FantasyCon 2015: a round-up

Grimbold Books members
The Grimbold Posse

Wow. Well, I’m sort of glad that’s over!

I was just at FantasyCon 2015 in Nottingham from the 23-25th October. A whole team of Grimbold Books came up; we had a table in the Dealer’s room, a couple of authors were on panels, and we planned to have a lot of fun! I hadn’t volunteered for anything – as the submissions closed before BristolCon happened I was going to see how I did with the panel there before I volunteered for anything else! – so I was just a spectator this time.

Steve Aryan reading
Steve Aryan, courtesy of Adrian Faulkner

The review: overall, I enjoyed the Con. It was a small one, 500 people, and the hotel never felt full; there were enough spaces and things going on that everyone fitted nicely. It also meant people were recognisable when you bumped into them for the third time! The food situation was awful, the hotel staff were lacklustre but the Con staff (Redcloaks) were amazing, the panels were interesting, there were a nice haul of books around and I talked to lots of interesting people! I think I would have to have a reason to return – be that friends are coming, it’s got some interesting GoHs, I have a specific book reason. But I’m not sure that it’s one I would routinely make sure I attended.

So, having said that – if you want the in-depth version, please read more!

Dinner with writers
The Glasgow-Swindon posse having dinner. Photo courtesy of Adrian.

My general impression was that it was a writer’s convention. BristolCon was a reader’s convention; it was weird, interesting and was a huge conversation about everything readers (which included writers) enjoyed and were interested in about the SFF itself. FantasyCon was a writer’s convention; the panels were about how to write, what to write, how the writers perceive the world; the focus was very much on the books and sales and publishing, rather than the mad world of SFF itself. From what I understand, NineWorld is a fan’s convention (I say that as I may try that next year) and I’ve got no idea what EasterCon is!

Genre publishing panel
The Genre Publishing Panel

Still on the panel theme; as I said to Jo Hall, I could tell that the panels had been chosen by a jury as opposed to the attendees. They were more commercially-focused, the sort of stuff we should know about, the sort of stuff that’s meant to be interesting to readers and writers. I mean, a panel on “Epic fantasy” – that’s such a broad topic! They sort of covered every area, whereas I agreed with Jo that a panel on “the Chosen One in epic fantasy” would be really interesting, or my suggestion of “the element of suprise” – I mean, that’s horror and mystery and “hello, you’re the Chosen One!” and the Fae and real life; it’s nice and bad. So…I don’t know. It is a more commercial event than BristolCon and it does show. But they were all interesting, so that’s a bonus.

So, things wot I did! I went to “Fae-fi, Folk-fum” about faeries in writing; a good one on worldbuilding (disclaimer; it did include Adrian); a panel on crime in SFF as I felt I had an interest in that after my panel at BristolCon; a panel on Epic Fantasy; a marketing panel and one on Genre Publishing. I also got to see the live podcast of Tea and Jeopardy, which was an interview with Brandon Sanderson (amongst other things) and was fabulous.

Grimbold Books stall
Grimbold Books stall, photo courtesy of Joel

I was on the Grimbold table in the Dealer’s room for a chunk of Saturday, which was lovely. I tend to find Dealer’s rooms quite intimidating as a buyer; I don’t know what to say, and I always feel quite pressured to buy (and certain selling tactics really do not help!). However, as a seller, I try to get round that: my choice is “So what do you like to read?” It means people have to think and they can talk about themselves, and I can then point them at specific books – and it seems to work really well! We sold quite a lot, which was lovely, and talked to a lot of people. It helps that the attitude of the Room was really friendly, and we spent a lot of time chatting to the other dealers and exchanging contacts.

Adrian Faulkner reading
Adrian Faulkner reading, image courtesy of Sophie Tallis

I got to a reading by Steve Aryan and one by Adrian Faulkner, both of which were fabulous – I promptly bought Bloodmage but will have to wait a little bit longer to officially buy Black As Night. Frances Kay also did a reading from Strange Tales and Dollywagglers on the Saturday, which was wonderful – she’s got a wonderful sense of the theatrical and a lovely reading voice, and even though I’ve read both books, I wanted to know what happened next!

Cake
CAKE

On the Sunday, I went to the British Fantasy Society Awards; we skipped the lunch in favour of cake, but dived back for the awards. They were probably more interesting if you know more of the people involved; Emma Newman won the Short Story and Adele Wearing/Fox Spirits got Best Small Press, but overall it’s a tick in the box for “I’ve seen an awards ceremony!” and not really that interesting. That said, they have a novella category. I’m going to plot. Mwahaha.

Kate doing karaoke
Doing Karaoke…photo courtesy of Adrian.

So, turning back to me: random things wot happened! I got to hug the cutie that is Isabella (bottom right baby in the Grimmie pic at the top of the post) for an entire panel; I was having a hug and she fell asleep on me! So adorable, and a little drool-y. We had #crispgate and Jo Hall was Not Happy. Jo Thomas, Sophie and I blocked up the exit to the Dealer’s room with an impromptu lesson in fencing…whoops. I had a go at karaoke (the less said about that, the better). Vampire Unicorns are the next big thing – Gillian Redfearn says so! There was SO MUCH CAKE. We played Cards Against Humanity and broke Chris. The Swindon Writers are plotting to Take Over The World. Apparently #tweedreset is a thing. It was all pretty mad and all quite awesome…

Nottingham campus
Nottingham Campus

And for me personally…I did ok. I got my daily commute in each day with the walk from the hotel to the campus; on the Friday morning Steven and I walked into Nottingham before heading back to the campus, but on the Saturday and Sunday I had the walk to myself. It was much-needed time to chill and be on my own; I’m not that much of an introvert but I do need the time, particularly in amongst the 500 people at the Con!

I did find that I was quite anxious, particularly on Friday. It wasn’t crowds or people – I’m confident enough now that I will just happily chat to anyone. It was simply feeling inadequate. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough; meeting people who were signing deals and publishing loads and getting agents…and I’m sitting in the middle of a swirl of it all, wondering what I’m meant to be doing next. I can’t get an agent, I’m already published. I can’t get another publisher because a) I love mine! and b) I’m still in the same position that very few take novellas. I did go to a panel on marketing, but it was really Adrian and several chats over the two days that have inspired me. I know what my plan is; I know what my next year of writing work is going to be. But anyway, I’ll do a blog about it in a bit, so back to #FCon2015!

My solution to the anxiety, particularly in panels, was to sew. I’d brought my cross-stitch as I knew I’d probably need it (and if I didn’t, it just stays in my bag). I got a silly amount done but I did do it almost continuously for the entire three days! Everyone was absolutely wonderful about it, too – I wondered if people would get annoyed by the movement or wonder what I was doing, but the only comments I had were people interested in what it was. So that really helped, as did finding spaces that I could dive off to and just chill. The Grimbold Books team are also wonderful, as everyone’s so supportive – the stall was a back-up plan for everyone and it worked really well, as it meant someone was always there!

So, overall; a good experience. It was great to meet people, but it did leave me feeling a little out of place, a little anxious and not particularly inspired. However, it was my personal goals that have left me inspired; I’ve got a plan, got an idea, and I’m going to head back home to a year of hard work!