It's the day after what was one of the best weekends, and best experiences of my life.
Life is slowly returning to normal. The amazing high and buzz is sadly being replaced with a sense of normality. Work tonight is gradually creeping ever closer, a dark cloud on the horizon, determined to rain on my parade. Well that's not going to happen. Here is my account of how York stole my virginity.
I hate travelling, I hate travelling on my own even more, so you can imagine how nervous I was about missing my train on the Friday. So much so that I left two hours earlier than necessary. I needed to know exactly what train and what platform I had to be on. The first moment of panic came when the only train I could see that was going to York was the London Kings Cross, there was no mention of Kings Cross on the ticket. Shit is this my train? Why did no one tell me this? I needed to find someone who knew. It's kind of embarrassing asking the ticket collector if that is the right train, and the look she gave when confronted by a big hairy Scotsman who clearly should know better was rather deflating. My train was at half one I was there on the platform for 12:25 no way was I going to miss it.
Now I don't know about you but it is pretty simple even when you are such a terrible traveller as me to sit down in the train seat. It doesn't take 30 minutes or so to get all the crap out of your bag and actually sit down. You also shouldn't humpf every time someone tries to get past while you are rummaging around in your bag looking for the power adapter for your imac. I had to chortle when the power cord wasn't long enough to reach the power outlet, and chortle even more when the person next to her refused to move seat so she could plug it in. I suspect they would have moved if she hadn't been so obnoxious about it.And when an old dear in Newcastle spilled a can of beer all over the laptop, I really had to hold back the laughter.
I was going to have just a wee drink to calm my nerves, did I mention I was nervous as hell? Christ I was going to meet you guys, the writers publishers and artists who I have the greatest admiration for. Bricking it doesn't even come close. However the presence of a rugby team on the coach meant I drank a little bit more than I initially set out to. Ah well nevermind, this was going to be a boozy day anyway.
4pm the train pulls in and I am desperate for wee, I need to find a toilet, and who do I see in the York Tap, Gary McMahon, Tim Lebbon and at that moment in time who I thought may or may not have been Conrad Williams. SHIIIITTT. I'm not ready to meet anyone, what if they recognise the beard, quick duck and cover. (just to make things clear and to put the rest of the post in perspective I am one of the most socially awkward people out there. I hate meeting people, there are far too many things that can go wrong, do you shake hands, high five, cuddle, one kiss on the cheek or two, how long do you hold the cuddle for? This is how a rookie bomb disposable operatie must feel, one wrong move then boom there goes the first impression.)
Creeping as surreptitiously as man who looks like me could I slinked off to the toilets. Bladder emptied, the next task was to get myself booked into the hotel. York, why do you hate mobiles so much? I couldn't even get a GPS lock on my phone, I knew the hotel was only 5 minutes from the station, but fuck it with my sense of direction 5 minutes may as well have been 5 days travel. TAXI!
Some of you may know that I have a crippling fear of nuns, and it only clicked that my hotel was called THE BAR CONVENT, and not The Bar Covenant last week. Damn it there had better not be any nun ghosts hanging around the place. Turns out there aren't any nun ghosts, but there are plenty of real nuns as it is an active convent. Thank you York, that's one - nil to you. Booked in now it was time to face my fears and go and meet the nightmare makers.
I made it to the convention just in time for the end of the launch of Adam Nevill's No One Gets Out Alive, via a brief chat with Chris Teague. Upon entering the room of the book launch I was confronted by this teeny tiny red haired woman, exclaiming JIM! Who is it? I can't place the face, shit not even in the building five minutes and already I'm feeling socially awkward. Then suddenly it clicked it's Lynda E Rucker! Holy crap how could such a teeny tiny smiley faced woman wright so many disturbing stories. It was then that I started to relax, well a little bit.
It was great meet up with Adam again, Adam is one of those people who just puts you at ease, granted having previously talked horror over a number of pints in Edinburgh did help ease me in.
Slightly more at ease with the situation, I was still left wondering "where the hell is my convention wife, the mad and crazy Fiona Ní Éalaighthe. It was at this point I met Gary McMahon, Tim Lebbon and who did indeed turn out to be Conrad Williams. Oh Hell here come the nerves again. Three of my favourite writers of all time there right in front of me. And remember this is Gary McMahon the writer of some of the grimmest and most emotionally scarring horror fiction out there, I wonder what he is like in real life? You know what he is like in real life? He is like a little ginger energiser bunny of enthusiasm. Off to the pub we went for my first of many official convention pints. I had a great chat with the three of them.
I then finally met up with Fiona, Lisa Jenkins, Graeme Reynolds and Chris Barnes. And the drinking really began in earnest.
