, which I thought sounded very interesting.  Unfortunately, it left the path less than five minutes in and never found its way back (though Thana made some great comments) - a missed opportunity.  However, as we left, I saw Kevin Redfern & Hayley Orgill further up the auditorium and had a chat with them - we disagreed with the panel and talked about how we got introduced to horror (the outcome was that if kids want to find it, they will - twas ever thus).  Good to see them.

On the way to the market selfie
By the time I got out to the open area, Pete & Sue were fiddling with his glasses, which were pretty much falling apart.  I suggested we go into the market to find a jewellers stall and, as we set off, I decided to tell him the staircase was further away than it actually was.  He gave me a look and said, “I can bloody see them.”  Mischief averted.  The stall I’d spotted in the market was actually a watch-maker but the kindly lady fixed Pete’s glasses quickly and efficiently and since we were in there, we checked out the retro toyshop again but this time it was closed.  On our way back to the Quad (with me still not complaining about the cold, even though I couldn’t feel my fingertips) we had a quick look in Ask Italian, across the Market Square, as Sue and curries don’t mix particularly well.  The menu looked good so we decided we’d eat there later.

We went into the bar for a while before heading back upstairs were we met Cate and Priya on the stairs and Graeme Reynolds in the open area, chatting with them all.  James joined us and he, Pete and Graeme went into the “A Ghost Story Is Not Just For Christmas” panel, whilst Sue & I went to the Boo Books launch.  I had a chat with Andrew David Barker, whose excellent novella “Dead Leaves” (which I reviewed here) was being launched and it was good to see him - after first meeting at FCon - and his reading went well.  Carl Robinson also read from his “A Dip In The Jazz Age”, which was being launched as well and it was a good event, though sadly poorly attended.  Sue & I stayed behind to chat with Andrew and Alex (who, in addition to organising Sledge-Lit is also the publisher of Boo Books) and the conversation turned to FCon 2016, which promises to be great.
Graeme Reynolds, me, (a very distinguised looking - and with fixed glasses) Pete and Sue
Back in the bar, I got a round of drinks, chatting with Steven as we waited, before chatting with Dean and Pete.  They were both leaving at 6pm to catch the same train home and our conversation covered everything from writing to body parts to the awful news about Paris (Dean was there the week before the attacks).  At 5.30, we headed up for the raffle - hosted by Rob Shearman - joined by Jay Eales (unfortunately Selina had stayed at home) and Phil Irving.  Steve arrived late, sat on the row behind us and won the first two prizes!  We thought it was going to be another Andromeda-style whitewash but it wasn’t to be - I didn’t win anything, nor did Pete but Sue & James cleaned up on the PS Publishing prizes, with “A Cold Season” (hardback) and “Ellison Wonderland” (boxed hardback) respectively.  Gits.

And that was Sledge-Lit officially over.  I said goodbye to Pete, Steven and Graeme and we gathered up our dining party - Sue, Tony, James, Steve, Chris Teague and me - and went over to Ask Italian, who managed to seat us all.  The food was great, the conversation and company even more so and I don’t think there was a moment of silence for the entire meal.  We covered a lot of subjects too, including how to write erotica (Sue didn’t believe us about Dino-porn but did introduce us to the phrase ‘Antigua Kiss’, which we’re all going to include in our latest story), what we're currently working on and what we get out of Cons (James put his finger on it, saying how great it was to hang out with talented friends).  A great group of friends, it was the perfect end to the Sledge-Lit experience.  Afterwards, James was heading for the train station whilst Chris and Tony were going back to the Quad so we all hugged and said goodbye, then Sue, Steve & I went back to the Assembly Rooms car park and hugged goodbye in the stairwall.  After finding an ‘interesting’ route to get us back to the M1, Sue & I talked all the way back to Kettering.
At Ask Italian - James, Steve, Chris Teague, Sue, me, Tony Cowin
Great fun, great venue, well organised and full of friends, I’d say Sledge-Lit was a success.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

An interview with Sue Moorcroft

I have known Sue Moorcroft since 1999, when I joined the Kettering Writers group where she was already a member.  We hit it off straight away and, for a while, were the only published writers in the group though, because we wrote genre fiction (romantic for her, horror for me), that didn’t impress the group leader.  Our friendship flourished - I remember reading Fresh Sheets back then, which later became Starting Over, the first of her Middledip novels and her first book from Choc Lit - and continues strongly to this day, I’m pleased to say.  Most of my UK horror writing chums know Sue as she’s now my Con buddy for FantasyCon and the like.

Sue’s also featured here on the blog quite often too - I interviewed her back in 2013 (which you can read here), I’ve reviewed her books and she’s contributed a couple of guest posts (all of which you can find on this link).

Earlier this year, as we met at The Trading Post on one of our “get together and talk writing and books until they call for last orders” evenings, she told me the great news that her agent had sealed a two-book deal with Avon Books.  I was chuffed, thrilled and excited - I’ve read the first book, which will be published next September/October (expect another interview and review then) - and having heard more about the second book on further evenings, I’m even more excited about that.  The news was finally revealed in The Bookseller on October 21st, just in time for FantasyCon (where it was lovely to see so many people congratulate her).

HarperCollins imprint, Avon, has won two new novels from Sue Moorcroft at auction. UK & Commonwealth rights were bought from Juliet Pickering at Blake Friedmann Agency.

Moorcroft said: “I’m excited to be joining Avon, with their reputation for successfully publishing fiction to extensive audiences. Eleanor and her team impressed me with their enthusiasm and drive, their ideas and the welcome they offered to me in my new home.”

The first novel will be published in Christmas 2016 with the second novel planned for summer 2017.

Good times indeed and it couldn’t happen to a nicer person or a better writer.  So I thought it might be fun to have another chat with her, to see how it feels to have the deal and what she thinks the future has in store for her.

MW:  First of all, many congratulations on the book deal!  Tell me how you felt when your agent first let you know.

SM:  Thank you, and for all your continued support!

It actually came down to a choice between two publishers. For a couple of weeks we’d been going through the nerve-wracking process of my agent, Juliet Pickering of Blake Friedmann, talking to publishers, and it had come down to Avon and one other. Juliet and I had a long meeting with Eleanor Dryden and her team at Avon HarperCollins UK and when were back outside the News Building in the sunshine I said to Juliet, ‘I think it’s Avon. They said everything I wanted to hear.’

