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A look back at WFC 2013

The World Fantasy Convention came to the UK this year for the first time in a couple of decades, and expectations were high, especially since US authors were coming over to meet fans, promote their latest books or just see a bit of the UK alongside their convention schedule. Given that I registered back in 2011 when tickets first went on sale, you can imagine I was pretty excited by the time November came around!

In the run-up to the convention, there were some unfortunately worded missives from the organisers: combative in tone (“cosplayers with weapons will be thrown out of the convention and reported to the police!”) or plain insulting, like the would-be self-deprecating humour of the panel titles that just came across as hopelessly out-of-touch with the modern genre. Hence there was concern expressed on Twitter that con-goers would be made to feel unwelcome. I’m happy to say that by and large this did not happen, and most people* had a splendid time.

And why should they not? The programme may have been sparse (and, as mentioned, somewhat poorly conceived) but the panellists themselves were top-notch: Robin Hobb, Neil Gaiman, Susan Cooper, Scott Lynch, Holly Black, Patrick Rothfuss, Ellen Kushner, Tim Powers, Joanne Harris, Joe Hill…it was practically a Who’s Who of present-day fantasy and horror. Top that off with a flying visit by Sir Terry Pratchett himself, and most of us were in nerdvana!

Wesley Chu reading from The Lives of Tao
Wesley Chu reading from The Lives of Tao

Being a relative nobody in this stellar company, I had no panels or other official appearances, so I was able to spend the con much like any other fan, enjoying the events and hanging out with my friends. I attended readings by Ellen Kushner, Joe Abercrombie and Scott Lynch (the latter with a short impromptu reading by Wes Chu, as Scott was running late); Ellen read from a work-in-progress that had us all begging for more, whilst Joe read the thrilling opening to his new YA novel Half a King and Scott read from a short story in an upcoming GRRM-edited anthology Rogues – both it and the anthology sound awesome!

I also went to a couple of panels (one on the future of fantasy, titled “Elvish has left the building” and another on writing under a pseudonym), mostly to see the guests talk rather than from any pressing interest in the topic. And then of course there was Terry Pratchett’s interview, which was poignant giving his current frailty but still a privilege to attend. His assistant Rob Wilkins read from Raising Steam (with an atrocious attempt at a Yorkshire accent!), and there were hints of new Discworld TV shows/movies, including an adaptation of The Wee Free Men, but everyone was being very coy about the details, since nothing official has been announced.

In between events I had a potter around the dealers’ room, where I bought a first edition copy of The Republic of Thieves (to get signed by Scott) and a limited edition Genki Gear t-shirt bearing the above rather fine logo. Then in the art room I encountered my cover artist, Larry Rostant, and we had a long chat about my covers, during which I learned that the model from Books 1 & 3 is actually a brickie from Redditch (a small town in Worcestershire, not far from where I went to school)! Larry’s colleague Christine told me she loved my Playmobil versions of their covers, which was awesome – maybe an alternative career awaits… 😀

Other events included the mass signing, where I nabbed a table alongside Emma Newman and few other relative newbies, and also got a few books signed by my own favourite authors. I think it was my best signing event since my first launch, no doubt helped by the fact that The Alchemist of Souls was one of the free books on offer at the registration desk**. I also signed a couple of copies of The Prince of Lies (on sale in the dealers’ room), and even a battered mass-market paperback of The Alchemist of Souls brought all the way from Canada, which really made my day!

Sashimi bibimbap, seaweed salad and dynamite sushi at Sushi Garden, Brighton
Sashimi bibimbap, seaweed salad and dynamite sushi at Sushi Garden, Brighton

In the evenings there were trips to the excellent selection of restaurants in nearby Preston Street (battling the wind and rain all the way!), publishers’ parties with lots of free wine, and of course the hotel bar, which was far too small for such a big event and permanently heaving with slightly frazzled authors. The Gollancz party was a particular standout; not only did I get to hang out with Scott Lynch and Elizabeth Bear for a short time, but the evening ended with a surprise performance by Mitch Benn, who sang his song “Doctor Who Girl” (and a couple of others) to rousing applause.

The wonderful but exhausting weekend ended with the awards banquet, and as you may have guessed by my silence on the matter, I didn’t win the award for which I had been shortlisted. As it was it went to Helen Marshall, thus sparing me a future of deadly rivalry with those of my friends who had also been nominated 🙂

My only regret is that I was still nursing a cold from the previous weekend and thus slept badly and couldn’t enjoy as many late nights as I am wont to do. Nevertheless I think I spoke to nearly everyone there that I already knew (online and off), as well as meeting some new folks. I returned home utterly shattered, hence my delay in blogging about the event, but excited about working on my new project and looking forward eagerly to next year’s conventions.

I can’t finish this post without thanking the redcoats for their hard work: they were the ones who made the convention run not just smoothly but more enjoyably that most people believed possible. I won’t list names for fear of missing someone out, but you guys know who you are.

 

* Apparently there were a few incidents of harassment, but since I didn’t witness them I can’t comment

** A great idea – much more sensible than putting a random selection in each bag. I picked up a lovely hardback of Didier Graffet’s artwork but resisted the urge to take any fiction, as I’d brought several books with me for signing.