Monday, 10 October 2011

The sun, the sea and not-so-silent screams

Well, Fantasycon 2011 was as much of a blast as I expected it to be. It’s a torturous round-trip from Lancashire to Brighton, but it was well worth it for the sun, the beer and the multiple reunions with old friends.

Lasting memories will be the temperature (we were officially hotter on the Saturday than Saudi Arabia), the scorching curry Cath and I shared with Steve Lockley and artist Vinnie Chong, and John Llewellyn Probert and Thana Niveau’s amazing ‘pantomime’ rendition of BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW and the 1960s shocker, CORRUPTION. The striptease acts were also quite memorable – the girls were covered with Cthulhu tattoos so that meant it was a horror show rather than a display of sexist objectification (honest!); but I don’t care, I enjoyed it for both reasons.

In terms of official activities,THE DEVIL’S ROCK was screened in the ‘midnight movie’ slot on the Friday. In retrospect, this might not have been a great idea. The screening was well attended, but plenty of people were plastered and, having in many cases driven hundreds of miles to get there that day, were wilting at such a late hour. But the only alternative was an early evening slot on the Friday, and I wasn’t convinced that was ideal either as so many delegates would still be checking in. I handled the Q&A afterwards – and though there are some photos of this event, I haven’t received any yet, so you’ll just have to trust me that it actually happened.

Anyway, many thanks to all those who attended the movie, enjoyed it and asked intelligent questions afterwards, which was just about everyone who was in there.

There was some controversy surrounding the awards ceremony, but that’s been dealt with on other websites and at an official level now, so I won’t dredge up the details here. There was certainly nothing controversial about the results in the categories in which I had high hopes. I had one nomination – SPARROWHAWK – in the Best Novella category, but the prize went to Simon Clark’s HUMPTY’S BONES (pictured above), and two – WALKERS IN THE DARK and ONE MONSTER IS NOT ENOUGH – in the Best Collection category, but the prize went to Stephen King for FULL DARK, NO STARS. It’s certainly no shame to lose out to either of those giants of the genre - in fact it's an honour to be mentioned alongside them - and as Simon in particular is a good friend of mine, I reiterate the hearty congratulations I offered to him at the time. Simon is a worthy winner on any occasion.

I did have one minor success during the event. We unofficially launched TERROR TALES OF THE LAKE DISTRICT, my first anthology as editor, which was published a couple of weeks ago by Gray Friar Press, and it went down great guns. In fact, it sold so many copies in its first weekend (and this is before we even start placing it with Lake District booksellers) that we’ve now been encouraged to move rapidly onto the next volume.

Our long term plan is for this to extend into a full ‘regional’ TERROR TALES OF … series, concentrating initially on the UK, but maybe moving further afield in due course. During the convention I had a lots conversations with top writers whose work I’d like to include, and almost all were keen to get involved. So this is a space you’ll definitely need to keep watching with regard to developments.

I’m unashamed to mention that this idea been strongly influenced by the Fontana ‘Tales of Terror’ series edited by R. Chetwynd-Hayes (sometimes under a pseudonym) back in the 1970s, though most of those books reprinted a lot of existing (albeit little known) horror fiction.
I will be publishing some classic reprints in my series, but for the most part it will be new and original material. One clear similarity between the two series will be the anecdotal ‘true horror stories’ that I’ll be interspersing between the ‘made up’ stories. It’s a bit worrying, actually – you don’t have to dig very deeply into any region’s history of folklore, crime or the occult to find some very bizarre and disturbing events (as those who’ve now read TERROR TALES OF THE LAKE DISTRICT will hopefully attest).

One last item of news, unrelated to any of those which have gone above – my forthcoming short novella from Spectral Press, KING DEATH, has now provisionally sold out. I’m not sure whether that will be received as good news or bad news, but as it’s only officially released in December, I must, as the author, take it as a thumbs-up.

Whether it’s a timely thing to mention here or not, there has already been one online review for this story, on Good Reads. I won't go into too much detail because the whole review can be found HERE, but phrases like "terrific imagery", "excellent story" and "gripped from start to finish" are always music to a writer's ears.

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