Monday, 3 October 2011

Fantasycon 2011

At the weekend I attended Fantasycon 2011 in Brighton at the Royal Albion Hotel (one of the dreaded Brittania chain...) Last year I was also at Fantasycon in Nottingham - and I had a few issues with the content of the convention. I was a little worried that this convention would again be all about the horror - and I was thrilled to be proved entirely wrong.

The schedule warmly embraced every facet of genre - fantasy, SF, horror, comics, YA. Last year I struggled to find panels to attend - this year I was full of woe about this panel clashing with that reading, or that guest of honour being put against that book launch. No complaint about the scheduling - there was just so damn much that I wanted to see. Add to this the fact that the organisers also decided to throw in a burlesque and a disco, and Fantasycon 2011 might be one of the better conventions I've been to.

In the end, despite my grand intentions, I only attended two readings and one panel (and I do regret that - but talking with all the very cool people in attendance seemed more important at the time!) I saw Lou Morgan and Anne Lyle reading from their forthcoming novels - both did an excellent job to rooms that were reduced to standing room only.

The panel - The Rise of YA - actually made me a little angry. The panellists made numerous disparaging comments about Twilight and other novels of that ilk, which seems curious regarding they also write for the people who are reading and enjoying Twilight. There didn't seem to be much knowledge or appreciation for the YA scene - it seemed as though the panellists haven't read much in the way of YA since Judy Blume *sad* There was no mention of Monsters of Men hitting the Arthur C Clarke shortlist. There was no talk of the fact that the YA shelves are simply full of books with exceptionally strong female protagonists, presenting a wonderful example for teenage girls growing up. There was no discussion of the fact that YA right now is mostly about celebrating the fact that we are different, but that that's okay. In my mind YA is forward-thinking, dynamic, progressive and an area that writers should be desperate to be included in - rather than something to be looked down upon, and considered to be only about Twilight. But enough of that...!

The rest of the time I spent nestled in a corner of the bar, talking to many fantastic people about such diverse and important topics as alligators, magnetic dwarves and leaping cacti. Yes, Fantasycon 2011 lived up to the madness and joy of other excellent conventions.

Thanks to everyone for the excellent company, and to the organisers for such a tremendous job. This was a good one!


  1. Sounds like you all had a wonderful time!

  2. As moderator of the panel in question, I feel I should say a few words in its defence.

    - Firstly, all four member of the panel, myself included, are not fans of Twilight, and should be allowed to say so.
    - Secondly, you seem to be suggesting that we should have been nice about Twilight so as not to risk offending potential readers of our books, which to my mind would be both pandering and disingenuous.
    - Thirdly, the four panellists were all authors who have written YA, not bloggers, editors, publishers or reviewers, so I think expecting us to be encyclopaedic on the subject is pretty unrealistic. And, to be honest, would have been pretty boring. What I wanted to do was use the opportunity to have a look at YA from a writer's perspective - the challenges and pleasures of writing it, and why we choose to do so. Which I like to think we did.
    - Fourthly, it's just a panel. The majority of the room laughed at the jokes about Twilight, and I can't believe that anyone was offended by anything we said. I'm sad you didn't enjoy it, as it seemed to be well-received by other FCon members who came to talk to me afterwards, but each to their own. Just like when it comes to liking Twilight or not...

  3. I agree with Will. Twilight ought to be disparaged at every opportunity simply because the image it portrays and example it sets for young women is abhorrent, backwards and simply not right.

    In fact, I think EVERY YA talk ought to begin with bringing something as horribly backwards as Twilight to its knees as an example of bad writing and even worse morals.

    And every one of those should end with Hermione Granger as what to look at for a strong female protagonist who makes GOOD choices, and fights the good fight, and is a FANTASTIC example of what young women ought to aspire to.

  4. Although I admit I missed Fantasycon, I have to disagree with the pair of you to some extent.

    First, Will, I wouldn't say that being considered in the way you discuss a series of books enjoyed by the market you're writing for is pandering or disingenuous. It suggests a very straightforward attitude to me: if the community you want to write for like the books, there's gotta be something they're doing right. This is doubly important if you don't like the books yourself; it suggests there's something they're doing right that you're not aware of. It's not "being nice" about them, it's being aware of them. I mean, I don't like them, but as a publisher I still gotta ask myself what it is about those books that makes people want to read them.

    Second, Scott, while I personally agree that the Twilight books are awful, don't you think they've become something of a straw man? If all YA - or, for that matter, all Paranormal Romance, or all Urban Fantasy - is lumped in with Twilight, it's easy for some people to be sweepingly contemptuous of two or three genres. If it's all *compared* with Twilight, the bar gets to stay nice and low, and nobody has to approach these books very critically. To put it another way, your vampires aren't automatically dark and edgy because they don't sparkle in the daylight.

    And I remember when, not too long ago, everyone was being sweepingly contemptuous of Harry Potter, and not unreasonably. They're also very poorly written, and while Hermione Granger is a better role model than Bella Swann, she's still not amazing. She's a good example of a female protagonist who makes good choices and fights the good fight... as long as she doesn't mind tagging along behind the "real" hero.

    I actually just tend to think we need to move on.

  5. (On which note, if you haven't read it:

  6. You know that law - Godwin's law of Nazi analogies - about how someone calling someone else a Nazi on an internet forum is inevitable?

    It's sort of the same with people on panels moaning about Twilight. Godwin's law of Twilight haters.

    I agree David. It was only after Meyer came along that people developed the ability to talk about Rowling's success rationally - and even now it's still tinged with sneering and judgementalism.

    It's very boring to watch.

  7. That's a very good point David! Indeed I hadn't thought of the "Bar set low" aspect of the whole twilight thing. Thanks for pointing that out sir. :)

  8. I wanted to attend this as I live just up the road, but I wasn't sure if it would be my thing. I was worried it might be too sci fi and fantasy for my liking.