I know one thing: that I know nothing

My MA classes started two weeks ago and while some of the initial trepidation (read: screaming anxiety) has mercifully dissipated, I still feel rather daunted by the whole thing. This week, while reading a Karl Marx essay, followed by a Dorothy Richardson short story, I felt very much as though I had forgotten how to read English – or perhaps that the texts on offer were in Klingon. (I’m still not convinced that Ulysses isn’t in Klingon.)

Adding to that sense of intimidation is the fact that everyone in my seminar group has had some kind of educational exposure to modernist literature, whereas I, the intrepid Creative Writing graduate (why, 18-year-old-me, why) am approaching this brand new, treacle-dense subject on awkward, clumsy feet. So it was a relief to sit down this week next to an English teacher embarking on the same MA, and to hear her express how difficult she’d found the assigned reading. (And then for the seminar tutor to admit it had taken her multiple reads to penetrate the meaning of it.)

Perhaps….whispering, so that the imposter syndrome won’t hear…perhaps I’m not thick after all. Perhaps it really is just difficult.

That’s a small comfort – I still have essays to write and plenty of texts ahead to wrap my already-tired brain around (though having been diagnosed & started on thyroxine this very week I’m hoping the tiredness will abate enough to allow more study!) But it is a comfort nonetheless. As I have been reminded, I am here to learn. The point of an MA isn’t to go in knowing everything already. And although it can be a knock to the confidence when everyone else in class knows X writer, or has read Y text, and I am sitting there clueless, I have to remember that everyone has to start somewhere.

(It’s not all crushingly overwhelming. I’ve already found my love for Virginia Woolf reinforced and have discovered things about William Morris – designer, sci-fi writer, ecosocialist and all-round top bloke – that I didn’t previously know, and which I find fascinating.)

Fantasycon 2017

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a politer bunch of reprobates you’ll never meet

Fantasycon 2017 has been and gone, and in its wake that peculiar sense of almost-bereavement. You forget, over the course of the year, how liberating events like Fantasycon can be. It really is a rare pleasure to find yourself surrounded by people who ‘get it’: the largely solitary pursuits of writing and reading, the near-obsessive tendencies of those of us who choose to pour our mental and emotional energy into creating weird little worlds and waving them at other people: here, experience this! If it sounds a bit mad, that’s because it is. And as for Fantasycon – as the Cheshire Cat famously said: we’re all mad here.

This year’s Fantasycon was held at the Bull Hotel in Peterborough and for the first time, I brought my husband along for the three days. He’d met several of the crew at Edge-Lit earlier in the year and was persuaded that the weirdos I hang out with one weekend a year are actually really pleasant weirdos. (I blame/credit Mark West for this in particular).

Speaking of Mark West – after two consecutive Fantasycons in his esteemed company I barely saw him this time around. That’s another thing about this event in particular: there are so many familiar, friendly faces around at any given time that you can easily miss people you’d normally spend ages nattering with. The flipside of this is that you end up nattering with people you missed last time around, and sometimes, people you’ve never met before.

This year I also experienced the joys of Staying Up Late. I’m a consummate ‘morning person’, which means I’m also usually crashed out in bed by 10pm. I was up and about til 2am on Saturday night and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much in one night – between the Sinister Room (which I’ve shamelessly co-opted to finally give this blog a proper name) and Mr Mauro’s unfortunate experience in McDonald’s (it’s still Too Soon to talk about it) as well as a captive audience to very kindly allow me to wax lyrical about the adventures of my grandad, my jaw muscles were literally aching from laughing. We talk about ‘our tribe’ at Fantasycon, and connecting with others who understand what being a writer is like, but there’s also the fact that we are all incredibly daft, and usually a bit tipsy, and unashamed to be laughing at the most ridiculous, stupid things.

Then there was Little Jim McLeod:

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Since the man himself was sadly unable to make it, I made a tiny sock-and-felt effigy of him to ensure that he would have a presence of some kind. It turns out that people quite liked Little Jim – almost as much as they like Jim himself – and there are a great many pictures of him hobnobbing with the greats of the British horror scene.

I also did a reading – my first proper Fcon reading! – and people actually turned up to listen to Tim Major, Tracey Fahey and I reading our stories, which was nervewracking and lovely. I did a panel, which was also surprisingly well attended given that the mighty Adam Nevill was launching his book at the same time. And to top off a great weekend, the truly brilliant Georgina Bruce won a British Fantasy Award for her sublime short story “White Rabbit”, which I have waxed lyrical about in this very blog more than once.

I won’t name names, because I’m liable to forget people, but to everyone I spent time with, shared meals with, laughed & chatted with, or even just greeted in passing – thank you. You make Fantasycon special.