The News Building - pic by Sue
MW:  How was the experience of heading down to London and meeting your new publisher?

SM:  Wonderful. The News Building is also known as the ‘Mini Shard’ as it stands next door and is of a similar glass-wall appearance. I was treated very starrily! The meeting room was decorated with hats, to reflect the career of my heroine, Ava, and they’d made me chocolate cake. I got on very well with Eleanor and her team, and hearing that Ava is to be a lead title for Christmas 2016 was music to my ears. I felt very wanted. The chocolate cake was amazing, too.

MW:  So how does it feel to be an ‘overnight success’?

SM:  Ha! At the beginning of April 2016 it will be the twentieth anniversary of selling my first magazine story, so I guess it has taken me twenty years to be an overnight success. It feels as if I’ve worked hard and stayed focused to get where I am, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.

MW:  Where did the idea for the novel (which, at the time of writing, is known by its working title of The Truth About Ava) come from?

SM:  Originally, it was to be a Christmas novella. I made Ava a couture milliner because I met one such at BBC Radio Cambridge and thought it would be a cool career for a heroine. I’m always aware that not everybody has a wonderful time at Christmas and so I gave Sam a particularly poignant conflict of his mother being between surgery and chemotherapy and not knowing if this Christmas will be her last.

MW:  I remember talking about the idea with you at The Trading Post, when it was still planned as a novella.  What made you decide to do it as a novel?

SM:  When I first conceived the idea of the novella I had thought that it would be fun to write about someone who doesn’t like Christmas. When my agent liked various angles of the story, Sam’s conflict and the Camden Town setting, that dictated the story becoming full length. I realised that Ava needed a meatier storyline and introduced the idea of her ex-boyfriend threatening her with revenge porn as a strong contemporary issue. The Internet is a fantastic thing but it has a dark underbelly and I decided it would be nice to bring it a little more into the light.

MW:  We can’t really discuss much about the book now (that’ll be in the interview next September), but it has a very different tone to the Choc Lit novels (which I loved).  Was there a conscious decision to do that?

SM:  No. I’m not really aware that it has a different tone. In fact, I would argue this point! (Sue smiles at this point) The setting is different as it’s a city-scape – maybe that’s it?

MW:  Yes, I think so, the story has a more cosmopolitan feel to it, if that makes sense.

SM:  Setting the book in London did mean I had to think differently. When I set a book in a village or in a small segment of a small island, people can credibly bump into one another. In a city of millions of residents and many more millions of visitors, that’s not going to happen. That’s why many of the characters in ‘Ava’ were connected with Sam’s communications agency, either by working there or being big buddies with someone who works there, or being an agency client. I did have Harvey, Ava’s ex, track down Ava in Blaggard’s Bar but, as he knew Blaggard’s to be her favourite hangout in Camden Town, it was an obvious place for him to lie in wait. I like London and, when I was a kid, lived not that far from Camden for eighteen months.

One of my favourites of Sue's novels
(and not just because I fancy the heroine!)
MW:  With regard to the revenge porn sub-plot, that’s one of the things that I enjoy about your books, you don’t look away from the darkness.  You tend to confront issues head-on in most of your books (thinking of All That Mullarkey and the issues with Cleo and Gavin, also the unpleasant elements within The Wedding Proposal), would you care to elaborate on that?

SM:  I don’t consciously look for darkness, it’s more that I look for conflicts that matter. A hate campaign can poison your life and, in All That Mullarkey, Justin loses his home and almost his job because of the hate campaign. He comes perilously close to losing his self-respect. And Gavin … while nobody should condone what he does, I feel most would understand why he does it. In The Wedding Proposal, it matters desperately to Elle that there’s something dark in her ex-husband’s past, because it affects her future. At the time I was planning ‘Ava’ an article caught my eye about revenge porn. That particular piece was about young girls being unwise enough to take explicit ‘selfies’ and send them to young boys. While I mentally filed that under ‘recipe for disaster’, I began thinking about all the loving couples who have bedroom fun with phone cameras ... and what happens to those images once the love has gone. How would the victim feel if the ex shared them on Facebook? Sold them to a sleazy website? Electronic images proliferate like fleas on a dog and my research made me desperately sorry for the victims, and angry on their behalf, so if ‘Ava’ makes even one person think twice about sharing images without permission, I’ll be happy.

MW:  How much research did you do?

SM:  I read extensively (literally for days) on victim support websites, about the kinds of sites that host such images with no care for how it destroys happiness, the law in various parts of the world, and, especially case histories. In other areas: Abigail Crampton of Abigail Crampton Millinery advised on Ava’s career. It was great to watch her doing demonstrations and visit her lovely studio in her garden and have a mock hat fitting. It was also a lot of fun to keep going down to Camden’s markets and bars. Serious illness … well, that’s distressingly easy to research, being so prevalent, partly online but also via chats with people who have been affected, either as patients or loved ones.

MW:  The second novel in the deal (which I am really eager to read, having followed it from initial idea into writing trials and tribulations and having the enviable task of being asked my opinion on plot points) is also removed from Middledip.  Can you tell us a little about it?

SM:  It has the working title of Just for the Holidays. Leah Beaumont, having remained determinedly single till her mid-thirties, ends up looking after her sister’s family in France while her sister Michele’s life derails. The premise is lifted directly from the experiences of a friend of mine, who made me cry with laughter when she recounted what had happened to her. I don’t think it was funny when it was happening, though.

Ronan Shea is a grounded helicopter pilot, doing up the house next door to the gîte in which Leah’s family are holidaying. When the book begins he thinks his biggest problem is that he has had a forced landing and broken his collarbone. Now I’m two-thirds of the way through the first draft, he also knows that his boss is trying to get rid of him. Oh, yes, and his ex-wife has just turned up, destitute.

Only four of my novels are set in Middledip, of course. Six are not.

MW:  You’ve now scaled back on some activities (listing them, I can think of critiquing, tutoring, article writing), did you feel they were overpowering your writing time?

