I have a new measure of how successful and how enjoyable a con is going to be – how long it takes me to get to bar at the very start. When I arrived at the Nottingham Britannia on the Friday evening, it took me about ten minutes to reach it. And not because of the press of people there, waiting to get served – but simply because of the number of people greeting me and saying hello. Simply put, I was made to feel more welcome there than at any other event I’ve ever been to.
Almost as soon as I got into the venue (arriving with Raven Dane, who very kindly gave me a lift from Newport Pagnell Services to Nottingham), Joseph D’Lacey came up to me and said hello, then I met Mick and Debbie Curtis, Gary Cole-Wilkins and Soozy Marjoram, Sharon Ring and Ian Graham, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Mark West, Adam Greenwood, Gary and Emily McMahon, Peter Bell, the delightful Thana Niveau & John Probert and Adele ‘Unbound’ Harrison. Later on I met up with Sarah Pinborough, Stephen Volk, Tim Lebbon, Adam Nevill, Mark Morris, Allyson Bird, Daniele Serra, Paul Kane, Dai Price, Adrian Chamberlin, Simon Bestwick, David Rix, Lisa Tuttle and even later still, Mathew Riley, an old friend from the Fractured music ‘zine days. Also met the absolutely adorable Allison Littlewood and her partner – she had the biggest ever grin on her face (I am assuming that was because FCon 2010 was her first book-launch/signing) – and the appropriately named (and equally adorable) Pixie Pants (still don’t know your real name, though, Pixie!).
After going for a fabulous Italian meal with the Curtises, GCW and Soozy, I went to my first discussion panel, Get Real, devoted to the role of realism in genre fiction. The members of the panel were Stephen Volk, Simon Bestwick, Allen Ashley, Simon Unsworth, Lisa Tuttle and Joel Lane. A great discussion and very much confirmed a few things I’ve had bouncing around in the black hole that is my head recently. The session was spoilt somewhat by the guy who asked the first question in the Q&A session afterwards, touching on something that I thought was totally irrelevant to the discussion. But I guess this is the nature of such discussions.
Also went to more than a few readings, including ones by John Probert (whose immersion in his own story was great to see and I made some mental notes for any potential reading I may do in the future), Andrew Hook (reading from his latest novel Ponthe Oldenguine, and accompanied by a rubber penguin mask) and Gary McMahon (reading from his latest, as yet unpublished, novel, Pretty Little Dead Things as well as a short story he’d written the night before). It’s always great to hear stories being told in the voices of the authors.
Saturday consisted mostly of socialising and meeting people (including Shaun Hamilton, Lou Morgan, Peter Coleborn & Jan Edwards, Rob Shearman, Rio Youers and a completely irrepressible Johnny Mains), and having more than a few books thrust into my hands for review purposes. On that score alone, it was an unqualified success. I bought six books (a signed Dennis Etchison short story collection called The Dark Country, Feral Companions by Gary Fry and Simon Maginn, and four 1960s ACE double feature paperbacks, to add to my collection) but came away with another fifteen review copies, including, as I mentioned in last night’s late blog, Angela Slatter’s Sourdough and Other Stories, published in magnificent hadback form by RB Russell’s Tartarus Press (and he also kindly signed my copy of his The Beautiful Room chapbook, published by Nightjar Press, which was thrust into my hot little hand by Nicholas Royle [along with Mark Valentine’s A Revelation of Cormorants]). A list of what you can expect to emerge review-wise over the next millennia will go up here later today.
There were a couple of book launches that day, too – Never Again, edited by Allyson Bird and Joel Lane (Gray Friar Press), Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 21 (edited by Stephen Jones – see accompanying photo)) and Zombie Apocalypse (created by Stephen Jones), the Cinema Futura launch, and then, at midnight, the first ever Pan Book of Horror Stories relaunch, courtesy of the indefatigable Johnny Mains. Unfortunately, due to having to catch the last tram back to Eastwood at 12:05am (where I was staying with Adam Greenwood), I missed the launch itself – BUT was thrilled to hear from Johnny himself that the book had sold out. Needless to say Johnny is a larger-than-life character and missing that launch also meant that I didn’t get to see just how drunk he was afterwards. (One of the abiding memories of the con – Johnny casually saying “I’ll see you guys in a minute – I am off to throw up in the toilet” on Sunday morning).
Saturday evening was spent in great company at Chutney, a local Indian restaurant, which was arranged by the ever-lovely Soozy Marjoram and Gary Cole-Wilkin (for which privilege, many thanks). Among the guests was Terry Grimwood, whose novella The Places Between I recently had the pleasure of reviewing – and he is a thoroughly lovely chap into the bargain. Then onto the BfS awards (the winners of which I will post in the next day or two) followed by a trek to the bar. Where, I have to say, most of us seemed to spend our time. =D
Also planned, along with Mark West and Adrian Chamberlin, the book we hope to launch at FCon 2011 with Mark Deniz…. more on that later… stay tuned!
Sunday was a slow day – and my concept of time was completely shafted. I managed to miss a reading by Mark Morris, an excerpt from his and Tim Lebbon’s new collaboration – and I was so looking forward to hearing it too. (Apparently, Tim hadn’t heard what Mark had written so far either…). A few more books were thrust into the hands, including some poetry books by Michelle Brenton (and the aforementioned Angela Slatter tome) and met RB Russell and also Sam Stone.
Then it was time to leave, to get back to reality. The only reason I even consented to leave was because I hadn’t seen my wife in three days and I desperately wanted to. Next year however, Liz will be coming with me – I want to introduce her to all the good friends I’ve made over the last nine months or so. Despite that, arriving back in Milton Keynes seemed a bit mundane after the fab weekend I’d had – but seeing Liz more than made up for it…. =)
An absolutely worthwhile event – both in itself and on a personal level. Being recognised by people that I didn’t know was something of a total surprise to me, and will take some getting used to I think. Being greeted by people I DID know was just the best. Inevitably, this means that I will be headed to Brighton next year, where FCon 2011 is due to take place. Like I mentioned above, I will be bringing my lovely wife Liz with me – I spent the entire weekend wishing she’d been able to come, especially when several people asked me where she was. I have a feeling that she will love the people I now mix with – and I, for my part, couldn’t be happier with all the new friends I have made.
(Necessarily, this has all been cobbled together from a rather hazy memory – so please forgive me if I have inadvertently left anyone out here!! Message me and I will amend the oversight immediately!! Thanks!)