Welcome, to the third part of my F-Con 2015 report.
Another crappy sleep, another shamble down to breakfast - this time, no nosebleed, yay! - and more nonsense chatter that's probably best not to be repeated here (suffice to say, Dion Winton Polak was on particular filthy form). There was a sense of melancholy in the air, which I suppose was natural as we were all aware that we' be saying goodbye to each other, most not knowing when the next time we'd meet (but knowing it would be quite a few months, at least). I think, as well, there was slight tension with those who were nominated in various awards, and so the atmosphere at breakfast was a little subdued (aside from my typically inappropriate topics of conversation).
Again, I drove to the conference building, as I was leaving early to make sure I got up to Newcastle in time to see a band I had pre-booked tickets for. As such, I knew I'd miss the awards ceremony, which I felt a bit bad about. I travelled up with Kit Power - as we headbanged to Iron Maiden's Aces High from the live album Live After Death (a nostalgic listen that had been prompted by some random snatch of conversation with Kit) - and we got a decent parking space directly across from the entrance. I had pretty much nothing planned for this last day, except the possibility of attending John Connolly's ' Kaffeeklatsch' (don't ask, I'm not 100% sure...); well, turns out I'd missed it. It took place the day before. Balls. So, really, my day was to consist of hanging out in the dealer room, chatting to people I hadn't had a chance to yet - Mark Morris caught me as I wandered around the mass signing that took place, and we had a wee chat; Cate Gardner very graciously signed my copy of her collection Strange Men In Pinstripe Suits and we had a bit of a natter about stuff (and she was more of a conversationalist than she'd have you believe); I chatted to Andrew Hook and his partner Sophie, and bought a lovely little chapbook he'd had released of one of his short stories; and I got to speak again briefly with John Connolly, assuring him that I wasn't a stalker when he would be seeing me again at an event in Edinburgh a few days later. I got a book signed by Peter Crowther, and spoke to him about what might be happening with the rest of his Forever Twilight series (the first book was published by Angry Robot a few years ago, but no other volumes ever appeared). And, of course, I bought a few more books...
Time was passing quickly, and soon enough, the dealer's room started to close. I headed out with Rich and Sara Hawkins, and as we stood milling about in the corridor - many were going to the banquet prior to the awards ceremony, though they weren't - we chatted to Simon Bestwick (I even offered him a lap dance when I found out he hadn't spent all of his book budget, which he turned down for some reason...) as he waited on his other half, Cate Gardner. Soon, though, it was time for me to start thinking about leaving. I wanted to say goodbye to a few people, but as the banquet was opening, many had already disappeared inside. I did manage to say cheerio to Laura Mauro, to Ray Cluley and his partner Jess (both of whom had dressed to the nines for the banquet/awards, and looked like movie stars), and to Adam Nevill (who chatted with me for quite a bit, and even called me 'badass' after he found out what my regular job is - I'm definitely contemplating getting that put on the cover of a book. Don't judge me!). I also said bye to Lynda Rucker, Mike Chinn, Charlotte Courtenay-Bond (and the two fellows who were definitely NOT her husband; see part one for my embarrassing wrong assumption), and the lovely Victoria Leslie. My final goodbyes were reserved for Ben Jones, Andrew Freudenberg and Adam Millard, who all received massive hugs from me (there was no touching, despite what Ben says...). It all had the sense of school breaking up for the holidays, which the unseasonal sunshine certainly added to. I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to Rich or Sara, as they'd buggered off somewhere looking for decent, cheaper food, and I felt a bit guilty that I didn't get a chance to wish Rich luck in the awards. I then jumped in my car - after offering a lift into town for Andrew Coulthard so he could check on train times; we had a right good chat as I took him to the train station, then dropped him back at The Hylands and I'm really looking forward to seeing him again - and then I was away.
So, how did my first F-Con go? Bloody fantastic just about sums it up. I'm one of those people who is guilty of getting very jaded, very quickly about stuff, of making mountains out of molehills by way of social media, and I often forget that people have their own lives to lead, and have other stuff going on. Events like this show just how enthusiastic, engaging and welcoming people are. How willing they are to spend time talking to someone like me who is really only at the start of whatever writing career I might or might not have, and that's priceless. I'm not ashamed to admit, I shed more than a few tears on the long drive back up north, and I was feeling the post-con blues for a few days after. Each reading of someone's (especially big Jim McLeod's) F-Con report/experience brought it all back to me. I think, more than anything, I felt a sense of belonging, a sense of realising that this is what I want to do with my life, these are the people I want to surround myself with. Not only have I met people I consider colleagues and peers, I've met people I consider friends; I've met people I consider family. And that's what leaving felt like; as though I was wrenching myself away from a close family. Forgive me if that sounds a bit gushing, a bit overly-sentimental. It's how I am. I connect quickly with people who I get on with and have much in common, I get attached. It's the sense of community, the sense of inclusion; it's exactly what a writer needs, to meet and talk with people who are excited about books, reading and writing. It invigorates and inspires. Okay, I'll shut up now...
Will I be back? You bet your fucking arse I will be. If I'm off work, I'll be there. I've already tentatively planned two events in 2016, and F-Con is on my radar. I also hope that those who couldn't make this year's will be able to go next time. It would be great to see those who I've met before, or who I'm yet to encounter. But no matter, I know it will always be an excellent and essential event, and I cannot wait to reconnect with these people again.
Thanks for reading, and hope to see you at an event one day.
THE HEART AND SOUL OF HORROR