Fantasycon 2017: Aftermath

Well, that happened!

You may have noticed that I was on the shortlist for Best Fantasy Novel at the BFS Awards this year – I did mention it once or twice. I didn’t win, and nor did Grimbold’s other shortlisted novel, Joanne Hall’s The Summer Goddess, but that wasn’t unexpected. (I did win some stroopwafels, which definitely was unexpected)

Best Fantasy Novel went to Adrian Tchaikovsky, for The Tiger and The Wolf, and I think he rather deserves it too. And I also reckon Jen Williams is more than worth a shout for The Ninth Rain next year. There y’go, you heard it here first.

No automatic alt text available.But while that award didn’t go Grimbold’s way, the award for Best Independent Press did. I’m absolutely over the moon for Sammy, Zoe, Jo, Kate, Joel, and all the other Grimmies who have put in such a massive amount of hard work over the last few years to make Grimbold Books a fantastic, professional, and passionate genre publisher that can stand toe to toe with some of the biggest names in modern fantasy and not look out of place.

And that reminds me…

My sole panel appearance of the weekend was on the subject of small presses, alongside Ian Whates, Francesca Barbini, Donna Scott, David Riley, and Peter Mark May. It was interesting to hear all of the other panelists mentioning the difficulties that small presses face in getting word of mouth and decent publicity for their titles in a marketplace that skews heavily toward the polar opposites of The Big Five and the densely populated white noise of self-published titles. Obviously, I’m a massive advocate of small presses, despite the low regard in which they are held by the vast majority of the self-pubbers. I firmly believe that small presses have a hell of a lot to offer to authors. If you don’t believe me, look at the sheer breadth of subgenres and titles that such presses embrace. Look at the #smallpressbigstories articles up on Fantasy Faction. Look at the academic work that both Luna Press and Fox Spirit have put out. Look at our award nominations. We didn’t get there by accident, y’know.

And yet, outside of conventions, it’s difficult for a small press to get any traction in the genre, flooded as it is with the same old names and their adherents endlessly banging the drum on every forum ever. Blame Amazon, blame Waterstones? Blame small-c conservatism on the readers’ part? If I had any of the answers, you’d be the first to know.

Heaven knows, small presses will never have the same reach and visibility as the Big Five, I’m not asking for that. But guys, you won’t get cooties from reading small press fiction. Live a little.

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So… this happened. The High King’s Vengeance landed on the British Fantasy Society’s Best Novel shortlist, alongside Jen Williams’ The Silver Tide, Adrian Tchaikovsky’s The Tiger & The Wolf, and Joanne Hall’s The Summer Goddess.

Holy frickness.

If you squint a little, you can just see HKV behind that collection of excellence. A fifth-level swashbuckler trying to stand toe-to-toe with epic-level rogues and sorcerers. I’m a trifle overawed. Quite honestly, I feel like Guy Fleegman (Sam Rockwell’s character from Galaxy Quest) – simultaneously ecstatic and gloriously out of place, an imposter who really isn’t an imposter yet feels completely like one. I have no doubt that a few beers will help sort that out. But meanwhile, group hugs and whooping congratulations for everybody on the combined shortlists, the wonderful Grimbold team, and massive gratitude to everybody who put HKV way up there on that pedestal.

“I’m just jazzed about being on the show, man.”

Thank you all very much!

And that’s not the only good news – my publisher, Grimbold Books, is up for Best Independent Press at the same awards, alongside such small press powerhouses as Fox Spirit Books, TTA Press (Interzone, Black Static), Alchemy Press, and NewCon Press. A much deserved nomination for Sammy, Zoe, and all the rest of the crew too! And double hurrah for Joanne Hall and her co-conspirator Roz Clarke for the Best Anthology-nominated Fight Like A Girl! And to Nadine West and Sammy Smith for their short story nods! And Evelinn Enoksen for her Best Artist nomination!

