Just got back from the annual celebration of weird and wonderful fiction that is the British Fantasy Society‘s FantasyCon – and what a grand few days it was.

For those of us who had the pleasure of not organising it (a big thumbs up to Guy Adams and the FantasyCon committee for their sterling work!), everything appeared to run like clockwork. It was a superbly busy event, with everyone jumbled together in the bar at some point or other for book launches and signing sessions or simply to spin tales of adventure on the high seas over a pint of something cold and fizzy. Okay, that last bit might be romanticising, but only ever so slightly.

One of my highlights was listening to Chaz Brenchley reading his story “2Pi” – fabulously unnerving for 10.30 on a Sunday morning. Mr Brenchley is a fine writer and his tales positively glow when he reads them aloud. I’d happily listen to him for hours.

I also picked up quite a few books at the launches and signing sessions and in the dealers’ room. I’m looking forward to The End of the Line, a collection of new horror stories set on and around the Underground. Hmm, I’ve never been that keen on the Tube anyway. I’d particularly like to thank Conrad Williams and Nicholas Royle for the very touching messages they wrote in the front of my copy of the book. Thanks, guys. I’ll treasure your words and think of them often!

More seriously, Allyson Bird and Joel Lane brought together a fantastic bunch of writers as contributors to Never Again, a unique collection of tales described as “weird fiction against fascism and racism”. Topical. Unfortunately.

Unlike previous years, I didn’t get to many panel discussions, but I made sure I was in the main room for “How Not To Get Published”. This was full of tales both entertaining and cautionary, from four people who know what they’re talking about, given their years of experience in this market: Steve Jones, Gollancz’s Jo Fletcher, Jonathan Oliver from Abaddon Books and Marc Gascoigne. The title of the session was a wee bit tongue in cheek, but there were some very clear messages in there for anyone thinking of submitting stories…

The award ceremony on Saturday evening saw some very deserving winners. As a long-time subscriber, I was particularly pleased to see Terry Martin’s Murky Depths take home the award for best magazine.

The very last talk of the Con this year was an hour with Bryan Talbot on anthropomorphism in comic books and cartoons. And what a trip he took us on! From seventeenth-century political cartoons, through Korky the Cat and Rupert Bear, to Bone and Talbot’s latest works Grandville and the soon-to-be-published Grandville: Mon Amour, he showed how artists, writers and illustrators through the years have used animals in place of humans in their stories and pictures. He also pointed out a few cunning delights in his own works. I now know where to find Rupert’s dad trimming the hedge in Grandville and what Tintin’s dog Snowy dreams about when he’s on opium.

Somehow I managed to fit in a couple of little excursions too: a short walk into town to one of my favourite comic shops Page 45 and a train ride to Chesterfield, where I finally got to see that crooked church spire (all Old Nick’s doing, apparently) and discovered the rather fabulous Cape & Cowl Comics. Owner Martin Shooter gave me some great recommendations for even more reading material, so I’m all set up for the winter months now.

Of course, any visit to Nottingham should include a trip to The Trip. The Trip to Jerusalem is England’s oldest inn – and that’s a fact (so says their website). It’s certainly the only place I’ve ever been where you can drink a pint in a cave, as it’s built into the rocks beneath Nottingham Castle. It also serves a fine selection of real ales, as seen in the Trip Mix below: three halves on a wooden board. I should point out that there were two of us tackling this particular challenge…

So, goodbye, Nottingham. You were great. Next year in Brighton!