SFX blogger Alasdair Stuart enjoys a ll the fun of the con
The British Fantasy Society’s FantasyCon 2010 wrapped up this Sunday and it was a perfect example of not only Con Culture but why this relatively small annual event, with just under 300 attendees, is spoken of so affectionately.
The great thing about con culture is that everyone knows everyone else, unless, of course, you've never been before and what should be welcoming and open becomes 300 friends drinking at you and not actually acknowledging your existence. It's a tough hump to get past, and it’s also one that FantasyCon is uniquely equipped to offset. This year in particular, the “Area 51” section was designed to welcome newcomers, make them feel at home and make sure they could get the best out of the event and it was a big success. The mark of a good convention is, I suspect, foot traffic and people were always moving at FantasyCon 2010, always making their way to a new panel or a new signing or going to the dealer's room. Or, of course, the bar.
This was my third FantasyCon and it was the best I’ve been to so far. The guests of honour, Garry Kilworth, Lisa Tuttle and comics master Bryan Talbot were very much present and interviews with each of them formed the backbone of the panel stream of the program. They were all smart, funny and engaged and there was no sense of any superiority or hierarchy. They were congoers, the same as us, and that sense of inclusion continued through the weekend.
It was particularly noticable at the annual Awards Ceremony , which saw some long-deserved recognition for some of the hardest working people in the field. Murky Depths ’ Best Magazine win was a huge pleasure to see as Terry Martin’s relentless dedication to the magazine has finally paid off. It’s been voted Best Fanzine by SFX on numerous occasions and if you’re even a little interested in comics, short science fiction, fantasy or horror, you need to vist its website and pick up a subscription. David Howe of Telos Publishing was an equally pleasant surprise and his response to the win was genuinely moving. Telos is the go-to publisher for in-depth analysis of cult film and TV and its Aliens and Predator book, Beautiful Monsters , taught me huge amounts about how to analyse film and TV. Telos has got a huge range and, at long last, the recognition it deserves and can be found at http://www.telos.co.uk/ .
For me, the real highlights of FantasyCon were the moments I got to step across to the other side of the con. I helped sell the Mammoth Book of Horror 21 , the Best of the Mammoth Book of Horror and Zombie Apocalypse , a great collection of short stories about different viewpoints of the dead rising from Constable and Robbin and got to co-present the Best Non Fiction award with fellow blogger and Master of the Angry Robots, Lee Harris. We even got out photos taken with the awards afterwards which, whilst briefly tempted to grab one of them and run, thankfully didn't end in the world's geekiest foot pursuit.
However, one of the two highlights, for me was on the last day. I was asked to interview Peter F Hamilton, author of The Night's Dawn Trilogy , Judas Unchained , Pandora’s Star and more. He’s a great interviewee too, smart, engaging, funny and refreshingly open how he works and what had to be cut from the Night’s Dawn books in particular. What was particularly interesting was how far ahead he plans, with the next book being worked on now and a second Void trilogy on the books after that. Hamilton plans his books years in advance and based on what he told us about the new one, which is a combination of science fiction and horror, that’s one of the secrets of his success.
The beating heart of FantasyCon, however, is the beating heart of genre fiction in this country; the people. People like Sharon Ring, of Dark Fiction Review , the tireless Adele Harrison of Un:Bound and Amanda Rutter of Floor to Ceiling Books , three of the best genre fiction critics on the net, whilst authors like Guy Adams , Sarah Pinborough and Conrad Williams are producing top-flight fiction. They, along with publishers like Lee Harris, David Howe and Terry Martin are building the foundations of the future, and it’s at places like FantasyCon that you can see them work. Or, better yet, join in. FantasyCon 2011 is in Brighton and, if you can, you should go. There are plenty of events that are bigger but few, I suspect, that punch so far above their weight.