My first convention of the year. The horror con runs over the Saturday and Sunday (24th and 25th Feb this year), but I chose to go only for the Saturday. My main motivations behind going were:
1. to see what the con would be like, and 2. to do any possible/additional promo for the release of The Black Room Manuscripts, Volume 3 - especially since the Sinister Horror Company were looking to release the volume at the convention (as well as on the likes of Amazon). Anyhow. Train ticket got, I get to Birmingham in good enough time: about 09:30 am. Freezing my ass off in chill winter sun. I then find a little pub nearby called The Railway, which eventually serves me the largest cooked breakfast I could find. It didn't take me long to disappear it, but that probably says more about me and my appetite than anything else. Previous intel when I got into Birmingham that morning told me it would have been about maybe 20 mins on foot to walk from the station to the convention. With the benefit of hindsight, it would have been maybe 20 minutes by bus. I would've kept outta the cold as well. Got inside the venue about 11:30 am. Given that Phil Sloman says he left London about an hour behind me, I thought I'd never live it down if he got to the con before I did.
So I finally get to the convention, and it's as a pretty much expected. Lots of stalls, lots of hip t-shirts celebrating some reference or other in the genre. Lots of people in costume. I first see Justin Park, one half of the Sinister Horror Company. No Daniel, unfortunately, but as is always the way with conventions, you'll see the usual suspects sooner or later at some convention.
There's something Sinister here: the SHC's Justin Park with newly-minted SHC author Tracy Fahey.
The only panel I sat in on was one featuring Paul Harrison, a Brit who's interviewed a number of notorious serial killers. I paid for this panel, because I figured I'd catch something else at the con, apart from the usual meet-&-greet. It did irk me a bit to see that on top of the ticket price, the additional panels came at a price, rather than be covered in the cost of entry. As is, I was hard-pressed to stay awake (or upright) during the panel - and that wasn't down to the content. That was down to having had precious little sleep the night before.
The House Cider Rules. l - r: Tracy Fahey, Pippa Bailey, Myk Pilgrim, Lisa Childs, Steve Harris, Phil Sloman, Paul Woodward, me, Yvonne Davis and daughter Megan.
So. Panel wrapped at last, I make my way into the upstairs foyer, apologising to Yvonne Davis that I needed to sit down before I fell down, and head over to the stretch of canteen area at the far end of the floor. Tracy Fahey than happens by, jawbone jewellery hanging around her neck, and then sits with me to talk shop. (Yes, it was a real herbivore jawbone on a chain.) That's always one of the high points of any convention for me: where you sit with your peers and talk game. So after a while, we head further back looking for a Phil Sloman, and find him ensconced at a further table, with an assortments of dark genrephiles around him. Among them, one couple by the name of Myk Pilgrim and Pippa Bailey. Cue shop talk and general comedy - par for the course when hitting the convention circuit. For me, this is one of the things that makes time in the genre worthwhile: the people. People who bring their love for the genre to the forefront; people who share that love and help with others. So when Myk tells me about his plans for shopping his work, I've got no qualms about telling him where to find market listings, e.g. DarkMarkets.
Lisa Childs gets me to sign my story in her copy of The Black Room Manuscripts, Vol. 3
...and then asks Phil Sloman to sign his story for her. Lisa, why the long face?
Ah. I see.
There's an irony here in that while the body of the convention was downstairs in the main hall, I stayed upstairs sat at this table with my fellow scribes. And that's where most of my convention time was spent. The only real exceptions were a chat with Justin when I got in (and also signed a copy over The Black Room Manuscripts, Vol. 3 - as did other contributors on the premises), and a chat with one Simon Clark when I was about to leave. Simon Clark bears a special mention. Back before I was a horror author, we used to have a book store in this city called Ottakars. The kind of bookstore that, for all the shelves in the place, only one bookshelf was dedicated to horror. I remember the name of one Simon Clark novel called Vampyrrhic. Picked up that book countless times, but never bought it. I remember that leering face on the cover, needle teeth and all. Fast forward some years and I see that the soft-spoken Clark is one of the nicest guys in the business: someone who makes Phil Sloman look like Ming The Merciless. I digress. As is always the way with conventions, there's talk of who's stepping to what convention next. I'll probably be at Edge-Lit as well as FantasyCon (despite the latter falling on my birthday). I'd rather not spend my birthday there. I remember telling this to Justin and Tracey as I swung by the Sinister stand on the way out. While they suggested that I'd be bought lots of drink, I suggested that lots of grilled chicken would be a better call. And that I might even create a ChickStarter page.