SM:  Yes. I did a self-coaching exercise. What’s good/bad for me? What makes me happy/unhappy? What earns me money/doesn’t earn me money? Anything that fell into negative territory in all three headings got the chop. This freed up so much time that I began looking at other aspects of my writing life and came to an important conclusion: I only wanted to write fiction. So I left my constant teaching commitment, my regular judging, and once I’d adapted my non-fiction book, Love Writing, to be a course, I cut my non-fiction writing, too. I’m delighted to report that the exercise worked. I’ve had a good hit rate with magazine fiction and secured my agent and a new book deal. NB I haven’t stopped the kind of tutoring that gets me to lead a course in Italy. The Arte Umbria course for 2016 is already filling up.

Sue at The Trading Post, discussing books and plot
points the week before FCon (14/10/15)
MW:  Given the deal and the fact that 'Ava' is done aside from the final edit, are you enjoying having a bit of time and space to work on the second book?  When is it due to the editor?

SM:  Very much so. I can’t tell you how much less stressed I feel. Just for the Holidays is due in April – what is counted as a first draft but will probably be my third or fourth. Hopefully, you’ll kindly beta read it for me! (winning smile)

MW:  Of course, I'm looking forward to it!  One last question about the second book (since the first was already written when your agent presented it).  Did you pitch it, sell it on a tagline or none of the above?

SM:  I discussed the premise with my agent and she liked it, so I wrote her a one-page pitch and a three-page outline. By the time she was ready to send Ava to publishers I had begun Just for the Holidays and knew a lot more about it so I updated both pitch and outline and Avon liked it. The other publisher would have wanted both books, too. I’ve never had a multi-book deal before. It would have been possible to see the second book being contracted as a pressure, but I’ve chosen to see it as a vote of confidence.

MW:  Which is the best way, I think.  So what’s next?

SM:  Finish the first draft of Just for the Holidays, do my edits on 'Ava' (due any day), do several more drafts of JFTH and get it to my editor. Then I have an idea for another book, about a guy called Ben whose girlfriend is in a road traffic accident. And his brother is driving the car.

MW:  Thanks very much for that, Sue.

SM:  Great talking to you Mark. Thanks for inviting me onto your blog – see you next time.
Sue at FantasyCon 2015 with (from left) Steve Bacon, Steve Harris, me, Neil Williams
Award winning author Sue Moorcroft writes contemporary women’s fiction with occasionally unexpected themes. Sue’s a past vice chair of the RNA and editor of its two anthologies. She also writes short stories, serials, articles, writing ‘how to’ and is a creative writing tutor.

Sue’s latest book is "The Wedding Proposal"

Sue can be found on the Net in the following places...

Facebook profile
Facebook author page
Twitter @suemoorcroft

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Old School Horrors 3: The Naked Light, by James Moffatt

The third in an occasional thread of blog posts celebrating those cheesy, sleazy old-school pulp paperbacks from the 70s and 80s, which are now mostly forgotten.  Yes, we’re not talking great art here but these books have their place - for better or worse - in the genre and I think they deserve to be remembered.

On this occasion, I'll acknowledge the elephant in the room that you find with any kind of pulp entertainment.  Sometimes the "thing" (a book, a film, an old TV show) just isn't very good at all but still, there's something about it that draws you in and keeps you reading or watching.  Sometimes, it has to be said, they're bad but, in a way, they still have their own kind of dopey charm.

And so I give you...
A Satanic coven meets on the affluent slopes of Beverley (sic) Hills.  The participants in the abominable rites are the biggest names in Hollywood.

An uninvited guest appears at the height of the drug-inspired orgy - a Mafia Killer who really enjoys his work.

The police attempt to solve the enigma of the multiple murder - through a maze of black magic, torture and sudden death.  An appalling exposure of the soft underside of Hollywood.

Following a Black Mass ceremony-cum-orgy, Hollywood starlet Chloe Young is brutally murdered and the studio she’s contracted too - Mermaid Films - is worried because they have a couple of her films waiting release.  They task ace publicist Lucy Christian with finding out the truth whilst trying to cover up the darker aspects of Young’s life to make her palatable for the movie-going public again.

Well, this is a genuinely odd little book (126 pages, small type).  A real pulp paperback obviously ripped from the headlines (the Manson Murders were in late 1969), this seems to have the misfortune of being saddled with a writer who clearly wishes he was writing something else.  Lucy is the main character, though there are chunks of the book where she doesn’t appear, a 33-year-old single girl (mentioned on several occasions), who’s very moral but also a bit wanton, not at all religious though she carries a cross (and during one discussion of abnormal sexuality gets strength from the ‘old-fashioned Gospel’) and an apparent nymphomanical prude - no, it didn’t make much sense to me either but that’s how Moffatt tells it.  And Lucy is easily the most sympathetic character (and she’s not at all, on occasion).

Cynically constructed (Moffatt clearly believes in the ‘give the public what they want’ school of thought), he uses the text to extol his apparent dislike of modern Hollywood, the looseness of the women around it (whilst never missing a chance to mention jutting breasts and pubic hair), hippies, promiscuity and gay people (a gossip-radio-DJ called Mish-Mash comes in for some appalling abuse from the writer, the other characters seem to tolerate him okay), whilst telling a confusing tale that takes in ex-pat Brit movie stars, hoodlums, hookers, drug dealers and a poet who isn’t what he appears to be.  Add into the mix a skirt-chasing police Captain who actually (I swear I’m not making this up) offers to adopt a child who’s given him some clues to the case (in the worst, syrupy, TV-movie-of-the-week style) and more refernces to the Salem witch trials than you can shake a stick at and the book becomes something I’m certain Moffatt never intended it to be.  I also have no idea what the title refers to.

Arguably, you could say this is a product of its time (it was published in 1970) but equally you could argue that it’s badly written and contains pretty much every “-thropic” tendency you can think of, but it’s so formless, so wonderfully delirious, that it almost redeems itself.  This isn’t a good book and I can’t imagine ever reading anything else Moffatt wrote, but I did quite enjoy this for all its sins.  Not sure who I’d ever recommend it to though.

(on a side note, I was amused that the back cover blurb tells you a "Mafia Killer" dunnit, then has the police get mixed up in all kinds of things, whilst concluding that it's an appalling exposure - is that the book, or what it exposes?  They genuinely don't make them like this any more...)

