FantasyCon 2017 – A Great Weekend

FantasyCon 2017

This year was my first time attending FantasyCon – Folks: it was good. Held in Peterborough, the event was well run and, in my opinion, one of the better cons I’ve been to, so thanks to the organisers and their minions for that. It was blasted unfortunate that due to personal problems I had to cut the weekend short and missed out on Sunday’s program, which was disappointing. However, I can still waffle on about the other two days.

The various panels, workshops, and the trade room were held in a building next to the Bull Hotel, but a lot of the social stuff happened in the bar area, which is as it should be. It is known that BarCon is a thing. Here I managed to chat to all sorts of people I knew already, those I’d only met on social media, and entirely new people. Due to these SFF conventions, my social network is growing and is full of excellent folk, generous and friendly to a fault.

On Friday, as one of the early birds – I was in a reading session with David Stokes and Shona Kinsella. This went so well that Adrian Tchaikovsky bought a copy of my book, The Cracked Amulet, from the FantasyCon table in the Trade Room upstairs and got me to sign it for him. It was a total geek moment for me, and I had to remind myself to breathe, but I kept my cool and am certain Adrian didn’t notice (hmm).

Later, on Friday, I was on the panel for Writing Courses Advice and Experiences. Ably moderated by Terry Jackman, the other panellists were Tej Turner, Ginger Lee Thomason, and Helen Gould. We talked about our experiences on courses we’d taken to improve our writing. I spoke of the online course with Oxford University Department of Continuing Education in ‘Getting Started with Creative Writing’, which led to me applying for and getting a place on their Diploma in Creative Writing. Everyone on the panel had a different journey, but they all believed that what they studied helped them with their writing. As Tej said, you get out of it what you put in.

On Saturday I was the moderator for the panel Images of Fantasy, my panellists were Peter Coleborn, Terry, Jackman, Jim Pits, and Morgan Fitzsimons. A great discussion was had on how stories are visualised by artists, giving us a sense of what the incredible worlds created by writers might look like. An efficient techie minion found the connections in a trice for my computer to be linked to the projector and so there were photos of covers we particularly liked. A lively Q & A followed. Though I was nervous as a cat in a dog pen, nobody seemed to notice, and I managed to pull my first moderator session off in not too bad a form. Thank you to Terry for the advice.

Right after this was the World Building panel moderated by Peter McLean with a great line-up of panellists: Adrian Tchaikovsky, Vic James, Kristina Perez, Anne Lyle and Shona Kinsella. An interesting talk on their world-building methodology and research. Nice to know there are others as nuts as me in their lengthy and dogged foraging for information on anything and everything that might have any possible bearing in their creations. I wonder just how many authors online searches are being monitored now – is this a bit of a cliché now?

Went to the reading session for Anna Smith Spark, Anna Stephens, and Susan Bartholomew next. Always love being read to. I’m reading Court of Broken Knives now, nearly finished it.

Just missed out on attending the Unruly Authors – The Perils of Being an Editor panel, dammit. I’m sure it was excellent, the sort of discussion that would’ve been very useful to any author.

The What is and What isn’t Grimdark panel was amazing. Moderated by Susan Bartholomew, with Adrian Tchaikovsky, Anna Smith Spark, Anna Stephens, Harriet Goodchild and Ed McDonald as her able panellists. Witty, laugh-out-loud moments, arguments – it was a lively panel. In the end, they all, more or less, agreed to disagree on any exact parameters as to what does and does not constitute Grimdark, including whether it should be used retrospectively to label older writing.

As mythology is dear to my heart, I would love to have attended the Mythology, Folk Tales & The Imagination panel, but as I was not staying in Peterborough, but at my daughter’s in Kettering, I had to catch the last bus out of town.

Note to self: book a hotel room next time.

As I said, I was unable to attend on Sunday, which meant I had to give up my position as moderator on the Genre Film Beyond the Franchises Panel. Thank you to Allen Stroud for being so patient with me and for finding another to cover so late in the day.

This I will have to do for the next FantasyCon as it is even further up north in 2018. No idea how long it will take for me to get up to Chester from Devon, and it would mean I’d definitely have to book that hotel room, but I’ll give it a go as I tremendously enjoyed and was much impressed by how well run FantasyCon 2017 was, and all the interesting and involving panels and workshops they put on. I would love to be involved with FantasyCon 2018.

All the best

R B Watkinson

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