Con report – Fantasy Con 2009

(Please note I’m writing this already aware that I am going to forget events and/or people during the report, nothing personal, just a normal human memory – I think.)

Not knowing where to start, I think I’ll jump in at the British Fantasy Awards, as not only were they arguably the main event of the con but Morrigan Books had a nomination for the Best Collection award, for Gary McMahon’s How to Make Monsters. Gary didn’t win, otherwise you’d have heard me from a radius of about 200 miles, but congratulations nevertheless to Allyson Bird for Bull Running for Girls and for Screaming Dreams for publishing it. I haven’t actually read the book yet, as I picked up my signed copy from Allyson at the weekend but I’ll let you know if it deserved to beat our Gary when I have read it… 😉

I was pleased to see Andrew Hook pick up the award for Best Small Press, as although Elastic Press have now closed their doors, Andrew did a hell of a lot for the small press scene and credit where credit is due.

Determined to get my hands on the Best Novella, The Reach of Children by Tim Lebbon now. Not as much because it won or even because Tim is a damn fine writer but mainly due to his powerful acceptance speech about how the death of his mother, three and half years ago, inspired the story. My mother inspired me to read, which fuelled my writing, and she died in January 2006, which would make the deaths very close. Humdrumming is no longer so I think I will have to get in touch with Tim in order to get a copy.

Joseph D’Lacey won best newcomer and although I admit to not having read that much of his work, his attitude and his enthusiasm over the weekend were a joy to see!

Vincent Chong won best artist (again) and the man is a star, he really is!

There were of course other notable awards but if I’m going to put them all down then I might as well become the BFS myself…

I’ve mentioned, a few times, about me not enjoying Fantasy Con 2008 for various reasons. Some were very much of my own making, such as bumping my hire car at the hotel, as I was in an unnecessary rush to get checked in (and there was no need). Some were the hotels and the cons fault though, such as not getting the wine I ordered for the launch of our first three books and not booking the table in the dealers’ room that I asked for, forcing me to sit out in the corridor of doom until some nice chaps informed me of a free spot on Sunday morning.

This year was excellent and negative for very different reasons: the negative mainly down to a sales element. You know I’m coming down from Sweden and printing books and distributing books in England and when you don’t sell as many as you had hoped for then you do get a little down. I know Dead Souls is a fantastic book and there has been a lot of work gone into that. I wasn’t all together surprised though, as there weren’t many sales overall and the dealers’ room was empty on more than one occasion over the weekend.

I’m also a little bit disappointed by how questions to the society are answered sometimes. Usually I got all the help I needed and having the table in the dealers’ room was a big plus this year. However, try as I might I can’t get myself a launch for Morrigan Books, as every time I ask I get told that I might as well join the mass book launch which then changes day and time, while I’m planning my authors travelling over for a signing. It’s not even that I’m annoyed that these things happen, more that I don’t understand why the natural repsonse to the questions is “I don’t know who told you that” in a very dismissive tone.

That aside though, I had an excellent time this year, helped by the fact that my close friend and co-editor of one of our anthologies for next year, Greg Ballam came down with me for the weekend. I also spent quite a bit of time with Carole Johnstone, who has been published in three of our five titles so far and is due to appear in a couple more next year, and her sister, Lorna, who were just the best company ever! Two other writers also making our table at the bar lots of fun were two from the upcoming Morrigan Books’ publication, The Phantom Queen Awakes, Peter Bell and Sharon Kae Reamer. I managed to meet up with Gary Fry of Gray Friar Press, Steve Upham of Screaming Dreams and get some good advice from them (and Ian Whates of NewCon Press of course) about the world of publishing. Meeting Joseph D’Lacey was a treat and I’m really hoping he is going to be working on a future project with Morrigan Books too! Not only was he great to talk to but he introduced me to a new cocktail – which only took the bar staff around 45 mins to make…

It was great to have a good chat too with some of those appearing in Morrigan Books’ titles, such as: Ramsey Campbell, who is a gent, Paul Finch (lovely bloke) and that McMahon geezer. Apart from me having the extra joy of Burnley beating Sunderland on the Saturday, me and Gary (and Emily) had some good chats and it’s always a pleasure to see one of the best new writers around.

Managed a brief chat with Simon Unsworth and Steve Duffy and there are a few names I just did not get a decent chance to speak to (either because they were in demand or avoiding me like the plague) and amongst that number were: Tim Lebbon, Conrad Williams and Stephen Volk.

Stephen Jones got his copies of Dead Souls and Grants Pass and so we’ll see if any of those get into Best New Horror 21 next year.

For me, I seem to have enjoyed this year’s event more as I saw it more as a chance to network, to meet new writers and publishers and build up the connections with those I had already met before (or connected with online), rather than as a publisher coming to sell off some books. I have been building up the connections for the selling side over the last year or so and after the chats this weekend have some more ideas on how to go in the future.

I’d say I’m looking forward to next year, although I’m not sure I’m attending, due to the small matter of the World Con in Melbourne the same month. Of course there is a small matter of the World Horror Con in Brighton next March before any of that…


About Mark S. Deniz

English teacher, writer, editor, publisher, reviewer and blogger. Founder of publishing company, Morrigan Books and imprint, Gilgamesh Press and editor-in-chief for review site, Beyond Fiction. Also cycles, plays floorball, listens to lots and lots of music, reads a ton of books and tries to fit in some TV, film and writing too. View all posts by Mark S. Deniz

8 responses to “Con report – Fantasy Con 2009

  • Cate Gardner

    You met so many wonderful people, I’m so jealous.

  • Mihai (Dark Wolf)

    Very nice report, Mark. I am glad you had a great time, although I am sorry to hear about the sales. I wish someday to attend a FantasyCon although it will mean a lot of effort from me, but I am optimistic about it 🙂
    I envy you meeting so many authors and great ones too. I hope you get to read “The Reach of Children” which is an excellent novella and I am glad it won. Vincent Chong is a star indeed 😀 I am preparing myself to dig deep into Sarah Pinborough’s works although I failed to find a copy of her first novel, “The Hidden”. And Joseph D’Lacey is a wonderful guy. He left me stunned for the way he received my review (although it was a negative one).
    Anyway, I hope that the next year Morrigan Books will win a prize. With “Dead Souls” because it is a wonderful book 🙂

    • markdeniz

      Thanks for reading and don’t worry about the sales. I think it would be foolish to think I can run Morrigan Books from cons, as everybody seems to have other avenues for getting those books out there.

      Thanks for your comments too and especially regarding Dead Souls, as I am a little fond of that book!

  • Lisa Kessler

    Sounds like you did some great networking Mark! 🙂

    Can’t wait to see my copies of Dead Souls!!!

    So when are you coming over to the US? Hmmmm? 🙂


    • markdeniz

      Networking was good, enjoyed talking to everyone and I realised how much I miss the seeing people face to face and talking shop when I get the chance.

      US? That might be a while. Would love to do it but England again is my next one and then possibly Australia next September.

      Your copies should be on their way soon!

  • Mike

    Nice report, mate. I was watching the clock on Saturday afternoon, thinking how cool it would have been if I’d attended the Dead Souls launch. I’ll do it one year, you’ll see!

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