Dublin Ghost Story Festival

This summer, over the weekend of August 19-21, I’ll be at the Dublin Ghost Story Festival in (where else?) Dublin, Ireland, the city of Bram Stoker and J. Sheridan Le Fanu (among others) along with many luminaries: Guest of Honor Adam Nevill, Toastmaster John Connolly, and assorted guests David Mitchell, Angela Slatter, Sarah Pinborough, A.K. Benedict, Paul Kane, Marie O’Regan, and John Reppion. Oh, and also me. Tickets are a mere €30 for what should prove to be a brilliant weekend of spooky fun including a performance of an M.R. James play by the legendary Nunkie Theatre Company.

There’s a limit of 150 guests with no tickets sold at the door, and the festival is filling up fast! So book now to avoid disappointment. Dublin is a great city and who knows…maybe we’ll even manage to conjure up an apparition or two.

My Loncon schedule

It’s a busy one. Also, be sure to stop by the fan table for the Worldcon bid for Dublin 2019, and come to our party on Saturday night! The full program for Loncon 3 is here.

Tove Jansson’s Moomins: Their Legacy and Influence

Thursday 12:00 – 13:30, Capital Suite 13 (ExCeL)

It’s 100 years since the birth of Finnish author/artist Tove Jansson, the award-winning creator of the beloved Moomins. Moomins appeared in novels, illustrated books, comic book strips and today are celebrated with their own theme park called Muumimaailma (Moomin World).

Why did Jansson’s Moomins capture the attention and affection of the panellists, and how do Moomins continue to fire the imagination of new generations despite being nearly seventy years old?

What is the legacy of the Moomins, and how do they continue to influence European comic books today?

Kathryn (Kate) Laity (M), Lynda Rucker, Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson, Mary Talbot, Karrie Fransman

Horror Without Monsters

Thursday 13:30 – 15:00, Capital Suite 8 (ExCeL)

It’s often said that some of the most frightening horror fictions stir fear without ghouls or gore. Is this true? What are the psychological horror tales that stay with us past the final page? Does the greatest terror lie within ourselves?

Jonathan Oliver (M), F. Brett Cox, Elizabeth Hand, Sarah Pinborough, Lynda Rucker

Fantasy and Medievalism

Friday 13:30 – 15:00, Capital Suite 7+12 (ExCeL)

High fantasy is almost invariably set in invented worlds inspired by medieval Europe. Can we put this down to the legacy of Tolkien and to genre works being in close conversation with each other? Or is there something about the place that medieval Europe occupies in our imagination that makes it a perfect companion for tales of epic striving and larger-than-life Good versus Evil? Either way, does this help or hinder the genre?

Kathryn (Kate) Laity (M), Suanna Davis, Robin Hobb, Marieke Nijkamp, Lynda Rucker

Comic Book Networking: It’s Not Just The Interwebs

Friday 19:00 – 20:00, Capital Suite 3 (ExCeL)

Social media – Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter – are all de rigeur for networking for creators and fans, but what about all the other ways to meet your audience, your favourite creators, or just to talk to people about comic books?

What are the benefits of comic book reading groups, conventions, comic book jams/drawing sessions, or networking meetings like Laydeez do Comics?

In a virtual world, there’s still a lot of meeting face-to-face going on.

Maura McHugh (M), Lynda Rucker, Kurt Erichsen, Yen Ooi, Meg Frank

Reading: Lynda Rucker

Saturday 21:00 – 21:30, Capital Suite 13 (ExCeL)

Lynda Rucker

Master of Dark Arts – an insight into editing for writers

Sunday 15:00 – 16:30, Capital Suite 5 (ExCeL)

Editor Stephen Jones is interviewed by Lynda E. Rucker about being an editor of short dark fiction, providing insight for new and current writers and afterwards answering questions from the floor. Advice and pointers, pitfalls, how a professional editor should deal with writers and what a writer’s expectations of editors should be will be among the topics covered.

