Well, it was touch and go, but I made it to Fantasycon on Saturday. For the previous couple of days, I'd been laid up in bed with a horrible flu/cold/sore throat. Sore throats are the worst, aren't they?
Anyway, I dragged myself onto the bus and arrived at Queensgate bus station, which is a viable contender for the most depressing place in the UK. Fortunately, the Bull Hotel, Fantasycon's venue, was just opposite Queensgate, which was good, because I was in a cold sweat by the time I'd traversed the neoliberal utopian consumer palace that is the shopping centre. The sweats were probably from the flu and not the environment.
The first panel I saw was titled 'Horror: Mastery and Apprenticeship.' This featured Phil Sloman, Mark West, Nina Allen, James Everington, and Ramsey Campbell.
I was especially pleased to see Ramsey, because I've long been a fan of his work but I'd never before seen him in the flesh. I thought, by the way, that he was unduly critical of Midnight Sun in the discussion: I think it's one of his best works.
It was also good to hear from other authors who were new to me: Nina Allen especially seemed to have some useful insights into writing horror fiction, and I will be looking her work up in future.
After this, I went along to a book launch by Newcon press. Newcon, an independent publisher, were releasing several new volumes, including Tanith by Choice, a selection of the sadly missed Tanith Lee's best stories, chosen by a number of her fellow authors.
Storm Constantine was also present to plug a new selection from 'Visionary Tongue,' a magazine project from the 80s and 90s that provided a venue for a number of subsequently high profile fantasy and horror writers.
Storm recently kindly reprinted one of my short stories, as well as providing a positive Amazon review of my short story collection, so it was nice to finally meet and thank her. Events like Fantasycon remind you of how much of a supportive community exists for writers of speculative fiction.
One of my Milford friends, Tiffany Angus, was on the next panel, 'Landscapes in Fantasy,' which also featured Nina Allen, Joanne Hall and Ed McDonald. The discussion focussed upon the effect that landscapes have on character in fiction. Tiffany's specialisation is gardens and fantasy, and she's currently launching a new MA in Science fiction at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge.
I was also intrigued by Ed McDonald's description of his novel, Blackwing, which I'll also be reading at some point. There seemed to be a panel consensus that residing in Bury St Edmunds induces a fascination with apocalyptic landscapes!
After lunch, I hung around in the dealers room for a bit and spent far too much money. One of the best things about dealer's rooms is that you get to see the range and quality of the current small press scene, which is generally wide and high. I picked up a some Ramsey Campbell volumes from PS publishing and the latest Interzone, Black Static and Shoreline of Infinity magazines. I also bought an intriguing new SF Collection from Unsung Stories press called 2084.
The last panel I visited concerned short fiction, This featured Allen Ashley, Stephen Bacon, Tim Major, Pat Cadigan, Adam Millard and Lynda Rucker. It was especially good to see Pat Cadigan, who has had cancer and details her struggles on her blog. Her bravery with this serious illness put me to shame with my weedy post-flu drooping.
There was plenty of practical, useful advice on submitting short stories here (including the advice to avoid markets who pay less than the professional SFWA rates). It was also useful to hear from writers who specialise in shorts as opposed to novels. Compared to around 2000, when I had my first successes, the short story market today actually seems stronger and more diverse. This is largely, I think, a benefit of the internet.
After this panel, I said goodbye to some Milford friends in the hotel bar and then returned to the dire bus station.
Well, nearly: two young men managed to collide their car with the bus on the large roundabout outside Queensgate. Fortunately, they weren't hurt (and I honestly don't see how they managed to collide with the bus in the first place), but it meant that we had to return to the bus station and wait for the next one.
Once home, I went straight to bed and collapsed into a dreamless sleep until midnight when the cat pawed my face and yowled for munchies.