Back from somewhere

Too many train journeys right now. Two to Winchester for Uni last week, another two to Winchester this week, two to football last week, and one last night to watch the Oakland Raiders at Wembley. All fun stuff (the Raiders’ many deficiencies notwithstanding), and it’s a good place for a read (Michael Ondaatje, Virginia Woolf, Abdulrazak Gurnah and Adam Nevill have accompanied me on recent journeys), but overkill kicks in when you seem to be spending your whole life on ’em.

The automated train voice lady, bless her little digital heart, tries to make it less prosaic by emphasing the second syllables of Millbrook and Redbridge, making the vast sprawl of council housing and tower blocks sound quaint and rustic, but still it disnae have the wonderful symmetry of long vowel sounds of the 7.42 to Waterloo.

So as I emerge, bleary-eyed and blinking, newsprint smears on my face via the Metro and my fingers, to stagger groggily down Rumbridge Street, remember this: if I look like I’ve just got back from somewhere, then I probably have.

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The actor is mightier than the politician.

I read Philip K Dick’s We Can Remember it for You Wholesale the other day. Well, I say ‘read’; truth is, I had a look. To be honest, confessional blogger that I am, I’m not that big a fan of PKD’s writing. Love his imagination for sure, but not his prose. I was being somewhat disingenuous when I named Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as the second best novel of the twentieth century for an Open University assignment, and I couldn’t even finish The Man in the High Castle.

Anyway, point being: I noticed the character’s name in WCRIFYW was Douglas Quail, not the Doug Quaid played by Arnie in Total Recall. My guess is that the ineptitude of the then Vice-President, the gaffe-prone and greatly derided Dan Quayle, put them off. A 1990 audience could buy into the memory distortion, Martian travel and genetic mutations, but a hero named D. Quail? No thanks! D. Quaid is more like it; the star of Innerspace and Enemy Mine being a much more palatable touchstone for the sci-fi fans.

Obvious,I suppose, that a respected actor will be mightier than a politician seen as a liability, but I chose the snappier version for the heading.

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Does UK Horror need its own convention?

I’m starting to have mixed feelings about the convention scene. I didn’t go to this year’s FantasyCon; consequently in the week afterwards I found myself looking at many more of other people’s Con reports than I normally would have. These were generally reporting a good time had by all, but there were also some deep divisions hinted at. SFF authors and readers were celebrating the fact that the programme and feel was radically different from years gone by. Not all referred to Horror writers specifically as their foe, although many did and for the rest it was certainly implied; harping on about vanquishing a perceived old guard of lecherous, drunken, middle-aged men.

I looked over previous year’s reports from the same people, and sure enough; the resentment of Horror writers hogging the awards and the programming, and one blogger responding “Yuck!” to finding a Horror book in her freebie bag. Another commented that some authors only used the convention as an excuse to get drunk with their friends.

I laughed at that, but she has a point: most of the positivity in reports from the Horror scene were to do with the camaraderie and the nights out, rather than anything directly relating to the Con schedule. Two or three bemoaned the Fantasy-heavy programming, but with less animosity than had been previously expressed in the opposite direction. That opinion may harden if the trend continues though.

So where do we stand now, and where do I personally stand? I’ve got nothing against Fantasy fiction, and consider myself a cross-genre author, but Horror is my first love and always will be. I don’t how desirable I’d find a convention where my favourite genre is marginalised, or even ostracised, and as a reluctant drinker the long late night bar sessions will never define the whole Con experience for me.

No sooner had I noted the extent of these divisions than the tragic early passing of Graham Joyce, loved on all sides, served as a unifying factor. As 2015’s FantasyCon will be on the Nottingham University site where he taught, I expect a very moving tribute, which will be observed by all more respectfully than Joel Lane’s this year, which was disrupted by a noisy and exuberant quiz show on the other side of the room.

I know the history of FantasyCon is that it’s really been a Horror convention all along, but I didn’t realise that for a long time, and neither do the new generation of readers and writers. To them, something named FantasyCon is a Fantasy convention, pure and simple. I’ve seen some historical suggestions that the name should be changed to HorrorCon, but I think the programming and attendance has gone too far the other way to make that viable. To all intents and purposes, this leaves UK Horror writing without a convention of its own. That’s why I think HorrorCon should be launched as a new convention, separate from FantasyCon and elsewhere on the calendar. That way people who only read or write on one side of the genre can pick the one they want and be untroubled by the other. I would probably go to both if that happened, but if it remains as one convention that doesn’t really know what it does or who it’s for, I might just stay away.

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