FantasyCon was somewhat different for me this year. As I no longer have a car I can use to get books to conventions, I did not have a dealer table. I’ll be renting a car for BristolCon, because I’m doing a launch for the new Juliet McKenna book there, but I’m not sure how much dealer presence I will have at conventions in the future.

I did, however, have two panels. One was on seeing yourself in books as a member of a minority group. I think we all agreed that things have got a lot better since we were kids. Indeed, I found myself nodding along with Omar Kooheji when he said that there used to be hardly any Arabic writers of SF&F, and now he can’t keep up. I have exactly the same problem with trans writers. But there is still room for improvement. Big publishers still tend to see minority status as a marketing gimmick. Also it is hard to make a minority character a villain, if only because you are likely to be jumped on by well-meaning but clueless people on social media who think this must mean you are a bigot.

Still on the subject of that panel, Chris McCartney, who was one of my colleagues, is part of the triumvirate that has recently launched Bona Books, a specialist queer SF&F imprint based in London. This is a very good thing to have in the world.

My other panel was about building author websites. This one went well too, but could easily have gone on another two hours. There was a huge amount to talk about, and we only scratched the surface of the material we needed to cover. The audience seemed grateful to benefit from our advice, so I hope that future conventions will take this on board and run similar panels, perhaps with a slightly narrower remit so that things can be covered in appropriate depth.

There was a dealers’ room, and I bought lots of books. There were also many launches, most significantly one for the posthumous collection of work by Maureen Kincaid Speller, which I am looking forward to reading.

The Leonardo (formerly Jury’s Inn) on Broad Street in Birmingham has good points and bad points. It is very near New Street station, and there are plenty of places to eat nearby. Also the tram network seems to be mostly built by now, so there is far less construction going on. The trams even seem to be working. Or at least they are as long as some stupid copper doesn’t park his van right on the tram lines and go off and leave it. There was plenty of room on the pavement. I hope he got a good chewing out from his bosses.

However, the function space is quite cramped, and social spaces are limited. Being conscious that COVID infection rates are soaring, and having not yet had my autumn booster, I was wearing a mask most of the time. I was one of the few people who was. I haven’t heard of an Eastercon-like superspreader event but, like Eastercon, the COVID policy at Fantasycon seemed to be to not have one.

Because of that, and because of a particularly unpleasant incident that I don’t want to talk about publicly until I’ve had a chance to talk to the con committee, I spent very little time at the con once I’d done my panels. There was a lot of good rugby on the TV and I was happy to stay in my hotel room and watch it.