Tuesday, 3 January 2012

People and Places: The Last Few Years

As a new year starts I have been reflecting as always on everything that has occurred during the last one. I found myself flicking through my picture albums and was truly surprised at how many people I've met over the last few years. For that reason I thought it might be nice to collate some of those memories in this one blog.

Tanith Lee, Sam Stone, David Howe
In 2008 I met my icon, Tanith Lee, for the first time at EasterCon in London. Tanith has been a huge influence on my work and made me realise how diverse you can be as a writer. She also read Killing Kiss and gave me some fantastic feedback and a blurb for the cover. I can tell you I felt completely unworthy! Since then, I've only come into physical contact with Tanith once more, at World Horror Con in 2010. She greeted me like an old friend and I was privileged to spend some more time with her again at the event. She's a lovely, talented lady and continues to be an inspiration to me. This picture was taken at the NewCon Press Launch of The Bitten Word. My story, Fool's Gold was in this collection and later went on to win the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction. I am still very proud of the story and was delighted that it won the award. The story was reprinted in my collection, Zombies in New York and Other Bloody Jottings by Telos Publishing in February 2011.

David, Sam, Frazer - Santa Monica Pier
In February 2009 I went to the Gallifrey Convention in Los Angeles for the first time with my partner David Howe. As one of the leading experts on Doctor Who, David was a guest at the convention and it meant that we were mixing in some very interesting circles. That year I met Gary Russell, script editor on the series, for the first time as well as the lovely Phil Ford, writer and producer of Sarah Jane Adventures. Also I met someone who was to become extremely important in our lives: Frazer Hines. Frazer arrived on a different plane to us but I first spotted him on the bus as we were collected to be taken to the hotel. Later we started talking in the bar, with Wendy Padbury, and the rest, as they say, is history. I don't want to go into the whole story of how David, Frazer and I became friends - but it started at Gallifrey and we ended up spending the rest of the trip sight-seeing together. We've been firm friends ever since. I would even say that Frazer feels like family to us.

Back: Emily (with a bear behind).
Front: Roy, Sam, Frazer
That same trip, however, Frazer invited us to lunch with Roy Dotrice and we went out to meet him at a lovely restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard. During the lunch we mentioned we were sight-seeing and Roy suggested we have a look at La Brea Tar Pits. Then we all went off to the Tar Pits and Roy came with us. 

We had a lovely afternoon and at the end of it Roy bought me, and our American Events Coordinator, Emily Danyel, a keepsake: a toy mammoth. I have it in my kitchen and I call it Roy as a tribute to that day. I hope the real Roy doesn't mind! I came away from the experience with some ideas for a story, which later evolved into Tar and can be found in my collection.

Raven Dane, Sam and David
Back in 2007 I met Raven Dane. We had been MySpace and Facebook friends before we met. Raven is a vampire/horror writer who has recently diversified into steampunk and comedy fantasy which she executes with terrific humour and flair. She and I have become very close since then and our mutual experiences in the publishing industry have consolidated that friendship even more this year. I was shocked to realise that I didn't have many pictures with Raven considering how much I see her at various events - but here is one of my favourites of us at the FantasyCon Banquet 2010 in Nottingham. I was shortlisted for the Best Novel Award for my second Vampire Gene novel Futile Flame. (Stephen King was also in the line-up that year with his novel Under the Dome.)

Simon Clark, Storm Constantine and Sam
Sam with Adam Nevill
I had attended FantasyCon since 2007 and there are a few very decent people I'd like to namecheck. In no particular order: Debbie Bennett, Jan Edwards, Peter Coleborn, Jenny and Pat Barber, Steve Tribe, Vicky and Tim Stock, Ian Whates and Ian Watson (NewCon Press), the divine Anne Sudworth, Storm Constantine, Simon Clark, Steve Savile, Robert Sherman, Adam Nevill, Chaz Brenchley, Steve Duffy, Mark Chadbourn, Paul Cornell, Neil Gaiman, Kim and Del Lakin-Smith, Steve Lockley, James Barclay, Nicholas Royle, Freda Warrington, Pat Cadigan, Christopher Fowler, Paul Campbell, Johnny Mains, Roy Gray, Peter Tennant, Colin Harvey (RIP), Lee Thompson, Guy Adams, Michael Marshall-Smith, Adam Greenwood, Rob MacKellar, Charles Rudkin, and many more.

In fact it was a fateful meeting at FantasyCon 2007 that led me to my current publisher Terry Martin, while he was there promoting his magazine Murky Depths. I met Terry and his gorgeous wife, Liz and we struck up an immediate friendship. I saw them again the following Easter at EasterCon. By then I knew that I was a finalist for an important American Independent Press Award. When I won the Silver Award for Best Horror Novel with ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year Awards, Terry launched a new book imprint, The House of Murky Depths, and I signed my first three book deal. Killing Kiss was relaunched in September 2008 at FantasyCon and the series has gone from strength to strength under Terry's guidance.
Sam, Paul Cornell, Terry and Liz Martin (NewCon 4)

Left to right (Back Row): Alan Walsh, Ed Comstock,
Tommy Knight, David Howe, Ben Adams, Kim Pfiefer-Adams,
Jocelyn Thomas, Zoe Pfiefer, Jen Comstock, Sam Stone.
(Front Row) Frazer Hines, Jarrod Cooper.
A lot of my most interesting encounters have occurred through the Doctor Who world that David introduced me to. Over the years I've made some terrific and genuine friends who live in the United States as well as those who live in the UK. I was privileged to be invited to sing at the wedding of our dear friends Ben and Kim Adams, which took place at the Gallifrey Convention in 2010. Frazer Hines gave the bride away (reluctantly), David was Best Man and I was Maid of Honour. Also in the wedding party was the lovely Tommy Knight (Luke, Sarah Jane Adventures) who was the ring bearer if memory serves. Tommy and his mother Sandy were lovely people and they took to the whole experience of Gallifrey with enthusiasm. All of the people in this list I feel I can count as real friends. We may not see each other more than once a year, but I know they would be there for David and I if we needed them. Adding to this ever growing list are two more two dear friends, Tony and Jane Kenealy. The Gallifrey weekend is incredibly short but having dinner with Tony and Jane on the Sunday evening has become something of a tradition. I'll miss that this year because, due to other commitments, we can't make it to Los Angeles.

