Author Topic: Horrorcon - I mean, Fantasycon!  (Read 1885 times)

Offline Paul Campbell

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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:

http://floor-to-ceiling-books.blogspot.com/2010/09/horr-i-mean-fantasycon-2010.html

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 ;) )

Offline Paul Campbell

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Re: Horrorcon - I mean, Fantasycon!
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2010, 12:07:12 PM »

Offline mightyjoeyoung

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Re: Horrorcon - I mean, Fantasycon!
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2011, 06:15:09 PM »
I'm glad you wrote this Paul, it settles an argument I have been having with myself for a long time as to the nature of 'fantasy' and whether horror qualifies due to the fantastical elements involved in many horror stories, or if humour with black comedy is humour or horror or fantasy. It seems to me that the edges are sufficiently blurred for just about anything to work in a fantasy context. I write mostly fantasy humour, but with black overtones and loads of other stuff chucked in for good measure, so it has always really defied an adequate description of genre.

After reading your post I don't think that what I write needs defining anymore.

Cheers dude ;)

Offline Billy

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Re: Horrorcon - I mean, Fantasycon!
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2011, 07:10:39 PM »
There have been many famous fantasy authors in the past I remember Terry Pratchett turning up as a fan as opposed to being a guest but that was before he became mega famous Karl Edward Wagner used to come to some open nights as well as the Con, and many more but that was back in the eighties sigh.
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Offline Peter Coleborn

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Re: Horrorcon - I mean, Fantasycon!
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2011, 09:59:41 AM »
There have been many famous fantasy authors in the past I remember Terry Pratchett turning up as a fan as opposed to being a guest but that was before he became mega famous Karl Edward Wagner used to come to some open nights as well as the Con, and many more but that was back in the eighties sigh.

Those were the days, Billy. Besides the names you mention, I recall, from the top of my brain and in no particular order: Katherine Kurtz, Charles L Grant, EC Tubb, Dennis Etchison, Tom Holt, Ken Bulmer, Tanith Lee, Samantha Lee, Diana Wynne Jones, Robert Aickman, Douglas Winter, Joe Lansdale, Terry Brooks, Robert Holdstock, Tom Monteleone, Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker ... all, and many more ... who have attended BFS events.

Offline mightyjoeyoung

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Re: Horrorcon - I mean, Fantasycon!
« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2011, 10:01:44 AM »
Maybe someone should send them invitations?

Offline Billy

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Re: Horrorcon - I mean, Fantasycon!
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2011, 09:43:05 PM »
There have been many famous fantasy authors in the past I remember Terry Pratchett turning up as a fan as opposed to being a guest but that was before he became mega famous Karl Edward Wagner used to come to some open nights as well as the Con, and many more but that was back in the eighties sigh.

Those were the days, Billy. Besides the names you mention, I recall, from the top of my brain and in no particular order: Katherine Kurtz, Charles L Grant, EC Tubb, Dennis Etchison, Tom Holt, Ken Bulmer, Tanith Lee, Samantha Lee, Diana Wynne Jones, Robert Aickman, Douglas Winter, Joe Lansdale, Terry Brooks, Robert Holdstock, Tom Monteleone, Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker ... all, and many more ... who have attended BFS events.

I did not want to mention too many past GOH authors Peter in case someone thought I was making it all up, I think Tom Holt has given up the Cons and even book signings as I have not seen him at either in a long time,as with all things times change but the raffle with Steve and Jo has never been bettered, I must be getting old I'm reminiscing. ;D 
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Offline Peter Coleborn

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Re: Horrorcon - I mean, Fantasycon!
« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2011, 10:17:33 AM »
You are allowed to make it up, Billy. This is a fantasy society
 :D

Offline Jec

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Re: Horrorcon - I mean, Fantasycon!
« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2011, 11:00:58 PM »
Yes, Paul, I do try to read and write across all aspects of the fantasy field.

Variety should be the spice of preference  ;D

Offline Steppedonwolf

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Re: Horrorcon - I mean, Fantasycon!
« Reply #9 on: February 16, 2011, 01:03:43 PM »
Interesting. I guess this could lead on to a debate about what is horror, but we could be here all day for that one... ;D

I've only been to one FCon, enjoyed it immensely, but did notice that there were more horror writers than sci-fi/trad fantasy writers. I was happy with that (being a horror writer). As was pointed out above, lots of the horror writers who attended don't confine themselves to working within the horror genre

Horror itself has changed so much over the last thirty years - and works we see in the recent revival of the genre are pretty far removed from what we had in the 70s/80s - more fantasy, more literary styling, less pulp and far less guts'n'gore.

I've always preferred the term 'dark fantasy' to horror, for me it gives a clearer idea of what to expect from a very hard-to-define genre.
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