FantasyCon: a Short History

There are those who would insist that FantasyCon is the BFS. A sweeping statement, which is open to debate, but certainly it has always been a very important part of the Society. There are many who have never managed to get to one of these events: through distance or budget or maybe just plain lack of time. Believe me, it should be experienced at least once. I realise not everyone enjoys the cheek‑by‑jowl intimacy of massed gatherings, but I do honestly think that FantasyCon is unique in the world of conventions. It’s a party. A weekend of chatting; a few bevies with old friends; a chance to talk with writers, editors (small press, magazines, fanzines and major houses), agents and fellow fans.


There are a lot of people I call friends that I only see once a year – at FantasyCon – and so I am among those who feel that it is an integral part of the BFS. It is extraordinarily hard to put this event into words, and do justice to its “being”. I decided after much thought that I should just lay out the facts and let you decide for yourselves. Lists of who, what, where and when will remind old hands of good times past, and I hope will encourage others to try it out for size.

FantasyCon itself has produced a plethora of publications, The Fantasycon Programme Booklet which has evolved through many different stages, from A5 through hard cover books (the World Fantasy Convention to be precise) to A4 format, and one very strange item that was not quite like any other format produced by the BFS.

There is insufficient space to include all the hundreds, maybe thousands, who have had a part in these events as organisers, helpers, guests, speakers and fans, without embarking on something closely resembling a telephone book, (and about as interesting no matter how nice the people are). For those I have not had room to mention, a big thank you, and see at the next con – whenever that may be.

(Adapted from an article by Jan Edwards appearing in Silver Rhapsody, the BFS booklet celebrating the society’s twenty-fifth anniversary.)

 

1972

The first BFS AGM was held at Chessmancon (the BSFA Eastercon). The August Derleth Fantasy Award (ADFA) was won by Michael Moorcock for The Knight of Swords. A BFS President was elected, subsequently becoming an honorary title.

 

1973

(18 November): Beyond the Horizon, a one-day fantasy fayre, part of the Space Exploration Festival, Ceolifrith Arts Centre. Speakers: Kenneth Bulmer, Ramsey Campbell, Richard Davis, George Locke and Hartley Patterson.

 

1974

Part of BSFA’s Tynecon (Eastercon). Keith Walker announced the ADFA winners.

 

1975

Fantasycon I (22 February). Imperial Hotel, Birmingham. Organisers: Dave Sutton, Sandra Sutton, Jim Pitts and Dave Riley. Speakers: Richard Davis, Hugh Lamb, George Locke, Ramsey Campbell, Adrian Cole, Keith Walker. Programme Book: A5, 16 pages, edited by Dave Sutton. Cover Art: Stephen Jones. Notes: A one-day event with 41 pre-registered members; 60 actually attended. The AGM was held in the morning, the speeches in the afternoon

 

1976

Fantasycon II ( 28/29 February). Imperial Hotel, Birmingham. Organisers: Dave Riley, Dave Sutton, Sandra Sutton. GoH: Robert Aickman. MC: Ken Bulmer. Programme Book: A5, 24 pages, edited by Dave Sutton. Cover Art: Stephen Jones. Notes: Fantasycon was designated from thence onward as a forum for writers, artists and editors to meet fans, for the BFS to present its Awards, and a venue for its AGM.

 

1977

Fantasycon III (26/27 February). Imperial Hotel, Birmingham. Organisers: Jon Harvey, Stephen Jones, Brian Mooney, Jim Pitts, Keith Walker. GoH: Basil Copper. MC: Ken Bulmer. Programme Book: A5, 28 pages, in card cover edited by Keith Walker. Cover Art: Stephen Jones. Notes: The Programme Book is a mix of articles and information concerned with the weekend’s events: AGM, buffet, panels, talks, films and… folk music (well it was 1977). A list of attendees shows a number of stalwarts still attending to this day, such Ramsey and Jenny Campbell, Sandra and Dave Sutton, John Carter, Steve Jones, Peter Coleborn, Adrian Cole, Mike Chinn.

