Fantasycon 2011 – A Conference Virgin’s Viewpoint…


I travelled on the train along the south coast on a scorching Friday morning with a case the size of a small car, wondering quite why I was all set to turn up at a conference on my own. After all, it was a Fantasy conference and I wrote science fiction. What if everyone openly sneered every time I gave it a mention? Or didn’t want to talk to me because I wasn’t a bearded man with glasses wearing a Jethro Tull t-shirt? Then I recalled the series of efficient, friendly emails I’d exchanged with Marie O’Regan and decided to muzzle my too-vivid imagination and relax as the West Sussex scenery flashed past.

fantasycon2011Brighton was packed. But I was decanted outside the Royal Albion hotel without any problems and checked into a generously sized twin-bed room. The first nice surprise was that my goodie bag was a reusable cloth number from Jo Fletcher Publishing containing free books, along with a glossy souvenir booklet and Conference programme amongst the small forest of flyers and bookmarks. After unpacking, I set off for the ground floor where all the action was, clutching the Pocket Programme. I got talking to a couple of friendly women – another nice surprise – I wasn’t going to stick out like a sore thumb, there were plenty of other women of my age or thereabouts…

I checked my watch and realised that the panel on Maintaining Your Online Presence was just about to start. This panel set the standard of all the rest I managed to attend with well informed, articulate speakers and if I didn’t always wholeheartedly agree with the views expressed, they were always presented with clarity and intelligence. I turned up for the Welcome Party where I met up with a couple of folks – and before I knew it, we were down in the dealers room picking over the books and planning where we were going to eat… Not a sneer in sight.

The whole Conference was a wonderful experience. The best bit? Standing in a large crowded room – and knowing that everyone there had turned up because like me, they loved speculative fiction. Of course, I did know that I wasn’t a total freak – for starters, my husband is also a fan and I’ve also taken part in enough online forums and discussions to realise that there must be lots of us. But I hadn’t ever been physically part of that community, before. It was very emotional and empowering standing in the middle of the crowd of fellow enthusiasts and feeling the buzz.

• Chatting to Brian Aldiss at the Jo Fletcher Publishing launch party. He was clearly a tad bewildered at the slightly drunken and very brianaldissfulsome praise a young man was heaping upon him. He turned to me with a grin and a shrug – only to be confronted with my own awestruck mumblings about how much his writing had meant to me through the years…
• All the panels were of a high standard, but the Trends in Fantasy Fiction event, moderated by Juliet McKenna, was exceptional in its range and the depth…
• Gathering up a pile of free Solaris books and getting them signed by the likes of Juliet E. McKenna, James Lovegrove, Ian Whates…
• Sitting at a pavement café in Brighton on Friday night with a bunch of new friends as the conversation ranged across our favourite authors…
• The standing ovation given to Brian Aldiss at the Award Ceremony on Sunday afternoon.

Any grumbles? It was a pity about the dreadful PA system which rendered a lot of the acceptance speeches at the Award Ceremony totally inaudible, or produced earwax-curdling feedback howl. But that’s it, really.

Am I going again? You bet. I’m hooked. Busy saving my pennies. It took me far too long to take the plunge, so I’ve got a lot conference catching up to do… See you at the next one!

2 responses »

  1. Pingback: Your Fantasycon 2011 blogs and reviews | SciFiNow

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