Tag Archives: Brighton

Fantasycon 2012 – My Highlights

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It’s a whole year since I first dipped my big toe into the Conference scene – starting with last year’s Fantasycon held at the Royal royal_albion_1Albion Hotel in Brighton. It turned out to be my favourite – both Bristolcon and Eastercon were wonderful, but for my money Fantasycon is the one for a bibliophile, with its heavy emphasis on books, writing and authors. So, a year later would I still feel the same way?

This year I brought my husband along. John is also a speculative fiction fan, so I knew he wouldn’t be moodily mooching along at my side, wishing he were elsewhere. Have to say, the Royal Albion Hotel is also a firm favourite. Yes… I know the checking in procedure is a long-winded nightmare; that the subterranean rooms make a sauna feel chilly; that the whole place – frankly – has seen better days. But on a sunny day, the light streams through the huge sash windows in the Regency lounge and the view out to the pier and the sea is just fab. And while it isn’t the last word in efficiency, the staff are invariably friendly.

STANDOUT MOMENTS
Meeting up with friends I only get to see at conventions – like Mhairi Simpson, Justin Newland, Roy Gray and Susan Bartholomew is one of the main joys of coming to these events – as well as meeting new folks like Lynne Stephens, who managed to combine Fantasycon with a business trip from the US. Talking about science fiction and fantasy books to people who actually know the authors you’re on about is very empowering.

alchemistofsoulsI’d already started reading Janet Edward’s science fiction YA book, Earthgirl, before arriving at the hotel, but found it absolutely compelling – so found the time to finish it AND discuss it with Janet, which was great… I’ll be writing a full review of it in due course.

Another book I picked up while at the Con that I managed to complete, was Kim Curran’s Shift – another enjoyable read. And then started in on Anne Lyle’s historical fantasy The Alchemist of Souls, another thoroughly quality book, which I acquired while here. And one I will also be reviewing…

I bumped into Jaine Fenn (literally!) while bopping in the disco, author of the wonderful Hidden Empire series – and she asked me to do a review of Downside Girls, her new short fiction book where the stories are all related to the characters in Principles of Angels. Of course, I said YES PLEASE.downsidegirls

The Open Mic Poetry Event – I went along to support Susan – and had a really enjoyable time. The poems covered a wide range of subjects and were generally of an impressively high standard. Roy Gray actually allowed me to read one his poems – though I was kicking my stupidity in not bringing some of my own stuff. My highlight was the wonderful Tina Rath, who actually knew her work well enough to perform it – and her poetry is a superbly creepy and funny.

I attended a fair number of panels – although the heat in the Fitzherbert Room was something else – and I think it’s a testament to the endurance and professionalism of all the panel members that by the end of a sweltering hour, they were still speaking and thinking coherently, while I was just plain melting…

220px-Juliet_E_McKennaKeeping It Real – This, for me, was the outstanding panel of those I managed to attend. Juliet McKenna is always excellent – intelligent and amusing. Brent Weeks proved to be a confident and adroit Moderator, while Adrian Tchaikovsky and Jasper Kent both were able to speak with the authority of experienced, established authors and although Benedict Jacka was clearly nervous, he also had some interesting insights. I could have happily sat and listened to these five authors speak for the rest of the morning.

The Quiz – Just like last year, this was insanely difficult. And I contributed absolutely nothing to my team, which actually did well, thanks to the likes of Amanda Rutter and Anne Lyle… However, watching Sarah Pinborough and Joe Abercrombie try and keep control of the proceedings was hilarious.

 

Brent Weeks’ Reading – He not only endured the heat of Room 132, he overcame it to perform his reading in a tour de force that brent-weeks-credit-travis-johnson-photographyhad his fans all groaning aloud by the end of the session, as his protagonist died in a hail of bullets. It was on the edge of the seat stuff – before he confessed that particular scene wouldn’t be making it into his latest book. Probably…

The Editorial Process – This Masterclass by Gillian Redfearn of Gollancz was excellent. She discussed the common faults authors make and how we can correct them, before moving onto to explaining how she approaches an author’s work, and the stages a manuscript goes through when being edited by a publishing house.

willhillHow To Write and Sell a YA Novel – Another high point. Will Hill was informative and very generous with his wealth of experience without being remotely patronising. As someone who is working on my first YA book, I found his advice invaluable – I think the Conference was worth it just for this particular session…

The Disco – This was a blast – I missed last year’s effort. Everyone was bopping around for all they were worth. And then, of course, there was that dance-off…

It’s always sad when feelings get trampled (actually, it was a minor miracle that no one ended up being squished underfoot when Joe Abercrombie and Tom Pollock went head to head…) Have to say, it was THE highlight of my Conference. Did the right man win? Anyone who has visited Joe’s blog recently will know his feelings on the subject. I bought him a drink the bar the following morning, when his devastation was apparent.  All I can say, is that if there was any kind of fix, I wasn’t aware of it. No doubt the inevitable Enquiry into the matter will produce a Report in Due Course. In the meantime – keep dancing, Joe…

My book addiction kicked in bigtime. John and I staggered onto the train home with 28 additional books in our luggage – which added to the 31 already stacked by my bedside means that my 2 year old grandson is now in imminent danger of being buried by a bookslide every time he scrambles off our bed.

And now that I’ve been back from Fantasycon 2012 for almost a week, my memories of the whole conference are backlit with the warm friendliness of everyone I encountered. A big thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make it possible – it was great!

Fantasycon 2011 – A Conference Virgin’s Viewpoint…

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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.

STANDOUT MOMENTS
• 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!