Tuesday, 2 October 2012

FantasyCon, Brighton, 28th September to 30th September 2012


Friday 28th September
Jay & Selina picked me up at 10.30 and we made good time - it wasn’t as sunny and hot as last year, so we didn’t have to share the road with a lot of opportunistic weekend holidaymakers.  Creating a new tradition, we stopped off at Pease Pottage again, had lunch and I got to stretch my legs - my heel is still sore and so I’m still limping.

By the time we got to Brighton, it was about 2pm and Selina & I took the bags in whilst Jay went to park the car.  Saw Paul & Cath Finch, who remarked they knew more about Dude than me recently from my Facebook feed and talked about their son’s rugby, then went into the hotel.  We got booked into the rooms whilst there wasn’t a queue, then booked into the Con - and seeing the smiley faces of Helen Hopley and Pixie Pants is always a good thing.  This year, topping the Jo Fletcher Books canvas bag of 2011, the goodies were in a proper bag (courtesy of PS Publishing) and I think pretty much everyone used theirs all weekend - I know I did.


I went to check my room, which was in the basement.  It was nice enough but only had an unopenable skylight (it wasn’t, as it transpired) and so I went back to the desk to see if I could change (since I get a little claustrophobic).  The hotel was full for the night, so I gave up and went to the Fear magazine launch.  John Gilbert was on hand and it was good to talk to him and I also met up with Steve Harris and John Worley.  We got chatting, as we normally do, about sleazy 70s/80s horror and were having a right old time and when I mentioned my room, Steve suggested we swap.  He reckoned he’d only be getting a couple of hours kip a night so wouldn’t have a problem with the basement (nearer the bar and dealers room, he said).  So we swapped and I moved into his 3rd floor corner room which looked out on the pier -very nice (I did feel guilty about swapping, but he was adamant).

Went into the dealers room and said hi to Chris Teague, who was setting out the new Gary McMahon collection.  Gary & Emily came along then and whilst he signed, Emily & I chatted for ages about work and schools, joined by Simon Kurt Unsworth.  They had copies of “What Gets Left Behind” (and wanted me to sign them), which looked very nice.  Met up with Peter Mark May, then headed up to the bar when I bumped into Simon & Lizzie Marshall-Jones, of Spectral Press.  Simon gave me my contributor copies of the chapbook (and it does, seriously, look very nice) and two Spectral badges, one for me and one for Dude.  Met and chatted with Mick & Debs Curtis, Gary Cole-Wilkin & Soozy Marjoram, then had a wander and said hello and got into little conversations here and there (Mathew F Riley said he was looking forward to the chapbook, I said I hope he didn’t get his hopes up too high!).  Saw Adam Nevill en route and stopped to have a quick word with him.  I thanked him again for “Last Days” and he thanked me for my promotion of it and the faked book cover.  Good see to him and fingers crossed for the awards on Sunday (he’s up for best novel with “The Ritual”).

Arranged to go to dinner with Jay & Selina, Peter, David Price, Stuart Young, Stuart Hughes and Richard Farren Barber and we set off to find an Indian restaurant that Jay was keen to sample.  In a repeat from last year, the restaurant eluded the SatNav of both Jay and Richard though when we did find it (I stopped a passerby and asked them), they didn’t have room for us.  We ended up in a buffet Indian which wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t brilliant and the eight of us were squashed around one table.

Back to the hotel for the Pendragon Press launch, which was delayed for a bit and then the Spectral one, where I chatted with Anna Taborska and met up with Pablo and Mrs Cheesecake - good people all.  John Llewellyn Probert, whose collection “The Nine Deaths Of Dr Valentine” was launching, was in fine form and the crowd was almost eating out of his hand.  Saw Dean Drinkel there too and had a chat with him, about horror in general and the demon anthology he’s editing (that I’m writing a story for).  Headed into the raffle with Ross Anthony Warren and Paul & Mandy Edwards but didn’t win anything (though Ross later gave me a copy of James Herbert’s “Haunted), so nipped up to hear the readings from Gary McMahon and Simon Bestwick (both excellent).  Back down to the bar, where I had a quick chat with Sarah Pinborough who’d hurt her back and then sat with Tim Taylor and Paul Melhuish, from my writing group (Tim is also Greyhart Press) and Ross.  We were joined by Stu and Graeme Reynolds and talked the hind legs off a donkey until the early hours - Graeme nipped out for a fag, Ross went on a beer run, I called it a night.

