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Messages - Paul Campbell

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Ask the Authors and Artists! / Re: Simon Strantzas
« on: October 17, 2010, 09:42:13 pm »
Cheers for the heads up Simon! One copy duly ordered. (Other than the charity - only $4 for international shipping - I never order from the US. But I gotta say, Dark Regions' $7 charge is VERY reasonable.)

I'm VERY fortunate to own the original 2008 Humdrumming Press incarnation of this title (purchased directly from yourself Simon: I believe my Prism review at the time was the only review of that edition in an official/print publication). At the World Horror Convention in Brighton this year Mark Samuels graciously signed his foreward.

But I'm happy to buy this new edition, too, being as it's revised and expanded!

General Discussion / Re: Small Press titles... and who can afford them
« on: October 13, 2010, 11:10:31 pm »
I've never published a jacketed hardcover, but I have dipped my toe into the jacket-less Printed-Paper Case hardcover with three books and I will be using it more; costs aren't that greater than a traditional paperback and I can probably sell them for a the quite reasonable sum of £12-£15.

I too don't much like Lighning Source.

Would love to use litho again...

I gotta say Chris, although I'll almost always go for the cheapest edition of a book (I'm a reader first and foremost) when I picked up your paperback edition of WE FADE TO GREY ( £8 )  at Fantasycon one year I thought it was - physically - blah: paperstock WAY too heavy. Just, basically, an ugly edition.

However, I immeditately bought the hardcover edition (£15) which was printed by a completely different outfit from the paperback edition (I believe the more expensive edition was from Biddles - PS Publishing's printer). But for that £15 I got a hardback signed by 5 people!

Good grief; as if the toils of the small press for you guys wasn't bad enough, without the detritus of human society dragging the whole venture down.

On a related note, I NEVER order from the US, with the sole exception of the charity

Books / The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 21
« on: October 10, 2010, 12:11:42 pm »

FantasyCon / Re: Horrorcon - I mean, Fantasycon!
« on: October 10, 2010, 12:07:12 pm »

General Discussion / Re: Small Press titles... and who can afford them
« on: October 08, 2010, 11:30:33 am »
Are they using cheaper production methods / materials? Are these printed using POD companies?

More than likely they're using that gawdful Lightning Source I mentioned earlier!  ;D

FantasyCon / Horrorcon - I mean, Fantasycon!
« on: October 08, 2010, 11:15:18 am »
Now we’ve banged on about this before, but the reason I’ve brought it up again is because if you go to the BFS home page and scroll down to the post titled ‘FantasyCon 2010: Blogged!’ (upload on Wed. 22nd Sept) you’ll come across this:

The author doesn’t berate the con for being (what they perceive) as a horror convention... but they have noticed it.

I mentioned myself that I came to my first Fantasycon in 2006 because I saw a postcard advertisement for it in the fan bar at Eastercon that year in Glasgow. I came because Ramsey Campbell was the GoH... and because I thought it was a horror con.

I think Fantasycon is a horror con

- but by default, not design. As the first line of the society’s Wikipedia entry states, it was created as an off-shoot of the British Science Fiction Association. So, therefore, I wouldn’t expect the society to concentrate very much on science fiction. Besides, Eastercon is long established and already caters very well to science fiction: it averages a thousand attendees each year. I’m as big an SF fan as I am a horror fan, but as much as I enjoyed the two massive SF Worldcons held in Glasgow (1995 and 2005), and for that matter Eastercon in 2006, I like the smaller conventions. They’re more cosy, more intimate. I loved the Scottish Albacons that I attended in the 1990s. Alas, I came to them when Albacon was on the cusp of dying out. But they were great cons and I came to Fantasycon hoping to find the same kind of atmosphere.

I didn’t. They were, in fact, even better!

As regards the big London and New York publishers, the horror genre is marginalised. So it’s only natural that its fans and practitioners would want to gravitated towards each other – circle the wagons, as it were, especially during the horror bust of the ‘90s. And it’s to Fantasycon that horror fans and writers have come to and found a home.

