Fantasycon 2018 – a report by Pauline Morgan (convention report).

October 30, 2018 | By | Reply More

It is suggested that it is best to start a review of anything with positive and factual things. Fantasycon 2018 was held in Chester over the weekend of 19th–21st October. The city is always worth a visit for a variety of reasons. It has an almost intact Roman wall around it as well as other historical venues. There is a street full of charity shops and there are some very good eating places.

On the positive side of Fantasycon, the guests of honour, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Farah Mendelson and Clare North were worked hard. The outstanding interview was with Clare North. She is young, talented and very entertaining. She started her career at fourteen and wrote a series of complex urban fantasy novels as Kate Griffin. Now under the name of Clare North, her books are making waves.

Sarah Doyle is beginning to make her mark as a poet and has recently had a poem selected for the annual Forward Book of Poetry. On Saturday morning, she conducted a superb poetry masterclass. Poetry also featured on Saturday evening when Allen Ashley compeered what is becoming a fixture, allowing the poets at the Con to showcase their work. Both those who participated and listened enjoyed themselves.

The number of small press publications is increasing and throughout all three days there were a succession of launches which included readings and wine. Among the more notable publishers were PS, Newcon, Alchemy and Eibonvale, all of which have new volumes worth chasing up.

Now for the hiccups. Organisation at the registration desk failed, not the fault of the Red Cloaks manning it, they just had to take the flack. There is a problem with having to do everything on-line. I had bought two memberships a very long time ago.

The system didn’t allow for the name of any other person to be added. Not only that but they had failed to provide a second membership badge so my husband Chris couldn’t even be ‘friend of Pauline’. Fortunately, because they were expecting a number of walk-in memberships there was the equipment on hand to provide both Chris and me, because my badge had fallen apart, with new ones. However, they had run out of lanyards to hang them on. More turned up later. They had also run out of goody bags.

The souvenir programme booklets had failed to arrive from the printers and came Saturday, which was a problem as the Fantasycon programme was inside it. They had printed off some, but these had run out. Putting the programme in the book is an issue as it is A4 size and not easy to carry around should you wish to consult it. Ripping it out to provide a pocket-sized item spoils the souvenir. Most cons provide a small, programme as an extra along with other essentials, such as times of dealers’ room opening times.

Disability access was an issue at the hotel. There are steps up to the entrance. There was access from the car park and, fortunately, all the ground floor rooms used by the Con had level access even if some passageways were narrow. However, there were two rooms upstairs, mostly used for readings. The lift was only big enough to hold a suitcase and two passengers or a small zimmer frame. Anyone with a wheelchair or electric buggy was effectively barred from those rooms.

The worst issue was probably out of the hands of the Con, though I hope the committee are pressing for compensation. The dealers’ room was spacious. However, Saturday late afternoon, all the tables and books had to be moved out because the hotel had hired out the room to a raucous party of outsiders.

Next year, Fantasycon will be in Glasgow, at a purpose-built convention venue so maybe some of these issues will be a thing of the past.

Sunday afternoon is always reserved for the banquet and the BFS awards. These days, the short list is drawn up from nominations by BFS members but panels of judges make the final decisions. That part of the process is well co-ordinated by Katherine Fowler. The winners this year were:-

Best Newcomer (Sydney J Bounds Award) – Jeanette Ng for ‘’Under The Pendulum’

Best Audio – ‘Anansi Boys ‘by Neil Gaiman, adapted by Dirk Magg

Best Independent Press – Unsung Stories

Best Non-fiction – ‘Gender Identity And Sexuality In Science Fiction And Fantasy’ edited by FT Barbini (Luna Press)

Best Film/TV Production – ‘Get Out’ by Jordan Peele (Universal Pictures)

Best Magazine/Periodical – ‘Shoreline Of Infinity’ edited by Noel Chadwick

Best Comic/Graphic Novel – ‘Monstress vol 2’ by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda

Best Artist – Jeffrey Alan Love

Best Anthology – ‘New Fears’ edited by Mark Morris

Best Collection – Strange Weather by Joe Hill

Best Short Story – ‘Looking For Laika’ by Laura Mauro

Best Novella – ‘Passing Strange’ by Ellen Klages

Best Horror Novel (August Derleth Award) – ‘The Changeling’ by Victor LaValle

Best Fantasy Novel (Robert Holdstock Award) – ‘The Ninth Rain’ by Jen Williams

Karl Edward Wagnar Award – J.K. Jemison.

At the end of the day, a Con is what you make of it. It is a chance to catch up with friends, make new ones and find out what is going on the field of fantasy and horror. Despite the hiccups and annoyances, I came away having had an enjoyable weekend.

Pauline Morgan

October 2018

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