Saturday 29th September
A nice and sunny day.  I went down to breakfast and sat with Paul Melhuish, then went to the Alchemy Press launch in Bar Rogue as Selina has a story in The Book Of Ancient Wonders, edited by Jan Edwards and Jenny Barber (both of whom were visibly thrilled to be there).  I was really pleased for Selina, especially since she’s blaming my poking her into action for her sudden rash of publishing achievements!  Wandered back into the lounge, where Robert Spalding collared me - we’d passed each other two or three times but had been en route, so it was nice to sit down for a bit.  Mark Lachlan came by and we had a chat, then Adele Wearing and Kat Heubeck (of Unbound) joined us - I haven’t seen Kat since The Staff Of Life recording and it was good to catch up with her and it’s always a pleasure to see Adele.

Gavin Williams, Stuart Young and me, in front of the pier

Caught the start of the Titan Books launch and got Danie Ware to sign her book, then went up to Jon Oliver’s reading which was very good (and got a nice reaction from the audience at an OAP sex scene).  Rather than risk the lounge and the James Herbert signing, I went into The Lanes for lunch with Stu Young (and no, we didn’t find any secondhand bookshops this time) and Gavin Williams, the latter of whom has his short film “Sleepworking” showing.  Back to the hotel for the Solaris giveaway (though I didn’t pick anything up) and a chat, then I headed for the dealers room.  As I crossed the restaurant, Johnny Mains called me over.  He and Mary Danby were sitting in the corner whilst they signed hardback copies of her collection “Party Pieces” and so I got to have a chat with her and tell her how much I loved her Armada Ghost books during the 70s - great stuff.  After chatting in the dealer room for a while, I went up to the Russell Room where Mark Morris interviewed Guest Of Honour Mark Gatiss - it was a great interview, with some top quality questions and Gatiss was a superb interviewee, funny and knowledgeable and really down to earth.  I caught up with Steve Harris and Gavin Williams on the way back and chatted with them for ages, then joined Paul & Mandy Edwards, Selina and Jan Edwards for yet another chat.

 In the dealers room, with Selina Lock, me, Richard Farren Barber, Stuart Young

All too soon, it was time for dinner (Jay & Selina are die-hard Dr Who fans so we had a time restriction), so we gathered the troops and headed out.  On this particular expedition, we had Peter Mark May, me, Mandy & Paul, Stuart Hughes, Richard, Paul, Jay & Selina and Stu and, of course, there were too many of us to fit in the American diner.  Instead, we went next door to Steak-On-Sea and had a fantastic meal there, where conversational topics ranged right across the board.  

In the steak house - Stuart Hughes, Paul Edwards, Mandy Edwards, me, Peter Mark May, Stuart Young, Jay Eales, Selina Lock, Paul Melhuish, Richard Farren Barber

Jay & Selina left and the rest of us took our time heading back to the hotel where I managed to miss Alison Littlewood’s reading, which annoyed me.  Finally got up to the reading room for the joint John Llewellyn Probert/Stephen Volk Spectral half-hour and that was great fun - John’s brilliantly theatrical anyway and Steve’s tale, featuring the gentleman Peter Cushing was wonderful.  Back downstairs with Stuart, Jay & Selina, we tried some of the Evening Entertainment but it didn’t grab my attention, so I headed down for the film show.  This year, it was held in the Fitzherbert which wasn’t ideal - the room (like the rest of the hotel) was suffering with having the heating on, the air con units were noisy (and didn’t appear to work) and Health & Safety had apparently decreed that some of the lights had to stay on.  Oh well.  The programme had changed and Paul Kane’s film “Wind Chimes” was showing.  I like Paul, we go back a long way, but when he said his film was inspired by walking through a children’s graveyard and featured child mortality, I had to make my excuses and leave.  I felt even worse for leaving when I realised there weren’t too many in the audience.  Back to the bar, for a quick chat about Takeshi Miike films with Gary McMahon, Graeme Reynolds and Neil Buchanan, then back to the film show for Gavin’s short.  It was a very good, visually impressive (especially for the budget) and drew a good sized audience.  After he finished the Q&A, I went back up to Bar Rogue and met up with the NSFWG writers group contingent.