The society and Fantasycon does cater to fantasy (recent guests have been Raymond E. Feist, Juliet E. McKenna and Terry Brooks), but maybe the reason people don’t think it does it not due to anything that the society it doing, but simply because the genre of fantasy itself has evolved so much over the years.

For instance, China Mieville is a fantasy writer – but one from whom heroic and high fantasy fans ran as far as they can. Their loss.

It may be that heroic and fantasy is so popular, that its fans don’t feel the need to come to a con: instead they visit the forums and messageboards and blogs of their favourite fantasy writers.

There are many fantasy writers who come to Fantasycon – such as Chaz Brenchley – but they don’t just write traditional fantasy. So when people say ‘Oh, it’s a horror con’ they’re often only focusing on one aspect of what many of the writers do. That and, frankly, their very narrow view of what they think ‘fantasy’ is. Fantasy doesn’t just mean Tolkien, Donaldson and Jordan. Give me the likes of China Mieville any day. Indeed, for me, the best writers are the fearless ones, the ones who mix it all up: screw such and such a genre, let’s do it all – in one book! Fabulous and daring writers like Tim Powers, Kim Newman, George R. R. Martin, Connie Willis, Lisa Tuttle and Charles Stross’s ‘Laundry Files’.

Now, it might be argued that this is ‘dark’ fantasy, but I disagree: it’s ‘dark’ only in the sense that interesting stories naturally evolve out of drama and conflict and a sense of peril to the characters. In that regard most stories could be considered ‘dark’!

There are some fantasy writers who regularly come to Fantasycon, such as Chaz Brenchley, Juliet E. McKenna, Steven Erikson, James Barclay, Mark Chadbourn, Mike Chinn and Tim Lebbon. And those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. But, again, many of these writers don’t just write fantasy. Admittedly I’ve read very little traditional fantasy, mainly because it tends to run to ten volume ‘trilogies’! Besides, I personally feel that the least interesting writers are the ones who only ever write in one genre. Give me a Dan Simmons or a Michael Marshall Smith any day! Admitted the only high profile science fiction writer I can think of who comes to Fantasycon is Ian Watson... but, again, Ian doesn’t just write SF.

And this is where the ‘Horrorcon’ aspect of Fantasycon comes in, because off the top of my head I can think of the following horror writers who regularly attend: Ramsey Campbell, Mark Morris, Christopher Fowler, Simon Clark, Conrad Williams, Joel Lane, Sarah Pinborough, Adam Nevill, Nicholas Royle, Reggie Oliver, Mark Samuels, Paul Kane, Simon Bestwick, Gary McMahon, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Paul Finch, Gary Fry, John L. Probert, Allyson Bird and –

- well, you get the idea.
Plus hard-to-define guys like Allen Ashley, Andrew Hook and Neil Williamson.

But – and again! – they don’t all just write horror.

And just as I talked about some people’s narrow definition of ‘fantasy’ so too is ‘horror’ often narrowly defined. Check out these recent BFS award winners:

‘The Reach of Children’ by Tim Lebbon
‘The Language of Dying’ by Sarah Pinborough
‘Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical’ by Robert Shearman

Would you consider those horror? Really?! They are as far removed from The Pan Book of Horror Stories as you can get. And that’s the thing: people readily accept that science fiction has a vast umbrella: military SF, hard SF, science fantasy and so on. Horror isn’t just Guy N. Smith or old tatty paperback anthology series.

But because horror has been pushed into the margins its practitioners have, over the years, come to find that not only is Fantasycon a home, it’s the only home (at least in the UK).

It has also been said that too many of the people involved in running the BFS and Fantasycon are horror writers or horror fans: Paul Kane, Debbie Bennett, Marie O’Regan, Martin Roberts, Guy Adams and so. But is it their fault that, apparently, they’re more enthusiastic about their genre than most traditional fantasy fans? Or at the very least they’re willing to turn their enthusiasm into the hard work of running a con and a society. The only person I can think of who has an obvious enthusiasm for traditional fantasy – and who runs the cons – is Jenny Barber. Jan Edwards and Peter Coleborn,  I believe, have a wide taste in reading.