Tell you what, Fantasycon is going to be fun this year… 🙂

Guest Post at The Dragon’s Blade

I’m over at Michael Miller’s place today, as part of his series on Writing Journeys. Previous entries in the series have included Mark Lawrence, Jen Williams, Ben Galley, Anna Smith-Spark and more, so that’s mighty tall company for a short-ass like me to be in.

A lot of the journeys featured have looked back at how authors start out and get their first ideas and carry those through to completion. I thought it might be interesting to look at a different angle – what about that Difficult Second Idea? What lessons have I learned from Malessar’s Curse?

While you’re over there reading that (and don’t forget to scroll back to see the rest of the series – it’s well worth it, believe me), do sign up/subscribe to Michael’s updates, not least because he’s a good bloke and he’ll give you a free download of his debut novel The Dragon’s Blade for doing so. You really can’t say fairer than that, can you?

Click the book cover to go thataway…

Image result for dragon's blade

Every Forum Ever

Hi all, I just finished my latest read, and I wonder if you could recommend¹ –

MARK LAWRENCE

– a book –

BRANDON SANDERSON

– to move onto –

MALAZAN MALAZAN MALAZAN

– with some humour –

R SCOTT BAKKER

– and well written characters –

BRENT WEEKS

ROTHFUSS

GWYNNE

– standalones welcome –

WHEEL OF TIME

MALAZAN MALAZAN MALAZAN

– doesn’t have to be grimdark –

LORD GRIMDARK

BUY MY BOOK³

– and I’m looking to read more female authors.

HAVE YOU TRIED READING MARK LAWRENCE?²

giphy

¹This post is in no way made to insult or otherwise disparage the authors listed. I own and enjoy books by many of them. I’m merely using their names to illustrate a point.

²And there’s the point. Seriously. That conversation really happened.

³Guilty.

Meanwhile, over on another book blog, someone has listed the ten fantasy books they’re hotly anticipating next year. No VE Schwab, no Jen Williams, no Robin Hobb, no Anna Smith Spark, no women at all. Guys, it’s not difficult. You’re not invalidating the existence of us male authors by reading a little more widely.

Chopper on Tour: Edge-Lit 2016

After that frankly pants first half of 2016 (see previous posts) I was looking forward to a day out in Derby. Time to get back in the saddle, dive back into the genre, go see some very good friends and caress some very good books. Yes, I like books. You might already have guessed.

Edge-Lit never disappoints. Alex Davis and his team of non-expendable Redshirts can cope with pretty much everything a summer’s day in Derby city centre can throw at them, up to and including a Caribbean carnival and a king-sized showroom’s worth of high-revving hot ride motorbikes on the pavement outside the bar. Which was what happened, obviously. Sometimes there’s only so much bass you can physically take before you have to retreat into the murky depths of Derby itself in search on bass-uninflected caffeine rations.

I still remember being the hyper-hyper newbie at my first AltFiction (as it was back in t’day) and even back then the whole con seemed a welcoming a cheerful place. On my first day I waited outside a sandwich shop while Ian Watson got a bacon buttie on his way in to the venue. That felt bizarre. Coming back the following year, people were waving to me even before I got through the door. It’s that sort of convention. Hopefully the Sheffield SF Writers who made the trip this time – David R Lee, Kathryn Wild, David Sarsfield – felt that level of positivity too. I know Dave L thoroughly enjoyed his workshop with M John Harrison, and David Sarsfield was making his debut as a published member of the Fox Spirit Skulk, which is a positive force in its own right.

It took me a while to settle down this time, though the red wine at the combined NewCon/Fox Spirit launch definitely helped matters. David Tallerman’s short Cthlonic “school report” reading was a highlight, though I couldn’t really afford the hardback of his collection and came away instead with Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Apt collection and VC Linde’s poetry based on three words selected by a collection of different authors (if that makes sense). I’m not usually a great fan of poetry, but the whole concept was interesting enough to draw me in.

