Here’s Heide’s report from Fantasycon By The Sea 2016.

Scarborough at sunrise
Scarborough at sunrise

This year’s Fantasycon was held at the Grand Hotel in Scarborough, with some events held over the road at The Royal.

Accommodation and booze was priced very keenly, so there was an expectation that rooms would be shabby at best, utterly horrible at worst, but mine was great, no complaints at all.

Friday 23rd September

Before events kicked off on Friday I spent time in the dealers’ rooms, chatting with Jan Edwards and Peter Coleborn of Alchemy Press, and Sophie Sparham who was looking after a table for Boo Books.

I moved to the bar, keeping a look out for people who might be new, as I do feel that it’s important to make people feel welcome at their first convention.

I met Mark Egginton who was there to launch a Tolkien parody, Lord of the Grins.

We were joined by Colleen Anderson from Canada and Thomas Arnfelt  from Sweden.

It was great to catch up with Selina Lock and Jay Eales as well.

I went to see what Baby was up to.


I should point out that Baby was originally intended as a short-term promotional device when we released Beelzebelle (where Satan ends up with a baby) but has provoked such a reaction that Baby is a legend (in terms of my Facebook timeline anyway).

Baby came down to meet everyone and attracted the attention of some bikers who were sharing the bar with us. They asked for a picture, so Baby was happy to oblige.


Susan Boulton insisted on a cuddle with the infamous little troll in advance of her book launch for Hand of Glory.

Susan Boulton with Baby
Susan Boulton with Baby

Some other friends (Mike Chinn, Adrian Cole, Theresa Derwin) were less enthusiastic, but Baby does like to get around. In fact, we didn’t previously know John Gilbert but Baby does like to socialise.

Theresa Derwin with Baby
John Gilbert with Baby
Mike Chinn with Baby
Adrian Cole with Baby

Catherine and Dave are having their own baby, so they practised cuddling (but I failed to get a photo).

The first event I went to was Del Lakin-Smith’s masterclass called “The Art of Collaboration”.

I’m always interested to know more about working with others, and it turns out that Del wanted to help us all to understand how traditional brainstorming can be refined to work more effectively. He split us into three groups and gave us a problem to solve. He them secretly instructed each group on how they were to generate ideas, with the emphasis on quantity of ideas generated. One group did traditional brainstorming where they collected a list of ideas without evaluating them. The second group collected ideas but had to agree on them as a group before they could add them to the list. The third group were told to work as individuals and just list their own ideas. The group who worked as individuals got the longest list, and the group who had to agree got the shortest. The lesson here is to get individuals to put some focussed thought in before the collaborative part kicks in (Del explained lots of the science behind it). By chance, Iain and I have used a technique to exploit this mode of thinking. We use “ideas documents” for each chapter in the book that we’re plotting, where each of us will pile in the crazy ideas that might feature in the action. We might take it further, based on this input and have separate documents that we then merge. Really useful workshop, and I’d love to hear more of Del’s thoughts in future.

Our accommodation was half board, so we had an evening meal at the hotel. The dining experience is like a canteen with a bar, which is absolutely fine by me. It’s really nice to be able to take a meal break without disappearing from the con.

James Brogden and Iain arrived later in the evening, both with various family members in tow. My family were there as well, so a whole club of neglected partners and children was formed.


Saturday 24th September

I got up stupidly early, as I often do (although it’s not the greatest of ideas when combined with late nights and drinking). I took Baby around the hotel exploring. This may have been a mistake.


Breakfast was canteen style again, with food that was passable, but the astonishing views over the bay were more than enough to distract you from everything except the coffee which was seriously appalling. I sometimes ask myself, what would Bear Grylls do? Smuggle in some filter coffee pods obviously, so breakfast was very much improved on the second day.

Later in the morning, an internet friend came and introduced himself. Ramy writes as R.E Vance and contributed to Festive Treats which is a free Christmas anthology Iain and I have put together. Ramy and I had chatted via email, so it was lovely to meet in person.

I dipped briefly into a panel called “Is reality the new horror?” and was intrigued by a discussion about certain atrocities needing years to pass before people are comfortable seeing them portrayed in fiction. The Holocaust and the troubles in Ireland were given as examples. Tracy Fahey mentioned a story about a local incident that she’d used in a short story. Public discussion of the incident was frowned upon in the area, even though it occurred two hundred years ago.

Iain was on a panel called “All About You (first steps as a writer)”, but I could only stay for part of it as I had a reading over at The Royal. The readings were all thirty minute slots for two authors to share. I’d previously said hello to Bradley Beaulieu, and it was great to share the reading slot with him.

Iain and I had signed up for one of the “Agent and editor sessions” with Gillian Redfearn. Gillian is publishing director of Gollancz, so we were thrilled to be able to ask her some direct questions about how self published authors might evaluate a potential move to traditional publishing (a question that we often ask ourselves).

There was another panel afterwards about a related topic: “Go your own way – self publishing, small press or traditional publishing, which is right for you?”

After that there was a short break before I chaired a panel, which was exhilarating. The topic was “Girls just wanna have fun – celebrating women in genre fiction”. I was lucky to have people with an amazing breadth of knowledge and experience on the panel, which made my job straightforward. Maura McHugh, Anne Nicholls, Catriona Ward, Marie O’Regan and Priya Sharma kept the discussion lively and the time flew by. Ironically, for a panel that touched upon the subject of whether women are sometimes overlooked, the event was missed off the flyer that was in everyone’s goodybag. That made it all the more gratifying to see that it was well attended, so I’m grateful to the audience for finding their way there and asking some great questions at the end.

In the bar afterwards I drank wine and spoke to lots of fabulous people. Jim Mcleod introduced me to Carrie Buchanan, who was buzzing because her (non-attending) friend had just won the raffle for some original artwork from Adam Neville’s new book.

I went along to a reading. Chris Barnes read from Paul Kane’s book The Rot, which was tremendous. It was followed by Tracy Fahey reading the short story that she’d mentioned in the panel earlier, “Looking for Wildgoose Lodge” from the collection The Unheimlich Manoeuvre. A stunning story, beautifully read.


Sunday 25th September

I went along to the first part of a panel called “Is genre relevant?” which explored some of the ways that we define and categorise books.

Iain’s reading was up next. He was partnered with Jonathan Oliver who read part of a longer piece featuring a boy who is trapped in a Victorian re-enactment that he can’t escape from.

You can see Iain’s reading here:

After that, there was a panel about screen writing. It was chaired by Ellen Gallagher, and had some fascinating insights into the world of professional screenwriters.

I had a walk around the dealers tables after that, taking the last opportunity to grab a couple of books (my bag was getting pretty heavy at that point).

The last panel I went to was “Monster mash – what monsters are there left for us to be afraid of?” Georgina Bruce had lots to say from a feminist viewpoint.

Georgina Bruce
Georgina Bruce

One of the questions to the panel was around what they personally found really scary. Adam Millard talked about creepy dolls being a personal horror of his.

Adam Millard
Adam Millard
Adam Millard with Baby
Adam Millard with Baby

That was the end of Fantasycon for me, and I was on the way back home when I heard that two of my fellow panellists had been successful in the British Fantasy Awards. Catriona Ward won the Best horror novel (the August Derleth Award) and Priya Sharma won the Best short fiction, so massive congratulations to them.

The final word must go to the people who keep things running smoothly over the weekend. They do a truly astonishing job, and I’m in awe of their stamina and persistent good humour. Alex Davis is the boss, and then all of the wonderful redshirts were honoured in the British Fantasy Awards this year with The Special Award (the Karl Edward Wagner Award).