James Moffatt was born on 27th January 1922 in Canada and died on November 8th 1993 in England.  He is reported to have written at least 290 novels, in several genres, under at least 45 pseudonyms.  Since he was so prolific, New English Library asked him, in 1970, to write a book about the skinhead subculture and after that novel (called "Skinhead") sold one million copies, he wrote a further seventeen in the series.  He continued to churn out pulps for NEL during the Seventies and in 1977 wrote the novelisation for "Queen Kong" (a spoof British film starring Robin Askwith), as well as writing for children's annuals.  He didn't publish after 1980, which may have been due to his alcoholism.

During an episode of BBC2's Late Night Line Up in 1972,he was challenged to write a novel in a week and seven days later, he appeared on the show again with the completed manuscript of "The Marathon Murder".  Although he was only given a loose outline on the TV show, it's alleged that the novel had been written prior to his appearance, allowing the publishers to strike while the iron was hot and get the book into the shops (it failed to find a readership).

For a few years now, I've been collecting old 70s and 80s paperbacks (mostly horror), picking them up cheaply in secondhand bookshops and at car boot sales and slowly building a collection.  My friend (and fellow collector) Johnny Mains once told me that charity shops sometimes pulp old books like this because the market for them is so small - I understand why but I think it's terrible.  We might not be talking great art here but on the whole, I think these books deserve to be remembered.

To that end, on an irregular basis (too much cheese isn't good for anyone's diet), I'm going to review these "old-school" horrors (and perhaps include some bonus material, if I can find it).

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Movie Miniatures (the James Bond series, part 1)

As a fan of movie special effects, especially miniatures (as I’ve blogged about here, here and here) and also the James Bond series, I thought it might be interesting to do a post on the model work from Bond films.  I wrote an appreciation of Derek Meddings last year (which you can read here) but I thought, for a start, that I’d highlight the contributions of John Richardson.

John Richardson was born in 1946 in London and his father, Cliff Robertson, was one of the special effects pioneers in England - he started his career in 1921 with the Stoll Picture Company’s “Grand Guignal” series, before going on to work with Alfred Hitchcock at Elstree and later running the effects department at Ealing Studios.  When John was 14, he went to Israel as Cliff was working on “Exodus”, got a job on the crew and served his apprenticeship through the 1960s, branching out on his own with “Duffy” in 1968.  He won an Oscar for his work on “Aliens” (1987) and was nominated for “Cliffhanger” (1993), “Starship Troopers” (1997) and three of the Harry Potter films.

His Bond career is:
Moonraker and For Your Eyes Only (special effects - Derek Meddings supervised the miniatures)
Octopussy and A View To a Kill (special effects supervisor)
The Living Daylights and Licence To Kill (special visual effects)
Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day (miniatures supervisor)

Octopussy (1983)
Directed by John Glen

The aircraft hanger, in the pre-credits sequence, was a combination of full-size, shot at RAF Northolt in 311 Hanger featuring foreground miniatures and a large-scale miniature built at Pinewood.  Bond, in the Acrostar jet, is being pursued by a heat-seeking missile and flies through the hanger he was trying to blow up, even as the enemy try to close the doors...
John Glen explained the shot in interview - "The plane is on wires and we're using a foreground miniature [which] we scaled exactly so that when it was in position, it fooled you completely and you thought you were looking at the whole structure. That door on the left is just beyond the soldier, while the rest of the hangar is about 50 yards away."

Bond's plan works perfectly and as he zips away, the hanger goes up in a massive explosion...
The miniature being prepared.  Each "sheet" of metal was attached individually, so the destruction would be more realistic
Still from the film
John Glen again - "We built a fairly large model of the hangar, about 6 feet by 10 feet, and staged a series of small explosions that grew larger with each blast.  There weren't any people in the foreground, so we could get away with filming it at fast speed—around 72-100 frames per second. This would slow the explosion down to get a more dramatic effect."

The full John Glen interview is here

A View To A Kill (1985)
Directed by John Glen

Richardson (shown up the ladder in the first photograph and holding the blimp tail cord in the second) said, in an interview in Cinefex 33; “There were three blimp models, ranging from ten to forty feet in length and all of them were operated by radio-controlled motors."

The Living Daylights (1987)
Directed by John Glen
Richardson, on location in Morocco, with the radio-controlled Hercules
During the action in Afghanistan, Bond steals a Russian cargo plane (actually an American-made C-130 Hercules) and takes off, just avoiding a smaller plane that is coming in to land.  Both of these were twelfth-scale models (as was the armoured car, which is seen in the same shot).

Later, in the same sequence, Bond lends some air support to his freedom-fighter colleagues who are racing across a bridge.  Richardson said, at the time, “There never was a bridge like the one you see in the film.  Lengthwise, it was the same as the one you see on screen, but height-wise it was at most fifteen or twenty feet above the river bed. Of course, that wouldn't look very spectacular when it s collapsing so we constructed a foreground miniature of the ravine and a different bridge. We used the existing bridge from the handrail down to the road level so that you could see vehicles driving along it, but everything beneath that was a miniature, approximately twenty feet across and four-and-a-half feet high.  It was shot twenty-three feet from the camera, whilst the real bridge was about a thousand feet away.”
still from the film 
left - the read bridge, without the foreground miniature (which is shown in the picture on the right)
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Directed by Roger Spottiswoode
The Stealth boat, which was filmed in the Fox Baja tank (where James Cameron made "Titanic")

The World Is Not Enough (1999)
Directed by Michael Apted
A key part of the plot involves the King pipeline and whilst the exterior was filmed in Cwm Dyli, Snowdonia, some sequences (including the explosion) were shot at Hankley Common in Surrey (where, much later, the Bond home would be built for "Skyfall").

Next time, it's Derek Meddings turn for the limelight once again...

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

FantasyCon, Nottingham, 23rd October to 25th October 2015

Friday 23rd October
After a brisk journey up the M1 (my good friend Sue Moorcroft drove us) and despite her Sat-Nav trying its hardest to confuse us, we found the hotel and conference centre quite easily (it was, literally, right on the University Of Nottingham campus).  My first impression of it was good - the hotel looked smart and modern and the conference centre looked big enough to house the shenanigans that would be going on over the weekend.

