FantasyCon 2007, and a second trip to Nottingham; a city that would probably like to forget that rather unfortunate nickname. Well, the men who put the 'Shot' into Nottingham are now behind bars, so maybe it's time to drag out that old chestnut, The Legend of Robin Hood. Not, of course, gory enough for the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror buffs descending on the Britannia hotel for a weekend's grue-fest.
Day one was also my birthday, so a good drink was in order. Acquaintances old and new turned up, and while it was a little quieter than the previous year, there was still much to enjoy.
First evening, and we went out looking for The Taj Mahal, an all-you-can-eat for a tenner joint we had found last year; but in the maze of streets we had no chance, and settled on a Turkish establishment, which generously handed out free fruit and Turkish Delight once we had paid for our meal. That night I was in the company of Ally Byrd, Stuart Young and John Travis. It had been a great way to spend the evening.
The next day I paid a visit to Nottingham Castle, where a Gala day was in full flow; men on stilts, an opera singer, various events to entertain the children. Best of all, the admission fee for the day had been waived, so I could enjoy a free visit.
In the film show room, they were screening a half-hour documentary about the cave systen under the castle (built on top of a hill). Another convention-goer, Bill Webb, had also drifted into that show and we decided to take the tour. Which we did, after a brief return to the hotel for some dinner.
The tour was an hour long, and as it entailed walking through about a mile of caves, it was not an adventure to be taken by the seriously underfit. Our tour guide was a young lady called Cath, who related the tales of torture, murder and execution with such relish, it was clear that she would have enjoyed a visit to the FantasyCon herself. We emerged at the bottom of the cliff, right next to Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem. Tempting, but we returned to the hotel.
That night, it was once again 'off-for-a-curry', and Nottingham native Alison L.R. Davies had booked an Indian restaurant called Chutneys. She'd asked for 16 places; luckily, they were able to accommodate the 20-plus who eventually turned up.
That night came the obligatory raffle, and this year there was a little twist. I had donated several books and an old video. They made a note of my name, something they had never done before, and I soon found out why. As the tickets were drawn, there was not only a description of the prize, but a mention of the donor, and as the M.O.C Michael Marshall Smith name-checked me several times (This has been donated by David Price' ... David Price has generously donated this book after reading it' ... Still getting through prizes donated by David Price!' ...), I was glad that (with the exception of that video --- a 1980 horror film called Alligator) I hadn't handed over the kind of shite I'd dumped on them in the past. Well, they said they were looking for quality control, and they might well have ensured it for future raffles.
Next day was the annual FantasyCon awards, and this time I actually attended the whole thing. A big winner was Joe Hill, whose debut novel Heart-Shaped Box, I had recently enjoyed. Mind you, there had been rumours about him at previous conventions ... something about his father. I'd checked his website, but there'd been no mention of his father. Finally, we we were let in on Joe Hill's little secret. And you know ... I'd never have guessed.
Most of the guests drifted away after that, so after the usual round of handshakes and farewell's, I made my way to Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem. And a pleasant evening it was; swapping ghost stories with a writer called Marion Arnott, and then playing a bizarre game called 'Baiting the Bull'. Basically, there is a bull's horn on a plaque nailed to the wall; a brass ring on a length of string hanging from the roof; and you hurl that ring at the horn in a bizarre variation of the hoopla game. On the wall are past pictures of game champions (called 'The Lords of the Ring' ... I'm not kidding!) Three of us played, I was the only one who failed miserably to ring the horn. All the same, it had been fun.
The following morning I had a final slap-up breakfast before taking a walk to the railway station. It was all over for another year. I'll be back; but that trek through the caves of Nottingham Castle showed me that I really did need to get in shape. Salads from now on, I think.
Allyson Byrd http://www.birdsnest.me.uk/
Chris Teague http://pendragonpress.livejournal.com/
Nottingham Castle http://nottinghamcastle.info/