A week on and memories of Fantasycon still put a smile on my face. In many ways this seemed more like a successor to last year’s World Horror Con than a Fantasycon – same town, same hotel, similar number of people – but it was a lot more chilled and relaxed than WHC… and the weather was far better, as Brighton basked in an unseasonal heat wave.
Many highlights – the launch on Friday night went better than I’d feared (we were scheduled against two huge crowd pleasers: the Fantasycon quiz for the first half hour and the raffle for the second). In the end there were fewer people than ideal but far more than there might have been, and attendees included authors Christopher Priest, Nina Allan, Gwyneth Jones, Graham Joyce, Rob Shearman, Neil Williamson and Lavie Tidhar, artists Dominic Harman, Vinnie Chong and Andy Bigwood, and many other familiar faces. So what we lacked in numbers we made up for in quality. It was an odd one in a way. I’d intended to say something at the start as I usually do at such events, but as soon as the launch was announced people were there buying, and words seemed superfluous. I was delighted for Kim Lakin-Smith, who was kept busy signing copies of her wonderful new novel Cyber Circus.
We’d gone for sushi earlier that evening – eight of us – but had hurried back because I was supposed to be taking part in a massed signing. In the event, the organisers had forgotten they’d asked me and so I wasn’t included (nor was I alone in this; Mike Shevdon had exactly the same experience). My omission was actually a relief, as it gave me a chance to relax and socialise ahead of the launch.
Saturday began in fine fashion. While Helen disappeared to enjoy the baking sunshine and Brighton’s shops, Jaine Fenn and I sat and supped bucks fizz, which seemed to be in endless supply – we managed six glasses each (or was it seven…?). At this vulnerable moment I was pounced upon by Sarah Pinborough and Marie O’Regan and persuaded to moderate a panel later that morning, with no prep whatsoever… No pressure, just Brian Aldiss, Christopher Priest, James Lovegrove and Ian R MacLeod. Actually the panel went very well, but with participants of that quality, how could it not?
Straight after the panel, I took part in a mass signing by Solaris authors. A dozen or so of us sat there in a line, gave books away (yes, really) and signed them for a pleasingly long queue of eager readers. It proved a great way to meet new people and was a success all round.
One thing I’d been looking forward to was interviewing Gwyneth Jones – a lovely lady and a fabulous writer – for her Guest of Honour spot. The interview seemed to go well, and certainly I heard favourable comments afterwards. My greatest regret was the small number of people in the audience, but I fear we fell victim of scheduling. Immediately before us, Chris Priest interviewed Brian Aldiss for his GofH spot and, as Gwyneth and I waited to go into the same room, people came tumbling out, fanning themselves and gasping for breath, complaining of the heat. I can’t really blame folk for not wanting to spend another hour in the same swelteringly hot room, even to hear Gwyneth.
The evening included nine of us enjoying pizzas, a burlesque show, a hilarious two person play by John Probert and Lady P, and a disco organised by Sarah Pinborough with Rio Yours and Guy Adams as DJs. Helen was in her element and hardly left the dance floor. Dom Harman and his better half Debs (who wasn’t fully well but had worked all day and then struggled out to join us in the evening) had been on the point of going home, but Helen dragged Debs onto the dance floor and they ended up staying far later than intended. That suited me fine. Dom and Debs live in Brighton and we see far too little of them.
One thing this con brought home to me was just how hard the gophers work. Our friends, Sam Moffat and Paul Skevington, were both working as gophers and were only able to join us properly after midnight, when they finished work (having been gophering since 9.00 am). Paul was exhausted and soon headed for bed, but Sam refused to admit defeat and stuck with us. Helen and I bailed out soon after 2.00 am, with the disco still in full swing.
The next morning, shortly before 10.00 am, as I was heading for my final panel duty of the con, I bumped into one of ‘the gang’ Del Lakin-Smith, who looked a little the worse for wear. He was on his way to the BFS’ AGM, but didn’t expect to contribute much – he hadn’t reached his bed until 6.00 am.
My final panel, moderated by Gary McMahon and also featuring Jon Weir from Gollancz, Mike Molcher from Solaris, and Colleen Anderson from Chizine, was on promoting your novel. Surprisingly well attended for 10.00 am on the Sunday of a con. Helen stood at the back and was amused to see how many of the audience were taking notes. Hopefully, we were able to provide them with something useful.
While Helen went to get the car (parked miles away to avoid Brighton’s prohibitive parking charges), I was forced to sit in the bar with Dom Harman. We were joined after a while by Peter Lavery, who was just there for the day, and whiled away a pleasant 30 minutes or so. Then it was cases into the boot and on the road to Cambridgeshire, foregoing the ‘banquet’ and the Awards Ceremony which proved to be so controversial. I’m glad we did. We don’t have that experience to cloud what was an excellent weekend, just its reverberating echo, which doesn’t even impinge sufficiently to take the gloss off the many wonderful memories.