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!