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 Peter 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
* 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.
|Looking at all the pictures, I've realised I perhaps talk a bit too much 'with my hands'...
* 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
|late night chatters - me, Steve, Paul, Pete, Neil
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...
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
|Sue, Nicola, me, Steve and Richard
|Me and Pete May (Neil in the background) at Nimboo - perhaps it's best not to ask what we were doing...
|A misted up camera lens gave me this - Pete, me, Phil and Steven, boogie-ing the night away...
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...
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
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
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
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!