Last weekend saw another epic trek down England’s bleak motorway network to participate in the excellent shenanigans that make up Bristolcon. Over the last eight years, Bristolcon has become one of the highlights of the convention season, and it’s easy to see why. A top-drawer (if slightly expensive) venue, an ace range of guests and panelists, and a fantastically well thought out programme, all combine alongside a relaxed atmosphere to make Bristolcon a very smooth ride for everybody who attends. It’s a not-for-profit affair too – as a charitable foundation, Bristolcon uses any money it makes to fund local writing projects, and that feeling of putting something back into the community undoubtedly helps explain why everybody is more than happy to pitch in and fund it by buying tickets. You’d have to be a bit of a curmudgeon to demand free entry here…
Anyway, I love driving, and I couldn’t wait to meet up again with the rest of Team Grimbold, so me & Elsie hit the road on Friday morning aiming to hit the traditional pre-con open mic event being held that evening. I had a couple of passengers too, since a pending clearout had led to them being evicted from Rachel’s workroom. I was pretty certain I could find them new homes with the baby Grimmies…
After checking in and offloading the stock for the dealers’ room, I found Frances Kay (a fellow British Fantasy Awards-shortlisted Grimmie) and Anna Smith Spark (whose Court of Broken Knives comes out via Harper Voyager next June). We prepared for the open mic session by attending Gaie Sebold and David Gullen’s workshop on public readings. Incidentally, Frances has a great background in both theatre and TV work, so if you were there, it’s well worth taking note of what she had to say on the subject of public readings.
And if you weren’t there, then you missed an action-packed reading of (most of) Full Compliance, from The Evil Genius Guide (Fox Spirit Books), the first story to feature South Yorkshire’s last superhero, Johnny Silver, aka The Forgemaster. The audience certainly seemed to enjoy it, which means you’ll definitely be seeing some longer-length Johnny Silver stories further on down the line.
It’s a good thing that the Holiday Inn Express breakfast is a buffet affair – I had three plates on the go. The old convention adage is that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it’s not wrong. Especially when you get to 7pm and realise that you skipped lunch completely. The only downside to a single-day con is that time flies far too quickly – you will never get to talk to everybody you want to talk to, and friends and online acquaintances rush past in a blur.
The first item on the agenda was securing a copy of Juliet E McKenna’s new collection, Shadow Histories of the River Kingdom (Wizard’s Tower Press) and getting that signed. Then the morning was a whirl of hellos and hugs, especially for the massed Fantasy Faction crew, some of whom had buzzed over from Germany and the Netherlands for the weekend. (Hello Julia, Marielle, Leona, JP, GR, RB, TO!)
Somehow I managed to find a spare 20 minutes to make notes for the midday panel. I had been bricking myself about this, given that Guest of Honour Sarah Pinborough was also on the panel, but as usual I wound up worrying about nothing – the Beyond Evil panel was a blast, well directed by Dev Agarwal. Juliet McKenna did raise the very valid point that we had almost exclusively been talking about male incarnations/depictions of evil. I indicated in a post back upstream that thinking diversely hasn’t come naturally to me (but I try…) – it’s taken me this long to think of Annie Wilkes as one of the greatest villains ever put onscreen, and I’m still struggling to think of others who haven’t leapt from the page in the same way (Mrs Coulter & Narnia’s White Witch both got mentioned by Sophie E Tallis during the panel). Feel free to leave your own examples in the comments.
A recent addition to Team Grimbold is Diana Croft, the narrator of the Heir to the North audiobook. As she’s based in the south-west, we managed to meet up at Bristolcon for the first time and it was a proper pleasure to be able to sit down and talk to her about plots, characters, and High King’s Vengeance. If you haven’t heard what Diana’s done with the voices for HTTN – AND WHY NOT? – seriously, go check out the samples at Audible.
3pm saw me pulling people away from the bar to go see Anna Smith Spark, presently the undisputed Queen of Grimdark, on her panel about women in Grimdark fantasy. Well, come on, there weren’t nowt going off in the bar, and this was much more interesting. It could have been more interesting yet if they’d managed to keep to the topic, but herding authors is very much like herding cats on VERY GOOD DRUGS. In a good way, of course.
Oh, and there was a reading from High King’s Vengeance too, near the end of the programming. Most people had been sitting behind the tables in Panel Room One for their readings – nah, not me. Stand and declaim, even if you are feeling exhausted after a few pints of Butcombe IPA.
A good meal at the SevernShed, along with Allan Bott, Joel Cornah, and Tim Wreford-Bush, rounded off the day. And an excellent lunch at the Shakespeare the following day, after helping cart some of the tech gear out of the hotel, made sure I was fortified for the road ahead. It’s a long old weekend, Bristolcon, but it’s a damned good one.
See you next year! And because it’s traditional, here’s the obligatory swag pic…