Lynda Rucker (M), Stephen Jones

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.

comics and podcasts and worldcons oh my

Some news:

First thing: The next meeting of Laydeez Do Comics Dublin will be on Wednesday, September 11, 2013 at the Odessa Club at 7 PM. If you like or do comics, zines, illustrations, or just enjoy interesting and engaging talks, please join us!

Second thing: Maura McHugh and I were interviewed about Laydeez Do Comics by Liam Geraghty of The Comics Podcast. There are lots of other interesting topics discussed there as well including the documentary Wonder Women: The Untold Story of American Superheroines, which I saw last month here in Dublin and highly recommend even if you are not a Wonder Woman or superhero(ine) fan (I am neither).

Third thing: Always wanted to visit Ireland? Here’s your chance. How does a pre-bid announcement to hold the World Science Fiction convention in Dublin in 2019 sound?

a trip to the North

Last weekend, I made a brief trip across the border to Northern Ireland for the 2D Northern Ireland Comic Festival in Derry, stopping off in Belfast along the way for a bit of (what else?) bookstore browsing.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to the North. How long? Last time I was there, the streets of Belfast and Derry were full of British soldiers; in Belfast, you had to pass through police checkpoints just to travel around the city. I’d become friends with another American girl in Dublin and together we spent a few weeks hitchhiking round the Republic and the North. When we got ready to return to Dublin from Belfast, we decided to splurge and take the train. Except that we ended up not getting the train, we had to take the bus, because the IRA had called in a bomb threat on the track.

We never felt in any danger in the North, and in fact it was still quite a safe place for tourists to visit. We met lovely people and sometimes drank with them in pubs and chatted to them about various things — including politics, actually. Still, it was a relief to get back to the Republic where there weren’t soldiers everywhere.

I didn’t know a great deal about the Troubles at that stage beyond a broad outline of the situation. I know far more about all of it now, and I know and have talked to and am friends and acquaintances with Irish people who are all across the spectrum as regards the politics of it all. Ultimately, my position is that I am not Irish and thus, well, I don’t have a position. Only a general one, which applies more or less across the board to all situations: killing innocent civilians is a pretty bad thing to do whether it’s state-sponsored or not. Colonizing other countries is also bad. Undoing colonization can be easier said than done when the effects of said colonization are entrenched in a culture and economy. When people are made to feel powerless and marginalized from a social and economic standpoint, it’s more likely that they will ally themselves with an organization that makes them feel as though they belong to something. People often have the same reasons for joining their country’s military as others do for engaging in guerrilla warfare and terrorist activities, whether it’s the aforementioned marginalization or notions about honor and justice. Most people think they are doing the right thing, whatever it is they are doing; people also do right things for wrong reasons and wrong things for right reasons. A few people are sociopaths who will take advantage of any breakdown in the social order or any institutionalized opportunity for violence to act out their sociopathy. Ireland has a complicated history and if you are not Irish (and by that I mean Irish-Irish not “Irish American”) and you think you understand it you probably don’t.

All this is by way of saying, it was lovely to return to a de-militarized, as it were, North.

This is an excellent used bookstore I visited in Belfast. I could have easily spent hundreds of pounds in this store if I’d had it. All my favorite sections — general fiction, classics, science fiction, fantasy, and travel — were bursting with books I want to read. It’s a small shop, but whoever does the buying is only selecting the best stuff.

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I don’t have a photo of the shop next door, Atomic Collectibles, where for just a couple of pounds I scored these two paperbacks:

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Now my secret is out: yes, I have a weakness for Dennis Wheatley novels. Yes, it’s a guilty pleasure.

And I never pass up a chance to read a new-to-me John Wyndham novel, and that’s one I’d never heard of before.

Onwards to Derry. The soldiers have left the streets in the North, but the Union Jack still flies to mark Unionist areas while paint on road signs obscures the “London” part of “Londonderry.”