I think we might have been singing along to Donna Summer here...

The disco had already started and, being a self-conscious idiot, I was going to give it a miss until I heard DJ Rio Youers dedicate a song for Gary McMahon.  Stu & I, curious, wandered over to see what it was and Gary danced all the way through Footloose.  That, combined with seeing Paul & Mandy on the dancefloor, made up my mind and I spent the next two and a half hours happily dancing the night away (though pogo-ing with my injured heel perhaps wasn’t the wisest thing).  Singing along heartily to an inspired collection of 80s tunes (Sarah Pinborough apparently put together the playlist and it was very good), with an ever fluctuating gang of fellow dancers in our ‘circle’ (Peter May, Paul, Chris Teague, Emily McMahon, Lee Harris, Paul & Mandy and a whole load of people I didn’t recognise), we all ‘partied like it was 1999’ and I bloody loved it.  They closed off with two slower numbers and it was just like being back at school - some hardy souls kept dancing, but mostly the boys took to one side of the room and the girls to the other and some people (looking at you, Paul Melhuish and Chris Teague!) shouted “Metal, metal!”.  Back to the bar for some quick chats (difficult with seriously ringing ears), then back to the room for 3.15am.

Sunday 30th September
Woke up to find my ears were still ringing and, as predicted, all that pogo-ing had made my heel feel worse.  Oh well.  Sat with Steve Harris for breakfast and we almost (only almost) finished our epic, ongoing Fulci conversation and talked about what a great weekend it’d been so far.  I then went through to the Greyhart Press launch (of Paul’s book and Nigel Edwards’ two collections), some of which I’d critiqued at the writing group.  Unfortunately, we were in the lounge bit and people sat around us so we didn’t really get any attention - it probably looked like a group of friends sitting around, chilling out with piles of books on the table.  However, I did manage to sell Steve a copy of “The Mill”, bringing sales to a total of three (by me) for the weekend.

Me & Steve Harris

It was then the Hauntings launch and Ian got us all sorted out in the end part of the bar (where Forbidden Planet usually has their shop area).  I sat between Ben Baldwin and Alison Littlewood and our fellow signatories included Adele Wearing, Amanda Hemingway (who said “Hello, how are you?” to me in her urgent, clipped tones and I was just as keen to please her as I had been back at the Staff Of Life!), Kim Lakin-Smith, Paul Kane (I apologised again about the film show), Mark Morris (and I thanked him for the Mark Gatiss interview - he later emailed me to point out we hadn’t had our Three Investigators chat yet!), Adrian Tchaikovsky and Rob Shearman.  There was a real buzz in the air and there were a lot of people milling around and we signed a lot of books.  We also had a good laugh amongst ourselves, which was nice.

Alison Littlewood and me, "giggly schoolkids" taking it in turns to pull faces...

With Stuart Young looking on, Paul Kane and Adrian Tchaikovsky act professional.  
Alison and I act serious.

Went to the dealer room, chatted with Stu and Peter, then went for lunch with Jay & Selina.  We tried the American diner again but, once again, it was full so we wandered along the front a bit further and found a lovely Italian place that did a fantastic pizza.  Selina went to get the car and Jay & I walked back to the Albion, meaning to say our goodbyes.  We got as far as finding Simon Bestwick & Cate Gardner in the terrace area, John Worley and Roy Gray joined us and we didn’t get any further.  Said goodbye to Lisa Jenkins on the steps, then loaded the car up and Steve Harris came out to shake my hand and we were off.

We followed the Awards ceremony via Twitter on the drive home and I was pleased with the results, especially Angela Slatter getting short story and Adam Nevill winning for “The Ritual”.  If there’s any justice, “Last Days” will be nominated next year and he’ll do the double!

Another great con, over all too quickly but bloody hell, it was brilliant fun!

Leg’s still sore though…

photographs by me, Ian Whates and Fergus (Hauntings signing) and Jonathan Green (disco)

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