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Guest of Honour Appearances
2011
Ad Astra 2011
 
2010
Alt.Fiction 2010
 
2008
Fantasycon 2008
 
2007
Fantasycon 2007
 
Ad Astra 2007
 
2005
Arcana 35
 
2004
World Horror Convention 2004
 
2002
World Fantasy Convention 2002
 
 
 
Awards
The British Fantasy Award
 
The World Fantasy Award
 
The Bram Stoker Award
 
The International Horror Guild Award
 
Guest of Honour Appearances
Ad Astra 2011 Programme Book

2011: AD ASTRA 2011, April 8-10, 2011, Toronto, Canada

Canada's eclectic Ad Astra convention celebrated its 30th anniversary by inviting back a number of previous Guests of Honour. I had been a Guest in 1995 and 2007 and had thoroughly enjoyed myself on both occasions, so I readily agreed to return to Toronto—one of my favourite cities—to celebrate with friends and colleagues, old and new.

Also returning as Guests were, amongst many others, Ben Bova, Kathryn Cramer, Ellen Datlow, Dave Duncan, Scott Edelman, David G. Hartwell, Tanya Huff, Don Hutchison, Guy Gavriel Kay and Shawna McCarthy. Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon were added as new Guests of Honour.

Having flown in on the Wednesday, Mandy Slater and I stayed for one night at the luxurious Renaissance Toronto Downtown Hotel, which is attached to the Rogers Centre SkyDome (I witnessed my first baseball game from the hotel's observation bar), and that evening we had dinner at a nearby restaurant with our friend, author and editor Nancy Kilpatrick, who had taken the train in from Montreal.

The following morning we embarked on a quick shopping spree, popping in to World's Biggest Books (where I was gratified to see that my titles took up an entire shelf) and the BMV next door, where I picked up a couple of nice used books. Then it was back to an Irish pub for lunch with Rodger Turner—my stalwart website designer—who had driven down from Ottawa to see us.

Photo © 2011 Mandy Slater
Rio Youers, Stephen Jones and Simon Strantzas in the bar
Rio Youers, Stephen Jones and Simon Strantzas in the bar.
Photo © 2011 Mandy Slater
Ellen Datlow and Stephen Jones in the bar.
Ellen Datlow and Stephen Jones in the bar.
After lunch, Rodger kindly transported us out to the suburbs. As usual, the convention was held at the Toronto Don Valley Hotel and Suites, which had undergone something of a welcome make-over since I was last there. We quickly checked in and then headed down to the hotel bar, where we found Rodger already ensconced with editors Ellen Datlow and Shawna McCarthy. Although we had only recently eaten, the three of us decided to accompany Ellen and Shawna out to a local steakhouse, which was located in a beautifully-appointed historic house. While they ate, the rest of us sampled the very reasonably-priced cocktails before getting a cab back to the hotel. The evening ended with a low-key party for Guests and staff in the Con Suite.
Photo © 2011 Mandy Slater
Geeks at Heart, Ellen Datlow, Stephen Jones and friend in the Green Room.
Geeks at Heart, Ellen Datlow, Stephen Jones and friend in the Green Room.
Photo © 2011 Mandy Slater
Scott Edelman and Stephen Jones in the Green Room.
Scott Edelman and Stephen Jones in the Green Room.

Not much was happening on Friday until the Opening Ceremonies at 7:00 p.m. So during the morning we hung out in the hotel as more and more people gradually showed up. The only other Brit to fly over for the convention, the cuddly Rob Shearman, turned up with his usual harem in tow and, as always, immediately began to charm everybody he met. For lunch, Mandy, Rodger and I went out to a greasy-spoon diner with book collector/historian par excellence Bob Knowlton and Mary Canning from the Merril Collection. After looking around a number of antique and reclamation stores in the neighbourhood, we all headed back to the hotel to get ready for the Opening Ceremonies.
Photo © 2011 Mandy Slater
Stephen Jones and Robert Knowlton at the Autograph Session.
Stephen Jones and Robert Knowlton at the Autograph Session.

The Convention was officially started by The Honourable David C. Onley, a one-time TV newscaster and now Ontario's 28th Lieutenant Governor. A past GoH at Ad Astra himself (1984), he was a witty and entertaining speaker despite sometimes muddling his facts. Then it was off to my first programme item: "Zombies: Rise to Popularity" was a panel discussion moderated by Mandy which also featured Scott Edelman and Karina Sumner-Smith. As it happened, Scott and Karina have the opening and closing stories, respectively, in this year's The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror—and both are zombie stories! It was a fun panel and an appreciative audience. The rest of the evening was spent in the superb Green Room—always a high point at Ad Astra—where I partied with many old friends until 2:00 a.m.

