Fantasycon 2018: two panels and a reading, curry and karaoke, plus possible adventures in baking

Fantasycon 2018

Only a week until Fantasycon!

I missed it last year because I was still resting after the pleasures of World Con in Helsinki – both me and my bank account. So this year I’m looking forward to attending Fantasycon 2018 in Chester and catching up with people.

The full Fantasycon timetable is available here. And below you’ll find my own little timetable, which includes a reading on the Saturday afternoon. In addition, there is the usual hanging about in the bar, attending other panels, a curry or two, and perhaps a stab at karaoke. I also intend to take a walk around the city walls of Chester, which I’ll be visiting for the first time ever.

And even if you aren’t attending Fantasycon, if you are in the area you can still visit the Fantasycon Bookfair, which will be open to the public and free for anyone to attend. You’ll be able to stock up on a range of speculative fiction from independent presses, buy artwork and er… possibly a copy of Resonance & Revolt at the Eibonvale Press stall? This event will take place on Sunday 21 October 9am to 1pm at the Hallmark Hotel.

So here’s what I’ll be up to…

Friday 19 October 4.30pm: Role of Class in Fantasy & Science Fiction (and the genre of whatever, I’d add) With Kevin McVeigh (m) Peter Sutton, Laura Mauro, Alison Baker, Rosanne Rabinowitz: The Edward (Panel Room 3)
With the increasing awareness of diversity in SFF where do class issues fit in? How has the genre traditionally considered class roles and is it changing?

Saturday 10 October 1pm: Religion in Genre Fiction   Iain Grant (m), Naomi Foyle, Rosanne  Rabinowitz, Terry Grimwood, Marion Pitman,  Tasha Suri: The Victoria (Panel Room 1)
Whether a story contains a real world religion, an analogue, or an invented form of worship, religious organisations provide a variety of useful functions for the writer. Our panel explores the use of religion in different stories, examining how it can and has been used to further the narrative.

Saturday 10 October 2pm: Reading I’ll be sharing slot with two fine writers, Ray Cluley and Sara Jayne Townsend 
The Disraeli  (Reading Room) 
I plan to read a couple of selections from Resonance & Revolt. One will be from “The Matter of Meroz”. There also might be some bribery with baked goods going on – those of you who came to the launch in May might have some idea of what this entails. I decided to make my own rugelach this time instead of resorting to a certain hipster bakery in Shoreditch – I’ll be able to make them with the fillings of my choice, which will be apricot and almond (as described in the story). I also might try some sour cherry because I have dried sour cherries that need to be used and I do love something sour in my sweets.
However, I’ve not baked anything for years so this will be purely experimental. I have no idea how it will turn out.
I’ve not yet decided on the other piece to read. Any suggestions?

As mentioned, there’ll also be lots of hanging out and chatting. If you see me around and want to say ‘hi’, please feel free. I enjoy meeting new people, but I’m also kind of shy (all together now… awwwww).

Note that a karaoke is scheduled for Saturday night. If the song is available, I’m contemplating a turn doing “Glitter & Gold” by Barns Courtney – but this is neither a definite promise or threat. I came across this song through the Netflix crime drama, Safe. The drama itself turned out to be so-so, but the opening credits with this tune always succeeded in sending those proverbial shivers up my spine, something about that beat and the way he repeats ‘the dark, the dark, the dark…’ in the chorus. 

And who knows? A few of us had a chat on Facebook and possible performances of songs by Bowie, Prince, Janelle Monae and Scot Walker were mentioned.

A few of us might even form a backing group called the Shirley Jacksons, should any aspiring Gladys Knight require a few Pips. Again, like my first-time attempt to bake rugelach these are neither definite promises or threats… we’ll see how things are going on Saturday night 20 October.

So that’s all for now. See some of you in Chester!

Gateways of Chester

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Too large for your letterbox

20180924_184634It’s one of those frustrating non-events of the writerly life when you come home from work on a Thursday evening and find a card from the postie informing you that a package was ‘too large for your letterbox’ and you just know it’s your contributor copies for a long-anticipated anthology. Then the form on the Royal Mail website won’t let you book a redelivery until Monday

Finally, Monday arrives… And the package in question does indeed contain my contributor copies for Uncertainties Volume III. Edited by Lynda E Rucker, the anthology presents fiction by Matthew M Bartlett, SP Miskowski, Adam LG Nevill, Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Shearman, RS Knightley, Lisa Tuttle, Ralph Robert Moore, Tracy Fahey, Julia Rust & David Surface and Scott West. In addition to stories by these very fine writers, it also includes my tale “The Golden Hour”. You can order Uncertainties from Swan River Press.

20180924_183804The title of my story refers to the hour before sunset or after sunrise when light is indeed golden and transforms appearances – and perhaps much more. It seems to capture and hold moments, infuse them with layers of meaning that are otherwise lost. It’s the sense of timelessness during the golden hour that inspired my story.

The story also reflects my move to an upper floor in my block and the new perspective it gave me. I became much more aware of the movements of sun and moon, changes in the quality of light and its effect on the cityscape. As for the cityscape itself… I found it glorious, while I was also aware that certain half-built structures reflecting the sunset so beautifully will become empty shells for investment by international cartels. These are sprouting alongside buildings that have been homes for many years. Much of this is social housing, fought for and now contested, touched by the same light. I started to speculate on ways the transfiguring light could affect the people living within those buildings.

When my copies arrived I was inspired to take photos of the books during the actual ‘golden hour’ on a clear autumn day, getting full-on arty-farty with photos of the book as the afternoon shifted into various stages of golden-ness. On that first day I admit that I spent more time photographing the book  (often along with my thumb) than reading it.

However, I’ve now read about half of the book and I’ve been mesmerised and entertained; I’ve also found that this is the kind of anthology I read continuously from cover to cover, when I often dip in and out of them. I’ll add that dipability is a good thing too and dipping in and out of anthologies has been a major pleasure of my reading life. I enjoy both of these qualities. I’m not sure what makes one anthology a ‘dipper’ and another anthology one that is devoured. Could it be the way the stories flow into each other, even when it’s not a themed anthology? Something to ponder. In any case, editing is always a factor in how an anthology works and Lynda E Rucker did sterling job with this one.

I recommend an interview on the Swan River Press website with Lynda where she talks about the experience of editing this book. I’ll end with this cogent observation from Lynda on how the field of horror and weird fiction is perceived:

“My view of horror is that it is a very broad church. It encompasses everything from the subtlest and most enigmatic of tales to the full-on Grand Guignol… I think arguments about labelling literature are incredibly tedious, but it does bother me when people try to insist that something isn’t horror basically on the grounds that it is well-written or well-made, that it has depth and resonance and fine prose or is character-driven or has a political consciousness or whatever.”
Uncertainties Volume III spread