Thank you, Laika

 

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I think there is probably a limit to the number of times I’m permitted to mention That Thing That Happened before I become incredibly annoying, so let me get it out of the way: I only went and won a bloody British Fantasy Award, didn’t I?

The award-winning (!?) story in question is “Looking for Laika”, which was published in Interzone #273 and reprinted in Best of British Science Fiction 2017, and is a story close to my heart for all kinds of reasons, not least of which because it’s a kind of love letter to Laika, the Soviet space dog who was sent into space to die. I’m still astonished, honestly. I never expected that I might win, and I think I might have gone into some kind of shock when Adrian Tchaikovsky called my name out, because I don’t really remember anything that happened between that moment, and sitting back down. Apparently I made a speech, which sounds legit, although I didn’t write a speech because I didn’t think I’d win and I’m not entirely sure what I said (though I do recall yelling at Simon Bestwick to stand up…)

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photo courtesy of Donna Bond

Anyway. That’s a thing that happened. And ironically even though I’m a writer, I’m not sure how to express in words how much it means to me, a vaguely person-shaped ball of anxious, imposter-syndrome infused jelly who has been writing since I was old enough to pick up a pen. Except to say that it means that much more that I was in a room surrounded by dear friends, and respected colleagues, and of course, Mr Mauro. I might never fully be over it, but I promise I’ll stop going on about it, at the very least.

And then there was Fantasycon more generally, which may actually have been my favourite Fantasycon yet. Brilliantly sprawling hotel filled with weird, mismatching statues. Beautiful city. Tons of gorgeous books. And most important of all, wonderful company.

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photo courtesy of Jim McLeod

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photo courtesy of Tim Major

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Photo courtesy of Jess Jordan

I would do a full con report, but it wouldn’t do any of it justice, and I’d miss people out. So I’ll just say, to everyone I spent time with last weekend, whether we spoke briefly in passing or spent hours laughing, whether we shared a few drinks, or a signing table, or a reading slot, or near enough the whole damn weekend: you are all magical people and you make my world so much better by being in it. Thank you.

 

Where You Can Find Me At Fantasycon 2018 (if you want to)

Due to the often ad-hoc nature of Fantasycon I can’t guarantee I’ll be in any one place at any given time, except for those panels and so forth that I’ve signed up to do. So, I’ll list those below. But if you happen to be at Fantasycon and you’d like to say hello – please do! I tend towards the shy and slightly awkward, but I’m always happy to say hello to friends old and new!

My confirmed schedule is as follows:

Friday:

The Edward:

4.30pm: The Role of Class in Science Fiction and Fantasy with Kevin McVeigh (m), Rosanne Rabinowitz, Peter Sutton, Laura Mauro, Alison Baker

The Disraeli:

8pm: Horror Readings with Catriona Ward, Kit Power, Laura Mauro

 

Saturday:

The Gladstone:

2pm: The Genre Magazine with Laurel Sills (m), Terry Jackman, Cheryl Morgan, Laura Mauro, Sandra Unerman

The Jubilee Room:

4pm: Launch: Titan Press (for New Fears 2)

5pm: Launch: Newcon Press (for Best British Horror 2018)

And of course on Sunday I will be hanging about at the British Fantasy Awards ceremony trying not to die of anxiety,.
If you’re going – hope to see you there!

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.

Fantasycon 2017 – my schedule

Not my entire schedule – I’m not that well organised (and my Fantasycon experience is that no matter how well organised you are, your plans WILL fall by the wayside!) But I am scheduled for a reading and a panel, and the details of those are below:

 

Saturday 11am – Sandringham Reading Room

Weird Fiction readings by myself, Tracy Fahey and Tim Major. I will be reading from my first published short story, “Red Rabbit”, which was published in Shadows & Tall Trees in  2012.

 

Saturday 7pm – FitzWilliam Panel Room 1

Women in Horror panel moderated by the venerable Theresa Derwin, and featuring Tracy Fahey and guest of honour Nancy Kilpatrick (and me!) It promises to be a very interesting panel indeed.