 

1978

Fantasycon IV (24/26 February).Imperial Hotel, Birmingham. Organisers:. Steve Jones, Jon Harvey, Dave Sutton, Sandra Sutton, Jim Pitts, John Heron, and Adrian Cole. GoH: Stephen King (fell ill and could not attend.) MC: Ramsey Campbell. Programme Book: A5, 28 pages, edited by Steve Jones. Cover Art: by Jim Pitts (based on Salem’s Lot). Notes: The attendee list is almost twice the length of its predecessor. A bigger list of events shows a rise in interest and a strengthening of the Fantasycon phenomenon.

 

1979

Fantasycon V (23/25 February). De Vere Hotel, Coventry DeVere). Organisers: Dave Sutton, Jean Sheward, Mike Chinn, Keith Walker and Jim Pitts. GoH: Karl Edward Wagner. MC: Dave McFerran. Programme Book: A5, 22 pages edited by Dave Reeder and Ro Pardoe. Cover Art: David Lloyd Notes: The tried and tested panels, but with a predominance of film in the Saturday evening programme. The buffet/banquet was ditched for a GoH speech and the AGM settled at its honoured spot of Sunday morning. Plenty of lady speakers this year, with Louise Cooper, Pat McIntosh, Jessica Yates and Terri Beckett.

 

1980

Fantasycon VI (3/5 October). Imperial Hotel, Birmingham. Organisers: Steve Jones, Peter Coleborn, Mike Chinn and Carl Hiles. GoH: Ramsey Campbell. Guest Artist: Jim Fitzpatrick. MC: Karl Edward Wagner. Programme Book: A5, 34 pages edited by Steve Jones and Jo Fletcher. Cover Art: Jim Fitzpatrick (heroic fantasy with a Celtic flavour). Notes: This convention was dedicated to the memory of Dave McFerran (1954–1980), a long-time member of the Society who sadly passed away in that year. The now familiar Awards statuette designed by Dave Carson was used for the first time this year.

 

1981

Fantasycon VII (10/12 July). Centre Hotel, Birmingham. Organisers: Peter Coleborn, Mike Chinn, Ramsey Campbell, Carl Hiles, Ken Cowley, Dave Reeder and Jim Pitts. GoH: Peter Tremayne. Artist Guest: Alan Hunter. MC: Karl Edward Wagner. Programme Book: A5, 36 pages edited by Stephen Jones and Jo Fletcher. Cover Art: Alan Hunter. Notes: The programme is film heavy and we see a return of the buffet, plus Adrian Cole’s songs and sonnets.

 

1982

A convention to include GoH Tanith Lee and Eddie Jones, and Anne McCaffrey as MC, sadly did not happen due to internal BFS problems. The con was taken over by others and named Mythcon.

 

1983

Fantasycon VIII (14/16 October). Imperial Hotel, Birmingham. Organisers: Steve Jones, Jo Fletcher, Mike Wathen, Di Wathen, Mike Chinn, Nic Howard, Carl Hiles, Dave Sutton, and Peter Coleborn. GoH: Gene Wolfe. MC: Ken Bulmer. Programme Book: A5, 44 pages edited by Stephen Jones and Jo Fletcher. Cover Art: Bruce Pennington (Fantasycon attendees received a glossy colour version; non-attendees received a monochrome version). Notes: Programme of panels, films, plus… the RAFFLE. Yes, this is the onset of an institution that survives to this day.

 

1984

Fantasycon IX (14/16 September). Royal Angus Hotel, Birmingham. Organisers: Steve Jones, Jo Fletcher, Mike Wathen, Di Wathen, Peter Coleborn, Kim Newman, Dave Sutton and Dave Carson. GoH: Charles L Grant. Special Guest: Tanith Lee. MC: Ramsey Campbell. Programme Book: A5, 48 pages edited by Steve Jones and Jo Fletcher. Cover Art: Andrew Smith. Notes: A secondary cover from Fantasy Tales was inserted inside the official cover of the Programme Book.

 

1985

Fantasycon X (6/8 September). Royal Angus Hotel, Birmingham. Organisers: Steve Jones, Jo Fletcher, Mike Wathen, Di Wathen, Peter Coleborn plus others. GoH: Robert Holdstock. Special Guest: Diana Wynne Jones. MC: Charles L Grant. Programme Book: A5, 96 pages edited by Steve Jones and Jo Fletcher (first of the A4 format-sized programmes). Cover Art: David O’Connor (in full colour). Notes: The guest speakers list goes on for ever! This Con saw the rise of publishers parties and signings that have now become very much a part of the Fantasycon itinerary.

