I was in Birmingham this past weekend for the British Fantasy Society’s annual convention. I don’t mind saying, it was a rather strange feeling to be travelling up there. What was meeting up in person for the first time in so long going to be like? As it turned out, it was lovely. It was also rather a relief to find the event was smaller and quieter than some past years’ events, so we could all ease ourselves back into the convention routine. I must have had that conversation independently with at least half a dozen people through the weekend.
This is absolutely no criticism of the convention organisers, to be crystal clear. Putting on any event in the current circumstances is an achievement in itself, and putting on one that was so friendly and sociable, with a varied and interesting programme is a triumph. I was particularly pleased to find myself talking to a good few people attending their first convention, and delighted to hear that they were having a really good time. That bodes well for the Society’s future, along with the Committee’s energetic determination to take the BFS onward and upward.
I very much enjoyed the panels and talks I sat in on, and the panels I was part of went with a swing. We discussed genre-splicing and explored the ways in which mixing and matching different ideas gleaned from wide-ranging reading is a great way to create something new and exciting. I was also part of a discussion about writing as a business. That could have been a tricky one as there’s a lot of outdated and misguided advice out there that needs correcting – but none of us on the panel wanted to crush new writers’ hopes and dreams. Judging from the positive feedback I got all weekend, we struck the right balance.
The Jury’s Inn was a good venue – with the usual allowances to be made for bar staff who’ve never encountered SF and fantasy fans before, plus added pandemic allowances. Conrunners might like to bear it in mind, and there were a range of other hotels within sight of my room for anyone considering a bigger event. As a city centre venue, there are a good range of food options within easy walking distance as well. Granted, driving in was a challenge for my satnav, which ended up having conniptions, but random streets being closed so that tramlines can be laid will only be a temporary state of affairs.
We launched The Green Man’s Challenge, and with Cheryl running the Wizard’s Tower Press table in the dealer’s room, I signed a whole load of other books as well. It was particularly lovely to learn that readers were buying a copy of The Green Man’s Heir, or another title from the series, because they’d enjoyed it so much in ebook they wanted a copy for their shelf.
Next up is Octocon – 1st-3rd October – and that’s a virtual event this year. It’s also free, so I heartily recommend you check it out. I’ll be discussing the resurgence of fantasy on TV, as well as writing fight scenes. I’ll also be doing a reading, so those of you who weren’t at Fantasycon will be able to get a taste of The Green Man’s Challenge online.
On the 30th October, I’ll be heading down the M4 for Bristolcon – an in-person event – which promises to be another step on the road to a new normal after these strange and unpleasant months. It will be lovely to see established pals and to make new friends. As ever, I have no doubt that the convention programme will be excellent.
If I don’t see you at one of these events, let’s hope our paths cross in real life or online real soon.