FantastiCon was, ostensibly, a book launch by Fantastic Books Publishing (top that, London literati).
The books, four novels and an anthology of short fiction, are based in the universe of the SF Elite series of combat and trading computer games. Back in the 1980s the late Robert Holdstock wrote a novella The Dark Wheel to accompany the initial launch, and gaming and fiction have gone hand-in-hand ever since.
This may come as an eye-opener, as to many the stereotypical gamer equates to a pale-faced bloke in a black T-shirt staring at a screen, often wearing full 3D-immersion goggles and headphones. There were some of those in attendance, and a friendly lot they were, too, but believe me, they read books. Helping with the bookstore I watched as an eye-watering amount of cash changed hands for the printed word. Even I sold books and I’m writing Contemporary Mythic Fiction, almost as far from SF gaming as it is possible to get. As one buyer quipped ...a good read is a good read... How fantastically refreshing.
At any –Con, authors and books means panels and they were all extremely interesting: actors from the earlier episodes of Dr Who rubbed shoulders with the cast of anime Vampire Wars. The Q&A session with the writers of the Elite: Dangerous novels was funny and inspiring, and one of FBP’s audio downloads from the anthology made the busy room hush – the sound effects were extraordinary.
And then, at just gone 8pm, Stuart Aken and I were asked to the stage to talk about our different Fantasy novels, and give a reading. By this time there were around ten in the room; hey, I’ve spoken to less. But when we’d answered our introductory questions our audience had grown substantially, and very appreciative they were, too. JS Collyer followed with her debut SF novel Zero, launched that day, and she handled the spotlight as if she’d been doing it all her life.
Throughout, Dan Grubb, FBP’s CEO, acted as compere with a never-ending supply of enthusiasm, insightful questions and seemingly no script. The surprise video tribute to him was hilarious and for once left him speechless.
At midnight I bowed out for the drive home, leaving the event still going strong, and that was before it closed for the night and everyone headed for the bar. Now I understand why these things are held in hotels. Next year... or even before. I feel quite privileged that an entire new and welcoming world has opened up to me.