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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Scarborough bound… and a Remy Martin straight up

grand_hotel_scarborough_yorkshire_england_1890sSo it’s time for Fantasycon! This year it takes place in Scarborough, known for its fair and a faded seaside ambiance that horror writers find particularly attractive – I can see the story-spinning wheels whirring already. For more information, have a look at the Fantasycon by the Sea website.

This time around I’ll be involved with three events: a panel, a book launch and a reading.

On Friday 23 September at 4pm I’ll be on a panel called Out of the Woods. The programme poses these questions: are we growing out of rural and into urban horror? Is it safe to go back into the woods? Steve Shaw will be chairing, and other panelists include Simon Clark, Collen Anderson, Ian Whates and Charlotte Courtney-Bond.

Those involved have already exchanged some lively emails and this promises to shape up into an intriguing panel. Sense of place has always been a subject close to my heart. My South London surroundings have played a big part in recent stories like The Pleasure Garden and Lambeth North. Other stories have taken place in the Bronx and the semi-suburban reaches of New Jersey as well as the Pine Barrens (Jersey Devil and all).

Next on my schedule is the Alchemy Press book launch that takes place on Saturday 24 September at mid-day. The unique Joel Lane tribute anthology Something Remains will be launched along with The Private Life of Elder Things. A lot of authors will be on hand to natter and sign a few things and there will be wine! 

However, I will have to avoid over-indulgence in the wine because I’ll be involved with a reading shortly afterwards at 14.00-14.30. This will in fact be a joint reading with another Something Remains contributor, Jan Edwards. We will both be reading from our stories in anthology and we might say a few words ābout it too.

Speaking of Something Remains, it is the subject of a ‘realtime review’ from Des Lewis. I thank him for his in-depth coverage of the book, and for his kind  comments on “The Pleasure Garden”:

“Rosanne’s evolved fragment becomes an evocative summoning of the cranes as the girders of a cat’s cradle genius-loci of South London, now and then… Daniel reaches some Lane-like choreography (amid the ‘crane constellations’) with a music mix of old times and wrought passions, with not a diaspora but a regathering, a regathering, each to each, for this book, amid the still recognisable fragments of the Pleasure Garden…”

I will now close on a very different note. This hasn’t been a very up-close and personal kind of blog, but I will mention that my father died very recently. Though he was 91 and not well, it was a shock and it’s taken a while to sink in. I wasn’t sure if I’d make it to Fantasycon, until I remembered that my dad was a very show-must-go-on kinda guy. He’d want me to get on with it and do the things I love – writing, reading and schmoozing.

In his honour I’ll share some of his favourite songs. The Weavers come top of the list of old family favourites, and I’ve already posted a few times about them. So you’ll find some great Weavers tunes in my post about The Lady in the Yard and my tributes to Ronnie Gilbert and Pete Seeger.

Another album my dad loved was Brecht and Weill’s Threepenny Opera, specifically  the 1955 Broadway cast recording that features Lotte Lenya. He especially liked “The Army Song” (aka “The Cannon Song”) and sang along to it all the time. For years I thought the lines “Let’s all go barmy, let’s join the army” went ‘Let’s all go bombing…”.

Unfortunately all tracks from the 1955  album have been removed from YouTube but I’ve found a reasonable equivalent here.

Anyone familiar with the old US recording will notice some differences in translation. I find it interesting that “Because we like our beefsteak tartare” became “Because we like our hamburger RAW“.  I suppose an American audience in the 1950s wouldn’t have had a clue what ‘beefsteak tartare’ would be… I certainly didn’t.

Moving along into the 1970s, my dad got to be a Shel Silverstein fan and we all ‘dug’ “Freakin’ at the Freakers Ball”.

