It Happened At the World’s Fa… Okay, At Fantasticon!;-)

Me & Ellen Datlow. (Photo  taken by Klaus Æ. Mogensen, if I remember correctly.) 

Okay, brushing off the shock of hearing Ray Bradbury died here’s a quick and dirty blog post on what happened at the Fantasticon this year. It will be a little piece-meal and random-like, since I don’t remember all the details. (I knew I should have written things down, as the hours progressed.) And I also apologize in advance  for not mentioning all the wonderful people I met during this three-day trek in this national wonderland of the fantastic genres, Friday June 1 to Sunday June 3, 2012.

I spent most of the time in the dealers room selling books from my small press, H. Harksen Productions. With a fine result. I sold more than I’d hoped for, so that was a smashing success. Wonderful — thanks to all the buyers and supporters of both my Danish and English publications. Okay, strictly speaking I didn’t spend most of the time selling books, but I was present, just in case someone was interested. Which happened frequently:-) And when I wasn’t making actual sales I was engaged in wonderful conversations and debates. So all was lively and engaging, just as one would hope for at such an event.

As I mentioned in an earlier post I was on the programme two times: Saturday in a panel discussion about “the good short story” and Sunday where I were to speak on Cthulhu and the Apocalypse. Both had a fine attendance of people.

Ralan Conley (moderator), Henrik Sandbeck Harksen (me), H. H. Løyche, Ellen Datlow and Knud Larn. (Photo by Lars Kramhøft)

The discussion was lively (at least from my point of view; I hope the others feel the same) and with intelligent and thoughtful approaches to the theme. One of the things we ended up agreeing on was that it is important for a good short story (in itself a rather broad concept, difficult to define) to have a voice. (Not necessarily the same as the story having a character.) And that element is important in order for the story to somehow grab our attention — as editors as well as readers in general. I can’t remember if we all agreed on this, but at least Ellen Datlow and I ended up agreeing that when reading a themed anthology it is more important to find the qualities in the actual story being read at the time than to go searching for the overarching theme in the story. She’d experienced such critique from time to time with e.g. her Poe anthology (“The stories aren’t written like Poe” etc.) and I pointed out the danger of looking (exclusively) for tentacles in Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities. (No, they are not written the way Lovecraft would write the stories — and no, there are not tentacles flying around on every page. It’s much more subtle than that, and therefore much more horrible.)

Also, incidentally, Ray Bradbury was mentioned by Ellen Datlow — as unjustly being considered by many as a “light writer.” Now that he’s dead, hopefully this will be corrected.

Ellen Datlow signing books to me.

Speaking of Ellen Datlow… What a kind, charming and insightful lady. As you know from an earlier blog post I was absolutely dazzled just thinking about meeting her in person. And reality — wow — it’s hard to describe, but it really was wonderful meeting her. And she was kind enough to sign — even inscribe — three books of hers that I’d brought along. Can’t read half of what’s she’s written to me but it’s still immensely cool;-)

It’s strange, really, how meeting persons whom I strongly admire for what they do can affect me. It happened years back when I was interviewing the Scottish singer Fish, and it happened when I met Ellen Datlow. It was difficult for me to approach her (when not in the panel discussion, where conversation went smoothly enough) and ask her if she’d mind signing the books. And it wasn’t until the last hours Sunday that I dared asking if we could have a picture of us together. (Which, as you can see, she readily agreed to do.)

Strange — but probably a healthy thing. Shows that my ego isn’t too much in the clouds;-)

Author Lars Kramhøft signing a copy of Grufulde mørke ( Vol. 3). First time ever he signed a book.

I was told that my talk on Cthulhu and the Apocalypse Sunday went well. Good to know. I was a little nervous before starting, but I managed to say most the things I wanted to say — in a fairly coherent manner;-) It was probably the most boring PowerPoint show ever, but at least that was on purpose: I only used it to show the headlines of the topics I wanted to discuss. No more, no less. For the curious, who weren’t there: My focal point was two possible understandings of “the apocalypse,” applied to Lovecraftian fiction and the Derleth Mythos part of the fiction.

Could have said much more but you can only say so much in 50 minutes;-)

The only other part of the programme I attended (as audience) was “The fairy tale in modern fiction” with Ellen Datlow, Nicolas Barbano and Lars Ahn Pedersen (moderator). It was very interesting, and I’m glad that I joined Sarah Fürst, Lars Kramhøft and Thomas Winther to see this (among many others, of course, but they were the ones I talked the moment they wanted to go see it). It’s a topic I don’t know much about, and wouldn’t normally check out. But it was good expanding my horizon. (Isn’t it always?)

Me, my daughter, a stormtrooper, Lord Vader and a feisty tusken rider;-)

The Sandbeck Harksen Family: Our daughter, My, my wife Hanne — and me. (Photo by Anja, if I remember correctly.)

Like I said, it was so invigorating and delightful being at the Fantasticon this year. Much of it due to the fact that I got to talk to so many wonderful people. And even my little family joined the party for a few hours (Saturday), bringing along Anja, one of my wife’s good friends.

One of the greatest small press publishers and weird fiction writers in Denmark today: Nikolaj Højberg, Forlaget KANDOR.

I’d like to thank all who I talked to, it was great. Here’s to you guys (apologies to anyone omitted; and not including the people from the panel discussion): Sarah Fürst (always wonderful, stimulating company), Lars Kramhøft (finally!), Martin Wangsgaard Jürgensen (small package soon on its way!), A. Silvestri, Lars Ahn Pedersen, Bjarke Schjødt Larsen (as yourself this year;-)), Sandra Schwartz (great finally meeting you), Thomas Winther (always nice catching up), Martin Schjönning (short but good), Mads Peder Lau Pedersen (also very short — but at least I finally met you in person!), Nikolaj Højberg (that idea — I think we’re onto something cool, Nikolaj), Lykke, Patrick Leis (originator of the coolest low-budget version of Hitchcock’s The Birds;-)), Michael Kamp (hey, I actually sold some copies of your book as well), Jonas Wilmann (always a joy, Jonas)… and the Fantasticon Team. (Uh, here I must mention Flemming R. P. Rasch, who invited me to the event, and Spritt Schapiro — thanks for the coolest HPL t-shirt on Earth!)

Random picture from the Saturday’s Banquet.

Tired publisher, author, dilettante etc. On the train back home.

See you again next year.