Review: Fantasycon 2019

by Allen Stroud

Review: Fantasycon 2019
January 25, 2020 sfbook

The great and the good of British fantasy converge once a year at this autumnal gathering of writers, publishers, artists, and agents.

Last year, for the first time — and not before time — the event organisers ventured north of the border, to Clydebank near Glasgow.

The first Fantasycon was in 1975. The convention has always been an industry meeting, with writers catching up to discuss new projects and share their latest works. The programme content is always rich, varied, and interesting with a selection of panels catering to a wide array of writing needs.

Attendees of Fantasycon enjoy a visit to different cities around the British Isles, with venues in the last few years including Nottingham, Scarborough, Peterborough, and Chester.

Last year, the trip north and some logistical issues in the lead-up to the event clearly affected the attendance numbers, which were a little lower than the usual 500 or so. The location, the Golden Jubilee Conference Centre, is attached to a hospital and a huge facility. The convention was only a part of this as the hotel fulfilled its other function of providing a space for recovering patients. 

Programming was the usual range of panels, workshops, and interviews. Guests of Honour, Paul Tremblay and Doctor Una McCormack, are well-known to those familiar with the scene. The intended third guest, Jen Williams, was unfortunately forced to cancel only weeks before the event.

The advertising of content and panellists was less well-communicated than usual. Fantasycon usually has a programme guide, but last year it did not. Panellists, who volunteer their time months in advance, only learned of their assignments a couple of weeks before the event and there were moments when individuals did not know who was to be moderating the discussions. Nevertheless, most proceeded without incident, even if the audiences were less able to track their favourite speakers in the timetable.

The Sunday of the convention continues with the annual general meeting (AGM) of the British Fantasy Society and the British Fantasy Awards. The full list of award winners was:

  • Best Newcomer, the Sydney J Bounds Award: Tasha Suri, for Empire of Sand – Published by Orbit
  • Best Magazine/Periodical:Uncanny Magazine
  • Best Non-fiction: Noise and Sparks by Ruth EJ Booth – Printed in Shoreline of Infinity
  • Best Comic/Graphic Novel: Widdershins, Volume 7, by Kate Ashwin – kateashwin.com
  • Best Audio: Breaking the Glass Slipper podcast By Lucy Hounsom, Charlotte Bond, & Meghan Leigh – breakingtheglassslipper.com
  • Best Artist: Vince Haig – barquing.com
  • Best Independent Press: Unsung Stories
  • Best Anthology: Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume 5 – Edited by Robert Shearman & Michael Kelly – Published by Undertow Publications
  • Best Collection: All the Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma – Published by Undertow Publications
  • Best Film/TV: Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse – Story by Phil Lord, screenplay by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman
  • Best Novella: The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard –Published by Subterranean Press
  • Best Short Story: Down Where Sound Comes Blunt by GV Anderson – Printed in Fantasy & Science Fiction, March/April issue 2018
  • Best Horror Novel, The August Derleth Award: Little Eve by Catriona Ward – Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson
  • Best Fantasy Novel, The Robert Holdstock Award: The Bitter Twins by Jen Williams – Published by Headline
  • The Karl Edward Wagner Award: Ian Whates

The end of the ceremony always marks the end of the convention and the attendees gradually faded away, back to their homes and writing desks to work on the next generation of stories.

A final word should go to mentioning Fantasycon’s Red Cloaks. These are the tireless volunteers who make the event work. The volunteer team are a dedicated little family who are almost unique to the convention scene. They give up their time for the event and their work is a testimony to how good it always is, despite any logistical and organisational problems.