As for the rest of the Friday I have to be honest I don't really remember much of it. I remember meeting Phil Sloman, Peter Mark May, Gavin Williams, Mark West, Neil Williams, Stephen Bacon, Jasper Bark, James Everington, Ross Warren, Steve Byrnes, Simon Marshall Jones, Steve Chapman, Neil Snowden, and countless others. You can blame Fiona, she was a bad influence on me. Although if you ask Gary McMahon it was me who was the bad influence, he apparently ran away early on Saturday morning fearing that his liver was was about to explode.
I somehow managed to find my way back to the hotel, and got a couple of hours sleep, Unbeknownst to me on the way home I decided to storm the city walls, and it was here that I lost my phone. Don't worry folks I found it by sheer luck after spending two hours hunting for it in a blind panic I found it lying in patch of long grass right next to the city walls.
Saturday was a much more sedate day, I was paying for basically drinking for 14 hours straight. I can't really remember much about it, I made it to the Spectral Press Book launch, where I had to face a line up of horrors finest. So it was a good thing that I was thrown into the deep end with Ramsey Campbell. I was amazed by the depth of the warm welcome he gave me when he realised who I was. Not that I am anybody, I'm just a bloke on a website, he is a master of the genre.
I also made it the launch of Gary McMahon's latest novel The End. This was one launch I was determined to get to. Even though I was lucky enough to read an advanced PDF of it I was determined own a proper copy of it. The End is a stunning novel, heart wrenching, hard hitting and wonderfully written you need to get a copy if you haven't already. Click on Gary's picture on this link to get a copy
Next up was a panel in which Graeme Reynolds was taking part in "How To Get Noticed", the other panels consisted of some woman from a big name publisher, a librarian, and a blogger. The panel was good, but it turned out that it was only Graeme who was saying anything that we hadn't already heard before.
Back to the bar for another drink, and then we were off for a reading of High Moor from Graeme Reynolds and Chris Barnes. I've got to admit I'm not one for readings or audiobooks as my mind generally begins to wander. However the reading was captivating. Well done guys you did yourself proud.
Other than Curry Con, and a drunken discussion with Fiona as to who the Phil Irvin was, I don't remember much about the rest of the day, up until the disco, where I was treated to the site of the lovely Mark West twerking like crazy, and a fabulous dance lesson from Simon Kurt Unsworth.
Sunday was a much more sedate affair, everyone was feeling rough after two days of partying. Which gave me the ideal opportunity to have some really interesting chats with the likes of Paul "Pablo Cheesecake" Holmes, Simon Bestwick, Adam Nevill, James Everington, Peter Coleborn, Neil Snowdon, Lynda Rucker, Stephen Volk, Chris Teague, and so many others. I'm sorry if I have missed any names, along with my social awkwardness, I also have a brain that just doesn't take in names.
Sunday was the day I finally came over my fear of asking folk for a photo, at least next year I'll be going in slightly less awkward.
One of the highlights of Sunday was having lunch with Fiona, Graeme, Janine Ashbless, and Ginger Nuts of Horror reviewer Charlotte Bond, (again what is it with you people being so small, from now on if you are under five foot seven, you have to take your profile picture next to a height scale).
I'm not going to mention the convention itself, as to be honest I didn't really take much part in the convention itself. This weekend was about finally meeting up with all you guys, and in that respect the convention was a glorious success, despite being spread out over far too many bars thanks to heavily over priced convention bar.
Just meeting you guys was amazing, and to confirm what I already knew, that you were all fabulous, just made my day. Anyone who says the horror community is dying needs to come along to this. It was like the Waltons, one huge happy family. And just seeing the reactions from people when they recognized that I was Ginger Nuts was almost overwhelming. You never really know what others think of you and what you do until you meet them and you see the huge grin on their faces, and the warmth of the hugs. It was humbling to see the reaction and the praise for this little corner of the internet. Hearing how much this site has helped some of you made me proud. This site has always been about you guys, it exists to promote your work. And to know that it does this makes me a happy man.
Highlights, hell there were so many just meeting the likes of Mark West, and Gary Mcmahon, two guys who I know more about them and their families than most of my relatives was one of them. It's funny, there are some folk who will say that you can't make friends online, I saw nonsense friendship arise from common interests, and common outlooks on life. Spending time with my favourite irish person again, will always be a highlight. Fiona is an amazing person, getting to know folk who I have only ever had a passing on line contact with was also a highlight, here's looking at you Phil, Lisa, James, Ross, Steve and Steve.
In terms of disappointments just not meeting enough of you has to be one of them. I was desperately trying to met up with James Brogden, but thanks to a terrible phone service I couldn't retrieve any form of contact unless I sacrificed a goat to some elder god. And the fact that John Llewellyn Probert and Thana Niveau couldn't make it this year really broke my heart. There as a strong consensus that the convention really missed them.
So thank you one and all for one of the best weekends of my life. Here's to next year. I personally can't wait.