We hadn’t even got to reception before Simon & Liz Marshall-Jones spotted us (I carried Liz’s bag up the steps) and we got booked in.  Neil Williams and Peterr Mark May were there, friends of long-standing it was good to see again and Dean M Drinkel was holding an unofficial launch for his “Masks” anthology, featuring James Everington and Phil Sloman (my Crusty colleagues) who were also there.  Ross Warren and his sister Lisa Childs were sitting behind them, along with Theresa Derwin and it was great to see them all again, the quiet corner suddenly becoming quite loud.  Steve Shaw arrived and gave me the “Lost Film” t-shirts he’d printed up for the launch, which looked very impressive.  Sue & I dumped our bags and headed to the conference centre where, after picking up our badges and lanyards, we bumped into Jim Mcleod (Mr Ginger Nuts Of Horror) and his con-bestie Fiona Ní Éalaighthe.  Jim has been a great supporter of my work and I often tell him how much I appreciate it, but it’s always nice to do it in person, to shake his hand and give him a hug and catch up with things.  Neil and Carrie Buchanen came through, with Paul M. Feeney and it was good to see them again so I got a Redcloak volunteer to take a picture for me (people began to realise, as the weekend wore on, that if they stood with me long enough they’d end up in a picture) which perfectly encapsulates for me what FCon is all about - meeting people you haven’t seen for ages (or never, in the case of Carrie, an FB friend I was meeting for the first time) and clicking straight back into your friendship.  Marvellous.
left to right - Neil, Carrie, Jim, Fiona, Sue, me, Paul
Stephen Bacon texted that he’d arrived so we met him at the hotel, saw Steve Harris (another of my wonderful Crusty colleagues) and chatted with Mathew F. Riley (it's been years since we last saw one another), Jason Whittle and Paul Meloy.  Steve Bacon & I went to the dealers room to meet Chris Teague and I presented him with the various posters and flyers I’d put together, handed out the t-shirts and got some White-tack (I know, who knew it existed?) from reception.  When Wayne Parkin (Steve’s friend who I met at Edge-Lit 4 and spent a great day with in Leicester last week) arrived, he & Sue helped us set up the launch room (we were the first to use it over the weekend) and all too soon, it was 5pm.  Launch time for “The Lost Film Novellas”.

* short interlude - “the lost film” book launch
I’ve never done a book launch before that wasn’t for an anthology and I was very nervous about this, even though I would be standing alongside my good friend & collaborator Steve.  He & I came up with a plan we were both comfortable with via email during the week, where we’d do the signing, talk about the books origins (which I also wrote about for the afterword) and do a reading each.  Chris agreed and I thought we might get a handful of friends turn up (we were scheduled against a panel with Ramsey Campbell on it) but that would be cool, it would be fun.
The turn-out was much bigger and I was genuinely surprised and genuinely touched that all those people had come to support us.  Charlotte Bond baked us some muffins, Chris laid on the booze (I had to ask him for orange juice) and we drafted Sue in as event photographer.  We signed for about 15 minutes and quickly set up a conveyor system that ran fine until I realised I was writing more and more in the inscription and thus giving Steve less and less room - it wasn’t deliberate Steve, honest!  For the background talk, I began at the very beginning (it got a laugh when I casually mentioned research and sleazy paperbacks, almost as if people expected it of me…) and we alternated telling the story until we got to publication day.  Steve then read a section from “Lantern Rock” and I read most of the first chapter of “The Lost Film”.
Looking at all the pictures, I've realised I perhaps talk a bit too much 'with my hands'...
It was all done by 5.50, people chatting amiably with one another and I wanted to go and shake each of them by the hand to say thanks for turning up.  I didn’t, of course, though I did say thanks to as many as I could over the course of the weekend.  What a cracking launch - and the sales were apparently very good as well!
* end of short interlude - “the lost film” book is now launched

After a quick toilet break - along the way I met Shaun Hamilton and had a chat - we convened at the main concourse bar, met Victoria Leslie and had a chat, then Ben Jones arrived, a real force of nature whose novella I’d just read.  As we spent so long nattering, we missed the start of the 6pm panel and decided, instead, to head for dinner.  Due to the hotel’s inexplicable decision to abandon their normal menu in favour of a Junior school one - and since Sue & I spotted a Toby Carvery on the way in - we decided to eat there and quickly gathered our dining chums - me, Sue, Steve H, Steve B, Wayne, Lisa (Ross was off snaffling autographs), Peter, Phil, James, Richard Farren Barber, Neil and Chris.  It was a good decision as the food was lovely (and very reasonable) and the chef was agreeable to giving out more meat - Steve H went for the King Sized plate option, Sue asked for a Princess sized one and we suggested she might like a saucer.  Great company, lots of laughs (Peter was sitting across from me and we re-told the tale of the Burlesque at FCon 2011 which went down very well) and got back to the Con suitably refreshed, in time for my first panel.
left to right - Lisa, me, Sue, Steve H, Peter, Steve B, Wayne at the Toby
l to r - Emma, Gareth, Donna, Del and me
I’ve known Donna Bond for a good few years now (she’s in the NSFWG and I’ve been involved with some of her comedy evenings) and when she asked me to appear in “The Atrocity Exhibition” I agreed, though she didn’t explain what would be required.  In fact, right up until I took my seat in the Conference Theatre alongside Gareth L. Powell, Emma Newman and Del Lakin-Smith (with whom I shared a table and quick drink before we came in, since he was replacing his wife Kim and knew as much as I did), none of us knew.  But Donna had set up a Victorian-era panel quiz that was charming and quirky and about as off-beat as you could hope and I tried my best to think of funny things (as did Del) though we were roundly beaten by not only Emma and Gareth but the audience as well.  I nipped in to Carrie’s reading, which went very well, then after more drinks in the bar, Steve and Wayne headed home whilst Sue went back to her room and Steve H, Peter, Paul Melhuish (also from the NSFWG), me and Neil hung around in the hotel bar, drinking and chatting and putting the word to rights.  I also came up with an idea for a Scooby-Doo style anthology that I was sure would be a winner for Hersham Horror Books (Peter’s imprint) but he didn’t seem so sure.
late night chatters - me, Steve, Paul, Pete, Neil
After a while, I noticed two women sitting a couple of tables away and one of them nodded at me and waved.  I waved back (I’m friendly) and realised it was Carole Johnstone, who I’ve known online for ages (her novella “Cold Turkey” is up against “Drive” in the Awards on Sunday) but we’d never met.  We said hello, had a hug and a chat, then we were joined by her friend Priya Sharma, who was equally lovely.  We chatted - I told Priya that I didn’t have the nerve to do a reading so, of course, she said she was scheduled for one - and then Stephen Volk came in and we clamoured around him to say hello, a great moment.  The ladies went to their rooms, so I re-joined the boys and then there was an odd occurrence.  During the evening, I went to the loo twice and on the first occasion, John Travis and Adam Nevill came in.  On the second, I went then Adam came in and as we stood talking, John Travis arrived.  We all assured one another we weren’t stalkers, then Adam & I chatted in the corridor for a while.  I finally called it a night sometime after 2am but Steve H apparently kept going for a while.

