Rather than the usual long journey, FantasyCon this year meant a 30 or so mile drive to Peterborough for me and Sue Moorcroft. The Bull hotel was lovely, an old coach house with lots of dark wood, various nooks and crannies and several creaky floorboards, though the view from the car park had a real 1970s Crossroads Motel feel to it.
We were booked in for 2.30. Steve Harris wandered by, the first time I’d had a chance to properly speak to him since his 50th birthday party at the book barn (we didn’t get to chat at Edge-Lit 6), Simon Bestwick & Cate Gardner turned up, along with Terry Grimwood and his partner and it was good to see them all, especially so quickly. Ian Whates came by to say a quick hello before moving on to the dealer room. We dumped our bags (where I discovered my room was so big it had a three-piece suite in it) and then to the bar, the focal point for any Con I’ve ever been to.
|In the bar - me, Lisa Childs, Sue Moorcroft, Peter Mark May|
After a quick chat with Neil & Donna Bond, it was back to the bar and see even more old friends who’d turned up including Georgina Bruce and Tracy Fahey, who intended to hit the dance floor with us later on, Priya Sharma & Mark and Andrew Hook & Sophie Essex. Alison Littlewood & Fergus were also there and we had a chance for a little catch-up - she’s calling me “Swotty McSwotface” because I got my weekend wordcount done before I headed out this morning.
|with CC Adams|
We went along to the Black Shuck Books launch, for Great British Horror 2 and Made For The Dark, John Llewellyn Probert’s new collection. His reading was as wonderful and theatrical as ever and got a terrific response, including plenty of laughs - I loved it. Gareth Spark, my fellow BFS juror, introduced himself and as we headed back to the bar I saw Laura & Mr Mauro (her hubby) for a brief chat. Tim Lebbon came by, we shook and said hello and I saw Tim Love again (the first time since WFC in 2013) - after saying hello, we met up again by chance in the toilet and carried on chatting.
In the bar, Sue & I, along with Peter, Kit and Dion Winton-Polak, found a quiet corner and, joined by CC Adams, had a great and constructive chat about writing that was thoroughly enjoyable (and I think we all learned a thing or two as well!). Rio Youers and John Worley passed by - two more I haven't seen since WFC - and it was nice to chat with them (plus John bought a copy of Strange Tales to be signed).
By then it was dinnertime. In the past, we’ve started with a party of four or five but as I’ve left the venue, the act of saying to friends “have you arranged for dinner yet?” often resulted in us turning up unannounced at a local restaurant hoping to seat 20. This time, cautioned by Peter and Sue, I didn’t ask too many times and so it was us three, Danny Rhodes, Steve and Ross who set out. We went to the Pizza Parlour just off the square, the food was lovely, conversation flowed and we got enough pizza and calzone into Steve to sober him up a bit.
|With Jay Eales and John Llewellyn Probert (and his fabulous monocle!) (pic by Selina Lock)|
|Disco Dancers - me, Peter, Lisa, Tracy Fahey, Colleen Anderson, Tom Johnstone|
|left - James, Phil & I on the floor / right - taking a breather with Ross Warren, Tracy and Lisa|
|me, James and Kit Power, talking about King|
I met Sue for breakfast (and was two minutes late, which she tweeted about) and had the cooked option, which was lovely (in deference to my diet, I said no to the hash brown…). We sat with James and Steve H, had a nice chat with them and also saw Steve Bacon (who looked a bit grey) and John Travis (who looked very chipper on very little sleep). Sue went to watch the F1 qualifying in her room, I went to the other building for my 10am panel and met up with Helen Armfield, my moderator and introduced myself to Nina Allan. “Horror: Mastery And Apprenticeship” comprised Ramsey Campbell, Nina, Phil, James and me and played to a packed room with people loitering in the doorway too. The audience was responsive, I think I acquitted myself well (I know my fellow panellists did) and it’s always a pleasure being on a panel with Ramsey. The 50 minutes sped by and, all too soon, it was over but I had a great time doing it.
|The panel - Ramsey Campbell, Phil, me, Helen Armfield, Nina Allan and James (pic by Peter Mark May)|
|Dave Jeffery, Sue, Phil (his left arm isn't really that long!), Peter, me, Richard Farren Barber|
Back to the Con, we’d unfortunately missed Donna Bond’s panel so chatted in the bar until it was time for Steve’s, “Short Fiction: Markets, Outlets & Awards” Moderated by Allen Ashley, it also featured Tim Major, Pat Cadigan, Adam Millard, and Lynda and was great fun. To the hotel for Hersham Horror Books launch, I blundered into an audio interview with Peter and then the interviewer turned to me so I’ll soon feature in my very first podcast! Well, I was chuffed to be involved.
|Flicking the V's at Peter during the HHB launch as Penny regales us|
(from left) - 2 unknown ladies, Lisa, Sue (obscured), Ross, James, Paul Melhuish, Mr Jones (with his back to camera and obscuring) Penny Jones, Stephen Bacon
Sue & Paul went to a panel, I dropped my purchases in my room and then, with Ross, went to the “Book to Screen to Audio” panel. Mark Morris moderated it and he came over to shake my hand and say hello beforehand, which was nice. The panel consisted of Tim Lebbon, Stephen Gallagher, Dave Jeffery and Natasha Bardon and it was fascinating, Stephen Gallagher’s adventures in radio and TV especially (I could have listened to him talk for hours).
|At Carluccio's with James, Tim Major, Dave, Dean Drinkel, Sue and Paul|
|In the bar with Fergus, Peter, Richard and Alison Littlewood|
|Priya Sharma, Steve H, me, Simon Bestwick (front) and Peter|
Sunday 1st October
Met Sue and Ross in the foyer for breakfast and we joined Dion at his table. In between getting another cooked breakfast, we had a wide-ranging chat (focused a lot on Laurel & Hardy and Morecombe & Wise) that I thoroughly enjoyed. We were later joined by Phil who, on the day of the awards, graced us with his good fortune. I said a pre-emptive goodbye to Dion in case we didn’t see each other again today (one of my least favourite bits of the Sunday, the saying cheerio), then Sue went to read while Ross & I went to Donna’s panel, called “Small Press Publishing”. We sat with Steve and the panel was great fun, Donna ran it well and Ian, Peter and Francesca Barbini were excellent, I’d have listened to those three talk for an hour or more. Even better, Peter said about people pitching stuff that just didn’t work and pointed to me saying “like Scooby Doo anthologies.” I gave him the thumbs up, it got a laugh and Ian said “speak to me at the next Writers!” John Travis will be pleased.
|Phil holds court at breakfast, bestowing his wonder on Sue & I (pic by Dion Winton-Polak)|
All in all, FantasyCon was a great time spent with fantastic company in brilliant surroundings and, as ever, I left with a renewed surge of creative energy, which is always good.
Friends, fellow writers and FCon, you really can’t top that in a weekend! Roll on next year!