 

1986

Fantasycon XI (26/28 September). Midland Hotel. Birmingham. Organisers: Stefan Jaworzyn, Di Wathen, Mike Wathen plus others. GoH: Dennis Etchison. Special Guest: Jody Scott. MC: Samantha Lee. Programme Book: A4, 68 pages edited by Stefan Jaworzyn, Carl Hiles and Steve Jones. Cover Art: JK Potter. Notes: This was the first Fantasycon to be staged in the Midland Hotel. There’s one illustration to note: a photo-montage by JK Potter of Jo Fletcher and Steve Jones in full monster mode.

 

1987

Fantasycon XII (4/6 September 1987). Midland Hotel, Birmingham. Organisers: Stefan Jaworzyn, Steve Jones, and a host of others. GoH: M John Harrison, George RR Martin, JK Potter. MC: Douglas E Winter.

Programme Book: A4, 70 pages edited by Dave Sutton and Steve Jones. Cover Art: Jim Burns’s Other Edens (courtesy Unwin/Hyman) in full colour. Notes: A JK Potter photographic portfolio was included in the Programme Book.

 

1988

Fantasycon XIII combined with the World Fantasy Convention (28/30 October/Halloween). Ramada Inn, London. Organisers: The Worldcon Committee. GoH: James Herbert. Artist Guest: Michael Foreman. Special Guest: Diana Wynne Jones. MC: Clive Barker. Programme Book: Hard cover programme book edited by Stephen Jones and Jo Fletcher. Notes: This was the first time the WFC left North America. The theme of the convention was “Gaslights & Ghosts”.

 

1989

Fantasycon XIV (6/8 October). Midland Hotel. Birmingham. Organisers: Mike Wathen, Di Wathen, Peter Coleborn, Sylvia Starshine. GoH: Thomas F Monteleone. Stephen Laws. MC: Brian Lumley. Programme Book: A4, 68 pages edited by Di Wathen and Mike Chinn. Cover Art: Martin McKenna. Notes: Back to the Midland Hotel.

 

1990

Fantasycon XV (14/16 September). Midland Hotel, Birmingham. Organisers: Mike Wathen, Di Wathen, Robert Parkinson, Peter Coleborn. GoH: Joe R Lansdale, Stephen Gallagher. MC: Stephen Laws. Programme Book: A5, 52 pages edited by Di Wathen and Mike Chinn. Cover Art: Steve Pawlett. Notes: Some interesting and extensive guest notes (very long guest list).

 

1991

Fantasycon XVI (15/17 November). Ramada Inn, Earls Court, London. Organisers: Di Wathen and Michael Arft. GoH: Dan Simmons, Jonathan Carroll. MC: Brian Lumley. Programme Book: A5, 52 pages edited by Di Wathen and Mike Chinn. Cover Art: Steve Pawlett. Notes: Guest list even longer than 1990!

 

1992

Fantasycon XVII (2/4 October). Midland Hotel, Birmingham. Organisers: Di Wathen and Robert Parkinson and others. GoH: David Schow, Lisa Tuttle and R Chetwynd‑Hayes. MC: Adrian Cole. Programme Book: A4, 56 pages edited by Di Wathen and Phil Williams. Cover Art: Bob Covington. Notes: David Schow did not arrive due to pressure of work.

 

1993

Fantasycon XVIII (1/3 October). Midland Hotel, Birmingham. Organisers: Peter Coleborn, Mike Chinn, and Sylvia Starshine. GoH: Peter James, Tad Williams, and Les Edward. MC: Dennis Etchison. Programme Book: A5, 56 pages edited by Phil Williams. Cover Art: Les Edwards.

 

1994

Fantasycon XIX (30 September/2 October). Midland Hotel, Birmingham. Organisers: Peter Coleborn, Mike Chinn, Sylvia Starshine. GoH: Katherine Kurtz, Brian Lumley. MC: Graham Joyce. Programme Book: An unfamiliar, almost square, format, 60 pages, edited by Dave Hughes and Seamus Ryan. Cover Art: Clive Barker. Notes: The Programme Book’s unconventional format caused much comment at the time.

 

1995

Fantasycon cancelled through lack of organisers, but Fcon regulars gathered instead at Welcome to my Nightmare in Swansea on the Halloween weekend (27/29 October). The event was staged as part of the UK Year of Literature and Writing 1995.