Photo © 2011 Mandy Slater
Scott Edelman, Stephen Jones and Karina Sumner-Smith at the Zombie panel.
Scott Edelman, Stephen Jones and Karina Sumner-Smith at the Zombie panel.
I was a little bleary-eyed on my first panel on the Saturday: "What is Horror". So no pressure there then! Luckily my fellow panellists were old friends Ellen Datlow, Don Hutchison and Rio Youers, while the moderator was Canada's "maestro of the macabre", Michael Kelly, who was launching his new anthology series Chilling Tales at the convention. I have no idea if we nailed the definition of horror, but the hour flew by. Then it was on to the "Editing Anthologies" panel with Ellen and Don again. We were joined this time by Caro Soles and moderator Kathryn Cramer, who did a great job despite being handed the role at the very last minute.
Photo © 2011 Mandy Slater
What is Horror Panel: Stephen Jones, Ellen Datlow, Michael Kelly, Don Hutchison and Rio Youers.
What is Horror Panel: Stephen Jones, Ellen Datlow, Michael Kelly, Don Hutchison and Rio Youers.

The afternoon Autograph Session was surprisingly well-attended. I signed a lot more books that I expected, as well as getting a pile of old Famous Fantastic Mysteries signed by Don Hutchison, who had had letters published in the pulp magazine when he was still a teenager. It also helped that I was on a table with Ellen, Shawna and Rob Shearman, so we all had a lot of fun.
Photo © 2011 Mandy Slater
Stephen Jones gets Don Hutchison to sign his copies of FAMOUS FANTASTIC MYSTERIES.
Stephen Jones gets Don Hutchison to sign his copies of FAMOUS FANTASTIC MYSTERIES.

A huge amount of fun was also had that evening when Mandy, Rodger and I went out to a cavernous Pickle Barrel restaurant with Rob, Scott Edelman and Toronto's Young Turks of Terror: Simon Strantzas, Richard Gavin and Ian Rogers. The horror genre is definitely undergoing a huge resurgence in Canada at the moment, and these guys—along with others—are at the forefront of this exciting new movement. Back at the hotel, I popped into the ChiZine publisher's party, which was already in full-swing. I spent an hour or so chatting with Nancy Kilpatrick and Rio Youers before collapsing into bed.
Photo © 2011 Mandy Slater
Stephen Jones and Simon Strantzas.
Stephen Jones and Simon Strantzas.
Photo © 2011 Scott Edelman
Nancy Kilpatrick, Stephen Jones and Rio Youers at the ChiZine Party.
Nancy Kilpatrick, Stephen Jones and Rio Youers at the ChiZine Party.

Sunday was a lot more relaxed. Ellen Datlow, Don Hutchison and I held a three-way "Guest of Honour Hour", in which we talked about how our careers started out and answered questions from a small but receptive audience. Then I went straight to my final panel of the convention, "It's the Best/Worst Time to Be a Writer". This could have been an interesting topic, but despite getting the opportunity to hang out with my old friend Doug Smith, I didn't think it was a successful or particularly useful discussion, not helped by one panellist who dominated the entire proceedings with his bombastic opinions.

With programming over, Mandy and I hosted a private party in our room. There was a lot of excitement about the just-released news that the World Fantasy Convention was coming to the UK in 2013, and I expect to see a big Canadian contingent attending. The twenty or so people who came along certainly seemed to enjoy the single malts, bottles of wine and strangely flavoured British snacks, and the gathering lasted long into the evening. It also gave us an opportunity to say our goodbyes to everybody.
Photo © 2011 Michael Kelly
Stephen Jones, Michael Kelly and their good friend Single Malt.
Stephen Jones, Michael Kelly and their good friend Single Malt.

Following breakfast with Rodger on the Monday, Mandy and I packed, had a quiet lunch in the hotel and headed off to the airport to catch our flight home.

It was a great convention—helped by the large number horror people who were in attendance for the first time. I would especially like to thank Mary-Ellen, Doug and Amy for inviting me back and for making me feel so welcome; Carolyn and François for hosting the always-inviting Green Room, and Roxane and her team of GoH Liaisons (especially Paula) for looking after us so magnificently (including the marvellous goody-bag for Guests).

I definitely hope to go back to Ad Astra again, and I don't think that I can wait another thirty years!
—Stephen Jones
April, 2011

2010: ALT.FICTION, June 12, 2010, Derby, England

I was fortunate to be invited as a Guest to this year's Alt.Fiction—Derby's Festival of Horror, Fantasy and Sci-fi [sic] sponsored by Writing East Midlands.

After skipping last year, the one-day event had moved to a new venue, Derby's purpose-built arts centre, the QUAD. Located in the city's central Market Place and within easy reach of the numerous bars and restaurants in the immediate area, it was therefore unfortunate that the convention coincided with not only England's first World Cup game, but also the annual Download Festival being held at nearby Donington Park.

