This is a big thing for me. More so than I expected all those months ago when I signed up for the convention at BFS Con in Nottingham 2008. Not only is WHC2010 four days - and four days where I won't be mindful of my ten month old son (who I'm sure to miss, but will relish the relaxation of not talking all things baby or changing nappies) - it's four days of speaking to some of the luminaries of the business. I'm not just talking Horror here, but everything that overlaps with the genre, like fantasy, Science Fiction, crime… the works.
And then there’s my first panel on Saturday: a discussion moderated by Christopher Fowler, with Michael Marshall Smith, Nicholas Royle, Simon R Green and Jasper Kent, on "When is Horror not Horror?" I won't go into this too much in case I pre-empt any of the arguments here, but as a writer who was led more and more down the historical route and away from the fantasy and horror realms, this is quite pertinent to me.
I have my own opinions on “when is horror not horror?” - and my answer is not the same as one friend who said:
“When is horror not horror? Well… When it’s a quarter-pounder with chips.”
I replied with: “but what if that quarter-pounder was someone’s liver and the chips were someone’s fingers?”
They didn’t say anything but dashed to the bathroom. We were in Burger King at the time.
(The friend obviously wasn’t a “Hitcher” fan.)
I'll admit to being nervous about attending the panel, not only because this is my first panel but because of the writers alongside me. Christopher Fowler's Roofworld was one of the defining books of the late 80's in our household - my parents loved it (my mum particular made a high-pitched noise when I mentioned Christopher would be moderating the panel) and I was reading Nicholas Royle's stories when I was but 15 years old (the first of which was in FEAR magazine). I haven't read any of Simon's, Michael's or Jasper's books (though I will be starting Jasper's soon and I'm part way through reading Michael's short story in the BFS anniversary collection) but I know enough about their writing to feel just a little humble. Being a new writer, and a relatively "young" new writer (age is relative, they tell me – a 35 year old footballer is seen as being over the hill, a 35 year old novelist is just a baby – they are semantics that make little sense!), any new experience is always a little unnerving yet exciting - such as my first radio interview, my first book signing, my first reading etc - which is the essence of Horror anyway: to be lifted out of comfort into weird, scary circumstances that thrill as well as terrify.
I know I'll be nervous when I get up there. But by the end I'll feel quite exhilarated I'm sure - just like a good horror novel should do.
Other than the panel - and the candy-shop of books on sale during the four days (I hope my bank-manager isn't reading this) - another reason to feel excited is Pitch Black, an event on Thursday described by the organisers as the "Frankfurt Bookfair for Horror writers". There are some influential people attending, and under the current financial climate I do doubt how many will be expecting to fill their copy books with new writers, but for me it's a chance to punt the Secret War books, and the Black Hours to an English publisher - and maybe an agent.
After all, it would feel quite wrong to be published only in Spanish and German and not in my native tongue, don't you think?...