I didn’t get there until 11, so I missed the first few panels but that was countered by greetings from the charming Catherine, Jay Eales and a nice hug from Adele. Martyn Taylor, a friend on Facebook, arrived soon after so we finally got to meet in person. I checked out the dealer room, which was a bit sparse - Factor Fiction had a stall (so I bought the Girly Comic compilation and Selina Lock gave me a badge and comic for Dude), as did Murky Depths and the local Waterstones - then went back to the bar, which was lively and full of noise and conversation. There, my only gripe with the whole event was exposed - lack of name tags. Whilst I recognised some people from Facebook, others I wasn’t quite sure of and could never pluck up the courage to speak to, though I should have. Anyway, I had a chat with Gary McMahon and said quick “hi’s” to Alison Littlewood and Fergus, Stephen Volk, Will Hill and Lou Morgan, then went into the Dragons Den panel, with Susan Sinclair (from my writing group) and Martyn. It was great fun - ‘how not to pitch a novel’ - though I’m pretty sure I actually watched something very similar to Conrad Williams’ opus - “Dracularseholes” - when I was reviewing for VideoVista.
Me & Johnny Mains
I skipped the open mic session and wandered into town, visited my favourite retro toyshop (and picked up some Pokemon figures for Dude and three Stormtroopers for my army) and met up with Sue Moorcroft when I got back. Sue & I have known each other since 1999, when we were both in a writing group in Kettering and her career has rocketed since - she writes chick-lit mainly (and it’s very, very good) but some of her students write speculative fiction so she came along to see what the scene was like (since I’m one of the few horror writers she knows). Johnny Mains came and got me and I went into his reading which was poorly populated - me, Conrad Williams, Tom Fletcher and Kate, the volunteer. Johnny’s story “The Tip” was very good and led onto a fascinating debate/discussion that was only curtailed by a “time’s up!”
I wanted to go into the Horror panel but it was chock-a-block, so Sue & I chatted in the bar before going into “Writing As A Day Job”, with Conrad and Nikki Valentine on the panel and Tom moderating. We stayed put, for Jay’s comics panel which featured Mark Chadbourn, Paul Cornell, Emma Vieceli and Selina and that was great fun, even if most of it went over my head (all I know about modern comics, I know from conversations with Jay, Selina and Stuart Young).
Me & Sue Moorcroft
Back to the bar and more conversations, then Sue & I left to go and have dinner together (the first time that’s happened in 13 years).
I love going to events like this, because I always come away feeling refreshed and energised about writing and creating and the genre as a whole. Plus it’s always nice to see old friends and make new ones - and I’ve missed out a lot of people above, so I should also mention Paul ‘Pablo Cheesecake’ Holmes, Paul Kane & Marie O’Regan, Richard Farren Barber, Kate Heubeck, Victoria and Rick and the ever pleasant Simon (“I thought you were in Barcelona”) Clark.
A great con, which I thoroughly enjoyed and the venue - The Phoenix Digital Arts Centre - was superb. Next year’s event has already been pencilled in and I’ll definitely be there.