Steve Roberts, Frazer Hines
and Sue Cowley
Of course I can't mention Doctor Who without also giving a namecheck to some other very important people. Steve Roberts, Sue Cowley and Tony Lee. Steve and Sue were David's friends long before I came on the scene. Until recently they both worked for the BBC. Steve is a key member of the team who works on and restores all the Doctor Who DVD releases. I met them in 2008 I think, when I first joined David at the Tavisode pub meetings in London. These meetings occur once a month. Unfortunately we don't live there anymore and so don't get to see the crowd as often as we would like.

Larry Niven and Sam
At the 2011 Gallifrey a man came over to see David and I at our table in the dealers room and was asking me loads of questions about my work. Me being me, I didn't realise I was talking about my books to someone as important in the Science Fiction and Fantasy world as Larry Niven. In fact he was so interested in my work that I was really shocked when I realised who he was. What a gentleman and a lovely man. I think he rather enjoyed the cuddles and kisses I gave him that day. But then so did I!

Sam and Alan Moore
At Eastercon 2009 there were many very interesting meetings. The first, and the funniest, was when we left my daughter, Linzi, sitting on a sofa in the lounge drawing while we went off somewhere. When we came back she was sitting next to this man with dark hair and he was wading through Linzi's sketch pad with a great deal of interest. My first thought was, 'Oh, who's this guy chatting her up?' Linzi was only 16 at the time. We all sat around the sofa, pulling up various chairs as Terry and Liz Martin joined us. The man was telling Linzi that her art was really good and she was graciously accepting the compliments. Then, a woman came over with a copy of V for Vendetta and asked the man to sign it. At that moment, Linzi's eyes fell onto his name badge. It was David Lloyd. The poor girl flushed bright red and hurriedly collected her sketch pads, pushing them into her bag out of sight. I have to confess it took me even longer to realise what was happening but she was really embarrassed about him looking at her art. 'Oh Mum,' she said to me later - clearly mortified - 'I can't believe David Lloyd was looking at my crap art!' Clearly he didn't think it was crap, but Linzi had believed he was merely being polite. We spent the evening with David after that and I quickly learnt that he wasn't the type to just be polite about anything! It was a very fun conversation we had about sex and sexism - and women - I can tell you! I later briefly met the amazing Alan Moore at NewCon 5 in Northampton. That was in October 2010. He was a very nice man, friendly and affable - I loved his shoes!

Lady Elsie, David, Linzi
Also at EasterCon 2009 we met the Victorian Steampunk Society founders, John Naylor and Karen Grover, also known as Major Tinker and Lady Elsie. I'm not sure that David will appreciate me telling this story, but I'm going to anyway. In the dealers room I left David standing at a table, while I wandered off to talk to someone. At that moment, Lady Elsie moved into the place beside him that I'd occupied. At the time Lady Elsie and I both had our hair the same length, with a reddish under-colour, beneath the blonde. Lady Elsie was wearing black and red and a corset. I guess you can see where this is going now ... Through David's peripheral vision he thought I was still beside him. He reached out, put his arm around Lady Elsie's waist and, I believe, squeezed her bottom for good measure. You can imagine his face when he turned to see a shocked woman beside him that wasn't me. A few minutes later, David found me, red-faced he insisted I came with him to see someone. And this was the first time I met Lady Elsie. We were dressed and looked so similar at the time that she instantly forgave David for groping her and we had a good laugh about it.
Raygun, Robert Rankin, Linzi, Sam
After that I was invited to be a guest at the 2010 Steampunk convention in Lincoln, The Asylum, which Karen and John run. I went along with Linzi and we had a fantastic weekend. I launched my novel Demon Dance there to great success and started to get to know Karen and John a little better. At this event I also met one of my other writing icons, Robert Rankin and his wife Rachel (AKA Lady Raygun). Linzi has been an ardent follower of his work for years and she was so excited and pleased to meet Robert. Over the course of the weekend we got to know him and Raygun a little bit and I really enjoyed their company. It's amazing how many friendships are forged at conventions.

I could talk more, with anecdotes and stories of my adventures, but I think I'll just add a few of my favourite pictures of people I've met. It's been an exciting time and I have high hopes for 2012.

Sam with the lovely - and tall -
Spencer Wilding
Sam and comics writer Tony Lee 
Hammer actresses Martine Beswick and Caroline Munro
with David

Sam and Hammer actor Shane Bryant
Caroline Munro, Sam, Vera Day, David, Emily Booth and Linzi      

I finally met my long-time Facebook/Myspace pal, J R Le Mar, in
Los Angeles in 2009. This pic was taken at Gallifrey in 2010

Sam with Steve Roberts
Robert Shearman and Sam
at FantasyCon 2008 

The mighty Noel Fielding and Sam Stone
at Waterstones, Arndale Centre 2011


TonyKenealy said...

And one of the highlights of the past few years for Jane and I was meeting you at Gallifrey and seeing how happy you and David are together. Sunday night this year will definitely not be the same without you, we will just have to make sure we make up for it next year. :)


Sam Stone said...

We will most certainly be missing you two!