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FantasyCon 2021, 24th - 26th September.

Lounging: time in the bar with fellow author Sue York after our Saturday afternoon reading; my first panel that day.

Two years since I last went to a FantasyCon; in fact, two years since there last was a FantasyCon. You can blame the pandemic for that one. For the UK indie horror community that weathered the pandemic thus far, I don't think I'm wrong in saying that announcing a FantasyCon while in the midst of the pandemic was met with mixed reviews. Those that thought it might be too early. Those concerned about how it would be done safely. And so on and so on and so on.

My feeling was that it would be bittersweet. One because some people, for reasons related to the pandemic, couldn't go. Two, because those who would attend would feel the absence of those that didn't. And three, because those that did attend would see COVID measures in place - a reminder that things weren't quite back to normal yet.

For my part, it was mostly as enjoyable as ever.

What I personally get from FantasyCon - or any other convention or such gathering I step to - is mostly the same. Time to catch up with existing contacts and peers, making new contacts, and drumming up some new business/projects. And lets not forget the shenanigans; such as me pec-popping to The Blue Danube Waltz before the Tales In The Dark reading. More on that a little later.

In case you're unaware and I'm jumping the gun, FantasyCon is a 3-day event hosted by the British Fantasy Society (or BFS, for short). A gathering for the exponents of fantasy literature; where 'fantasy' in this case is the wider umbrella that covers fantasy, sci-fi and horror. From experience, the majority of attendees deal in horror of some kind (like extreme, weird, quiet, etc. As for the benefit of such additional labelling, that's another conversation). Those attendees are the likes of authors, editors, publishers, reviewers, artists/illustrators, podcasters, etc.

FantasyCon is usually held in a hotel of some description. I've learned that, for me, it's best to stay at the hotel where the convention is being held. That way, if I'm tired in the middle of late-night panels or lounging in the bar, I don't have far to travel to my room. Easily preferable to hoofing back to another hotel in the middle of the night, complete with full bladder and empty stomach.

Anyhow. Train was got to Birmingham on the Friday afternoon. Met Laura Mauro and hubby coming out of the station, heading off to the hotel; me staying at the convention hotel; them, close by. Once in the hotel, I see the likes of Allen Stroud, Russell Smith, Steve Foot (who I'd not seen since my first FantasyCon in Scarborough), Myk Pilgrim and Pippa Bailey, Nat Whiston (apologies I got hijacked mid-convo by Myk), and Jan Edwards, along with Peter Coleborn. And Justin (JR) Park, head honcho at the Sinister Horror Company. The Gingefather himself, Jim Mcleod, editor-in-chief at the Ginger Nuts Of Horror review site. Andrew Freudenberg. And so many others that I can't really mention here (and I could but, right now, I need sleep and I need to update this entry before the end of the month ...and it's nearly the end of the month). Whew.

l-r: Justin 'J.R.' Park, head honcho at The Sinister Horror Company, me, Jim Mcleod, editor-in-chief & reviewer at the eponymous Ginger Nuts Of Horror, and fellow author Andrew Freudenberg.

l-r: Pugnacious Press authors and Deadflicks podcasters Pippa and Myk Pilgrim.

Note that for such an event, hugging is par for the course. That said, given the pandemic we're currently in the midst of, not everyone feels comfortable with that (despite many of us being double-vaccinated against COVID-19, testing negative in lateral flow tests before and after the convention, etc). Some are okay to hug. Some opt for handshakes, if that - and some will go for a fist bump or elbow touch. As a hugger by nature (and Phil Sloman will know all about The Art Of Hugging), I'll hug - but I'll also respect boundaries of those who won't. Time with the usual suspects was mixed with time with new connects; Liliana Carstea, for example. Having done Daniel Braum's (virtual) NY Ghost Story Festival last winter, I got to meet her at last; as I did Chrissey Harrison. As a Kelley Armstrong forum alumni, we share common history.

Gentlemen That Lounge. l-r: authors Kit Power, David Watkins, and Neil Bond.

Most of the time I spend at a convention is me lounging in the bar. Out of the three days, the Friday was mostly meet and greet. Saturday was mixed with me doing readings and panels, including Saturday's late-night Tales In The Dark, which is what it says on the tin. With nothing but the light of a device, e.g. mobile phone to read a story from, these stories read in the dark really add to the proceedings - just like when you go to the cinema, films are screened in the dark. Thanks to Kit Power for bringing it together, and reads from Charlotte Bond, David Watkins, Chrissey Harrison, et al. for representing. Sat in the dark room in a warm hotel for two hours wiped me out - which continued well into Sunday afternoon, which saw me slumped in armchair and sofa in the hotel lounge until it was time to get the train back. Yes, I missed the award ceremony (which is how FantasyCon is rounded off). But for once, I just wanted to get back in my house ASAP.

All in all, it was a damned good weekend with my tribe. That, too, is par for the course.



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