Last weekend, I travelled up to Nottingham for my ninth FantasyCon, with its mix of panels, readings, book launches, and more. My weekend began with the ever-entertaining FantasyCon quiz, which I had to attend, because a) it’s always a laugh, and b) I was on the winning table last year, and so had a ‘title’ to defend. And this year… we won – by a single point.
The Guests of Honour this year were Garry Kilworth, Lisa Tuttle and Bryan Talbot; my overriding conclusion from the weekend is that I really need to read the work of these people more often (or, in the case of Tuttle and Talbot, read their work for the first time). Kilworth’s interview was very interesting, and began with an excellent performance of one of his short stories (assisted by Tuttle and interviewer Guy Adams). Talbot gave a fascinating talk on the tradition of depicting anthropomorphic animals in artwork (much less dry than it sounds) and the references to it in his latest graphic novel, Grandeville. I didn’t attend Tuttle’s interview, but I heard good things about her work, and she was engaging when I saw her on a panel.
The programme of events wasn’t, to be honest, one of the best I’ve experienced at FantasyCon. It seemed less full than it has in recent years (only one stream of panel programming), and I’d have welcomed more variety in the panel topics. Still, the panels I attended were interesting; quote of the weekend came from Chaz Brenchley during the discussion on fantasy and escapism: “Fantasy is not an excuse, it’s a demand.” Very true, I’d say. I managed to catch only one reading this year, but I was highly intrigued by the chapter Mark Morris read from the novel he’s writing with Tim Lebbon, and I look forward to investigating the finished book.
As always, the con included the presentation of the British Fantasy Awards, presided over this year by Master of Ceremonies James Barclay. One particularly poignant note came with the announcement that this year’s Special Award was honouring the great and much-missed Rob Holdstock – a well-deserved accolade. I was particularly pleased to see a couple of books that I very much liked last year picking up awards: Conrad Williams’ One (Best Novel) and Michael Marshall Smith’s ‘What Happens When You Wake Up in the Night’ (Best Short Story). And, as Rob Shearman accepted the Best Collection award for Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical, I was reminded that I really should read that book. Congratulations to them and all other winners!
One of the things I enjoy about going to cons is not just catching up with old friends, but also meeting in the flesh people that I’ve only known online. So it was a great pleasure this year to chat to writers Tom Fletcher and Simon Unsworth, and fellow book blogger Amanda Rutter.
After five years in Nottingham, FantasyCon is moving to Brighton next year – which should be interesting, as I’ve never been there before. Gwyneth Jones has already been announced as the first Guest of Honour, and I’ve booked my place; perhaps I’ll see you there.
A list of links to other people’s convention reports can be found on the FantasyCon website.