Tuesday, 23 September 2008


Made very good time on road journey back home, from England yesterday... leaving Nottingham just after 8 am, to catch the 1 pm ferry over to Wight-land. I crash-slept through teatime and evening, but was awake - or something quite like that - by 11 pm, for checking email and sorting weekend's postal deliveries.

Fantasycon was great fun! Its lively tone and friendly mood, for various panel events and nightly sessions in the main bar, were so consistently enjoyable I find it very difficult to pick out a highlight. Doubt that I will be going to F'con again (unless it moves venue to London or south coast..?), but I would strongly recommend that everyone with any level or degree of interest in fantasy, horror, and even science fiction, genres attends one of these weekend events.

Now considering the Redemption 2009 multimedia con (Coventry, in February), and the World Horror con (Brighton, in March 2010) looks to be a dead cert for me.

Sunday, 21 September 2008


Running on 4 hours sleep, I lurched along to breakfast, and then wrote a blog post to report on yesterday. The main hall's morning panel on 'When Does Fantasy Become Horror' had Chaz Brenchley, Tim Lebbon, and James Barclay, moderated by Steve Lockley, during which Ramsey Campbell contributed much to the debate, though – as expected - no conclusions were reached, leading to only tentative agreements to disagree. (I met Stephen Volk after this!) Due to various distractions, I missed half the Gallery suite panel about 'Opportunities In The Small Press', with Christopher Teague, Ian Whates, and David J. Howe - moderated by Andrew Hook, each editor giving a good account of their respective ventures' publishing aims and practices, and offering sound advice to hopeful new writers and authors.

After lunch, I neglected programme item 'How To Run A Literary Event' for advice panel 'How To Publicise Yourself' with Darren Turpin, Lee Harris, and Sam Stone, moderated by Allen Ashley, whose scepticism about online social networks provided both contrast and balance to panellists' varied expertise and experience. I really had no time for refreshments provided at 3 pm event 'Monster Small Press Launch' (but I did order another book), as my planned trip into Sutton, to visit local relatives, was bought forward from teatime.


Tony Lee, Sam Stone, Chaz Brenchley
Spoke to book-dealer Bob, and Gary Couzens, at early breakfast. There at glam Sam Stone's book launch for Killing Kiss (Murky Depths), first novel in the Vampire Gene trilogy, and heard rumours about financial problems of a certain publisher of UK media magazines... Went to morning panel, 'To Boldly Go...' (are there any new frontiers in SF?), in the main hall, where I met Paul Barnett (alias, John Grant), and listened to 45 minutes of amusing and illuminating chat by him, Christian Dunn, and the great Ian Watson, moderated by Ian Whates. 'Crafting The Short Story', with Ramsey Campbell, Stephen Jones, Christopher Fowler, and Tony Richards, moderated by Peter Crowther, was very well attended, offering a fascinating discussion that packed out the 'Gallery' suite with standing-room only. After, Gary Couzens told me about the disappointing farce over his morning reading in the Trent room, where everyone was locked out of 10th floor access, but – as con-going veteran - he seemed unfazed by this lack of organisation.

Very pleased to meet Simon Clark, the author I'd interviewed - via email - for a BFS 30th 'birthday bash' publication, several years ago. Following the lunchtime break, I bumped into Chaz Brenchley in the foyer, and was very soon the proud owner of Northern Gothic intriguing ghost stories collection Phantoms At The Phil: The Second Proceedings (Sidereal), which is complete with readings by the writers, on two CDs. Having already decided on a money-saving strategy not to buy any paperbacks, this hardcover was my first purchase at F'con. Attended launch of Pendragon anthology We Fade To Grey with fiction by Paul Finch, Mark West, Mark Morris, and Simon Bestwick, edited by Gary McMahon (a VideoVista regular whose taste in horror films is remarkably similar to mine). The editorial seminar by Jo Fletcher (who I remembered gave a talk at Worldcon in Glasgow) was as entertaining as ever with tales of hilariously bad fiction submissions collected from slush pile reading. In the main bar, Stephen Jones' launch of Best New Horror #19 had an impressive line-up of writers signing paperback copies. Had a great chat with artist Vincent Chong (who later won a BFS award).

While the banquet was going on, I went to dinner in the hotel restaurant (serving steak, but with no steak knives!) with my brother Stephen, and got the latest news about my uncle. While the BFS awards ceremony was ending, a very British queue formed at the typically understaffed main bar. Scheduled against the main hall's popular raffle, my panel 'Nothing New Under The Sun' in the Gallery room was a non-event, despite the presence of Christopher Fowler, Nicholas Royle, and latecomer Ramsey Campbell, but 8 of us had a good chat about film remakes, anyway. Midnight's panel item 'Forbidden', had Joel Lane (another BFS award winner!), Adam Nevill, and Nicholas Royle, discussing taboos in genre fiction, moderated by Conrad Williams. Despite the late hour, it proved an interesting discussion, especially with audience involvement. Back in the main bar, I failed embarrassingly to recognise Sam Stone's sister, but had a lively chat about something, um, whatever... After 5 pints, I just can't remember any details today.