And needless to say, when we didn’t do our chores we were treated to this other Shel Silverstein number…

So I’ll also be lifting a glass to my dad sometime this weekend. I’ve already lifted a few over the past week. One of his favourites was Remy Martin – straight up!*

 
cognc_rem4

*unmixed, without ice

Fantasycon, book nerd problems and book love

Book_nerdThere I was, volunteering to organise a workshop on Universal Credit and benefit sanctions for working people (aka in-work conditionality‘) at the London Anarchist Bookfair when something went ping in the twisted passages of my brain as I noted the date of the bookfair – 24 October. Could that be… yes it is… the same date as Fantasycon in Nottingham! Yes, I had double-booked myself, despite the many lists made and calendars defaced. As a friend suggested, this clash of events is a classic #booknerdproblem.

Usually Fantasycon takes place at the end of September, but this year it’s moved to the end of October. A couple of years ago the World Fantasy Convention took place on the last weekend of October, just after the London Anarchist Bookfair and it was fun to go from one to the other – I wrote about this in my 2013 post From Austerity to Fairyland. But it’s bookfair weekend rather than Halloween weekend this time around.

Since I had arranged everything in Nottingham, Fantasycon won out. It did give me some pause for thought. While I’ve been ruminating on the conjunctions between political action, creativity, weirdness and writing, have I been caught in a situation where the interests of geekery, fantasy and activism stand opposed?

Not entirely… The story I’ll be reading in my slot is about in-work conditionality too – kind of – with a definite twist of weirdness. Plus, the panel I’m on will tackle alternative social structures in imaginative fiction. And of course, the anti-austerity anthology Horror Uncut is shortlisted for the best anthology award.

So here are my events for the weekend. And no doubt I’ll also also be hanging out at the bar…

PANEL: Saturday 24 October
The Fantastic Mundane: Imaginary Social Infrastructures
12 midday (
Conference Theatre)
Health, wealth, law, government & learning are key parts of our lives, but how are they depicted in genre writing? What do these and other ‘everyday’ social establishments offer within created worlds?
My personal starting point in this discussion will be Ursula K LeGuin’s comment: “We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings.” I’m also interested in how we can envision alternatives when writing speculatively about ‘real’ settings as well as secondary and far future worlds .
Moderator: Karina Coldrick
Panelists: Leigh Bardugo, Lucy Hounsom, Rosanne Rabinowitz, Brandon Sanderson, Neil Williamson

READING: Saturday 24 October
8.40pm
(Reading Room)
I plan to present “Keep Them Rollin'” from the anthology We Need to Talk. Quantum computing meets Universal Credit! This is my first truly ‘short’ short story that I can finish in one reading.
Afterwards, I’ll be heading to the launch party for Undertow Publications, which will celebrate the launch of VH Leslie’s Skein and Bone and Aickmann’s Heirs, edited by Simon Strantzas. I gather there will be wine and conversation until late. Anyone wanting to chat afterwards is welcome to join me at the launch.

I was just putting the finishing touches on this post, when I went over to Facebook and discovered a somewhat relevant article in the Mirror16 of the scariest things we just learnt about benefits reform should definitely appeal to horror fans, and it also features an incident involving time travel, or at least the expectation that claimants have access to some means of time travel: “One man received a letter telling him about an appointment on 27 June 2014. It was dated 26 June 2014 and told him he had to go to the appointment one day previously – 25 June 2014. Even though he showed officials the letter, he was sanctioned.” 

To end on a more cheerful note, the second printing of Soliloquy for Pan is out. According to the publisher, about half were sold by pre-order so get in there if you want one. And here’s a review from When Churchyards Yawn. The blogger, John C Nash, writes appreciatively about the physical presentation and feel of the book, accompanied by luscious photographs of the book in autumnal settings:

“The foliate arabesque cartouche surrounding the gold-foiled Pan on the front cover and the gold-foiled Trajanesque typeface on the spine is reminiscent of the Arts & Crafts movement; which is, of course, the perfect choice for the theme of the collection as there was a massive resurgence of interest in Pan at that time.”

I certainly feel honoured that my story, “The Lady in the Yard”, is encased within an object of such beauty. Meanwhile, I hope that John enjoys the text as well… 🙂

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