Books and games are wonderful things, enlightening and entertaining in equal measure, but they need something else to truly be ‘great’. They need a community.
Years ago those might have been via mailing lists and bulletin boards, today they are often fulfilled by skype, discord, forums and, of course, reddit. Marvellous though these ‘digital’ mechanisms are, they are (in my humble opinion) no substitute for meeting face to face, either person to person or in a crowd.
To share a common interest amongst a group of like-minded people remains a bit of rarity, though it is far easier nowadays thanks to the internet. Conventions are many and varied. I’ve been to lots, big and small. The large ones may have the budget to guarantee sponsorship and advertising, but the smaller ones tend to focus on the niches – and the niches are where the interesting stuff happens.
In the same way that YouTube allows you to precisely tailor your viewing habits to a particular subject rather than waiting for ‘mainstream’ television channels to occasionally favour you, a smaller convention provides a place for all of the content to be aimed at a very specific audience.
Fantasticon is a case in point.
First arriving on the scene in 2014 as a launch platform for the first round of Elite Dangerous fiction from Fantastic Books Publishing (Reclamation, Mostly Harmless, And here the Wheel and Tales from the Frontier) it continues to host new books. This year will be no exception, with a host of new stories being launched – with three just from me!
With a focus firmly on emerging science fiction and fantasy, the content is always new and fresh, with a bit of retro gameplay on the side and a healthy dose of nostalgia.
The focus is on doing, rather than just looking. A small convention gives you a chance to meet authors, developers and players in person, actually play some of the games on display, take part in competitions or just kick back and enjoy the ebb and flow of conversation with like-minded folk.
Fantasticon has a reputation of trying new things, and doing things differently. You’re never quite sure what you may see. We’ve seen a NERF war, a choreographed fight scene, and a host of other wacky contributions that have become the stuff of Elite and Con legend. It’s a time for the community to let their hair down and just enjoy the experience of being together. Small wonder it was voted “Top Rated UK convention” by Niche Magazine. Despite all this, it’s supremely family friendly.
The convention mainstays are there of course: panels, talks and discussions, games and demos, book readings and Q&A sessions, cosplay, some big names from the fantasy and SF realms (don’t miss J.R.R. Tolkien’s great-grandson this year for example!). There will be a series of book launches from the Fantastic catalogue, my latest amongst them.
For the Elite Dangerous fans there’s a chance to quiz the developers and representatives from Frontier themselves, a big focus on the VR aspects of the game, the new V2.2 version will be out too. I’ll be there talking about Elite Dangerous Lore, and how I’m progressing with the new official Elite Dangerous book: Premonition.
But Fantasticon isn’t a ‘conventional’ convention. It prides itself on pushing the boundaries embracing the latest innovations. This year promises to be the premiere of a remarkable new display technology. It’s so secret I don’t know what it is, though I’ve heard the words ‘full width HD hologram’ bandied about.
Running such an extravaganza is a financial risk of course. This year, to obviate that a bit, the organisers have decided to ‘crowdfund’ it, effectively selling tickets in advance via pledge awards. They’re already at more than 55% of their goal, so please consider pledging for some of the limited edition goodies that will only be available in advance.
To help spread the word about the Kickstarter, I have my own extra pledge award, which will be exclusive to Fantasticon. I have a set of 5 digital artwork prints from my first Elite Dangerous book ‘Reclamation’. These are poster quality images (approx 3500 x 5000 pixels) of the characters from my first book.
How do you get hold of them? All you have to do is pledge, at any level, to the Fantasticon Kickstarter (and for those of you who’ve already pledged – might I suggest an appropriate ‘Jonty’?) and leave the following message on the comments page.
“I have a premonition…”
At the end of the Kickstarter, FBP will arrange for the prints to be sent to you.
Fantasticon is being held at the Guildhall, Hull on the 19th and 20th of November this year. It promises to be a big draw for fantasy, SF and Elite Dangerous fans. I hope you see you there!