Thanks to David J. Howe for the photo.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Friday, good & bad

Good breakfast, all-you-can-eat full English, walked off morning lethargy, viewed the local picture-book castle, while avoiding tourism hotspots, lurked in hotel's lobby and lounge bar, found no sign or trace of con organisers. No wifi in rooms but - as advertised - it works okay, if not perfectly, in public areas. I looked around the city centre, where a street market served ostrich burgers (among other such northern delicacies!), but my early afternoon was spoiled by a couple of rather incompetent pickpockets, who tried weaselling out of my grip when caught, and who eventually threw my wallet back and scurried off. My shouting at them both caught attention of helpful passers-by, who stayed to help with descriptions for police. Having calmed down after that bit of aggro... I returned to the hotel, and – on my 2nd attempt navigating to Britannia's back room suites of conference rooms – I found the Fantasycon committee (Marie, Paul, Vicky, Martin, etc.), and discovered that volunteering to help stuff carrier-bags of goodies (in readiness for convention registrations at 3 pm), enabled me to get a badge and freebies pack ahead of the big rush. In the dealers room, I spoke to Andrew Hook (Elastic), and Christopher Teague (Pendragon), both remembered from Glasgow's SF Worldcon, and this year's Eastercon. I also met several new friendly faces in the bar and around the hotel - all of which made up for my unwelcome encounter with Notty Ash's lowlifes.

Bit a shock, however, to find that for my Saturday night panel on genre remakes, I will be moderating (or trying!) a line-up of Ramsey Campbell, Christopher Fowler and Nicholas Royle. Gulp.... Later on, I met Allen Ashley, and we agreed about Kubrick's 2001, but disagreed about other films, TV, and music... Got some bad news about my Uncle having a heart attack, struggled to write sympathetic text message sent to my cousin. Missed seeing people I was keen to meet, and only caught last 20 minutes of convention's 1st panel, but the rest of evening was going well, anyway... Heard from Martin Roberts about tonight's film shows, and tomorrow's evening programme, and the short films do sound interesting. Time spent talking in the main bar meant that I missed the 10 pm 'Crossing The Streams' panel, but my brother found me with some good news about my uncle's condition in hospital. Went to see the 11 pm film show, but sitting in the darkened room watching stuff that I realised, belatedly, that I had already seen before, some-when... made me suddenly aware of how extremely tired I was, so that was Fantasycon Friday over and done, for me, and I staggered back to my room.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

F'con arrival

Made car journey from the Island in good time, arriving in Nottinghamshire just after midday. Decided on a hurried tour of my hometown Sutton-in-Ashfield... having an enjoyable wander through strangely unfamiliar surroundings - that I used to know so well, going back in time for a look at our used-to-be family house - how tiny every street and back lane looks now after decades away, and then stopping off in nearby Mansfield for another leisurely walkabout - part nostalgic, half traumatic - around busy marketplace streets - now much-changed, with bolt-on extras, seemingly retro-fitted infrastructure, redeveloped commercial sites, and eyesore of M1 bypass - that I fondly remembered from a couple of years worth of connecting-bus journeys during my schooldays.

Finally, reached Britannia hotel in Nottingham city centre, and checked in, more than ready for a nap and quick shower to recover from brain-taxing memory-lane fatigue build-up & time-warp overload flashbacks. Went for an easy stroll, twice around the block in cool evening air, which cleared away that snare of cobwebs.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Sunday races

A day at the races... but only go-karts in Gosport, on the speedy indoor track operated by Team Sport franchise.

Negotiating two ferry crossings, and ordering a minibus taxi, planned well by our trip organisers, Stephen and Sally. After signing-in on arrival, a quick orientation for our group of a dozen racers (aged 15 to 70), included brief chat and explanatory video, but safety rules were generally obvious and necessarily basic – if this was going to be any fun at all, despite observable risks of 175cc machines doing 30 mph on a clearly slippery track – featuring a flyover bridge and some hairpin bends. Of the go-kart novices, Brian (a long-time microlight flyer) said he wasn’t especially keen at first, but was persuaded to have a go, anyway – and he actually did very well in the final race.

Team Sport staff were mostly young but seemed cheerfully competent, mindful of the dangerous environment yet keen to ensure that all visitors would enjoy the racing. It appeared turnover of groups was brisk, throughout morning sessions, having several cars always on the go created a quite noisy ambiance, with pit stop downtime limited to routine maintenance and refuelling between races.

Overalls, crash helmets and gloves were supplied in various sizes. However, none of the apparel was in good condition, gloves were sticky or damp, and the clammy full-face helmets (no disposable liners were available) soon became rather smelly, even before the adrenaline heat of actual 15-minute races. Marshalled into the pits, we got into the tiny go-karts, and were off. Skidding around on tight corners proved to be a harder trick to master than I’d thought, and the down-slope off that little bridge was a juddering ride at any speed.

I was slowest during time-trials (I haven’t driven for about two and a half years, is my only excuse), but that put me in starting line’s pole position on reverse-order grid for our main event. The race itself was mostly a crazy blur (don’t think I noticed warning lights on a couple of early laps!), as everyone overtook me, eventually. Chequered flag appeared sooner than expected, but probably just in time...

Reigning champ Dave remained undefeated, as expected. Sally’s friend Carly won 2nd place, and Dave’s girlfriend Rhiane finished third. Prize tokens duly awarded, but where’s the champagne? Group photo-op essential... I’m not really competitive, so was happy enough finishing a barely respectable last (at least I didn’t spin-off into sidings), except for teenage Jake who admitted he kept crashing.

Now weighing over 200 lbs, I’m hardly a suitable candidate for winning this activity. It was an enjoyable distraction, simply great fun. Only slight injuries were sustained, to elbows or egos. Walking off the industrial estate, unwinding in cool afternoon, we then had lunch and beer at nearby Hoeford Inn.