FantasyCon 2017 took place in Peterborough, which was an unexpectedly pretty little town with an impressive gothic cathedral (resting place of Catherine of Aragon, for all you historians / necromancers out there…) The Bull was one of those old inns with wiggly, maze-like corridors and a lot of portraits of C17th people looking very disapproving of the shenanigans going on under their noses, but most of the panels took place in a modern conference centre a few yards down the street, which was more accessible but less intriguing.

My con-buddy for the weekend was my esteemed editor and co-editor Roz Clarke, and we were persuaded into attending by the fact that Grimbold Books had several nominations in the BFS Awards that were taking place on Sunday (more on that later). We arrived on the Thursday and headed out for Pan-Asian / Mexican with Ian and Helen Whates, Tej Turner, Anna Smith-Spark and Maura McHugh, which was very tasty, and where we discussed the importance of puddings.

Books on the hill.jpg

Steve, Roz and I, courtesy of Ali Simms

All my panels were on Saturday, so Friday was a fairly easy day. The readings are an enjoyable part of any FantasyCon and a good opportunity to support your friends, so we headed first of all to the reading room to listen to R B Watkinson, David Stokes of Guardbridge Books, and Shona Kinsella, before the 3.30 presentation on “Women’s Bodies in Post Apocalyptic Fiction.” This was presented by Tiffani Angus, who had done the same talk to wide acclaim at WorldCon in Helsinki. It was a fascinating (and very funny) talk about all the issues that relate to women that are glossed over in fiction but would have a massive impact in RL Post-Apocalyptica (or, as it’s currently known, America….); periods, pregnancy and childbirth, the menopause. She also touched on what surviving the apocalypse might mean for trans people, and she gets +100 points for coining the phrase “Chekov’s Tampon”. Seriously, if you can get to an event where Tiffani is giving this talk it’s well worth listening to.

We also dropped in on readings by fellow Bristol types Pete Sutton and Jonathan L Howard (who just happens to be a GOH at BristolCon this year, did he mention that?)

JLH reading

JLH reading from the new Carter and Lovecraft – out November!

Saturday was busy. I had a reading at the unholy time of 10am, alongside Gloucestershire-based author William Webb and his tales of space-elves, and Peter Flannery, author of Battle Mage, a book so hefty Roz later used it to add height to our hotel room lamp. You could probably beat a hippo unconscious with it too, should you feel the urge.

Reading Room

Peter Flannery (L) and William Webb (R) – my reading room buddies!

I sadly missed the launch of Jeanette Ng’s Under the Pendulum Sun (and cake!) because I was on a panel at the same time, “Landscapes in Fantasy”, with Nina Allan, Tiffani Angus, Ed McDonald and chaired by Rob Malan. We talked about the simultaneous pull of home and the desire to escape, landscapes on the edge and the stories they hold, and the post-apocalyptic radioactive wasteland that is Bury St Edmunds. The rather gloomy conclusion was that, thanks to climate change, we would all be living in an “interesting” post-apocalyptic landscape in about 50 years from now, so we might as well get used to it…

Dropped in on a panel about “Being BFA Nominees”, and one about short fiction, both with Pete Sutton appearing, grabbed a very tasty burger from the handmade burger place in the shopping centre, and then it was back to the conference centre for a panel on “New Epics” which had everyone in the world on it – James Barclay, R J Barker, David Stokes, Jen Williams, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Den Patrick, and small and humble me 🙂 We spent quite a lot of the panel trying to work out what an “epic” was and recommended some good new ones too 🙂 – I can certainly recommend Jen and Adrian’s books (and do so, volubly, to anyone who will listen.)

On Sunday I dropped into the BFS AGM for the first time ever – it was very interesting and I’d go again even though I had to get up disgustingly early after a heavy evening of drinking and karaoke 😉 Caught my fellow Grimmie Steven Poore reading his new short story which he described as “epic trench warfare” and which will be appearing in EU Booknest’s “Art of War” anthology (I think I’ve got those details right, anyway…) Lee Harrison read an extract from The Bastard Wonderland which featured an airship landing on someone’s allotment, and Ritchie Valentine Smith read from his novel (I forget the name, sorry) which draws on Japanese mythology.

Then there was pizza, with Lea Fletcher and Alistair and Chloe from Books on the Hill in Clevedon, who have a very fine online SFF store and will also be at BristolCon. And then we high-tailed it back to the Bull for the BFS Awards, expecting to do not much more than heckle Ramsey Campbell from the peanut gallery, which we do most years. I mean, we had a lot of nominations, but we weren’t expecting to actually win anything…

Grim Cats



So now somebody has to say something and Pete, Steve and Roz all took a very wise and strategic step backwards and I was just a little bit too slow…..

So sorry my acceptance speech for the BFS award for Best Independent Press was kind of mumbly and surprised – that’s because I was mumbly and surprised!

FCon awards

Really though, and now I’ve had the chance to get my composure back, I think it’s not to forward of me to speak for everyone at Grimbold Books when I say we are incredibly flattered and honoured. It’s not easy to be a small press in troubled times like the ones we live in, so too have our work noticed and celebrated by our peers is an absolute honour, and all praise must go to Sammy Smith and Zoe Harris for keeping us going, keeping us motivated, and pouring their hearts and souls into Grimbold over these last five years. Onward and upward!

All praise too to the FantasyCon team this year, to everyone involved but especially to Allen Stroud and Karen Fishwick, who took it on unexpectedly and had to deal with all sorts of problems from venue changes to online carping. They really pulled it out of the bag. And to Alisdair Stuart and his team of redcoats, who were on it like Grommitt whenever there was a problem. Brilliant stuff – looking forward to Chester next year!

(If you’re interested, Kitty G has posted a Vlog about Fantasycon on Youtube which includes highlights from some of the panels – find it here.)