After four successive years with a convention in Brighton, I’ve had five years of either distant travelling or staying home. So much so that I had sworn that if FCon 2018 went to another northern venue, I’d stay home. But there’s always somewhere I’ll make an exception for, and that’s Chester; home of my beloved football team and in my opinion one of the most beautiful cities in the UK, if not the world.
Because it’s such a great place to visit I brought my wife and son along to make a holiday of it, and make for a very memorable few days immediately following my MA graduation from Winchester University, at which I got to exchange a handshake and a few words with none other than their celebrity Chancellor Alan Titchmarsh, in the grand surroundings of the cathedral.
And so to another great Cathedral city of course, and I made the journey up shamelessly clad in one of two Escaping Firgo t-shirts I’d brought to raise awareness of the book. And it certainly worked on the train, as the passengers around me took a great interest in it. Perhaps I should have sold them some of the copies I’d packed, although five of them had been earmarked for BristolCon goodie bags.
The friend spotting began as soon as I was out of the train station, finding Chris Teague first and realising we were staying at the same hotel. We’d soon find the Westminster was as much part of the FCon takeover as the Queen, the official con hotel, with me also seeing James Everington, Lisa Childs, Jim McLeod, Cheryl Morgan, Simon Clark and Alison Littlewood, along with many others, just at that initial check in.
The convention check-in was next, where Chris and I were fortunate to meet up with Mark West, Stephen Bacon and Ben Jones, and Mark had the great idea of getting this photo taken.
After that, the first panel up was one for the bloggers, and it gave me a chance to offload my BristolCon goodie bag copies of Escaping Firgo, and to pose a question to the panel, something I’m usually too shy to do.
I was fortunate to bump into Peter Mark May soon afterwards, allowing me to complete our swap deal, my signed book about Surrey’s 1999 County Championship for his own Anno Zombie, keeping my tally at 167 not out, but having a much more enjoyable read out of it. And I was lucky to get advance warning of Ross Warren’s 40th birthday surprise, an exclusive anthology created especially for him. It’s a fitting reward for probably the friendliest and most supportive guy on the scene, and a tribute paid to Jim McLeod at a previous con. Only other panel I went to on Friday was about the end of the world, always an essential one for me, and thankfully without the zombie bashing this time.
Saturday began with launches from Horrific Tales (for whom I have a rewrite five years overdue!), Elsewhen Press, and Hersham Horror, followed by the highlight for me, which was Ross’s presentation, complete with a typically lengthy acceptance speech from the man himself. A quick walk into a ludicrously sun baked Chester city centre later, and I was in for readings from Ray Cluley, Sara Jane Townsend and Rosanne Rabinowitz, who treated us to her delicious home-made rugelach.
I followed Ray into one of the few out and out horror panels, also staring Ramsey Campbell and Catriona Ward, and stayed there for the publishing panel, shamelessly stealing ideas and quotes for my own panel appearance discussing the same topic at BristolCon the following Saturday, and retreated to the dealer’s room to spend some quality time with my fellow Grimbold authors.
My main task for Sunday was to find out where next year’s convention will be, my reckoning being that after five successive cons in distant venues, we were overdue a return to the south. So the selections of Glasgow next year (although I accept that Scotland was even more overdue) and Sheffield in 2020 (Yorkshire’s third in six years), were of some disappointment to me. So much so that I’m now planning to host it myself in 2021, if that’s the only way I can bring it to the Solent coast. And if it’s customary to take over for two cons, I’m thinking South Wales for 2022, as long as it doesn’t impinge on BristolCon through its geographical and chronological proximity. The romanticist in me wants it to be occurring on Barry Island, but the pragmatist in me thinks Cardiff might be more a suitable venue.
After chance meetings with Keris McDonald, aka Janine Ashbless, resulting in a signed book exchange, and John Travis, who I’ve promised to burn a copy of my rare Frank Black bootleg, and a return to hang with my fellow Grimmies, it was time for the awards. A link to the winners is below, but overall it felt like two fingers up at the Sad/Rabid Puppies, as well as being a love in for the genre, for the scene, and for the convention and those who make it happen. Well done everyone, and thank you so much.