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Sunday, 17 August 2014

How Was it for You?

Not the context you might expect. This was a question I was asked after attending my first fantasy and science fiction convention. FantastiCon 2014, held at the Mercure hotel in Hull, yesterday, was a fascinating, fabulous experience.

One thing that struck me almost at once was the generosity of those both attending and creating the convention. People gave of their time and money freely. The number of books purchased raised the spirits of this writer: so many eager to devour the fiction created by the writers in attendance. Very heart-warming.

There was a lot of friendly banter with humour very much in evidence. But there was a serious side too, with people asking intelligent questions and being given sensible answers. The variety of topics and events was also quite extraordinary.

Representatives of Dr Who were present, along with a working Dalek, and they answered questions, posed for pictures, gave out autographs and generally entertained.

As the convention was largely focussed on the game, ‘Elite: Dangerous’ and a series of novels produced in line with it, this was obviously a central part of the event. (See the companion post by Linda Acaster here) Much of the gaming activity was alien to me, as I’ve never played a computer game (I fear it would become addictive, and I have too many other things I really want to do with my limited time!). But the true gamers didn’t exclude or make non-gamers feel unwanted. They were welcoming and supportive. In much the same way, the community of writers was warm and friendly. The much-lauded Oculus rift was available for people to experience their virtual worlds.

R2D2 and Yoda, and a speedracer from Star Wars, were also there. Many attendees came in costumes taken from the worlds of science fiction and fantasy and Cosplay was there to judge and make awards for the best dressed.

I’d gone along to sign copies of my fantasy novel, Joinings, from A Seared Sky. Dan had organised a wonderful banner to bring attention to the book. Quite honestly, I attended with no expectation of selling any books at all, since fantasy was by no means the main focus of the convention, But I was delighted to sell 12 print copies, all of which I signed, and others bought digital copies as they stood and chatted with me. So, a very worthwhile time in that respect too. I’m hoping some of them will produce reviews once they’ve read the book. The second volume, Partings, was actually released on the day, as an ebook, with the paperback due to follow shortly.

Other writers also signed books and all of us were given the chance to sit before the audience and explain our books, writing, and answer questions from an intelligent and informed group of people. We did readings to illustrate our work and the whole experience was positive in every way.

The event was organised by my publisher, Dan Grubb of Fantastic BooksPublishing, and, as with everything he does, there was evidence of his enormous energy and generosity. He was warmly thanked at the end of the evening with a marvellous video that had us all laughing and had Dan, and his lovely wife, Gabi, dabbing at tears. They were rewarded materially as well: a much deserved show of appreciation.

The evening closed with an awards ceremony, in which I was given the award for ‘Best World Building’ for Joinings. Afterwards, a lengthy raffle prize session took place, with all the usual banter that accompanies such events. I won a tasty mug and a print from Elite Reclamation, signed by author Drew Wager. That was around midnight on a day when I’d driven the 25 miles to arrive at 08:30, so I was getting rather knackered. Some of us left at that point, but others stayed on in the hotel bar to cement relationships on a day that brought together many friends both established and new. I know I made a number of new friends and met a good many interesting people. But a day of activity that lasted 17 hours in total for me is now telling on this 66 year old body and mind, so forgive any lack of erudition in this piece, please! I intend to rest, once I’ve posted this piece. For more pictures, click this link.

I look forward to next year’s convention, which promises to be even better, with new sponsors and promises of returns from many who were present for this one. A new experience for me and one that proved far more fascinating and enjoyable than I’d expected. Thanks to all who attended and special thanks to those who bought my book!  

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