Beside The Fantasy-side

20 Oct

Back during those hazy, lazy crazy days of early October, Laura and I went to FantasyCon in Brighton – the annual shin-dig of the British Fantasy Society. Earlier this year we’d enjoyed the SFX Magazine Weekender, but whenever I’d mentioned this to seasoned Convention-goers, their responses had been united by one thing. “That’s all well and good,” they’d said, “but for the real deal, get yourself to FantasyCon.”

And so we did, arriving on the Friday just in time for a drink. One of the many pleasant things about the weekend was the chance to meet fellow writers whose work I admire, and we started as we meant to go on in the company of writer Mike Carey, creator of the brilliant Vertigo comic series The Unwritten.

Saturday morning was spent basking in the glow of imminent environmental meltdown, and meeting writer and splendid fellow Jason Arnopp for lunch on Brighton’s seafront. But this was no time to be stuck out doors in the fresh air, and so I headed back inside for the first of the afternoon’s panels, where the venue seemed to be staging its own tribute to Convention guest of honour Brian Aldiss, by recreating the atmospheric conditions of his novel Hothouse. Thankfully, New Voices In Genre Publishing provided an interesting discussion, a welcome opportunity to eavesdrop on a group of writers chatting about their influences and craft.

To the reading room next, where Robert Shearman presented a short story from his latest collection. Shearman is blessed with winning delivery style for his own material, and his reading fell somewhere between Hay On Wye and The Glee Club. Mike Carey followed, with the audience hanging on every word of two vivid excerpts from The Steel Seraglio – an Arabian Nights-style adventure written with his wife and daughter, due in the spring of next year.

Back down to the hothouse, for a panel on comics (‘Indies vs Majors’), where the recent controversy over DC comics’ portrayal of certain female characters and lack of female creators came up. One questioner said she’d boycotted the entire range of New 52 titles, due to her understandable frustrations with these issues. I felt this was a shame, as amongst other things, it means she’s missing out on the development of Madam Xanadu, a strong and complex character in the pages of Demon Knights, Resurrection Man and Justice League Dark. But then, none of those titles are written by women, so, touché.

The last panel, How To Deal With Editors and Agents, provided a neat parallel to the earlier writers talk, especially the industry view on the rapidly-growing world of e-publishing. It was reassuring to hear so many professional voices speaking out for writers being fairly paid for their work, in a world where books are now just a mouse click away. The day was rounded off in the bar, where it was a pleasure to chat with Paul Cornell, writer of the aforementioned Demon Knights, Angry Robot editor Lee Harris, and DC Comics colourist (and Iron Man enthusiast) Rosemary Cheetham.

A Sunday saunter around the book dealer’s room resulted in a chance meeting with Andrew Hook, whose novella Ponthe Oldenguine I’d recently enjoyed (it’s pronounced “Ponth e, rhymes with see, Oldenguine as in Old En Guine, rhymes with twine”, to quote the book, a time-slip yarn that reads a bit like the ghost of Spike Milligan rummaging through the BBC archives with Paul Auster.) And back in the bar, before the afternoon awards ceremony kicked off, I finally got to thank author Tim Lebbon for his generous advice over the years on various Literary Matters (of which more soon, readers).

The British Fantasy Awards rounded off the weekend, and this year’s ceremony stirred up no small amount of controversy. For a neat overview of the whole affair, check out this blog post from publisher Ian Alexander Martin, including links to relevant sources.

From the perspective of a newcomer to both the society and the convention, all I really feel qualified to say is that I hope the current debate inspires more people to get involved and to help shape its future. At a time when fantastical fiction arguably enjoys its highest ever profile, and is firmly entrenched in the mainstream, there’s never been a better time to join an organisation that champions the genre all its forms.

Check out the British Fantasy Society website for more information on the organisation and how to join.

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One Response to “Beside The Fantasy-side”

  1. Jenni October 20, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

    Really interesting write up, so nice to hear about some of the panels (most of the write ups I’ve read have centred solely around the awards).

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