This last weekend was the amazing World Fantasy Convention 2013 in Brighton …Take a seat, and let me tell you about it.
I had an amazing chance to step behind the velvet rope, when I was invited to stay with the lovely folk from Tor UK. They had booked WFC accommodation for their authors and themselves in the form of a fantastic house. This gave everyone from Tor a place to stay, some home-cooked food and a great communal atmosphere.
I must admit it was rather amazing to wake up and have breakfast with Mark Charan Newton (yes he always looks that dapper), Seth Patrick (all round lovely guy), Paul Cornell, Peter F. Hamilton and Adrian Tchaikovsky. Adam Nevill joined us on the Friday morning for breakfast and described my scrambled eggs as looking like brains, which, coming from him, I can only take as a compliment (and don’t try convince me otherwise!).
THE GEMMELL AWARDS
The convention started off with the Gemmell Awards on the Thursday night. Just over a year ago I was sitting back home in South Africa I would never have imagined I’d be sitting there, in the second row and watching James Barclay in a tuxedo giving one of the best dramatic monologues I’ve seen. He really brought Druss’ voice to life and I want him to narrate everything from now on! This was then followed by one of those frustrating experiences that explain why I avoid online retail sites…the auction. I wanted to bid on everything!
Things were bought, money was raised, people (me!) were left disappointed, so it was a success. The highlight of the evening had to be John Gwynne winning the Morningstar award for Best Fantasy Debut. A lovelier chap couldn’t have won it and his book, Malice, is awesome so you should read it. It was also really special as his whole family was there to see it. A personal highlight for me was actually getting to hold the Legend Award axe, which is far more heavy and sharp than you realise. It's a proper axe! Brent Weeks won the Legend Award for Best Fantasy for The Blinding Knife, so gets to keep the axe. And Didier Graffet and Dave Senior won the Ravenheart Award for Best Fantasy cover art for the cover of Red Country by Joe Abercrombie
REGISTRATION, PANELS, BOOKS AND MORE BOOKS
It’s important to pace yourself as you cycle endlessly between panels, the hotel bar and the publisher parties in the evenings. These were all insanely fun and interesting but became somewhat dizzying as you’re chatting to so many different people while surreptitiously attempting to glance at name tags to remind yourself who each person is. The mass signing was a maelstrom of queues, authors, books and desperate calls for pens (as a surprising amount of people didn’t actually bring any).
WFC is an intense experience, and can be rather overwhelming as so much is going with so many people you want to talk to that sometimes you just need to take a breather. It starts with the registration where you get your official badge and then books, lots of books! As an unrepentant book hoarder this was especially exciting for me and was only enhanced when I noticed Neil Gaiman registering a few steps behind me. It’s always a little surprising when you realize that everyone has to do these semi-mundane things like register, buy a drink, struggle with the obstinate revolving door in the hotel lobby.
THE PARTIES, OH, THE PARTIES (AND CUPCAKES)...
After the mass signing it was time for the Tor UK 10th anniversary bash! Tor has been around in America since 1980, (founder Tom Doherty was at this convention!) but the UK imprint was established ten years ago, and since then has become such a household name that it feels like it’s been around for far longer (thanks to Peter Lavery and the amazing Julie Crisp and Bella Pagan), and the party was full of people excited to celebrate and also more loot! And as well as Tom Doherty, it was really great to have other Tor US colleagues present at the con to share the celebrations.
I left every event loaded down with books and gifts and the Tor party was no exception. Not only were there cupcakes (CUPCAKES!) but Tor whisky tumblers and a very exciting chapbook from China Mieville, which he personally had made and shipped to the convention as an apology for being unable to attend. Only 1,500 of these little beauties were made and no more will be printed. (If you attended the convention and didn’t receive one, you can tweet @Julieacrisp and she will help you out).
The TOR authors’ events were hits as Adam Nevill, Seth Patrick, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Charles Stross, Frank Tallis, John Gwynne, Liz de Jager, Juliet Marillier, Mark Charan Newton, Paul Cornell, Peter F. Hamilton and Rjurik Davidson were all in attendance. Adam Nevill (House of Small Shadows) and Mark Charan Newton (Drakenfeld) had their launch on Saturday while John Gwynne and Peter F. Hamilton did readings.
The rest of the weekend was a bit of a blur of meeting new people, catching up with others, finally meeting people you’d only interacted with online and, of course, drinking and talking books. By Sunday I was happily exhausted and both relieved and saddened when I took the train back to London laden down with six or seven bags of books. The awards banquet was that afternoon and a huge congratulations is deserved by all the winners. The World Fantasy Award itself was won by G. Willow Wilson for Alif the Unseen, and you can see winners in all the other categories here, then the full shortlists here. I'd especially like to congratulate Adam Nevill, who won British Fantay Award for Best Horror Novel (the August Derleth Award) for Last Days. I was sad to miss it, but my bed was a calling…
So a massive thanks to the organisers, redcoats (volunteers) and attendees. It was wonderful and a huge success in my book, and everyone I’ve spoken to about it has agreed. I think that’s the one thing I took away from WFC that I’m most comforted by.
There is a huge community of passionate people out there who love their science fiction and fantasy literature as much as I do. Being surrounded by so many people who shared that fundamental connection was one of the most wonderfully inclusive experiences I’ve had and I can’t wait until the next one.