These are two of my favourite conventions, but unfortunately they fell on consecutive weekends this year, which made for a tiring ten days. I’m still recovering.
Fantasycon, which I always think of as an ‘industry’ convention took place in Glasgow at the Golden Jubilee Conference Hotel, in Clydebank, Glasgow on 18th – 20th October. It’s overseen by the British Fantasy Society, but this year was run by a new team and there were a few blips which will hopefully be corrected when the same team runs the 2020 event in Sheffield.
The convention hotel was excellent for this event. Strangely it’s attached to an NHS hospital and was originally built for private customers, but when that aspect declined, fell into NHS hands. The hotel and hospital are actually attached to each other (which means hotel residents can access the hospital shop, coffee bar and canteen). Rooms are extremely comfortable (4*) and the beds are a delight to sleep in. The meeting rooms are adequate for convention needs. It’s out of the city so there are no restaurant facilities within walking distance, but the hotel restaurant (to my surprise) managed to feed everyone, though they were not allowing bookings, and the menu was more limited on the Friday and Saturday. We arrived on Thursday which offered a full menu.
The convention itself felt less well attended than usual, with fewer publishers and agents, though it might have been simply that there was a lot of space in the hotel. Some panels and book launches suffered from not enough audience. Maybe it was just the distance that put off attendees from the south. We flew up from Manchester as the flights were barely more expensive than the train (and since Sunday train services are notoriously unreliable, flying seemed like a good option).
Panels… what can I say? I sat on three panels. One of them I asked to sit on. It was called ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ and as it was about all the effort put into publishing a book (in addition to the author’s) it was right up my street. The moderator emailed to introduce us all in advance. The other two panels with very similar themes (on animals in fiction) were less well attended. Panel notifications were sent out much later than usual, and many of them were not clear about who was supposed to be moderating. This echoed through the whole weekend with many panels starting with ‘Who’s the moderator?’ RJ Barker moderated one of the animal panels I sat on and kicked it off with some very left-field questions, which made it great fun.
There were a few authors I knew from Milford. I spent a lot of time with Terry Jackman, David Allan, who launched his new novel, Quaestor, and Sandra Unerman, as well a Juliet McKenna who was there to plug her new book, Green Man’s Foe, published by Wizard’s Tower Press.
We flew home on Sunday afternoon, missing the banquet and the awards ceremony.
Then, with only three days to catch up on work I was away (by train this time) down to Bristolcon, via a day in Bath for <ahem> historical research which partly turned into a Christmas shopping trip. I met up with my friend and we spent Thursday night in Bath and then moved on to Bristol (just 11 minutes away by train) to the Double Tree by Hilton. Bristolcon is only a one day con, but coming from Yorkshire I can’t get there and back in a day, so I always have to arrive on Friday evening and depart Sunday morning. My train service is the one that goes from Aberdeen to the West Country (and back). As I pick it up at Wakefield, it’s a steady four hour journey, which gives me time to catch up on my reading.
Bristolcon is a small, event but interesting, and there are lots of writerly friends there. There are two programme streams and two workshop streams, plus a dealer’s room, so there’s plenty to do. They sprinkle ten minute readings between the panels, which means they are well attended. The panels are thoughtful and varied. I also went to a workshop by Doctor Bob on building alien biology, which was funny and fascinating. She’s a great speaker.
The hotel is always welcoming, the bar food is decent, and they make good Pimms and lemonade, but oh dear, the mattress was ‘tired’ which made the bed brutally hard. I don’t remember it being that bad in previous years, so maybe the beds are in need of renewal, or maybe I just got a bad one. I must have woken seven or eight times during the Friday night with appalling back ache. As a result I fell asleep during one of the panels I really wanted to see. (Apologies to the panellists.) Luckily my friends tell me I didn’t snore! The second night was saved from complete disaster by asking for four extra pillows and building a nest in the bed.
The convention isn’t responsible for the state of the beds, of course. I guess most local Bristolians don’t stay there anyway since it’s only a one day con. All in all, sleep quality apart, I really like Bristolcon, and will be back again next year.