World Fantasy Con report

It’s taken me a while to gather my thoughts about this event, and while I’m not all the way there yet, this post risks passing into utter irrelevancy if I don’t get it up soon, so here it is.

It’s almost too overwhelming to try to write about the convention, and this won’t be a comprehensive report like some of my friends and colleagues have produced. There’s no way I could reconstruct all the things I did and saw and talked about and to who and if I even began to try and list all the people I chatted with I’d be editing this post till the day I died as I kept remembering folks I’d forgotten to mention. But people sometimes ask me what we do at these things and why I’m so worn out afterward; for a flavor of that, check out some of these posts:

Mark West

Andrew Hook

Cate Gardner

The reason these events are so wonderful is because for a few days, you get to spend every minute with a huge group of amazingly talented, smart, witty, visionary, passionate, extraordinary people and have the best conversations of the year. I got to talk to people about Arthur Machen and M.R. James, about the intense experience of reading Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising series as a child, about S.T. Joshi’s critical writings and the house (the real house, that you can visit) at Greene Knowe. I saw weird insect art by Arthur Machen’s great-granddaughter, Tessa Farmer, as part of a terrific art show. I discussed everything from film to football to real-life ghost stories and more with folks. Seeing Susan Cooper interviewed was a real highlight for me (I saw her give a talk about a dozen years ago in Portland as well; she’s the only one of my childhood writing idols I’ve had the chance to see not once but two times). I talked with people who profoundly influenced my writing early on like Ramsey Campbell, Melanie Tem, Lisa Tuttle, and Steve Rasnic Tem; I met people in person for the first time like Rosanne Rabinowitz and Gary Couzens who I’ve known online for well over a dozen years; I finally got to speak to people whose work I’ve admired for years like Nina Allan (who I saw far to little of!) and Conrad Williams and tell them that. I spent too little time with too many lovely folks like Simon Bestwick, Cate Gardner, Allison Littlewood, and loads more of you; I met lots more of you for the first time that I previously only knew from your work and/or social media–I won’t even begin to try to list you all.

In celebration of Arthur Machen’s birthday, there was a track of Machen programming which I loved, and would have loved even more if I hadn’t found myself scheduled against nearly every one of the Machen bits I most wanted to attend. Machen is a writer who is little known outside of genre aficionados, but he’s a strong influence on many of us, myself included–in fact, a panel on current writers influenced by Machen included Adam Nevill, Michael Kelly, Thana Niveau, Tim Lebbon, Paul Finch and Ramsey Campbell while Rosanne Rabinowitz’s novella “Helen’s Story” from PS Publishing tells the story of the woman in “The Great God Pan” from her point of view.

There was also pirate programming that included talks on LARPs and costuming as well as guerilla readings!

I know there are writers and others in the industry who eschew such events, but for me, they are absolutely one of the biggest perks of being a writer. I love meeting readers and other writers and the agents and editors and publishers who are so passionate about the work that we all do; I’m always so sad when they come to an end, but fired up with creativity.

This was a terrific convention, run by the same group of people who did the amazing 2010 World Horror Con in Brighton as well as a couple of British Fantasycons, all in Brighton. Each of these conventions has meant a great deal to me for personal and professional reasons, and I’m sorry there won’t be any more there the foreseeable future. But next year, there is the British Fantasy Convention in York, which I’ll be attending.

World Fantasy is a bit of a madhouse, and this one was bigger than usual: I heard somewhere in the neighborhood of 1400 or 1500 attendees. This meant loads of people there I wanted to talk to, but it also meant it was easy to miss people. It meant that even though I sat on a panel with R.C. Matheson, son of the late Richard Matheson, I somehow neglected to tell him how much I loved his father’s work; it meant too many people I saw or spoke to only in passing and several I didn’t run into at all.

Oh, and I also had a book launch. Steve Rasnic Tem, who wrote the introduction to my collection The Moon Will Look Strange, kicked it off with some words about my writing that were so lovely–and I can barely recall much about the launch now, to be honest except being overwhelmed at how many people turned up and how delightful you all were, old friends and new friends and people I’d never even met who were excited to read the book.

photo by James Bacon
photo by James Bacon
photo by James Bacon
photo by James Bacon

I also did a reading of the first half of the story “Ash-Mouth” from The Moon Will Look Strange and despite the fact that I was opposite James Blaylock reading and other interesting items, a few people even turned up to hear me! (There was also a lady at the start who said “Oh! Are you the one reading? I thought this was James Blaylock! I’m in the wrong room!” and ran out. When I told this story to a few people they were kind of horrified on my behalf, but I was actually telling it because I thought it was really funny. I mean, I’d been joking about turning up and asking people why on earth they were turning up to listen to me read when they could be in James Blaylock’s reading.)

