Welcome to Fantasycon, or should I say Fanasycon… or should I say Fansycon. After a pleasant enough drive from North Herts (barring the 20mins stand still on the A14 – officially my worst road in Britain) I checked into my hotel (no I wasn’t even near the Britannia, long story lets skip that). Quick bit of lunch and a 30 minute stroll to the convention.
It was a funny feeling sitting in the lobby, laughing at the misspelt signs, and noting various dignitaries who wouldn’t have a clue who I was. Talk about feeling a nerd; Sarah Pinborough, Ian Whates and Ian Watson amongst others. I have to say the excitement was already running high.
You see for those of you who have done these events a hundred times, I should probably explain how I came to this ‘family’. It’s taken a long time in the world of fandom for me to realise that I can actually participate. Having been working in the film industry for the last five years, my fantasy interests had been resigned to the background (something I was, not something I did). The film industry has had a negative effect on my mingling with other writers or like-minded people, due to the fact that most of the people I dealt with in the industry (outside of technicians and short film makers) seemed to have a distinct lack of interest in story-telling and more interest in ‘being in the film industry’. Some of the stereo-types that surround the industry are true (but not across the board). Most of the people you will meet are wonderful individuals, unfortunately those that often prove crucial to putting a project together can be very difficult indeed. This is true of every industry of course and is not meant as a way of bemoaning how difficult it is to get things done in the film industry.
[As an addendum to this point I caught up with Stephen Volk later in this first day and one of the things that struck both of us very strongly about the film and television industry is the lack of interest any of the buyers have in genre. What is wonderful about coming to the fantasy conventions is that everyone has similar interests and are generally coming from the same angle. In film, it’s often true that the people putting money into a particular product don’t even particularly like that product.]
Contradicting myself now, the film industry has also had a very positive effect on my mingling with writers and other like-minded people. It is essentially what introduced me to conventions and festivals and taught me the virtues and truth behind the dreaded phrase ‘net-working’. [In fact it was at the Cheltenham Screen-writers Festival, last october where I first met Stephen Volk]. So there we are that is why I’m here today. I suddenly became aware (once I started work on my novel) that writing a fantasy novel could be very similar to writing a script. Sure enough I discovered a world of people out there (you beautiful people) and rejoiced that my love of fantasy could now be shared.
After connecting with the network on Twitter I had tickets for, but then unfortunately had to miss World Horror in Brighton, I then managed to see Lauren Beukes when she came to the UK a month and a bit back, quickly followed by another trip to London to listen to Dan Abnett being interviewed by Lee Harris from Angry Robot. Eventually here I am my first proper convention. I found myself (after direction via twitter) surrounded by Ian Graham, Sharon Ring, Adele Harrisson, Adrian Faulkner, Adam Christopher and his wife Sandra. Within minutes I felt like I’d known these people for years and was reminded about just how friendly this ‘family’ is.
I went to the first two talks of the evening. One was on opening lines and how important they are to the overall success of a novel. The general conclusion was that whilst a bad opening line could put someone off reading a book a genuinely great opening line may not (by itself) sell a novel to a prospective reader. That is more down to the opening page or scene.
The second talk felt a little more constructive in terms of learning about the industry. The theme was the Small Press and their place in the world of book-selling. By the end of the talk a kind of community therapy seemed to have taken place whereby the panel had inflated themselves from feeling like the poor rejected Cinderella of the publishing industry to embracing their cult status and assuming the title ‘Indie Press’, so as to shed this image of being small.
One of the points raised by Douglas Thompson was; reviews in the popular press and how hard it is to get anything genre accepted for review. I have a feeling it doesn’t (or certainly won’t) matter too much. The expanse of the internet’s influence, epublishing and the bloggersphere are all working to democratise Independent publishing. Whereas the independent press and their authors may feel slighted that their products are not being reviewed the readers themselves are also savvy to the fact that the popular press doesn’t cater to their needs. More and more readers are connecting through twitter and then the blogs to go to the reviews sites that they know cover the books they want to read. As Independent publishing embraces its cult status, it’s fans will flock to the ‘underground eclubs’ where it is know to flourish.