So, as has been pointed out in the past, if people feel traditional fantasy is sidelined at the BFS and Fantasycon then the best solution it to get involved.

Or, better yet, embrace Clive Barker’s call-to-arms for a “Death to Genre!” definitions entirely.

(But, then, he’s a horror writer ;) )

General Discussion / Re: Small Press titles... and who can afford them
« on: October 07, 2010, 11:55:13 pm »
Small presses who publish reasonably-priced paperback editions often end up with a shed-load of unsold books (as far as I'm aware). But the market for signed, limited editions seems to be stable, and thus these publishers know just how many to print, how many they'll sell...

I know - what's that all about?! I tellya, there must be a fair few well-heeled, recession-proof readers out there... But that's the thing: are they readers or collectors/investors? Are they actually reading the books?

I'm  with Jen: if they feel the need to keep the physical copies of the books limited then fine. But, you know, at least do PDF downloads for ordinary income folks who just want to read the stories, and who (for the most part) could care less for fancy expensive binding, signature sheets and slip/traycases.

General Discussion / Small Press titles... and who can afford them
« on: October 07, 2010, 11:24:49 am »
I just got through sending an email to a writer from whom I directly bought their new book, as I was unable to attend Fantasycon this year, and it got me thinking maybe I ought to share a slightly rewritten verison of that email here:

(It'll probably upset a few folks, but anyone who's stumbled across my rambling topics in the past knows I'm like an elephant in a china shop anyway, so I figure what the hell...)

I picked up my email to this writer from where we'd left off before, where, in reference to the deluxe edition of her book, she said:
"And they have over priced the leather bound edition"

I replied:
"I popped over to their website - yeah, I see what you mean!!!  (Especially for such a relatively slim book.)

I had a conversation at the last con I was at, where we were talking about the cost of small press titles: I LOVE Pete Crowther's Postscripts magazine/anthology: it used to cost me £26 for a 4-issue paperback subscription - now it's hardback ONLY and costs £50! Needless to say, I no longer subscribe... Same with those Ex Occidente books: who are they meant to be for?!?! You're talking £50 for a book less than 150 pages! Simon Bestwick blogged that this year he deliberately avoided the PS Publishing table because he knew he couldn't afford to go there. And don't even get me started on Centipede Press: their onmibus edition of Reggie Oliver from Cold Tonnage costs £135.00!
You know, the small press would probably do a helluva lot better if the audience whom the publishers are targeting could actually afford to buy their bloody books. And I NEVER buy from the US... you end up paying half again as much for postage."

Now, I know we've got folks like Atomic Fez, Screaming Dreams, Pendragon, Grey Friar and the like whose books are reasonably priced, but you get where I'm going with this, right? (Incidentally, I'd probably buy more small press titles if the publishers would stop using that HORRIBLE Lightning Source as their printers!)

I know of several writers who have been published in Postscripts in the past, but have now let their subscription lapse because they can no longer afford it. I think it's a sad day when past contributors of a magazine/anthology series can't afford to buy its future issues.

And what I especially hate is when the only available version of the text is an expensive limited edition: I'm a humble reader on a blue-collar wage - give me a freakin' £10 paperback already, willya?!

(Recession, sheeesh, what recession...)
Anyhoo, rant over! ;)

BFS Publications / Re: Proposal to merge Prism with New/Dark Horizons
« on: September 26, 2010, 07:52:25 pm »
Really not sure about the merging thing.  I much prefer an E-prism option. [...] the reviews and news items are much better served being online so they're more immediate.

I agree; not keen on the merge idea. And Prism should be entirely online. One of the main reasons I stopped doing book reviews for Prism (other than the 200 word limit) was the amount of time it took to get to print. I still review, but they're all now posted directly on Amazon:

Ask the Authors and Artists! / Re: Allyson Bird
« on: September 26, 2010, 06:19:36 pm »
I've still got some of the tradebacks of WINE AND RANK POISON introduced by Joe R. Lansdale that Dark Regions sent over for Fantasycon...if anyone wants to buy one please say here or email me behind the scenes....£10.