Before that launch there were the obligatory panel sessions to attend. The morning panels were more up my street than the afternoon ones. Alistair Reynolds, Ian Whates, Nina Allan and Adele Wearing asked if small presses were producing the best SF (the answer was a resounding yes, if you needed to ask). Marc Turner took the chair for a journey through the landscape of literary fiction and its on-off relationship with genre, with Jen Williams, Edward Cox and Cherry Potts all somehow managing to not mention Michael Moorcock along the way.

Lunch was the now-traditional stagger (wine, remember…) through the covered market in search of a £1 tray of chips. And after that exhaustion kicked in as hard as the carnival bass, meaning that the afternoon became a blur of coffee, juice and sitting down in various combinations. Team Newman (Emma and Pete) combined for Emma’s Guest of Honour interview, with readings from both After Atlas and the forthcoming fourth volume of the Split Worlds saga – which I probably shouldn’t have listened to, given that I still haven’t read the third… As ever Team Newman went the extra mile in making more of the time and the format.

With the Edge Lit Quiz on hold this year, the evening’s entertainment belonged to the Super Relaxed Fantasy Club, hosted by Jen Williams and Pete Newman, with guests Jason Arnopp and Maria Lewis. I’m fairly ambivalent about werewolves in fiction although Maria’s take on the monsters seemed agreeably uncuddly and bloody. Jason’s Last Days of Jack Sparks on the other hand is pitched much better to my caustic, agnostic self.

We shall draw a veil over the shenanigans of the Pinborough-helmed raffle, save only to say that it was not for the faint of heart. And, as I warned various folks beforehand, never sit near the front….

Over at the Fox Spirit Books stall, Adele Wearing and Daz Pulsford kindly agreed to make room for a small pile of (the British Fantasy Award-nominated – have I mentioned that yet?) Heir to the North. I was well chuffed and over the moon to discover that they all sold. I love you, whoever you are 🙂

Taking my cue from Alex Bardy, who this year cosplayed as one of the Expendables and carried it off with remarkable aplomb, I used a few spare moments to point people at other people., networking by proxy. I can point you all at Dan Grace and Gemma Todd, both names to watch out for in the future. Dan’s novella Winter is out now through Unsung Stories, and Gemma’s novel Defender is out early next year from Headline.

Jen Williams and Edward Cox were a delights to talk to, and Adrian Tchaikovsky was very kind. It’s always a pleasure to talk to Shellie Horst and Susan Boulton (Hand of Glory – coming soon!) Other SFSF regulars – Marc Turner, Dan Godfrey, Andy Angel, David Tallerman, Ian Sales – crossed my path and reminded me that it is probably well past time to start planning more events. Which is part of the reason me and Sara Smith were there anyway, to get our collective heads back into gear following the last few months. So no need to worry on that score – SFSF will return.

Amongst the EdgeLit debuts this year was author, editor and Bristolcon-wrangler Joanne Hall. Standing in at short notice for Pete Sutton, it was brilliant to see her again and give some power to the Grimbold presence at the con. T-shirts featuring a fox and a cat riding a dragon were mentioned in all seriousness in conversations with Auntie Fox…

Lastly, it’s not a convention without swag. Some of it is still hidden in the car until I can sneak it all in (I hope Rachel isn’t reading this…) but as well as the Tchaikovsky and Linde, I picked up Dan Godfrey’s New Pompeii, Jen Williams’ The Silver Tide, and Paul Kane’s Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell. The TBR is teetering on the verge of collapse. I wanted a copy of Pete Newman’s The Vagrant as well, but the bookstall ran out of that before I could get to it. Bah. Still hope to have read it and Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown by the time Fantasycon comes around, which means I’ll have read the whole Best Newcomer shortlist.

So, a very successful – if exhausting – day. If I met you and haven’t mentioned you, it’s mostly because I may have been on remote control at that point…