Photo by Gary Couzens
Photo by Gary Couzens

Stephen Jones, below, has been hugely encouraging to me ever since he selected my third published story, “No More A-Roving,” for a Mammoth Best New Horror, and that encouragement has been one of the things that has carried me through the darker times.

Steve and me
Editor Stephen Jones and me at his 60th birthday party. Photo © Peter Coleborn from here.

The British Fantasy Awards and World Fantasy Awards were also handed out at the end of the weekend, and again, I’m delighted with the winners (okay, save for Cabin in the Woods for screenplay, which I thought was a terrible, terrible film), many friends among them–again, I won’t try to list them all.

More about the con in general:

Megan Kerr of The Writer’s Greenhouse is putting together a series of posts titled “Virtual WFC” based on her notes from the panels and interviews she attended.

Some video and audio is trickling out of various bits of the event. I’ve yet to watch all of the below:

Masters of Edwardian Fantasy with S.T. Joshi, Jonathan Aycliffe, Michael Kelly, Reggie Oliver, Robert Lloyd Parry, Cyril Simsa.

Lost and Found: Really Forgotten Classics Panelists: Robert S. Knowlton (moderator), Farah Mendlesohn, David G. Hartwell, George Locke, and F. Paul Wilson.

Follow the YouTube links above for more on the panels and panelists and lists of books and authors discussed.

Dr.Probert’s House of Horrors: Alison Littlewood reading

Dr.Probert’s House of Horrors: Angela Slatter reading

Dr.Probert’s House of Horrors: Thana Niveau reading

Dr.Probert’s House of Horrors: John Llewellyn Probert reading

Dr.Probert’s House of Horrors: Reggie Oliver reading

Dr.Probert’s House of Horrors: Ramsey Campbell reading

John Llewellyn Probert’s rapidly-becoming-legendary acceptance speech for the Best Novella British Fantasy Award

MP3 from Chris Garcia and Exhibition Hall of the steampunk panel with Tim Powers, K.W. Jeter, and James Blaylock, moderated by James Barclay

It was a lovely, lovely weekend. Huge thanks to the committee who put it together but also to every single person I spoke to or saw on a panel who made it so.

World Fantasy Convention schedule

And before I’ve even had time to do an Octocon report, I’m off to World Fantasy in a few days time. Here are places you can reliably find me:

Thursday, October 31, 5:00 – 6:00 p.m., “Signing Alley” between Hall 8 & Art Show, 2nd floor- Halloween book launch for The Moon Will Look Strange!  Stop in, say hello, have a pre-dinner glass of wine, even buy a copy of the book and get it signed!

Friday, November 1, 11:30 a.m. – noon, Hall 8B – Reading!

Saturday, November 2, 3:00 – 4:00 p.m., “Signing Alley” between Hall 8 & Art Show, 2nd floor – Constable & Robinson signing and launch. I’ll be here to sign The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror #24, which reprints my F&SF story “Where the Summer Dwells,” along with loads of people who are much more famous than me. Which is to say, famous at all.

Sunday, November 3, 11:00 a.m. – noon, Cambridge – Panel, Coming Up Short: Is it possible for anyone to still make a living writing only short fiction?
Ellen Klages, Richard Christian Matheson, John Llewellyn Probert (mod.), Lynda E. Rucker. Robert Shearman, Steve Rasnic Tem.

So there you have it. Also, I believe that every single time slot when I have something scheduled, there is something else going on I desperately want to attend. This is very much the nature of the World Fantasy Convention, which tends to be bursting with just too much great stuff to even begin doing it all. The rest of the time, I will be trying to get to as many Machen-themed panels as possible, stalking Susan Cooper (kidding! I kid!), and, of course, hanging out in the bar or at parties. Come and say hi! I also generally try to get OUT of the hotel at cons when I can, so in addition to visiting this Jan Švankmajer exhibit, I’m also hoping to pop out to enjoy at least one wander through The Lanes and a drink or a bit of food (despite being on a shockingly shoestringy budget). A Brighton con also means solo head-clearing walks on the rocky beach as well. I love Brighton, and I love World Fantasy! I can’t wait!

Fantasycon 2012 and a little good magic

In 2010, I went to the best con I’ve ever attended, the World Horror Convention in Brighton, England. When I found out that the same team that was responsible for that awesome weekend would be running the British Fantasy Convention at the same hotel in 2012, I immediately put it on my wish list.

Well, the best laid plans, etc. etc., and as the date hurtled ever closer it became increasingly clear to me that for various reasons, I wasn’t going to be able to make it. I sucked it up, as you do; you can’t always get what you want, as the song tells us, and there’d be other cons (but I didn’t want other cons, I wanted this con). I’d spend the weekend writing furiously and resolutely not thinking about all the fun I wasn’t having.

But! At the last minute, some good magic happened–it does that sometimes, you know, when you least expect it–and almost literally before I knew what had happened with my reversal of fortune I was on a train hurtling back down to Brighton.

