I write this immediately after my return from Scarborough, the remote but admittedly beautiful setting for this year’s FantasyCon.
After previous times going as an aspirer, a socialiser, and a would-be self-promoter, this year I decided I would go unashamedly as a fan, and thus adding to my sixty-strong signed book collection became a priority. I packed a load of unsigned books from my collection, along with a fullish wallet for buying new ones.
But the wallet was already stretched by the distance, which meant an expensive train ride and the necessity for an extra day of travelling either side, which in turn meant a four night stay as opposed to the two I can get away with in Brighton. So I saved a bit of money by avoiding the much-criticised Con hotel in favour of a much less expensive, and TripAdvisor acclaimed guest house a mile away, which would come back to haunt me later.
The six hour journey up left me with little energy for anything other than a little walk to find my way around, and needless to say I got hopelessly lost and had to ask a local for directions – a big step for a shy boy such as myself. But at least it meant I could find the Grand Hotel with no trouble on Friday, to take in a panel on ‘selling out’ and more importantly take in the launch of my fellow Grimboldians Joanne Hall, Steven Poore and AJ Dalton, while Joel Cornah, the talk of Westminster because of his Miliverse Twitter feed, gallantly manned the book stall. But carrying a heavy bag of books made the disco awkward, and my attire made it impossible. Last year I suffered an unfortunate low-flying wardrobe malfunction; this year it was the burgundy trousers themselves threatening to slide their way down my hips and around my ankles. At least it shows my recent return to running has shifted a couple of pounds, but I must remember to wear a belt with those from now on.
I took a chunk out of Saturday to watch my beloved Chester FC in their cross-border derby with Wrexham, and although the 0-0 draw was a decent result, the lack of entertainment on offer made me wish I’d stayed put. But I returned to get the most important signatures of all, Derek Landy on my son’s two Skullduggery Pleasant books. Then after the obligatory post-apocalyptic fiction panel (one day I need to be on one), it was on to the David Gemmell Awards, a glitzy occasion somewhat undermined by the absence of the actual trophy! But at least it had free wine, of which I had enough to make me forget I can’t sing, so apologies to anyone who had to listen to my terrible Nik Kershaw rendition when the karaoke followed in the same room.
Highlight of Sunday was the candid and humorous Joe Hill interview, before the BFS Awards. It was dreadfully overcrowded, but there were plenty of worthy winners, my favourite being Priya Sharma, who I never saw properly this year, but who should be glad she avoided my karaoke. But the hardly seeing people, or not at all, was my only disappointment this year, the two hotel format, and me being perma-tired from dragging heavy book bags around cutting down my opportunities. Still, I did get triathlon advice from Tim Lebbon, a good chat with Neil John Buchanan, more bonding with the Grimbold lot which will continue at BristolCon next month, pole position to see Ross Warren’s panel debut, and a recurring rendezvous with Stephen Bacon in the gents (!), along with various other all too brief encounters.
Last thing before I left the Con was watching my other team Southampton beating West Ham 3-0 away, a good end to a great weekend, tempered by the revelation of a health scare to long-time online friend and Crystal Lake Publishing founder Joe Mynhardt, but latest news is that isn’t too serious.
So now I hope that rumours about it being in Daventry next year turn out not to be true (no offence intended to any Daventrians reading), but first I have BristolCon next month and maybe – just maybe – my own panel debut. But whether I’m sat in the audience or facing the audience, I can’t wait.