Review of 'The Gollancz Festival 2019'


The annual “Gollancz Festival” held in the top floor of Foyles on Charing Cross Road in London is a one day event consisting of either a “Reader” or “Writer” programme. I attended the “Readers” programme which featured a series of panels featuring (of course) Gollancz authors and signing sessions. The small room gives a degree of intimacy with the authors and keeps proceedings quite relaxed and informal. Of course a table along the side of the room featured books from all the authors for sale by Foyle's, though not as good a selection as you might expect…

There were a series of ticket options available including half and full days but also you could choose between the “Readers” and the “Writers” programme with the later held across the street in the Phoenix Club featuring writer-oriented sessions and workshops.

View Out the Window


I managed to attend all of the panels making it quite a long day with the first starting at 11:00 am and the last ending at 6:00 pm (followed by a signing session) though there was an extended break early afternoon with a signing at 1:00 pm and the next session later at 3:00 pm. To be honest, most of the panel topics were more of an excuse for the authors to promote their work…after all, the day was sponsored by a book publisher…There were two signing sessions with the morning group of authors signing in the first and the afternoon group signing in the second.

Panel: Between the Page and the Screen

“Featuring authors Ben Aaronovitch, Joanne Harris, Rob Grant & Andrew Marshall. This panel will be moderated by Julie Crisp of the Julie Crisp Literary Agency.”

Probably the liveliest and most interesting of the panels with interesting insights from Harris about the reality of having their work (“Chocolat”) adapted for the screen (it was not what was originally written – though she accepted it as a separate work – and paid very little). Aaronovitch was his normal ebullient self and kept the crowd entertained.

Panel: The Reality of Life in Space

“Featuring Pat Cadigan, Ian McDonald, Simon Morden & Emma Newman. This panel will be moderated by Ed Wilson of the Johnson & Alcock Literary Agency.”

Though there was only one scientist on the panel (Morden) the discussion was interestingly focused in the realities of living in space and idea that as an author you need to knowingly put aside some of this for sake of writing a good book. Cadigan was in obvious discomfort in the warm room but was her normal crotchety, though entertaining, self.

Panel: Fantasy Throughout History

“Featuring Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson, Aliette de Bodard, Miles Cameron & Ellen Kushner. This panel will be moderated by Daphne Tonge, founder of the Illumicrate book subscription box.”

Interesting here was the discussion that fantasy has been around for much longer than most people realize and that there can still be unique fantasy in the modern day.

Panel: Virtual Landscapes

“Featuring Mark Stay, Adam Roberts, Justina Robson & Tricia Sullivan. This panel will be moderated by author Gavin G. Smith.”

How to write something that is unique and different? It is very difficult but once you have established this it is easy to stick to.

Panel: The Terrors of an Author’s Search History

“Featuring Ed McDonald, Tom Lloyd, Edward Cox & Catriona Ward. This panel will be moderated by author Elizabeth May.”

One of the authors on the panel (Ward) is a horror writer so wonders at what people might think of her search history featuring, as it does, searches on horrific topics. The discussion here focused on how easy it was to get distracted in research so how important it is to stay focused as much as possible…otherwise it can be a huge time sink.

Panel: Worldbuilding in the Future

“Featuring Elizabeth May, Laura Lam, Gavin Smith & Tom Toner. This panel will be moderated by author Justina Robson.”

Another panel talking about how authors build their worlds and here discussion was about setting it either very far into the future so “making everything up” or setting it in the near future without making too many predictions that can easily render your premise obsolete.

Panel: Magic and the Mundane

“Featuring Joe Abercrombie, Vic James, Garth Nix & Mike Shackle. This panel will be moderated by author Tom Lloyd.”

The final panel was interesting with each of the panellists talking about how they keep their magical worlds “real”. Abercrombie in particular was clear to say that he always used magical/fantastic elements as a minor part of the story – All agreed that it was characters and story that mattered rather than the magic/fantastic elements. Without these it does not matter.


An interesting day for fans of fantasy/Science Fiction books, if a bit long. The panels were all only 40 minutes long which sometimes felt a bit short when one or two of the speakers were on a bit of a role. Occasionally the panel host would actually become part of the panel but for the most part they facilitated good discussion with all panellists pretty equally able to contribute.

Rating: “Really good but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2019-10-19

Foyle's - Charing Cross Road

Location: London (England)

Address: 107 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0DT ENGLAND

Public Transport: TUBE Tottenham Court Road TUBE Leicester Square


This is Foyles' flagship store located just south of Tottenham Court Road tube station on Charing Cross Road. In recent years the notoriously difficult to navigate store has been renovated and now has a spectacular central atrium with book departments on five floors with a cafe on level 5 and an meeting space on level 6.