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The Super Relaxed Fantasy Club

An urban nightscape. Soft up-lighting casting blue petals against the wall. Flame captured in tall glass pyramids heat the room. The quiet chatter of people at the bar and staff placing chairs in silence. It surrounds you, entices you, relaxes you. And that’s good.

This was my first time. I’d meant to go before, things just got in the way. I’m glad I went. Everyone was talking about the same things; books, fantasy and sci-fi, writing. I’d expected, because that’s how I am, to be sat in a corner, watching, listening, sipping my pint of beer and just looking around. It didn’t work out that way. I wasn’t allowed to be the wallflower, and not just by one person, but by everyone. By the end of the evening, I’d been made to feel part of the club.

Back to the beginning. That February night, I took the train up (and by up, I mean mostly west and slightly north) to London and then traversed my potential Helm’s Deep, the underground. Whoever decided that the Bakerloo and Central Line should be the same colour deserves a medal, preferably with a long, sharp pin attached to the back of it. I’d be happy to pin it in on them. Okay, I know that they are not, technically, the same colour, but to me they are.[1] Knowing I would face this battle being, metaphorically, unable to peer over the battlement, I had planned beforehand and navigated the whole system with only a few scars as evidence of the brutal conflict.

Arriving at the venue, I looked around for other attendees. I was the very picture of a Meerkat on the lookout for a bird of prey. Sat at a table were a group of eight who seemed to be likely candidates. Should I approach and ask? Not me. I’ll just keep watch and look lost – someone will usually come to help at that point. They didn’t and the group got up, paid their bill and left.

So, when I heard a tall gentleman ask one of the staff (why didn’t I think of that?) where the SRFC was meeting only to receive blank looks and confused glances, I knew I had found a friend. Bert, for such was his name, and I (both with beer in hand) discovered through the assistance of others who began to arrive, and had clearly been before, the location of the Super Relaxed Fantasy Club.

Once in the “Sky Bar” – the rooftop location with its aforementioned ambiance and views – we were quickly introduced to many, many more people. Folks who made us feel welcome more quickly than is surely possible without the use of super powers. My thanks, therefore, go to (but are not limited to) Chris, Isabel, Elise, Victoria and Stephen (our guide to the top floor).

Juliet Mushens (and I still apologise for referring to you as a “hallowed beast”), the agent for Jen Williams and Den Patrick, explained that the key aim of the club was inclusion and equality. Yes, we were here to listen to readings from some fabulous authors and to ask questions, but the informal atmosphere encourages guests to talk to the editors, agents and authors present. There is no plinth, no gilded cage to separate the ‘them’ from the ‘us’.

 Jennifer WilliamsThe first author to read, Jen Williams, chose a short section from her recently released book, The Iron Ghost. You’ll know that we at Fantasy-Faction put her first book, The Copper Promise at number 4 in our Top 50 Books of 2014, so hearing the author read from the anticipated follow-up was a joy. The actual piece she chose was full of character, humour, wit and careful observation. Even if you knew little of the first book and its characters, you were immediately drawn in to their world, their interactions and relationships.

Jen’s reading was followed by a short Q&A session. The calibre of questions was high and the answers were equal parts erudite and self-effacing. In particular, her description of writing book two as the awkward teenager you raise that decides to go on a world tour, against your wishes, but returns as a fully-fledged, fully rounded adult was glorious.

Den PatrickDen Patrick read next from his second book The Boy Who Wept Blood, the sequel to his Fantasy-Faction Top 50 The Boy with the Porcelain Blade. In an excellent counter-point to the first reading, Den’s chosen piece was full of tension, implied violence, detail and symbolism.

In the following Q&A, Den Patrick explained why he had chosen to write about an older protagonist in his second book; he wanted to move beyond the early years of a life to tackle some more adult problems and situations. He also divulged some information about the decision to set his novels outside of the common Northern European landscape and political situation. The answer was surprising simple – it began with the names and grew from there.

The SRFC was setup over a year ago by Jen Williams and Den Patrick as an antidote to the sometimes intimidating, and separating, atmosphere of a Con. It began with just eight people in attendance and has grown to over sixty on a regular basis. That original ethos of open informality still dominates the proceedings.

So, if you find yourself in London, on the right date (the last Tuesday of every month), then it is well worth going along to listen, talk and be thoroughly entertained. You will not meet a friendlier bunch of people, whether they are authors, editors, writers, aspiring writers, readers, fans or even the occasional introverted geek being brought out of his shell.

The next meeting is scheduled for 31st March 2015 where Francesca Haig will be reading from her debut novel, Fire Sermon. Pete Newman will also be reading from The Vagrant and answering questions. You can find more details on the Facebook page here.

Just plan the underground journey first.

[1] Should point out, I am colour-blind. Just like a fair number of males. Just don’t ask me, “What colour is that?” – I get asked that every time.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated March 10, 2015. Previously Gareth Powell was going to be reading at the next event. This was changed to Pete Newman who will be reading from The Vagrant.

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12 Comments

  1. Avatar Angus Watson says:

    I’ve been meaning to go the Super Relaxed Fantasy Club this for ages, but a deep-rooted terror of entering social functions on my own has prevented me so far. After this post’s reassurance, I reckon I’m going to be able to make myself go this month. Thanks!

  2. Avatar Lisa (Arry) says:

    I love the sound of this! If I randomly find myself in London on the last Tuesday of a month, this will be on my must-do list. Probably not all that likely, but maybe 🙂 Someday …

  3. Avatar Jennifer Williams says:

    Oh hai! Thanks for the awesome article, so chuffed 😀 We’ve had a slight change of details to the next SRFC – rather than Gareth L Powell we have Pete Newman coming down to read from The Vagrant. Any chance we could update it?

    Cheers!

  4. Avatar Overlord says:

    So many fantastic people at this gathering. Wish I lived a bit closer. I feel like I know Jen, but never met her! Met Den a few times – great guy and his second book is even better than the first 🙂

  5. […] my first Super Relaxed Fantasy Club, which you can read about here, I met a group of people who all publish their writings on Wattpad. Indeed, I met one author whose […]

  6. Avatar pia pandey says:

    However, one wet afternoon in a book shop in his home town

  7. Avatar Rubnia Saifi says:

    The SRFC was setup over a year ago by Jen Williams and Den Patrick as an antidote to the sometimes intimidating, and separating, atmosphere of a Con.

  8. I randomly find myself in London on the last Tuesday of a month

  9. Avatar Phil says:

    Just to say that SRFC is still going strong. Find us on Facebook or Twitter to see our next events. Still a friendly gathering of people who love their fiction with that touch of the fantastic. Always a mixture of authors, agents, publishers & readers. Please come along.

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