Derry was the site for the awful massacre of innocent civilians by British troops in 1972 known as Bloody Sunday. Conditions for the Catholic residents at the time were appalling, and nationalists had established an area known as “Free Derry.”

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Today, murals tell the story of the events in Derry at the time. These are just a few.

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The Museum of Free Derry is an excellent resource for anyone interested in learning more about these events, and I’d highly recommend a visit to anyone stopping off in the town.

It would be naive to simply say all that it is in the past now. The dead are far from forgotten.

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Tensions remain. Signs and graffiti reference “POWs” and demand their release. You’ll need to click on the photo below to enlarge it and read the graffiti that says “RIP DOLOURS PRICE IRA.”

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But Derry, and the North in general, is still a very different place now.

And the 2D Festival is a lovely one, across three excellent venues, friendly and fun — that’s the report from the Forbidden Planet blog. And Maura McHugh’s report is here. Here was no politics, no tragedy, no broken divided city, just kids and grown-ups, comics readers and artists and writers and creators mingling (like the legendary Herb Trimpe! who I did not know was legendary as I chattered away to him and his lovely wife in Sandino’s Bar on Friday night!). As someone who prefers my conventions small and homey and focused on literature, whose idea of hell is attending a massive media extravaganza like the San Diego Comicon, 2D with its mix of independents and big names, Irish and international titles, is the perfect size and atmosphere.

I feel like I should have a moral to wrap all this up at the end here, but the only things I can think of sound simplistic and patronizing. So: Time doesn’t heal all wounds, and people and places don’t always change, but sometimes they do. And it does give one hope.

Octocon 2012

And just two weeks after a lovely Fantasycon weekend comes Octocon, the national science fiction convention of Ireland! Now giant conventions are not my thing at all — I stopped in at DragonCon a couple of years ago to meet some friends for dinner and drinks and while that part of it was delightful, it was pretty much the definition of everything that does not appeal to me in a con. But Octocon is small even by my small-con standards. I suppose such a small con, one with many participants who have been attending together from its earliest days, could fall into clique-y and unwelcoming mode but I can assure you that the complete opposite is true. Octocon is fun, immensely friendly, very low-key, very social, and book (and comic) focused. And it’s in a terrific location (the Camden Court Hotel on Camden Street in Dublin, where it will be held next year as well).

British novelist Liz Williams was a lovely guest of honor. I’ve only read one of her novels, Nine Layers of Sky, but I’ve long thought she had an interesting background and perspective on things, and enjoyed her GOH interview. Another thing I like about Octocon is that it’s distinctively Irish, in that it draws upon and promotes local writers and artists as its guests, and so the remainder of the guest list consisted of  a good mix of Ireland-based authors, filmmakers, and comics creators.

And they let me do a couple of panels as well! It’s a lot of fun doing panels at Octocon; for the ones I was on, at least, there was lively audience participation along with the contributions of the panelists, but it was the right kind of audience participation if you know what I mean, the kind that shows people as engaged with and thinking about the topic.

I was ambivalent about superheroes on “Summer of Superheroes,” which was specifically about film and the glut large number of superhero movies released these days. The panel itself turned out to be really fun, thanks to my enthusiastic fellow panelists and good comments from the audience. And “I Love the Books But Why Won’t the Author Stop Talking?” was a particularly lively and interesting-to-me discussion because I am extremely passionate on the necessity of separating the artist from the work (while also admitting one simply does run up against personal, knee-jerk biases that can’t always be shaken off so easily). My fellow panelist Maura McHugh opened with a quote from Oscar Wilde that expresses very well my feelings on the issue: “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all.”

At the end of the weekend someone asked me what I thought of Octocon. I said, “It’s a very Irish con.” Asked what I meant by that, I said, “It’s kind of grassroots and doing its own thing and not really giving a fuck for how anybody else would do it.” The person I was speaking to said, “Be sure to say that when you write about it.” So now I have.

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.