This past weekend SFFN were at BristolCon, the annual fantasy and science fiction convention in, surprise-surprise, Bristol! There were books, there were costumes, there were panels, signings and readings! Altogether, it is a superb convention, expertly run, and brimming with hidden secrets.

bristolcon01BristolCon is a one-day convention organised by the BristolCon Foundation, a charitable foundation set up to support and promote speculative fiction writing, art and related activities in the South West. The convention was created in 2009 by members of the Bristol Fantasy & SF Society, and has since become renowned as a fun, friendly and informative addition to the UK’s convention calendar.

Every year it features panel discussions and lectures, an art show and small group sessions including kaffeklatsches and workshops. Books, comics and merchandise in the dealers’ room and authors for book signings. There’s also a games room and a ‘brick-out’ space (a cafe-style area with lego to play with). A variety of entertainment is offered in the evening.

I’ve been to a number of conventions in my time, some bigger, some smaller. BristolCon is certainly on the smaller end of the spectrum, with roughly 300 attendees this year, but it felt a lot bigger in scope. The guests of honour were authors Ken MacLeod and Sarah Pinborough, as well as artist Chris Baker (aka, Fangorn), all of whom gave insightful Q&A sessions, talks and panels.

juliet e mckennaAlso in attendance was Juliet E McKenna, launching her new book Shadow Histories of the River Kingdoms. I interviewed Juliet recently about this and you can hear it here. She was also on a panel discussion about what happens to the world after the heroes have gone, after the battle is won, and after the monster is brought down. It was a lively and entertaining panel, spanning from discussions of tragedy in Syria, mental illness, and dinosaur poop.

Other book launches took place, including the Steampunk-tacular Amunet by Robert Harkess, which included a weird and wonderful celebration and fancy dress. There were cakes, as well. There was a rather impressive reading from the author which plenty of people commented on as being especially good.

The reading sessions were also well attended, which is something I often worry about, and most of the readers I saw were exceedingly good. It probably helped that there was a workshop on hand to help people who were a bit nervous of their public speaking skills. The marvellous author and playwright Frances Kay ran this and there were plenty who more than benefitted from it. So, if you’re thinking of attending and reading your own book, this sort of thing is certainly something to look out for if you want to polish your skills beforehand.

As it is a one day event, it works out much more affordable than most conventions on the circuit. There’s little need to book an overnight stay (unless you want to stick around the bar afterwards) and one doesn’t end up feeling drained afterwards. There is always a relaxed yet excited atmosphere throughout the day.

Registration for next year is already open! Check it out and come join the fun!