The only thing I will say about the independent press is that its authors will have to be more hard working and amenable to their readers. The large literary authors who are backed by big publishers and agents have the privilege of hiding in ivory towers removed from their public. Not so for the independent, they will have to follow the hard-working approach that the likes of Sam Stone adopt.
Where to start?
During the awards ceremony Nicolas Royle said “early today we were talking about…” and I seriously thought, ‘oh my gosh was that really just ‘earlier today’?’ Sam Stone asked me “did you enjoy today? It’s been a baptism through fire”. It really was, Saturday seemed one of the longest days I’ve experienced for a long time… in a good way.
For the BFA’s I was invited to sit at the table reserved by Telos Publishing and as I sat there I was amazed at how many new friends I had made over such a short period of time. I feel part of a family and I feel the need to thank so many people. Lou Morgan who was truly the first wing that sheltered me (and not so long ago at that – hasn’t it all flown by so quick?) So many others; Amanda Rutter, Adrian Faulkner, Sharon Ring, Ian Graham, Adam Christopher, Liz and Marc De Jager for making me feel so welcome into a group I had touched the edge of but now feel immersed in. A very very special thanks to Paul Finch, who perhaps doesn’t realise how influential he has been to me. Stephen Volk for remembering who I was. Andy Remic – I really can’t wait to see the film and I promise you I’ll get you the weapons. And lastly but not leastly Sam Stone and her husband David Howe, Terry Martin and his wife for bringing me to their table for the awards ceremony and letting me (by proxy) ride the high of their wins.
So where to start?
I’m a newbie and because of such I literally hit as many events as I could. I started the day with Small Is Beautiful, then went to hear Allyson Bird read. From there I went to the Angry Robot signing and got my book signed. From there I listened to Paul Finch read from what I honestly have to say is the most exciting book I’ve had previewed at the convention. Paul I feel is a very over-looked author at times and I personally won’t rest until his name is known far and wide. The Grass Is Greener; a talk about switching genre and how to market yourself. Two more readings; Ian Whates followed by Mike Shevdon. The big panel of the day: How Not To Get Published. Sam’s book signing and lastly (almost) the banquet and Award ceremony.
It’s true, as with any award ceremony, there is always a whispered roar regarding the distribution of prizes. A certain bemoaning that the fresh blood should pick up the awards instead of the household names. However I tend to feel that the fresh blood can’t pick up all the awards otherwise it renders the idea of household names void in the first place and seeing as the same voices are quite often also bemoaning the ever dying state of genre, household names is what it needs.
On the whole I enjoyed the panels. I wouldn’t say I learnt a great deal more than what I’ve already picked up as a screen-writer and there were a couple of things I positively disagreed with. The main one being that writers need to work their way on from short stories to novels. It makes it sound like it’s some kind of a progression. I do understand that an author can certainly get their name more well known if they write short stories and then from there garner the interest of a publisher. However just like the short film is to the feature film, the short story is a completely different animal to the novel. Whilst all writers are story-tellers and should be happy with any length, some really do favour one form over another.
I finished the evening in a pleasant drunken blur, flitting from Sam’s table to Sharon’s table to Amanda’s table. I also met William Hill who has a book coming out with Gollantz, a throughly lovely chap indeed.
Oh I had so many good intentions…
Yeah I didn’t really do anything. Although having said that I did manage to do what many others had been doing for the previous couple of days and that was chill in the bar and quietly, calmly catch up with some great people. So I got to speak with Paul Finch and his wife, a little more with Sam and David. Although I still managed to miss my catch up with Stephen Volk, next time.
I also attended the AGM. It was a great experience to see how things were planned out and from all accounts I witnessed a rather friendly one. I just wish I hadn’t had a ‘morning after the night before head’.
I headed off early. Having had only six hours sleep over the entire convention I was a bit scared of getting too tired for the drive back home.
This is a very basic summary, but the convention itself has given root to a number of up-coming blogs.