There are many weird and wonderful places suitable for conventions. For those of you unfamiliar with Scarborough, imagine the landmark building as a huge, Victorian brick palace constructed on the highest part of the cliffs. This is the Grand Hotel, the main Fantasycon venue. It has six floors up and three floors down from ‘Ground Level’. There are two ballrooms and a grand staircase. If you are lucky, you get a magnificent view of the sea and the beach, the sand of which is scoured daily in case dogs and the donkeys have left unsavoury deposits above the tide line. The whole is a slightly seedy if eccentric building.
This is a seaside resort and coaches pulled up at intervals disgorging other guests, mostly pensioners taking advantage of the last of the summer sun. Yes, we shared the hotel with people who probably wondered what these weird people were filling up the place but, then, Scarborough is not that far from Whitby.
The convention itself was split between The Grand, and its sister hotel round the corner, The Royal. There was a full programme of speakers, panels and interviews with the Guests of Honour Joe Hill, Elizabeth Bear and Costa Prize winning author Frances Hardinge. Fantasycon tends to be the place where independent and self-published fantasy and horror writers showcase their work and there was an almost continual sequence of book launches.
One of the few I attended was for the Alchemy Press anthology ‘Something Remains’. This is a tribute to the late Joel Lane in which friends and admirers of his work had taken his ideas and written the story he might have done. It is edited by Peter Coleborn and Pauline E. Dungate (me) and the proceeds will go to Diabetes UK. The launch was remarkable as most of the contributors were present and there wasn’t room to seat them all at the table provided for signings.
The big event of Saturday night at the Royal was the presentation of the Gemmell Awards hosted by Anne and Stan Nicholls. This was very well attended. Awards went to Jason Chan (artist) for the cover of ‘The Liar’s Key’, Peter Newman’s debut novel, ‘The Vagrant’ and Mark Lawrence’s best novel for ‘The Liar’s Key’ with all the attendees encouraged to celebrate with free drinks.
Nearby, in the Reading Café, where during the day authors had entertained with readings from their work, the poets gathered. The session was punctuated by a dazzling firework display on the beach.
Sunday afternoon saw the traditional banquet and the presentation of the BFS Awards.
One reason I didn’t go to many programme items was that we were selling part of Joel Lane’s collection on behalf of his mother, Ella. Usually, the dealers have one big room. This year, we were scattered throughout in various places and small rooms. This is a distinct disadvantage as many con-goers cannot easily find you, especially if the corridor you are secreted off contains a line of mobility scooters recharging their batteries. But any con is what you make it. There were nice people to chat to, friends to catch up with and new ones to connect with despite the 1960s cabaret they put on, loudly, in the evening.
Next year Fantasycon is planned for Daventry over the weekend 22nd –24th September 2017. To find out more go to www.hwsevents.co.uk or www.facebook.com/groups/fantasycon