FantasyCon 2011 – Convention Review
By far the most anticipated event on a British fantasy fan’s calendar this year was FantasyCon 2011. Held in the Victorian city of Brighton and within a huge, huge hotel that was surrounded by restaurants, clubs, beaches and sights – they surely couldn’t have picked a better location or venue. Things got even more exciting when the guests were announced because in attendance we had the likes of: Joe Abercrombie, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Christoper Paolini, Brian Aldiss, Peter Atkins, John Ajvide Lindqvist, Gwynth Jones, Stephen Deas, Guy Adams, Adam Nevill, Tom Llyodd, Tim Lebbon, James Barclay and so, so many more – it really was a stunning list.
Events ranged from panels through to interviews, launches and signings through to discos and even a burlesque! There was something for everybody and whatever reason you came to the convention you could have a great time. If you wanted to hear your favourite author read a chapter from their next book – the reading room was the place to do – A comfortable room with authors such as James Barclay and Adrian Tchaikovsky turning up to test the water with some of their pre-published work. There were also self-published authors getting spots there too, which was great to see. The panels couldn’t have been better.
I wish I could tell you about all of them, but I think in total there were 20ish. My favourite ones were “How to scare your reader”, which had our famous horror authors such as Ramsey Campbell, Adam Nevill and Tim Lebbon telling us how to write terrifying fiction. I also enjoyed the panel with Adrian Tchaikovsky, Tom Lloyd, Joe Abercrombie and Juliet E. McKenna that focused on the current trends in fantasy. It was a really intelligent conversation that focused greatly on where the genre had been, what was currently popular and what could potentially be in the future. The signings were all great – authors happy with putting pen to books (that hopefully won’t end up on ebay!) and talking with fans about where things were going.
Perhaps my fondest memory of the whole weekend (and it is a strange one) was when I was sat in the reading room just after James Barclay’s reading. It seemed he had attracted a bit of a heckler, which I guess is a kind of compliment – you know you’ve made it when you attract hecklers, right? Well, James had finished his reading, a great excerpt that featured an epic slaying of a warrior like tribe of elves. This lady calls out, “I just don’t see why it has to be so violent.” and from there Joe Abercrombie, James Barclay and Tom Lloyd were trying to explain to the lady why people enjoyed darker fantasy so much, but she was having none of it. And to be honest, it was the wit of James and this woman’s ability/desire to really push her opinion on the subject as far as she could go that just made it brilliant.
There was actually another time over the weekend that had my sides hurting with laughter and that was again with James Barclay – this time though he was interviewing Joe Abercrombie. The two worked together as well as a comedy duet and having seen Lee Evans in Wembley last week – I must say that this compared pretty damned well! (I was lucky enough to get a good amount of it on tape and I also interviewed the charismatic James Barclay about his career so far, as well as his new Elves book – so keep an eye on Fantasy-Faction.com this week to check that out!)
A highlight of the weekend for many other people though, was the Saturday evening. This was the party night. Authors took control of the disco and Jo Fletcher Books held a really impressive launch party. Again, a strange experience to watch authors whose books you’ve read time and time again busting moves about five feet away from you, but enjoyable all the same! Come Sunday morning I am sure there were a lot of sore heads, but even that wasn’t the end of things. On Sunday there was a huge banquet and awards ceremony. Sadly, I had to catch the train home, so can’t really tell you too much about that, however, from what I’ve heard – it was a great afternoon and as fun as the rest of the weekend.
So you can probably tell, I thoroughly enjoyed my first FantasyCon. What was great for me is that it was nothing like that I was expecting. I kind of felt it would be a little bit like a trade exhibition, with authors talking themselves up in a bid to get people to buy their books. It was nothing like that at all though. The event really didn’t seem like a big press event, instead it seemed like the authors really turned up just to interact with those who share their love for the genre and of course their fans. Perhaps the strangest experience for me was talking to a friend while Joe Abercrombie and Sarah Pinborough, authors I’ve admired for a long, long time are just sat at the bar chatting – or how about Adrian Tchaikovsky and Jon Courtenay Grimwood sitting on the sofa opposite me drinking lemonade and beer? This truly was a unique chance to meet the minds behind all your favourite novels and realise they are normal, down to Earth human beings after all!
The writers who were there were all wonderful. It seemed nothing was too much for them. I stopped a number to ask random questions, share my thoughts on their work, get a book or two signed and generally just say hello. I think these events are great for people who simply want to see the kind of people who create the pieces of literature that they love. In addition though, it is a great place to learn more about the genre, make new friends and generally have a great time. Certainly the weekend was one of the very best I’ve had in a long, long time and I have to say well done to the organisers Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane who literally could not have done a better job. I can’t wait until the next one!
A Few Notes From The Panels
Horror: Adam Nevill thinks you should use simpler words to make things scarier. ‘Wet’ as opposed to ‘slimey’ when describing something and wanting to create atmosphere.
Horror: Ramsey Campbell doesn’t try too hard to be scary, he thinks that trying too hard makes things feel architected and that creates the opposite effect.
Trends: Joe Abercrombie tries not to read too much within the genre in order to stop himself worrying about replicating things. Right now he is reading a lot of non-fiction.
Trends: Tom Lloyd reads things similar to what he likes to write as it helps him get his voice and tone right.
Trends: McKenna doesn’t think there is enough out there that sees those with magical abilities getting down and dirty.
Agents: All agents are looking for books that ‘are not shit’. They basically said that in today’s market, all you need to do is blow them away. The simplest way to get published is to write a book that has the reader (editor/agent) wanting to read word two after word one, word three after that and so on.
Agents: The whole vampire thing is coming to an end. That being said, if a good vampire book landed on Jo Fletcher’s desk, it would be published!
Agents: Ebooks have left things in a state of confusion right now, no one knows how things will turn out.