Dark Regions will be launching WARP soon and they start with the expensive leatherbounds etc...

Hey, Ally, I would love a copy!

Utterly gutted I couldn't get down to Nottingham  :'( Debated with myself long and hard right up to the last minute, but in the end simply couldn't justify blowing £200+ on a hotel, what with the recession and all, not to mention having already been to a convention this year in the form of WHC in Brighton (taking into account travel expenses, hotel, food, drink and book buying FCon typically costs me £500).

There were a lot of books at FCon this year I wanted to buy, not least Stephen Jones's Robinson titles, Never Again, The End of the Line and, well, it's just too depressing to go on.

I've signed Audrey and I up for next year in Brighton - so here's hoping!

If you clicked on this thread looking for a testosterone infused rant in defence of the Alpha Male, forget it (go watch a Michael Bay movie instead).

The BFS is a man’s man’s man’s Society… But, then, it’s man’s man’s man’s world.

Look closely. No, really, look very closely indeed. In fact, look no further than the very issue of Dark Horizons in which Jenny’s editorial appears: of the 21 contributors only 5 are women, including Jenny herself and one of the artists. Of the 9 short stories only 1 by is a woman. There are 3 non-fiction articles, all written by men, all about men.

I am no less guilty: I contributed a non-fiction article of my own to the previous issue of DH… about a male writer.

Looking at my shelf of small press purchases from the past 4 years I note, to my chagrin, not one female author. Quite a number of those books are from PS Publishing. PS titles must, by now, number in the hundreds. But you know, off the top of my head, I can only think of 4: three novellas (Juliet E. McKenna, Lisa Tuttle and Elizabeth Hand) and one of the PS Showcase mini-collections. I know there’s more – I mean, there’s got to be more, right?!

Yes, there are more male practitioners in our genres than female – but, then, isn’t it also true that more women read books than men?

If DH 56’s guest editorial had been written by anyone else I would probably have said “Ah, I don’t have time for this” especially as our home PC has been on the frazzle since last November (and with job security at my place of employment being at an all time low – a quarter of the workforce was laid off in the weeks immediately surrounding WHC2010 – it’ll remain frazzled for quite some time).

I’m at my local library right now, using their internet service, and I’m replying because it was Jenny Barber who wrote the editorial. The first people I ever met at my first Fantasycon were Jenny and Pat Barber on the Friday morning at breakfast in Nottingham’s Britannia Hotel in 2006. Immediately they made me feel immensely welcome, as did later on Marie, Vicky, Jan and Peter Coleburn –

- all of them women, bar Pete. Another Pete – Peter Crowther – would be the first to admit that his wife and business partner, Nicky, is an absolute integral part in the running of PS Publishing. We forget the value that women contribute to our Society (and society at large) at our peril.

Speaking of peril, this is probably as good a time as any to talk about the current health of the BFS.

I’ve heard conflicting numbers recently: that our membership is as low as 200, or hovering somewhere around 300. Anyone got an exact figure?

That aside, more worrying is this: apparently two-thirds of those who attend Fantasycon are not even members (I have this on good authority).

True, no one need be a member of the BFS in order to attend Fantasycon, but as the vast majority of those who do are regulars why, then, do they appear to have no inclination of joining the BFS?

This is my own observation from the past 4 years, but I’m pretty sure it’s on the money: what most Fantasycon attendees want from the BFS is not the BFS, per se, but Fantasycon itself. It’s a once a year catch-up-with-old-friends session, a night down the pub if you will. More importantly, it’s a networking opportunity, a chance for folk to pitch to each other face to face. Of course, what these people don’t realise is that without the BFS – and its paying members – there wouldn’t be a Fantasycon.

But such logic falls on deaf ears.

The BFS Yearbook 2009 had quite a line-up. I dare say, though, that what would make even more interesting reading would be to discover how many of the contributors are actually BFS members.