Still, there was no denying the calibre of the professionals Alt.Fiction attracted: the other Guests included Britain's finest living horror writer, Ramsey Campbell, author and comics writer Mike Carey, Doctor Who scriptwriters and authors Paul Cornell and Robert Shearman, with publisher/writer Peter Crowther as Master of Ceremonies. Other attendees included fellow Gollancz authors Mark Chadbourn, Graham Joyce and Sarah Pinborough, plus Chaz Brenchley, Tim Lebbon, Steven Erikson, Joel Lane, Juliet E. McKenna, Gary McMahon, Mark Morris, Nicholas Royle, Stephen Volk, Ian Watson, Ian Whates and Conrad Williams, amongst others.

You can always judge a convention by the quality of its delegate bag. In this case, it was a handy shoulder bag containing a couple of free paperbacks, various flyers and samplers, and an attractive programme book (although it was a shame that some of the pages were printed in the wrong order).

There was a brief opening ceremony presented by Peter Crowther, then things kicked off early for me, as Ramsey and I were scheduled for a 10:00 a.m. podcast, to be broadcast later on the Alt.Fiction site. We had quite an audience for our informal chat, which was ostensibly based around The Mammoth Book of the Best of Best New Horror but was actually far more wide-ranging. It probably doesn't come as a shock to anybody who knows us that we could have gone on much longer than our allotted hour—but they were recording a number of other podcasts throughout the day to be archived, so we eventually had to stop talking!
Listen to the podcast:
Photo © 2010 Jenny Campbell
Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell: Two Peas in a Podcast
Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell: Two Peas in a Podcast

It was probably a good thing, really, as for the next hour I was on a panel entitled 'How to Get Published' moderated by Pete, with genre agents John Jarrold and John Berlyne, Solaris Books/Abaddon Books editor Jenni Hill and Gollancz's own publicity manager Jon Weir (who later admitted he was a panel virgin, but acquitted himself extremely well). Like all the panels held during the day, it was very well attended, and the attentive audience asked some interesting and pertinent questions.
Photo © 2010 Peter Coleborn
Jenni Hill, Peter Crowther, Jon Weir and Stephen Jones on the 'How to Get Published' panel
Jenni Hill, Peter Crowther, Jon Weir and Stephen Jones on the "How to Get Published" panel

No sooner had we finished dispensing advice to the attentive attendees than I was off to the dealers' room to participate in a 'Horror Signing' with Ramsey Campbell and Conrad Williams. Although not huge, the room featured the British Fantasy Society, Black Static/Interzone magazines and small press imprint Murky Depths, along with a convention table groaning under the weight of books by most of the attending authors.

I signed steadily for the next hour—a mix of titles, including copies of the latest printing of Necronomicon—while chatting to fans and friends. In fact, I continued talking in the bar until 2:00 p.m., when I had to leave to take part in a panel entitled 'Creating Fear—The Art of Horror Writing', moderated by a nervous Gary McMahon and featuring some old pals—Tim Lebbon, Sarah Pinborough and Conrad Williams. Suffice to say, given that line-up, it was a bit of a knockabout discussion, although I think we managed to get our various points across (disagreeing with your fellow panellist always helps!), although the audience seemed rather bemused by the bickering.

For the rest of the afternoon I was free! Although there were a number of interesting panels scheduled, including 'Genre Books You Must Read', 'How Does Today's SF Compare to the Classics', 'Dark Fantasy vs Horror—What's the Difference?', 'Writing for BBC Books', 'Writing for Comics', 'Hack & Slash vs "Sparkly Vampires"', 'What is Alternative Fiction?' and 'TV Writing—The Trials and Tribulations', along with various readings, signings and creative writing workshops, I elected to join the throng now filling the bar and, later, get some much needed food inside me.

I was back at 7:00 p.m. for the Auction, hosted by Ramsey Campbell and Peter Crowther. It was a shame that more people did not attend (they were either still in the bar, having dinner, watching the football or, even more pathetically, watching the new episode of Doctor Who live on TV), as some excellent items went for very reasonable prices. These included numerous signed books and proof copies, Stephen Volk's original script for the BBC's Ghostwatch signed by him and the director, a copy of my own Brighton Shock! signed by an incredible thirty-three(!) contributors, and a fabulously scarce and expensive limited edition Christmas story by Ramsey.

By now most of those who were staying were firmly entrenched in the bar, so there was a disappointingly small audience for the rare 35mm screening of Roger Corman's The Haunted Palace and The Raven in the QUAD's state-of-the-art cinema, which I introduced. Those who did stay (including me) were treated to an entertaining 1960s double-bill starring those titans of terror Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Lon Chaney, Jr.

I finally made my bleary-eyed way back to my hotel around 1:00 a.m., only to discover that the Alt.Fiction crowd and the Download music fans had formed a fellowship dedicated to drinking the bar dry. I decided it had been a long enough day and headed up to my room for a nice cup of tea and a soft bed.

Given the grey faces and hangovers that greeted me, imagine how smug I felt the following morning at breakfast . . .

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