Great first day, especially when I checked my email and found one from Steve Volk, apologising for missing “The Lost Film” launch.

Saturday 24th October
Every year I have to re-learn how to set the alarm on my phone and every year I somehow manage to cock it up.  Consequently, I arrived at breakfast 10 minutes late and sat with Sue, Steve H and his friends Stephen and Katina King.  Everyone else had a full English, I had a bowl of Cornflakes then succumbed to an egg sarnie, which was bloody lovely.  Great breakfast companions though.
Cate Gardner, Simon Bestwick and me - Gary McMahon commented this looked like a thorn between two roses...
We met Peter and Neil in the foyer and went to the dealers room, where we met Steve and Wayne (who were now back for the remainder of the weekend), as well as Ray Cluley and his lovely partner Jess.  Chris got Steve & I to sign more “Lost Film” copies and then Cate Gardner and Simon Bestwick came over for a chat.  I went to the Monster Mash panel at 11 with Neil, which was interesting - Jon Oliver ran a tight ship and the speakers included the lovely Adele Wearing, Carrie and Tim Lebbon, so there were some good insights.

From there, along with Sue, Peter, Steve and Wayne, we went to Adam Nevill’s “Lost Girl” launch.  I like him, he’s a genuinely nice bloke and wrote one of the scariest novels I’ve read in years with “Last Days" (yes, that’s the one with the book cover that got me and him reported to the Facebook police), so I’m looking forward to reading his latest.  As he mentioned last night, he organised the launch himself and had Mathew F. Riley on the cashtin with Paul Meloy on the drinks (I donated my bottle to him).  I bought my copy, got it signed and had a chat, then went into the crowd and chatted with Jim Mcleod, Steve and Peter.  At about half-twelve, Phil worked his way over and we had the ‘second launch’ (which Adam graciously allowed us) of the session, for the one-off hardback edition of “Jim Mcleod Must Die!”.

To make sense of this - and what it means - I should point out that Jim does all of his work for The Ginger Nuts Of Horror site free alongside his day-job and he gets a lot a stick from writers who should know better, chasing him up relentlessly and/or complaining if they get less than stellar reviews.  As I’ve said elsewhere, there’s a lot of us who really appreciate the amount of effort he puts in and when Phil suggested we do a book (Jim once said he’d love to be killed in a lot of novels), I readily agreed to get involved.  The idea was that a group of writers would contribute a story with the only key component being that the lead character had to be Jim and he had to die.  I helped Phil with the cover, Graeme Reynolds got it printed up as a beautiful hardback and we all signed it.  As Phil began the presentation, Jim was clearly taken off-guard and as the list of writers was read out, he broke down a little.  It was a lovely moment, there was a lot of applause and love for Jim there and I was proud to be part of it.
Steve and Wayne hung on for the Spectral Press launch and, as it was raining, Sue, Peter, Neil & I headed to the hotel to sample the wonders of the Junior school menu.  There weren’t many people in the restaurant and, once again, I couldn’t understand the business decision to effectively turn away a couple of hundred people (and their money) a day.  Ah well, at least we got a table easily.  I had a burger and a cup of tea (which cost me £8 and I didn’t even get chips!) and whilst the bun was a good size (but toasted almost to coal), the burger was a regular supermarket one and half the size of the bun.  After Steve and Wayne re-joined us, we pestered Peter about the Scooby-Doo anthology, going so far as deciding what tropes we’d like to use (I went for the scarecrow in a field at midnight).

After lunch, we went to the British Horror Present & Future panel in the Conference theatre, moderated by James and featuring Simon Kurt Unsworth, Stephen Jones, Cate, Alison Littlewood and Adam.  As we waited to go in, I saw Laura Mauro standing on her own, so I introduced myself - then the group - and she came in and sat with us.  The panel went well and was very interesting and Adam once again proved himself to be a shrewd observer of the business side of genre writing.