Simply put, the BFS is being used for its annual hosting of Fantasycon. And sadly the BFS’ regular publications probably go virtually unnoticed. Many of the contributors to 2008’s Houses on the Borderland commented on the utter silence which greeted it. Our editors, too, of DH and NH work tirelessly in a vacuum with almost no idea of what anyone thinks one way or the other about the magazines they’re producing.

Fantasycon is dominated by small press publishers putting out books by small press authors who attend the con, few of whom are probably members of the BFS.

Worse, few of the publishers themselves send review copies to the BFS – and yet they happily use the BFS’ Fantasycon to sell their stuff. Of the 13 reviews I have in the new issue of Prism, only one of them was a review copy. The other 12 I bought with my own money. The vast majority of publications sent to the BFS for review are from vanity presses. I point blank refuse to review these, and on principle so, too, should the BFS as a whole stop dignifying these ‘publications’ with reviews. The review section to which I signed up is supposed to be indie/small press. A small press consists of a small group of people (or often a single person) putting out books by other writers purely as a labour of love, whilst always hoping to at least break even along the way –

- a vanity press is an imprint created solely to print copies of one person’s book(s): the publishers. That in no way shape or form constitutes an indie/small press. Not only should the BFS not feel obliged to review this stuff, but the rest of the BFS’ reviewers should do as I do and refuse to touch it, for consider: if any of these books had any worth then one of the legitimate indie/small presses would have picked it up, such as PS, Subterranean, Cemetery Dance, Ash-Tree, Screaming Dreams, Telos, Pendragon, Gray Friar and so on… someone!

Perhaps, then, the reason legitimate indie/small press publishers rarely submit material to the BFS is that they feel they have no more use for it than the two-thirds of Fantasycon attendees who are also not members.

The BFS seems to be suffering an identity crisis at the moment: its logo has changed as many times as the number of years which I’ve been a member. It has to be said, though, that the print quality of its publications has also greatly improved over the same period. But even here there’s no consistency: DH and NH use entirely different printers. The BFS’ last three full-length special publications anthologies varied not only in the quality of the paper, but so too in the physical dimensions of the books themselves. Sitting together on the shelf, a casual viewer would be surprised to learn that they were all from the same publisher, and issued within a very few short years at that.

With the September/December issue, Prism looked as if it had come into its own. Alas, funds and time would seem to indicate that a no thrills approach is best suited, as witness this month’s new issue.

This, too, has been pointed out to me: with a continual ‘changing of the guard’ as regards to those diligently working behind the scenes so, too, does the society’s publications change. Will there be a 2010 Yearbook? Will it be from the same printer? Will it even look the same? Even if the answer to all of the above is ‘yes’ it seems doubtful that the same will hold true for next year’s special publications anthology.

This year marks an exodus of committee members, all of whom are no doubt standing down for what amounts to the same reason: the need to continuously work the ‘nine-to-five’ beat and pay bills. Sadly the first things which get sacrificed in life are the things we love doing, in favour of doing what needs to be done.

As for myself I only wish there was more I could do, but with not even a working home PC I might as well be living in a cave for all the practical use I can provide (and to think, only at last year’s Fantasycon I had big plans of going into a part-financing partnership with Screaming Dreams, with a view to helping Steve Upham get more titles off the ground; oh, what a difference 6 months makes… and this recession is far from over).

As for being one of the BFS’ Prism reviewers, I hereby resign as of right now: if most of the small press do not even feel that the BFS is important enough to send its publications to then, perhaps too, I should conclude that their books are not important enough for me to buy.

If all they, and their authors, are interested in is Fantasycon then perhaps they can run it: after all if the BFS’ membership continues to dwindle and there remains insufficient people to run it due to the overwhelming commitments of the daily grind, there may no longer be a BFS to run Fantasycon for them to take for granted.

BFS Publications / Re: Latest mailings
« on: April 06, 2010, 01:17:02 pm »
Martin and Helen personally handed me a copy of the new Prism and NH4 (!) at WHC2010 -

- so I guess I'm just waiting on the new Dark Horizons issue.

BFS Publications / Re: Latest mailings
« on: March 16, 2010, 03:16:18 pm »
Any word on New Horizons 4?

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