Wednesday 21 September 2011

Fantasycon 2011

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.

Come along and meet a great bunch of people, and you don't have to be in the trade!


  1. You are right, of course. Too many writers and not enough readers. That's been the case for quite some time. Oddly enough, I get the impression that Science Fiction conventions, which tend to be much bigger, are the opposite and are inundated with "fans". Which, in a way, is why I found last year's Halifax Ghost Story Festival so refreshing.

  2. Hi David,
    I've just had an email from Marie O'Regan saying that there are approx 500 attendees this year, which must be higher than most, and bodes well for there being more fans than usual...

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  4. Oops - hit "post" before I was done. :-(

    I agree it's sad that there aren't more readers but I still relish the opportunity to meet up with fellow writers and horror fans. Facebook is nice in between things like this and World Horror but it's no substitute for the real thing.

  5. I'd be there if I could! Have a great time everyone!

  6. Whilst I’m not directly involved in publicity for this years con, I can tell you from previous year’s experience it’s not through lack of trying; I contacted all the local radio stations, and newspapers for Nottingham.

    This is one of the reasons I stepped down from being the Publicity Co-ordinator for the BFS - I grew tired of being ignored.

    Waterstones were going to dedicate a table to the attending authors last year, but pulled out when the section manager left.

    Postcards were distributed in the likes of Fopp, Forbidden Planet, Games Workshop, the local library and Page 45 prior to the event.

    Free papers in London were informed about Open Night’s etc.

    FantasyCon is listed with the Precise Forward Planning service, which is used daily by the majority of the national media in the planning of their editorial content.

    I think that the cost factor of a convention puts a lot of folks off attending - not just in terms of money, but time. Helen and I have used a third of our holidays from work this year due to events – not complaining, just highlighting a point.

    SF has always to my knowledge had a more supportive fan base, and crime fiction is sponsored by television and is seen as a classier act by many.

    Feel free to discuss this further with me at FantasyCon in less than a week or in 4 sleeps if you’re on the committee.

  7. Hi Martin,
    Many thanks for taking the time to respond. I can see how banging your head against a brick wall must get a little frustrating after a while... Yes, let's talk about it in Brighton - Steve Jones wants a word with me on the subject as well!

  8. The first person I met on arrival at the Royal Albion Hotel this weekend was Steve Jones, who said he wanted to have a word with me about my blogging... I think the agreed result of our discussion was that more publicity would always be useful, but there is only so much that can be done in some quarters. Having seen the chap this weekend in a toga and yellow wellington boots, I did conceed that I'd been wrong about the desirability of more people dressing up :-)


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