 

The rest of the time I will be wandering (with the lesser-spotted Mr. Mauro in tow) looking a bit lost, trying to put names to faces (which I am notoriously bad at) and hopefully nattering to lots of nice people. Please do say hello if you spot me!

a brief word on fantasycon

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I’m not going to do a long post naming names and all that like I did last year – partly for fear of forgetting people, and partly because I’m still zonked and energy is a precious commodity (but you all know who you are, I hope!)

Suffice to say, Fantasycon by the Sea was a wonderful three days spent in the company of clever, talented, hardworking, accommodating, supportive, friendly, [insert gushing adjective here] people. I spent time nattering with (or probably at – sorry!) familiar faces and said hello to a host of brilliant new people. I am honoured to call them my peers, and in some lucky cases, my friends. (And I thank all of them for not laughing at my ludicrous hobbling.)

I will mention two names: firstly, Paul Feeney, who sadly did not attend, but without whose kindness and generosity I might not have made the event. Thank you, Paul, you are a total gentleman. And the British Fantasy Award-winning Priya Sharma, whose success is really the cherry on the cake, the highlight of an already fantastic weekend – there is honestly no more deserving, talented and wonderful individual, and I’m overjoyed to see her get the recognition she deserves.

Thanks for the smiles, the laughs, the riveting conversations. Thanks for accommodating me and my nervous hurricane of constant verbal nonsense. Thanks for everything.

fantasycon & the onion of joy

Fantasycon is almost upon us, and as I frantically attempt to get my game face on, I realise I’ve not amassed any kind of a schedule or plan as to where I’ll be at any given time. The only place I’m guaranteed to be is at the launch for Great British Horror 1: Green and Pleasant Land, which is on Saturday at 1pm.

The rest of the time I will likely be wandering around, possibly confused, almost certainly staring vacantly at the walls. Do not be alarmed. This is my natural state. Come and say hello if you like, I am a gentle sort.

Outside of Fantasycon, I am embarking on a small Twitter-based project: The Good News Onion, in which I post good news & inspirational stories from around the world. There is altogether too much negative news in circulation, and I genuinely believe it contributes to anxiety, depression and a general sense of malaise with the world as it is today. But I also believe that the world is a fundamentally good place: so, the Good News Onion, which is a means of trying to prove that not everything is terrible. You can follow me at @onionofjoy.

Things upcoming…

A variety of things coming from or involving me in the near future, and really I ought to have been a little bit more ‘on this’ (I am my own worst publicist)

So, firstly:

11066510_10207274158680141_4372713398967876251_oMy short story ‘The Fragility of Flesh’ will be appearing in Wild Things, from Great British Horror Books/KnightWatch Press, edited by Steve Shaw. The full lineup, and an excellent one it is too:

FISH by Anna Taborska
CONFESSION by Christopher Law
SCRUFFY DOG by Duane Ullery
HUNTING by Rachel Halsall
A LITTLE KNOWLEDGE IS A DANGEROUS THING by Darrel Duckworth
THE SHAPE OF NOTHINGNESS by Scott Shoyer
THE FRAGILITY OF FLESH by Laura Mauro
GOLDEN MOMENTS by James Park
LEYDRA’S MAIDEN by Kelda Crich (Deborah Walker)
SANTA MARIMBONDO by G.H. Finn (Shaun Brassfield-Thorpe)
CENTIPEDE by Helen Cattan-Prugl
THE CHANGE by Calum Chalmers
THE WERE-DWARF by Johnny Mains

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Continuing with the anthology theme, my short story ‘The Looking-Glass Girl’ will be included in ‘Ten: Thou Shalt Not’, a Ten Commandments themed anthology edited by Alex Davis, coming soon from Tickety Boo Press. Featured authors include Mark West, Jasper Kent, Stuart Young, Jeff Gardiner, Pat Kelleher, Niki Valentine, Danuta Reah, Amanda Bigler, Jacey Bedford and Clare Littleford – and myself, of course. Each author will be tackling one of the ten commandments.

And in non-writing related news, I am on the jury for two of the British Fantasy Awards – Best Non-Fiction with Johnny Mains and Jason Arnopp, and Best Horror Novel (the August Derleth award) with Cate Gardner and Jim McLeod. Shortlists for this should be up in early July! I’ll also be at Fantasycon itself – I’ll probably be the terrified looking, small tattooed person in the corner trying to pluck up courage to talk to people.