 

1996

Fantasycon XX (4/6 October). International Hotel, Docklands, London. Organisers: Peter Coleborn, Mike Chinn, Jan Edwards. GoH: Chris Fowler, Tom Holt. MC: Kim Newman. Programme Book: Peter Coleborn. Notes: Marks the 25th year of the BFS.

 

1997

FantasyCon XXI (running with World Fantasy Convention). International Hotel, Docklands, London. 30 October–2 November 1997. GOH: Iain Sinclair, Joan Aitkin, Bob Eggleton, Hugh Cave, Ron Chetwynd Hayes, Doug Bradley, Robert Holdstock. We’re not absolutely sure who organised it, but we think it included Steve Jones & Jo Fletcher, and probably Peter Coleborn, Jan Edwards & Mike Chinn. Any further info will be very welcome!.

 

1998

FantasyCon XXII. 11–13 September 1998. Birmingham. GoH: Freda Warrington, Jane Yolen. MC: Ramsey Campbell. Organised by: Debbie Bennett, Mick Chinn, Peter Coleborn, Jan Edwards, Lynn Edwards, Di Lewis, Pauline Morgan.

 

1999

FantasyCon XXIII. 17–19 September 1999. Britannia Hotel, Birmingham. GoH: Louise Cooper, Raymond E. Feist, Graham Masterton, Robert Rankin, Mike Tucker. Organised by: David Howe, Debbie Bennett, Mike Chinn, Peter Coleborn, Jan Edwards.

 

2000

FantasyCon XXIV. 8–10 September 2000. Brittania Hotel, Brimingham,. GoH: Storm Constantine, Stephen Lawhead, Doug Bradley, Stan Nicholls. Organised by: David Howe & Debbie Bennett.

 

2001

FantasyCon XXV (Birthday Bash). 23 September 2001. Champagne Charlies Pub, London. GoH: Hugh Lamb, Simon Clark. Organised by: David Howe, Debbie Bennett.

 

2002

FantasyCon XXVI. 2002. Tappit Hen London &/or Champagne Charlies, London. GoH: Graham Joyce. Organised by: Debbie Bennett, Nicki Robson.

 

2003

FantasyCon XXVII. 2003. Stafford. GoH: Chris Fowler, Catherine Fisher. Organised by Debbie Bennett & Nicki Robson.

 

2004

FantasyCon XXVIII. 2004. Quality Hotel, Bentley, Walsall. GoH: Robert Holdstock, Muriel Gray. Organised by: Debbie Bennett, Nicki Robson.

 

2005

FantasyCon 2005. 30 September–2 October 2005. Quality Hotel, Bentley Walsall. GoH: Mark Chadbourn, Simon Clark, Steven Erikson. MC: Graham Joyce. Organised by: Debbie Bennett, Vicky Cook, Marie O’Regan, Jenny Barber, Pat Barber.

 

2006

FantasyCon 2006. 22–24 September 2006. Britannia Hotel, Nottingham. GoH: Neil Gaiman, Juliet E. McKenna, Ramsey Campbell, Raymond E. Feist, Clive Barker. MC: David J. Howe. Organised by: Debbie Bennett, Vicky Cook, Marie O’Regan, Paul Kane, Pat Barber, Jenny Barber.

 

2007

FantasyCon 2007. 21–23 September 2007. Britannia Hotel, Nottingham. GoH: Stephen Jones, Michael Marshall Smith, Terry Brooks. MC: Peter Crowther. Organised by: Jenny Barber, Vicky Cook, Marie O’Regan, Paul Kane, Pat Barber.

 

2008

Britannia Hotel, Nottingham. GoH: Christopher Golden, James Barclay, Dave McKean. MC: Christopher Fowler.

 

2009 

Britannia Hotel, Nottingham. GoH (planned): Gail Z. Martin, Brian Clemens, Jasper Fforde. MC: Ian Watson. 

About Stephen Theaker (304 Articles)
<p>Stephen Theaker’s reviews, interviews and articles have appeared in Interzone, Black Static, Prism and the BFS Journal. Among other work for the BFS, he has been awards administrator, short story competition administrator, Dark Horizons editor, FantasyCon secretary and treasurer, and (briefly) chair.</p>