10 things I learned at the SFX Weekender
1. Paul Cornell has the enthusiasm of 1000 fanboys,
especially when talking about Dr Who. One can honestly believe that the timelord business was kept going through the "Wilderness Years" entirely by Paul talking very animatedly to absolutely anyone and everyone about it at every opportunity.
2. Apparently I'm nominated for the Gemmel Awards this year again,
or at least my presence on the panel would seem to indicate it. I think Blood of the Mantis is up, but when voting's open, if you did want to cast a proxy vote for Dragonfly Falling I'm sure Druss would understand. Sapkowski won last year of course, and it's fair enough — his Blood of Elves genuinely is a good fantasy in the vein of Gemmel.
3. People will queue for four hours to get Tom Baker to sign a photograph of himself. And/or James Marsters.
… Tom Baker is an experience. In person, on stage, rambling and digressing, and absolutely and exactly the person that you honestly hoped he would be. None of it's an act. It's all him, like a larger than life mad uncle who, you're sure, could dismantle a dalek (should one appear) without ever pausing for breath. My agent, whose dream to be in the presence of Tom Baker has now come true, spent Mr B's entire spot on stage accosting random people in the audience and saying, "That's Tom Baker" to them in a somewhat spaced-sounding voice. Still, I would not queue four hours for an autograph, and that's no reflection on Mr Baker. I can't think of anyone whose autograph I'd queue four hours for. But enough people did that half the hall was essentially blockaded for the entire morning.
4. A windowless and apparently unventilated "screening room" left showing scifi programs for long enough will end up smelling strongly of decaying nerd. Enough said.
5. I have engineered a strategic Tor-Gollancz détente by entering into a mutual reading pact with Tom Lloyd, whose Stormcaller I am just about to start. He in turn is having a crack at mine. Peace in our time.
6. Unlike Pokemon, you can never catch them all.
In this case, I missed Jeff Wayne, of War of the Worlds fame, who has a special place in my heart, as a collaborator in sneaking SF into my primary school. In my last year we were forced bodily to study the Victorian era. At age 11 there is little useful insight you can gain into this, and instead I recall it as being extremely dull, and a particular cause of my teachers' general complaint that, no matter what, I would draw insects in the margins of everything. However, I managed to click that HG Wells was, arguably, Victorian, and somehow from this fast-talked the teacher into playing the entirety of War of the Worlds to the class over two afternoons. To this day I don't know how I did it. It may have been the one sole time in that school that I verged on the popular.
7. Holiday camp chalets redefine the word "chalet".
There was little of the Swiss cuckoo clock about them, which is all I'll say for fear of waiting lawyers. Oh, except they look like halls of residence of blocks of flats that have suffered severe subsidence (being only 2 stories left above ground). And I understand that the first open hand of hospitality is when you're presented with a list detailing the precise cost of everything in the room, in case you break it. Enough, enough. Tor sprung for a cottage by the sea, and I spent the weekend in Bohemian splendour, swapping anecdotes with China Mieville, Peter F Hamilton and Mark Charan Newton while editorial assistants waited on us hand and foot and fed us grapes. Ready-peeled grapes. Made of gold.
8. Conventions are no friend to sleep or regular diet
Although I got into the SF London hoedown last year (and hopefully will return this year, as it was a blast), a weekend deal is decidedly more reality-challenging. Certain parts of Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas do spring to mind, although it's not the evenings, but the mornings after, that leave you shambling about on your own between appointments, staring at all the people buying film posters and alien abduction lamps and waiting for them all to turn into lizards.
9. Joe Abercrombie is a cracking reader
In the sense that he does a very entertaining reading. I was taking notes. My own reading was esseitnally mike-testing time for the event, and so possibly fell on either deaf or deafened ears. I also got to catch up with Stephen Deas again, after sharing panels with him, Mr Abercrombie and Tom Lloyd at Scifi London.
10. It's all happening again next year.
I am laying in raw caffeine and alcohol already.