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FantasyCon 2012 (Part Two)

October 3, 2012

The first part of my writeup of FantasyCon 2012 appears here.

A feature of this year’s FantasyCon for me was the total disappearance of lunch. There was a one-hour break in the programme, but somehow it never seemed to materialise – what with leaving one event, grabbing a drink at the bar, or just chatting in the corridors or the lounge, that ephemeral 60-minute nibble window was never more than glimpsed at a distance. Instead, Saturday afternoon began with the Solaris / Abaddon book giveaway, where I neglected to queue until the last minute, and so missed out on Gaie Sebold’s Babylon Steele (which I managed to buy later at the Forbidden Planet stand) and Lou Morgan’s Blood & Feathers (which I missed out on the whole weekend – still looking for that one!). However, it was a great chance to catch up and chat, and segwayed nicely into the launch of Magic, Jon Oliver’s “Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane”, featuring stories by Lou and by Rob Shearman and many others. Solaris do some cracking anthologies – I really enjoyed House of Fear last year, so am looking forwards to getting my teeth into this one.

Waiting for this to arrive right now…

Now, at this point my planned schedule went completely tits up, and for awesome reasons. I had planned a meticulous tour of panels, interviews, launches, and so on, the first of which was the “Have We Caught Up with Science Fiction” panel, with Janet Edwards, Jaine Fenn, James Lovegrove, Philip Palmer, and Neil Williamson. The panel itself focussed very much on how cool a lot of modern tech is, and only a couple of times attempted to rise to the challenge of tackling the role of science fiction in our age of massive social, economic, and technological change. Like a lot of panels, it suffered under the breadth of its title – one which could easily have taken up an entire symposium, never mind an hour-long panel.

However, at the end of the panel, I had one of those wonderfully precious convention experiences: quite by chance, I got chatting with Jaine Fenn, who I’d only briefly talked to the previous year, and suddenly found myself in an awesome, mutually grokking mind-meld which was utterly inspirational. We chatted for the rest of the afternoon, and, joined by Colum Paget, headed out for dinner afterwards, and only broke up for the FantasyCon disco later that night. There’s a moment when conversations become truly airborne – thoughts take flight, acquire lives of their own, and time vanishes in a luminescent bubble of communication. Saturday afternoon and evening was one such moment, and one I’ll treasure for its perfection of exchange for a long, long time.

I was still pretty much in a daze after that. After freshening up before the disco, I spent a very happy hour chatting with Jasper Kent and Helen Casey in the bar, touching on Russia, roleplaying games, languages, and other favourite topics, before heading off to the FantasyCon disco.

Which was carnage. I hadn’t realised the disco was a new thing for FantasyCon – 2011, my first FantasyCon, was the first time it had happened. Entering its terrible twos, it was loud, flailing, and messy, and enormous fun. I fear my dignified exterior may have slipped slightly during Firestarter, when the dance floor seemed to descend into a tubthumping techno mosh pit, and before I knew it, the lights were coming up, and it was 2.30am. After watching several terrifying entrants in the slow dance competition, I thankfully resisted the temptations of the bar (open till 4am), and staggered off to bed…

…only to wake at 7.15, after just over 4 hours sleep. Running total since Wednesday: 20 hours. Feeling like my head had been microwaved, I headed off to a reading from Jonathan Green’s Time’s Arrow, which was very entertaining and filled with Parisian mayhem (you can’t go wrong when you blow up major cities), after which I managed to bag a copy of Anne Lyle’s Alchemist of Souls from the dealers’ room and then got to the NewCon Press launch for a chat with the wonderful Ian Whates and a copy of Hauntings, my final planned purchase of the day. I say planned – I had the great good fortune to meet Simon and Lizzie Marshall-Jones of Spectral Press, effortlessly picking up Gary Fry’s The Respectable Face of Tyranny and John Probert’s The Nine Deaths of Dr Valentine. It was great talking to Simon and Lizzie and chewing the cud about things SF and Cthulhoid, and also getting to meet John Probert at last, who I’d become facebook friends with after we’d both written for the upcoming World War Cthulhu anthology from Cubicle 7, the first publishers of my Mindjammer.

Sunday then smoothly entered the Banquet and BFS Awards Ceremony, where I got to meet Ros Jackson of Warpcore SF and writer, journalist, and scriptwriter Gardner Goldsmith, El Grande himself. I discovered Gardner and I shared an interest in libertarian thinking (I come at it mostly from the European, Kropotkin / Morris school), and we both indulged in a cool conversation of conspiracy theorising, which (some of you may know) is a very fruitful pastime of mine. Ros introduced me to her Warpcore SF blog, chocker with book and film reviews, which I can strongly recommend.

As it was only my second time at the awards, I can’t offer any historical commentary, other than to say that the introduction of a bit more tech this year over last was very welcome. Each award was accompanied by an on-screen summary, and a graphic for the winning work. Better still, in cases where the winner wasn’t able to be present in person, there were videos of acceptance speeches instead, which was very cool, and fitted seamlessly into the proceedings.

John Berlyne accepting the BFS Award on behalf of Lavie Tidhar

I had two personal “YES!” moments in the awards. The first was for Lavie Tidhar’s Gorel and the Pot-Bellied God, which won best novella. I’ve been fiction editor of Lavie’s World SF Blog for the past 6 months, which I’ve been enjoying immensely, and while I haven’t read Gorel, I have read his awesome Jesus and the Eightfold Path, so on both counts it was very gratifying to clap and cheer at the award. Second was for Rob Shearman’s Everyone’s Just So So Special. I don’t much go in for punching the air, but this one made me want to run around doing high-fives: I picked up Rob’s collection at FantasyCon 2011 after hearing him read from it, and absolutely loved it. He’s our very own homegrown Kafka, much cuddlier and less austere than the Prague Banker, but equally able to disturb and find the chill in the most apparently quotidian situations. I’ve not read such a perfectly formed short story collection for years, and it was wonderful to see Rob’s book get the acclaim it so richly deserves. Rob did mention too that he’s going to be working on a novel next, which I found to be exciting news. Lord knows what that will involve: The Trial meets The Castle in a blood-drenched jammie dodger cage fight at 30,000 feet, and not a dry eye in the house, I’ll warrant. I’ll be buying one of ’em, come what may.

Rob doesn’t normally have wild staring eyes. I need a new camera.

And that’s it! A quick swoop round for final farewells, then I hit the road on the long-haul back to Normandy, which I finally reached the following day, and promptly fell into a profound slumber. By turns knackering, exhilarating, stimulating, hilarious, inspiring, emotional, and downright fun, I had a great FantasyCon 2012. I hope you did too, if you went, and hope to see everyone again next year for World Fantasy Con 2013.



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