Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 Thoughts

It's that time of year when thoughts turn to what the New Year might bring. And so I thought I'd post a few thoughts here about 2011 ... not one of the best years for me personally, but one in which lots of lovely things happened too.

It was the year I turned 50! 50! That's almost ancient. And yet I feel the same as I did when I was 20! We had a lovely party down in Surbiton and lots of my friends and family came along to celebrate. It's events like that which show you who your real friends are.

My vast family extended again as my sister gave birth to a lovely daughter, bringing her family up to five children. I can see that I'm going to be a great-uncle before very long and probably multiple times. Also, my son James got married to Rachel, and they had a lovely wedding in Cambridge. It always feels strange when your own kids leave home, get married and lead lives of their own. Andrew is 18 next year too, and planning to head off to University - both James and Andrew are hardworking and intelligent and I am so, so proud of them both. I guess the next thing will be when I become a granddad ...

Other things happening over the mid-year period included Sam having to undergo a major operation. She had been suffering with chronic back pain for months and nothing seemed to be affecting or improving it, and eventually we realised that it was a side effect of other issues she was having, all of which resulted in her having to go to hospital in July for a hysterectomy to try and sort it all out. After several weeks of bedrest, followed by months of recovery time, she is now doing very well indeed, and is back to her old 'up and at em' ways.

All of this happened over the course of the summer, and the less than good news continued when I was released from my work contract with LTSB at the end of July, as I had worked the maximum duration with them in one stint. The work there was hectic and busy, involving lots of overnight support, and with what was happening to Sam, all this left me exhausted and drained to say the least.

Thus, heading into August (my 50th birthday party) and September, I was not in a good state. I was tired and worried about all sorts of things from finances to Sam's health, to my ongoing divorce ... too many things to try and juggle all at the same time.

Thus, what then happened at and after the annual British Fantasy Society, FantasyCon, hit me totally for six. I don't wish to dwell on it here, but I made some fundamental errors of judgement (described by one of my friends as me being a 'muppet' which is about right) which, in hindsight are very easy to see. But with my own mind being split many ways by everything else that was happening, I was relying on my friends in the BFS to ensure that everything was OK, and perhaps to have mentioned to me their concerns, or tried in advance to help out. But not a single person said a word beforehand, but a great many chipped in afterwards.

The convention was a success, but the fact that people connected with me and with Telos Publishing won some of the BFS Awards in the usual fair and democratic vote which has been used since the awards started in the seventies, caused some people to get so upset (starting with a grumpy rant by Stephen Jones in which he accused me of all manner of things, most of which he has done himself in the past), that without even talking to me to find out my side of the story, they petitioned the BFS' President to remove me as Chair and to replace me with an acting-Chair of their own choosing to try and sort 'it' all out. I had little choice in the matter, and found out I was standing down when the BFS announced that they had cleared me of any wrongdoing in the administration of the Awards.

Then, people who I had considered friends, and some of whom I had known for some twenty years or so, set out to try and destroy me and Sam online, making claims of corruption where there was none, insinuating wrong-doing when there was none, and perhaps worst of all, claiming that Sam's novel, Demon Dance, was not a worthy winner of the award for Best Novel. It had been voted on by the members of  the Society in a fair vote, but the fact that it won seemed to be a travesty in their eyes, a major blip that needed significant action to try and resolve. So they took control of the BFS themselves, put in place completely new rules for voting so that 'this can never happen again' ... what can never happen again? Sam win an Award? The whole thing was just awful. The worst part of all is that all these people that I looked up to and respected as friends stabbed me repeatedly in the back, never once trying to see it from my point of view, never once actually coming to me to ask what happened, never once stopping to think that there were real people at the other end of their barbed comments, put downs, and veiled accusations. I felt and still feel so betrayed and upset.

I shudder to think what might become of an organisation which purports to celebrate the whole of the fantasy and horror genre, but will only do so if it is the 'right' fantasy and horror, if a book has been written and published by those who are in with the 'right' people and cliques. The arrogance of these people astounds me, and their self-rightiousness over whatever they perceived to have been 'wrong' here - all without ever actually stating in public what was 'wrong' - beggars belief. They could have just talked to me. We could have sorted out the Award voting and rules in a civilised and friendly way, but they wanted blood. It was and is all just so nasty and unnecessary.

Sam and I won't be attending FantasyCon again, and at the moment I really don't want to see any of these people again. I still don't know what Sam and I actually did so wrong to be treated the way we have been treated. She wrote a book. It was published. People bought it and liked it. Members voted for it in the awards and it won ... isn't that something to celebrate rather than to pour scorn and hatred on? I admit in hindsight that the person administering the Awards should have no vested interest in who wins them (or even who is shortlisted), and apologise for not seeing this in advance - but the rules at the time did not bar this, and in any case, the BFS was several people down on helping out and so I did what I hoped was the right thing, and did what I could to ensure that everything that needed to be done was done, I also tried my best to ensure that the voting was above reproach and had someone independent check everything and do the final counts and tallies. I realise now that I should have just told the rest of the BFS committee that there would be no awards unless someone else came forward to do everything - as I say, hindsight is a wonderful thing.

I would like to thank the very few people who publically supported me and Sam, and to note that there were many, many more who offered support in private emails, phone calls and notes, but who didn't want to go public because they were worried about what those 'in charge' would then do to them ... a climate of fear is not a good one in which to run a society.

As Stan Lee would say ... 'nuff said'.

Writing and selling books is a hard, hard thing to do though, influenced by many factors, and the most important thing is to stay positive, stay focussed, and to keep on moving forward. So despite the rocking that our confidence took, we are doing just that, and looking forward to a positive and productive 2012.

My own collection of fiction, talespinning, came out in September, and I'm very proud of it. It collects just about every piece of fiction that I have written over the last thirty years or so - including some unfinished novels and a couple of screenplays. It has had some brilliant reviews, and is selling very well indeed. Hopefully we'll get a digital edition up at some point in 2012.

Sam and I have been invited to several conventions and events next year as guests, which is fabulous. We both love travelling and meeting people, and so are looking forward to doing that next year. One problem that this gave us though was that we realised that we simply couldn't fit in or afford our annual trip to LA for the big Gallifrey convention in 2012 ... and so we reluctantly made the hard decision to miss it next year, and to try and save our pennies for the 2013 event - which, as this is the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, should be the biggest and best yet. We can't wait to see all our
friends there then.

I have enjoyed writing more to this blog over the year - sharing my thoughts on Doctor Who toys, films, television, and the occasional diversion from all of these things and I hope I can keep it going. Part of the reason why I have been able to do this is the lack of paid work, and obviously I am hoping that 2012 will bring another job with someone to whom I can bring my experience and expertise to bear.

So to everyone who has enjoyed reading this blog in 2011, to all my friends, I'd like to wish you all a happy and prosperous new year!

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