On the 30th September the doors of the Royal Albion Hotel in Brighton will open for Fantasycon 2011, the annual convention of the British Fantasy Society. Tartarus Press will have a presence all weekend with our books in the dealers’ room, and we’ll be launching Reggie Oliver’s new collection of short stories, Mrs Midnight, on Friday at 5:30pm. Fantasycon will be the usual mix of readings, panels, signings etc, and is a chance to meet all kinds of weird and wonderful people in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
|Tartarus Press at Fantasycon, 2010|
We’ve been going to Fantasycon for four or five years now. We were initially put off attending because the name Fantasycon tended to suggest unicorns, elves, etc. However, alongside traditional Fantasy, the British Fantasy Society promotes just about every other genre (Horror, SF, slipstream etc), and that which crosses and defies genres. In fact, as “genre” becomes more mainstream and the mainstream embraces “genre”, it all makes for a very professional event. Fantasycon lacks all the embarrassment and nerdiness that we had expected. Very few people dress up as elves …
|Brian Aldiss, Gwyneth Jones and John Ajvide Lindqvist|
But, if anything, Fantasycon could do, perhaps, with more people attending in costume, and more nerds. Just about everyone there is a writer, an artist, an editor or a publisher. There are TV and film people, even musicians, but very few ordinary fans, which is a little weird. Everyone is friendly and approachable. This year there’ll be the chance to meet Brian Aldiss, Gwyneth Jones, and John Ajvide Lindqvist (author of Let the Right One In), amongst others. There will be established, familiar names like Ramsey Campbell, and newer writers like Adam Neville, Sarah Pinborough and Gary McMahon.
So why aren’t more ordinary fans taking the opportunity to meet such luminaries in the bar, buy them drinks, get their books signed, and simply hang out? Last year, for example, I spent a very pleasant hour talking to Brian Clemens, who was happy to tell me all about his creation of The Avengers TV series, and he explained the truth behind the sexual chemistry between Steed and Mrs Peel, as well as chatting about The Professionals, Danger Man, and other great classic television series.
What Fantasycon lacks are the people who are just happy to read books, graphic novels, and watch films, and who would like to meet the creators of their favourites. The World Horror Convention in Brighton last year was very similar to Fantasycon; James Herbert, Neil Gaiman and Tanith Lee all attended, but nobody in Brighton knew it was happening. I was staying with friends who are ardent lovers of literature, and have helped run Brighton's “City Reads” festival, and they had no idea that the convention was in town. It’ll be the same with Fantasycon this year; nobody outside our little closed world will even be aware that it is happening.
Dare I suggest that the British Fantasy Society needs new dynamic, forward-thinking publicity people who will promote Fantasycon to all those people who love fantasy. There are hundreds of thousands of them, potentially, even if they are predominantly just reading best-selling novels and watching block-busting films. The BFS membership know about Fantasycon, as do people who frequent the odd internet discussion forum, but where else is it promoted? The Harrogate Crime Writing Festival gets international media coverage, but Fantasycon won’t even get a mention in Brighton's Evening Argus!
Go here for more details! Attending membership for the whole weekend is £65 (£60 to British Fantasy Society members). A day membership (for the Saturday only) is £40.