So, to the 29th FantasyCon, in Walsall, at The Quality Hotel - a venue so craftily hidden that most of the guests ended up back on the M6 Toll Road! (I passed the entrance 3 times, wound up in a strange part of town some miles away, and ended up paying a taxi driver to go there so I could follow him. So much for my AA Road map!)
Still, a few relaxing drinks later, and I was chilled out, even though I'd arrived a day early. The next morning I decided to go for a walk, but The Heaven's opened up, so I turned back. Just then, a taxi pulled up in front of me and out stepped Marie 0'Regan and Paul Kane. It was too early for them to book into their rooms, so we went to check in at the convention desk. Again, it was too early, so we helped the organizers to fill the obligatory 'Goody Bags' with books, flyers, and anything else that came to hand. Then we went back to the lounge and waited for the other guests to arrive.
First in was Chris Teague, of Pendragon Press, and then other's started to drift in. Of the Terror Scribes there was Rob Roundtree, Lisa Negus, Mark West and his wife Alison, Alison L. R. Davies (there to give a reading of two of her stories, and pretty nervous by that time), Len Maynard and Mick Sims. Later I would meet up with Gary's Fry and McMahon, (There to push the long-awaited Poe's Progeny anthology), Terry Gates Grimwood , who was setting up a dealer table for D-Press chapbooks, and the incomparable Jetse DeVries.
The rest of the time it was business as usual as we attended the numerous panel's and story-telling sessions, the whole event, as ever, benefitting from the larger-than-life presence of BFS Chairman Ramsay Campbell (who drew the first night to a close with a reading of his spooky new short story).
The panel's themselves were enjoyably diverse. Ramsay Campbell, Paul Kane, Simon Clark, Matthew Holness (star of the dark Channel 4 comedy series, Garth Marenghi's Dark Place http://www.garthmarenghi.com/ ) and a slightly late Joe Hill discussed comedy in horror, then Stephen Gallagher and Paul Finch talked about their (mostly frustrating) experiences writing for television. This included an audience-participation session in which we were asked to devise a television series. Then Paul Kane interviewed Simon Clark before we went for a buffet and a drink in the hotel bar.
Later on there was a quiz, which my team won, but don't ask me how; the questions were really bizarre. Other events included a raffle (in which Paul Finch was overjoyed to win a hammock!) and story-telling from Alison Davies (who calmed herself down with a glass of wine, then went on to wow the audience with an impressive, off-the-cuff recital) and Joe Hill, an American writer who read a selection from his new book of supernatural tales.
Finally, Graham Joyce opened the book launch and I purchased several titles, including Poe's Progeny, New Wave (an anthology by the newly-formed Crowswing Books www.crowswingbooks.co.uk ) , a number of D-Press chapbooks and The Life to Come by Tim Lees.
The launch went well, and once again the event was over all too soon. I said my farewells, threw all my purchases into the back of my car, and set off on the long drive back to Cardiff. Next year will be the 30th anniversary bash and big things are promised. With any luck, I'll be there; hopefully, in a hotel that's easier to find!
As ever, it's hats off the The British Fantasy Society for putting together a really enjoyable event ... and hoping that I get to enjoy many more.