Following on from last nights chat - and her conversation with Steve - we went to hear Priya Sharma’s reading and she got a very good attendance, she read well and the story was excellent.  Afterwards, I saw Steven Saville in the main concourse/bar area with Steve Lockley and we had a chat, then I talked extreme cinema with Alex Davis and a few others.  The rest of the gang went to the GoH interview with John Connolly but I headed for the dealers room.  On the way, I said hello to Rich Hawkins and his wife, then saw Ren Warom and had a little chat with her, before we were joined by K T Davis and her partner Ewan (who was sporting the most impressive of beards) - it was lovely to see them all again and catch up.  Kit Power’s book launch for “Godbomb!” went well and I hung around for a while (and signed Paul Feeney’s copy of “The lost Film”) before making my way back to the main corridor, where I bumped into Charlotte Bond.  We chatted for a while (and I thanked her for the “Lost Film” muffins), then Jim, Paul Melhuish and Richard Farren Barber joined us, as did Neil, who wandered straight across our path as we were having a photo taken by (the same poor Redcloak).  James came by and when Charlotte went, we were joined by Andrew David Barker and chatted horror in general and his excellent novella “Dead Leaves” in particular and the use of local language in a book.  It was great to finally catch up with him, though he got embarrassed as we all heaped praise on the story.
Jim, me, Charlotte, Paul and Richard
As 6pm drew nearer, I chatted with Lynda E. Rucker, Del & Kim Lakin-Smith and Terry Grimwood, before my panel “Weirdness, Darkness, Madness: the Pyschology of Dark Fantasy” began.  It was my first panel (that wasn’t a gameshow) ever - thankfully Terry had given us a copy of his questions, so I’d made some notes - and rounded out by Helen Marshall (who I’d met at WFC in Brighton), Deborah Walker and Timothy J. Jarvis (both of whom I was meeting for the first time).  We got on well, I think we came across well, Terry moderated in fine fashion and the audience seemed to enjoy it (there were a lot of people in there), culminating in some good questions.  As we broke up, I noticed Sue was standing with Nicola Valentine (I recently read her novel “Starfishing”, written as Nicola Monaghan), who I met briefly at Graham Joyce’s memorial, so it was nice to catch up with her (and grab yet another photograph with the same poor Redcloak taking it for me).
Sue, Nicola, me, Steve and Richard
Phil rounded us all up for the curry run and, even though it’d stopped raining, it was getting cold and due to my weight-loss/daily aspirin situation and the fact I’m now never warm, I went back to get my coat.  The rest of the (big) party carried on, Steve waited for me and we walked up to Beeston together, a nice chance to have a chat in peace and quiet.  We talked about life, about writing and how pleased we were with the “Lost Film” launch.  We ate at Nimboo (table booked for 7.30, we arrived at 7.30) which had been pre-warned we were turning up (thanks again for organising it Phil!), had a lot of our food orders already in and still we seemed to overwhelm them.  Our table - Jay Eales & Selina Lock, Sue, Neil, me, Peter, Wayne, Steve, Steven Chapman and Paul Melhuish - had our starters dished up first (at 8.30) and then waited another hour for our mains (by which time, the table John Travis had been at were just leaving) - thankfully the conversation was good fun (the food was okay too) and we were joined by Pixie Puddin and it’s always nice to get one of her hugs.
Me and Pete May (Neil in the background) at Nimboo - perhaps it's best not to ask what we were doing...
On the way back, we broke into smaller groups and I walked into the convention centre with Steven Chapman, the first time we’d been able to have a chat just the two of us, which I really enjoyed.  By then it was disco time, which was already in full swing in the Conference theatre.  I put my drink on the Buchanan-party table (which included Graeme and his lovely partner Charlotte, Vix Kirkpatrick and Chris Barnes), had a chat with Simon Kurt Unsworth (we compared dates for when we’re booked to see “The Force Awakens”, since we - and our boys - are the same age) and his wife Rosie and then it was time to dance.
A misted up camera lens gave me this - Pete, me, Phil and Steven, boogie-ing the night away...
I had the best time ever.  Although our little dancing group was fluid, it mainly consisted of me, Steven and Phil with Peter and Stuart Young joining us every now and again as everyone else disappeared to readings.  I decided to sit out the Macarena and stood with Donna Bond, who knew the moves so she & I did our own little thing off-dancefloor, which was bloody good fun!  Back on the floor, around midnight, we were joined by Carrie and Vix and things just got better, with me and Vix doing some kind of formation dancing with “Hey Mickey”, the boys out-singing the girls with “Dancing Queen”, jumping around for the duration of “Jump Around!” and rocking out to everything else.  It was hot, sweaty, loud, funny and absolutely bloody brilliant (though I did get a couple of amused looks when people realised I don’t drink and was dancing like that completely sober!).  The disco closed at 1am (even though the clocks went back) and we headed back to the hotel and took over one of the tables, with Graeme, the Neils, Steven, Stuart, Peter, me, Carrie and Vix.  Donna came past and the girls told her how much they’d loved the panel and I ran my short story pitch (which is for Neil Buchanans company - it’ll be a print book and Carrie will narrate the audio) by Carrie and Vix and they really liked it.  We chatted about a whole load of stuff - we even got to Herpes at one point, with me, Peter and Carrie mentioning how the AIDS iceberg advert in the mid-80s had seriously curtailed our carnal activities - finally breaking up at about 3.20am.  Fantastic evening, fantastic company, I didn’t want it to end.

Sunday 25th October
Even though it was a very late night I woke up at a decent hour and was down in the foyer well before 9am.  Walking was a bit difficult though - I think I was dancing a bit too recklessly last night and my feet and ankles ached badly.

Donna Bond and the bum stool...
Neil had already eaten and Peter was heading off, so we said our goodbyes then went into the restaurant where I opted for cereal again, but Sue cheerfully tucked into a very-nice-looking cooked breakfast.  She went to the panel on Audio Fiction and I went to pack, encountering Donna on the mezzanine where we both realised the stools there were shaped like bums.  So, of course, I took a photo of her on one!  She went to rouse (her) Neil, I packed, grabbed my Neil and we joined the panel.

By the time we got out, Steve & Wayne had surfaced and we congregated in the lower corridor which quickly developed into a bit of a gathering.  James and Phil arrived, as did Gavin Williams and Paul Woodward, Kit Power was about, Steven Chapman was trying to read quietly and then Neil and Carrie Buchanan came to say goodbye.  Carrie remembered my pitch but not enough to relay it so I ran it past Neil and he really liked it, so that’s a go.  They headed off - hand-shakes and hugging - and I went back to the crowd, when Alison & Fergus turned up.  I like them both a lot and Alison always makes me giggle (she kept calling me Westy today, which I haven’t heard for a while) and this was no exception - we chatted about everything and it was lovely.  They were heading off, so I gave her a hug, shook Fergus’ hand then hugged him, said goodbye (with hugs) to Jim (who was still clearly touched by the book), Phil and James, then Steve and Wayne, before Sue & I decided to head for lunch.  Within three paces, we’d bumped into John Travis who said he, Terry and Stuart were going as well so we arranged to go together.  John went to find them, I saw Adam Nevill standing alone and took the opportunity to have a quick word and introduce him to Sue (glad we did as he suggested the café Rye in Beeston).  I saw Tim Lebbon and introduced him to Sue - they now share publishers and, as it turns out, editors - and it was nice to chat to him.
l to r - Paul Woodward, Phil, Steve, me, Alison, Jim and James with Gavin Williams in front.  I am NOT fiddling with his ear...
Steve, me, Sue and Wayne
We got our coats, met the boys - along with Steve H - in the foyer and took a pleasant wander up into Beeston (Sue and Terry hadn’t met before, so they chatted as John regaled us with amusing tales of his stay in the Hylands).  The Rye was a lovely place - the Brummie waitress took an instant like to John and when he asked for cake in his quite distinctive Northern accent - not “cay-ke” but “kay-cuh” - we all ended up saying it the same way.  The food was lovely - I had a light bite chicken & chorizo pasta but got a large one - and the conversation was loud, fun and varied, from James Bond paperbacks to absent friends and what we’re working on now.  We got back just as the Awards ceremony started - we had to sit on the floor - and Juliet McKenna was a brisk MC.  Jim unfortunately didn’t win for Best Non-fiction (I was to accept on his behalf) and when Juliet announced the novella, I did have a touch of butterflies.  But it wasn’t to be my year and, instead, she read out Stephen Volk’s name, for “Newspaper Heart” - all four of us nominees had said to each other that it was such a strong line-up, it didn’t matter who won and I still think that.  It was a blow to not win, obviously, but losing out to the great Mr Volk (who made a point of shaking my hand earlier in the day and wishing me good luck) did sand the edges off somewhat.