And a fine, fine, fine weekend it was indeed. It was lovely to see people I’d met two years earlier and not seen since; it was wonderful to make new friends (though I really missed those of you I met in 2010 who couldn’t attend this convention). I did a panel on blurring genre boundaries in place of Emma Newman, who couldn’t attend at the last minute, and there was a reading that wasn’t, and a terrific panel on fairy folk (where I learned it’s wisest to never actually utter that word) and an awesome Joe Lansdale interview and ice cream on a chilly beach and a few spins by moonlight on the Brighton Wheel and interesting rocks collected in a solitary walk along the shore and more kebabs than any human should eat over a four-day period and (permit me my single moment of name-dropping) getting to tell Robin Hardy that The Wicker Man is one of my favorite films of all time and then chatting with him about US presidential politics, and new friends and talking and talking and talking to some of the most wonderful and engaging people and not just about books and writing, either, but about film and football and feminism and music and more. Oh! And I got to hold the British Fantasy Award deservedly won (well, I would say that, wouldn’t it?) by Black Static. My solitary regret is the people I meant to speak to over the weekend and somehow missed, or those of you I managed only to speak to rather than having a substantial conversation. Next time I shall make a list and I won’t rest till I’ve tracked you all down like a demented scavenger hunter. (That sounds much more unsettling than intended, coming from a horror writer, doesn’t it? I only want to chat! And probably tell you how much I loved this one amazing story that you wrote!)

It turned out to be exactly what I needed and then some, a glorious writerly weekend in the very best company. And next year I get to do it all again! World Fantasy Convention in Brighton 2013, run by the same folks yet again (mustn’t they be worn out by now?), in a slightly more upscale venue (but I will forever have a deep love for the Royal Albion in all its faded seaside glory). And I have the bones of a Brighton story taking unsettling shape somewhere in the cellars of my brain. So thanks to lovely Brighton for showing me a good time yet again, to the Royal Albion Hotel, to the 2012 Fantasycon committee, to everyone who turned up and made every minute so much fun, and to the good magic that spirited me there.

WHC 2010: Brighton Shock!

Best convention ever?  I’m hardly an expert–I’ve only been to a few in the past, and found a couple to be very good, a couple of middling quality, and a couple which made me fervently wish I’d spent my limited time and cash on a nice weekend in Paris or something instead.  World Horror Con 2010 is certainly the best I’ve ever attended–credit to the organizers, who put together an awesome event which in turn attracted a fantastic crowd of people.  And the red-shirted volunteers were tireless–did you poor people ever rest?  I saw the same set over and over and you managed to be everyplace you were needed at the same time.

It would be churlish of me to start naming names of all the wonderful people I met and chatted with and listened to (speaking or reading) over the weekend, because I’d inevitably leave some out, although I think a shout-out to the ‘4-nation alliance,’ a terrific group of people who made the weekend even more special for me, is in order: Sandra, Wendy, Jenni, Helen, Claude, Dom, and Anthea.  Y’all, writers and readers of horror (and the partners who love and support them in their endeavors) are an astonishingly convivial bunch.  I was also delighted to meet some of the wonderful and influential-for-me writers I alluded to in my last post, although I missed some as well, so I suppose I’ll have to return to the UK for more conventions, darn it all.

Maura McHugh moderated my favorite panel of the weekend, on women in horror–an especially contentious issue of late–and there were some other program highlights for me as well, including the readings I attended, but mostly it was all about the people I met and the talks we had and, yeah, sure, the drinks we consumed, as the best of these events always are.  So I don’t have a proper con report.  I took about six pictures the entire weekend because I am lame but also because everyone around me had cameras, so those will be turning up somewhere soon.  There were book launches and freely flowing wine and two actual days of pretty decent weather and a couple of great meals in local restaurants and truly a international feel to the event to go along with the “world” in its title–I really think both this convention and World Fantasy would benefit not just from being held more often outside the US but off the North American continent altogether.  (Plus, I think we are starting to get a nasty reputation for beating, arresting, and/or deporting folks in the speculative fiction scene, insidious types that they are, which can’t bode well for future attendance from outside the walls of fortress America.  But I digress.)

I was a walking technological disaster this weekend, by the way: the hard drive on my week-old laptop expired (hence no updates here) on Thursday afternoon, I kept demagnetizing my hotel key card no matter where I put it, and somewhere between entering the security line at Gatwick and landing (but not yet disembarking) on the plane to Atlanta, I lost my cell phone, which, in combination with my flight mysteriously vanishing from the usually-available online updates, caused my loved ones back home to imagine I’d fallen into some sort of bizarre Bermuda Triangle until I actually did turn up back here in Athens around 5 p.m.

Anyway, as nice as it is to be home, it’s always disorienting trying to integrate back into the swing of “normal” life and feels like a bit of a let down, so I’m already thinking ahead to future conventions: Where shall I go next?