It happened one sunny day in Derby….

Derby – I had a friend from there once, who advised me never to set foot within its environs, as it was ‘the closest thing to Hell imaginable’ or so he reckoned. Pulling into the train station I was relieved to see neither fire and brimstone nor burning lakes of flame – instead it looked like your typical post-industrial city of the midlands. Plus the sun was shining brightly and the day promised to be a good one.

I had landed here to attend alt.fiction, a one-day convention devoted entirely to the written word and specifically geared towards the horror, fantasy and science-fiction end of the literary spectrum. The other theme for the day was STAIRS – there were lots of them (and the theme was to be carried over to the hotal later on as well) and all I seemed to do for most of the morning and some of the afternoon was go up and down the damn things.

First thing: registration and the only hiccup of the day (apart from the lack of Guinness). Apparently, my wife was meant to attend and not me. Hasty scribbling out of Liz and then judicious application of biro to insert Simon Marshall-Jones in its place. All was forgiven when the lovely people at the desk gave me free books and stuff. Followed closely by more going up and down stairs.

But it takes more than flights of steps to make a convention swing – there have to be people too. And the very first person I met was all-round top bloke Gary McMahon (who was also the very last person I spoke to at the end of the day – who was at that point a very wobbly all-round top bloke). Not long after that I met Allyson Bird and John Travis, and shortly after that we retired to the bar – which is another theme at conventions apparently…

First event of the day was a podcast between two statesmen of the horror scene, Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell, discussing the current state and future prospects for the genre. Excellent stuff, much of which consolidated what I’ve been thinking and also saying in this blog. It’s a matter of knowing what you what to do with your writing and having goals to aim for and then working DAMN HARD to make it happen. Persistence is the key.

More beer in the bar and the meeting of more people, including a brief handshake with Stephen ‘Ghostwatch’ Volk, and more extensive encounters with Graham Joyce, Conrad Williams, Peter Coleborn (who insisted on taking pictures of my tattoos), Sarah Pinborough, Mark Morris and Raven Dane. Then onto a panel moderated by the then-sober Gary, and featuring Stephen Jones, Conrad Williams, Tim Lebbon and Sarah Pinborough. Theme: horror writing and the horror genre. A very highly entertaining hour, which went far too quickly for my liking.

And after that, it was more bar attendance. And I have to admit that I did very little after that except sit downstairs and drank Magners – my excuse? I’d been up since five that morning and lugging all my bags up and down stairs was beginning to seem less appealing than ligging it in the bar. During the course of the afternoon I also met Andy Remic and a few others. Various groups went off to either watch the USA v England footie match or get a curry. I stayed behind in the bar and talked to Martin and his girlfriend (apologies, I didn’t catch your name sorry) about cats, TV shows and a myriad of other things. I also met and talked to Stephen Jones, who also encouraged me to continue writing. Then, feeling a little worse for wear, I staggered to a taxi rank, got shouted at by a Neanderthal in a car (apparently I had ‘fucking issues’), and finally made it to my hotel, the Kedleston Country House Hotel.

Nice place, in the middle of nowhere and peaceful…. night receptionist was great and made me feel welcome. Different story the next morning – the girl on duty looked at me as if I were a piece of shit that she’d trodden in. Thought about saying something but didn’t – just wanted to get home by this point.

But that’s not what alt.fiction was about. The upshot of the whole weekend though was this: I’d met some very cool, friendly people who instantly made me feel very much at home. and very welcome. Even better was coming home yesterday and these very same people leaving nice comments on my Facebook statuses. Out of all the things I have been involved with over the years, I have never felt quite as at home as I felt on Saturday, in amongst writers. Never imagined that I could possibly be friends with people whose books I’d been reading. Plus, what I DID glean from the events I saw was that I have immense hope for my future as an author – I came away with ideas and enthusiasm all over again, plus I have a fantastic idea for my latest story as well…

Roll on either York or FantasyCon2010, whichever comes first!!

My thanks go to Gary, Allyson, John, Graham, Conrad, Peter, Sarah, Mark, Stephen (both Volk and Jones), Andy, Pixie, Martin and girlfriend. Also, thanks must go to the organisers for putting the whole event on in the first place. If I’ve inadvertently forgotten anyone, please forgive me. But sort that Guinness problem out for next time!!

Most of all though, I want to thank Liz. my wife, for funding the trip…. without you I would never have made it…. =)

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4 Responses to “It happened one sunny day in Derby….”

  1. Oh, sounds like a good do.

  2. I couldn’t have had a better inroduction to the whole scene than the one I had in Derby, Paul….

  3. Raven Dane Says:

    Oh dear, sounds like you are catching Confever… a highly contagious affliction that can only be cured by attending another Con and mixing with like minded folk, talking to the wee small hours and imbibing alcohol.
    I should know….I am one so afflicted.

    My name is Raven and I am addicted to Sci Fi, Fantasy and Horror Conventions…

  4. Is there a CAA (Con Attendees Anonymous) out there somewhere – or is attendance at FantasyCon2010 the only cure? I think I would rather the latter, given the choice… =)

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