Blogger and professional book editor Lee Harris gives his verdict on last weekend's World Horror Convention in Brighton
I was lucky enough to attend the World Horror Convention last weekend. It was held in sunny Brighton (and it was sunny for most of the time). It might seem like an odd location for a World convention – especially as this is the first time in its 20 year history that it has been held outside of North America – but it worked; it really, really worked.
I arrived at around 1.30pm on Thursday, expecting to be one of the first in attendance, but there were already hundreds there. In fact, with around 600 attendees, the convention sold out several months ago – impressive when you discover that last year’s World Horror in Canada attracted significantly fewer than 50 members!
After checking into the hotel I registered at the convention table, and was handed the customary goodie-bag, though it was a better goodie-bag than I’ve received at any other con, with first-rate books – some popular titles, some older titles and one huge hardback put together specifically for con-goers.
After dumping everything in my room I headed down to the main part of the convention – the bar. There were some very interesting panels and interviews scheduled across the weekend, but if you work in the industry, the bar is the most important room in any convention. It’s where business is talked, where proposals are discussed, where deals are struck. Oh, and where beer and wine is consumed by the tanker-full. Yes, yes, yes, the beer is a chore, but it’s one we take very seriously. When we drink, it’s for your reading pleasure.
On the Friday evening, a party was hosted by Heather Graham (the writer, not the actress) in a venue at the far end of Brighton Pier. The pier was kept open for convention attendees, and as it was a horror convention, the Ghost Train ride was manned until the end of the party. The wine and beer flowed freely (in both senses of the word) and the ghost train was astonishingly funny in its complete and utter inability to provide any scares whatsoever, and that added to the fun immeasurably.
An unannounced guest attended in order to interview James Herbert, the convention’s Special Guest of Honour – the hotel was abuzz with the news that Neil Gaiman had arrived, and what a thoroughly nice chap he is.
Saturday saw the presentation of the annual Bram Stoker awards . It was ably presented by Gollancz’s Jo Fletcher, with an excruciatingly embarrassing video introduction by Deborah LeBlanc, the Horror Writers Association’s outgoing chairperson. During one of the award presentations, Tim Lebbon noted that despite the fact that the convention was in Europe for the first time, all the finalists in every fiction award were from North America. This is largely due to distribution, as most of the voting members will be American or Canadian, and if they don’t get to see the books, they can’t vote for them! Still, it would have been nice to see a greater degree of variety on the shortlist.
The awards banquet was traditional – that it, it was overpriced and barely edible. The quality of the company more than compensated, though for £32 a ticket you’d think a seaside resort could get fish and chips right.
After the awards ceremony most of us headed back to the hotel where Quercus had generously set up a free bar (you may see a theme running through this report).
The convention ended on Sunday afternoon, and everyone was exhausted. Happy, but exhausted. We really do work hard to get you the best books, you know.
I’ve been to a decent number of conventions, and this was easily the best-run of any of them. Organised by Stephen Jones, Amanda Foubister and Michael Marshall Smith, with a dedicated team which included Alex Davies, Paul Kane and Marie O’Regan, every aspect of the con – the marketing, the hotel, the parties, the programming – was planned and executed with precision.
This weekend I’m off to EasterCon . It has a lot to live up to…
See you there, Lee! This is a personal report by blogger Lee Harris. You can read a little more feedback about WHC in SFX issue 196. Comments and feedback on this or other conventions welcome below as always.