Then it was all over.  We said goodbye to John and Steve and made our way out, saying goodbye to the lovely Carole and Priya on the way.  Adele Wearing, a worthy winner of Best Independent Press, was having a photo-call for The Skulk (the group of writers involved with Fox Spirit Press) and dragged me in, so I did my last shot facing five cameras and standing next to fellow Award nominee K T Davis.  It was a lovely way to end the Con.
The Fox Spirit Skulk - Adele Wearing is in the centre with her trophy, me and KT Davis on the right
With some final goodbyes, Sue & I headed home under a darkening early evening sky, chatting about writing and writers and our experience of the weekend, both of us having had a great time.

I saw and spoke to more people than I’ve listed here of course and as soon as I post this I’ll remember them but in my defence, the weekend was such a high-spirited blur this report just grew and grew - I thought I’d covered a day in detail and would then see a picture or hear mention of something on FB and it’d remind me of something else.  So if I have missed you off, either remind me and I’ll edit you back in or accept my apologies for the oversight.

photo by Carrie Buchanan
It was an excellent weekend.  I really loved York last year but this, I believe, exceeded it, not least because horror was more firmly on the agenda.  As ever, though, as nice as the hotel was and as convenient as the convention centre was, it was the people who made it.  FantasyCon is a genre event, with lots of folk attending for lots of reasons, but mostly it’s a chance to meet up with old friends, make new ones, discover new writers and artists to read and follow and to spend time with like-minded fans, enjoying the genres we all love.

Well done, FantasyCon, you outdid yourself and I had a wonderful time.  Next years event has been announced, to take place in Scarborough and I’ve already bought my ticket - I hope to see you there.  But for now, I’m off to mine some of that creative buzz and get cracking with my story!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

No Twerking Please (my FantasyCon schedule)

I love the FantasyCon experience (I've written reports for most of them) and my first was in September 2000 (FCon XXIV) in Birmingham, where Doug Bradley was one of the guests of honour.  I knew about three people before I went into the venue, but knew a load more by the time I left and most of those friendships are still going strong.  Last years Con, at York, was even more fun and I don't expect this one to be any different at all (especially with all the "Lost Film" goodness!).
Since all the cool kids are doing it (hey, I'm not above trying to claim coolness-by-association) - and because it's the first time I've ever been on a panel - here's my schedule for the weekend.

* * *
Friday 23rd - 5pm - Pendragon Press, launch of "The Lost Film Novellas" by Stephen Bacon & Mark West.
Oh yes, our novellas are finally unleashed.  Please come along, don't force me & Steve to sit in front of an empty room, twiddling our thumbs and smiling nervously at one another like we're on a first date...
* * *

Friday 23rd - 9pm (Conference Theatre) - The Atrocity Exhibition
A distinctive show betwixt Victorian parlour game, debauched freakshow and kitsch cabaret. Most wicked jollity with Mistress of Ceremonie Donna Scott.

Panellists: Kim Lakin-Smith, Emma Newman, Gareth L. Powell and Mark West
I'm not entirely sure what to expect with this, except that Donna is a guarantee of quality and look at my fellow panellists!

* * *

Saturday 24th - 6pm (suite 2) - "Weirdness, Darkness, Madness: the Psychology of Dark Fantasy"

The landscapes of the mind have always been fertile ground to explore in Gothic literature. How is that tradition now informing today's dark fantasy and weird fiction?

* morbid fascination: why are we drawn to what unsettles us?

* what techniques, tropes and tricks do writers and film-makers use to get in our heads?

* what disturbs you the most: fear for your life vs. fear for your sanity?

* what weird experiences have the panellists had and how have they informed their writing?

It's all in the mind. . .or is it?

Moderator: Terry Grimwood
Panellists: Timothy J Jarvis, Kim Lakin-Smith, Helen Marshall, Deborah Walker, Mark West
* * *

Sunday 25th - 3pm onwards - The Awards Ceremony.  note - I usually attend this anyway but this year sees my first solo nomination with "Drive" up for Best Novella (against a very strong field).  Fingers crossed!
* * *
York, September 2014 - Sue Moorcroft, Steven Chapman, Steve Bacon, me, Neil Williams
As FantasyCon sees the launch of "The Lost Film Novellas" (my most recent blog about the project is here), Steve & I - aside from the official 'do' mentioned above - will also be hanging around the Pendragon Press table in the dealers room, signing copies of the limited edition paperbacks and handing out any badges that are left!

In addition, there are plenty of panels and readings that I'm keen to get to, plus a lot of friends have book launches and then there's the epic curry outing, organised by Phil Sloman.  If you don't see me at any of those, I'll either be in the dealer room or in the bar.  Or at the disco, which is always great fun (plus Jim Mcleod - Mr Ginger Nuts Of Horror himself - and I are considering a dance routine together, though I promise not to twerk this year).
York, September 2014 - Fiona Ni Ealaighthe, Jim Mcleod, me, John Travis
FantasyCon, for me, is as much about the people as anything else and - like always - I'm looking forward to catching up with old friends I haven't seen for a year.  There's something positive in the air, that creates a real buzz, when you're surrounded by creative people who love the genre as much as you do and it's always good to meet new friends too.  So, if you see me wandering around, please do come over and say hello!
The Disco, Brighton 2012 - me, Peter Mark May, (wish I knew her name), Lee Harris, Paul Melhuish, Robert Spalding
I hope to see you there and, as ever, there will be a full report when I get back!