Whirled Con 2: Inna The Blue!!!!
Yes, I now actually remember what I was up to on Thursday evening before ending up at the Hilton! It was not a Korean restaurant we went to. No, in fact it was an entirely different restaurant, a Japanese place called Ichiban. Hell, it was an entirely different we. So who all was there? Fucked if I know. I'm pretty sure Mark Roberts and John Berlyne were there along with TV mates of John's -- Nicola and Russell and... argh... the other one whose name I cannot for the life of me recall. Claire Weaver and Tom Hunter of Matrix were there, Neil Williamson and Eric Schaller. Gary Gibson. Ah, fuck it. There was a mob of us. The rest is just a haze of bento boxes and red wine.
Friday kicked off nice and gentle with a wee coffee in the Concourse cafe at the SECC. Yes, I did, on occasion, actually drink something that was not beer or red wine during the Con. Or, for that matter, a Bloody Mary. Walked in to find Jeff Ford sitting there (hurrah!) with a wee copy of The Girl In The Glass (double hurrah!) which he'd brought over for me because I couldn't wait for it to come out here. I do have to say at this point that Jeff Ford is officially a Top Bloke.
So what are your plans, Jeff?
Sitting in the bar.
My kinda guy. It may also have been at that point that I bumped into Rick Kleffel, who was rushing off somewhere; it may, alternatively, have been at another point entirely, when I was rushing off somewhere. Either way, I didn't have the chance, annoyingly, to actually sit and talk to him. Which is a recurring theme of this con, in many ways. Oh, hey! You're X! Great to meet you! Shit, I gotta go!
So after coffee I wander round the dealer's room for a bit and bump into a French guy, editor/publisher (who I guess I shouldn't name seeing as he was interested in the French rights and it strikes me as "not the done thing" to go blathering about X or Y being interested when it's all still up in the air). As an indication of how generally dazed I was, even when not under the influence, at one point he tells me he's looking for his translator and I spend the next five minutes wondering why he needs a translator? I mean his English is perfectly fine, and sure, I have a broad Scots accent, and I'm still groggy and probably slurring from the night before, but I'm not that incomprehensible surely so... OH! That kind of translator! Like the person what translates yer books from English into French.
La la la.
Finally it's time to head off to my signing session at 12:00, knowing full well that there are no copies of Vellum in the dealer's room, knowing full well that I'm going to be sitting there for an hour like a numpty, chatting to Mike Cobley on my left and explaining to the odd enquirer that, no, there aren't actually any copies in the Dealer's Room, no, but there'll be oodles of them at Borders, tonight 6:30, and, yes, well, it's not really a launch at Borders, tonight 6:30, no, see, it's the Tor UK party, and well yes, it is by invite, but, oh, I don't know! Just come along -- yes, at Borders, tonight 6:30 -- and try and scam some free booze and BUY MY BOOK. It was quite amusing actually; to tell the truth, it was a buzz just sitting at the table playing at being Mr Professional Writer. Signed a few Nova Scotias, at least. And, hell, in a way it was lucky they didn't have any Vellum, since I bloody well forgot my bloody crayons. I had my plan, see, to have them all set out in a row in front. And would you like a purple signature or a yellow signature, sir? Perhaps a small flower? Or a stick man waving? A boat? Picture me with my tongue sticking out one corner of my mouth, intent on colouring in a pretty yellow sun.
The best laid plans o' mice and men, as they say.
Still, I got to admire the size of Trudi Cannavan's queue, and to scowl at the press people setting up their shot of aforesaid queue, which included the reporter himself donning rubber alien mask and standing with copy of book in hand. Ah, so if there aren't any weird fans in silly costumes we'll just have to make one up! Hurrah for the standards of British journalists. I mean, OK, publicity is publicity. I can't honestly say what I would have done if they'd wanted to set up that shot with me. Perhaps I would have agreed... if they were willing to make it an action shot of me leaping across the table, going for the throat of the man in the rubber alien mask, or malkying him with an Irn Bru bottle.
After the "signing" session I repair to the Concourse cafe for a lovely lunch with my French editor/publisher person and a whole host of translators -- all damn fine people. I finally get to meet the translator he wants to work on my book, and Florence and I sit down for a pint while FE/PP goes out on a crusty bread hunt. Hour long chat about the joys of language and the rewards of translation, and just how do you translate an Irishman whose every other word is "fookin " into French? Make him Breton? Heh. That's one of the things I'm eager to see with the translations of Vellum. Will the Russian Seamus Finnan be Ukrainian? Will the German Seamus be Bavarian? What the hell will they do for the Polish version? And Christ knows what they'll do with the Joycean wordplay in Ink. Anyway, the great thing about having lunch with French people is, rather than buy overpriced crap from the cafe they'd actually brought real food for a gourmet picnic. Pate de foie gras and wild duck, no less! Now that's what I call class!
Anyway having arranged to meet up with Jeff and some of the Glasgow mob in the afternoon, and having spotted a copy of Le Portraite De Madame Charbuque in my newfound French friend's hands, I drag him off to the Moat House bar to meet the author himself. When I say Moat House bar, I do of course mean the proper non-convention hotel bar where, of course, all the cool kids hang out at cons.
And that was pretty much it for Friday afternoon. Drank some beer. Sat chatting to Jeff's eldest kid, Jack, about smoking. Drank some more beer. I vaguely remember my editor, Peter Lavery, coming up and warning me, now don't get too drunk before the party. Don't worry, says me.
Drank some more beer.
I'm not very good at this concept of "too drunk", to be honest. What's that then? Too drunk? Too drunk? Too? Drunk? Sorry, no, I'm just not getting it. Can you run that by me again. Too drunk, you say? What an inventive concept!
And so we come to Friday night. Jesus... Friday night. I remember a bunch of us staggering out of the Moat House bar and grabbing taxis to the Pan Mac party in Borders where copies of my book just kept coming to me for signing (in between the red wine). I remember being pulled away to talk drunkenly to China Mieville and Iain Banks. There is, in fact, photographic evidence of me standing beside China, both of us posed for the shot, China looking terribly cool and me looking like a rabid orangutan on laughing gas. I remember being gobsmacked when someone came up with a copy of the anthology containing the first story I ever wrote, looking to get that signed as well ("Holy fuck! That's fucking ten years old! That's fucking ancient!" (I swear even more when I'm drunk)). I remember the harrowing hollow feeling when someone you've known five, ten or fifteen years hands you a book to sign and you can't think of anything to put in the dedication. Fuck writer's block. That's when you really panic. I remember posing proudly for photos with my Mum and Dan and my Aunt Wilma and Uncle Bert. I remember whirling here, there and everywhere in a maelstrom of joy.
I do not remember doing a sort of stagger/dance down the stairs into the party like a whacked-out Fred Astaire, somehow miraculously keeping his footing as he hits only every other step. If it did happen like that, it's got to be the Tao of Drunkenness, I think. Sorta like that Martial Art form from the chop socky movie Drunken Master. You know, the fighting-with-a-wine-gourd thing that they should have had in Matrix 2 instead of all that CGI garbage and stoner philosophy? Whatever the fuck it's called, I appear to have become a master at it, by the accounts of others. I'm not entirely sure I trust their word though. I wasn't that smashed.
Nor do I remember bellowing at the top of my voice "WE WANT THE FINEST WINES KNOWN TO HUMANITY!" across the basement of Borders, a la Richard E Grant in Withnail And I. It's a damn lie. Never happened. Even if it did, I wasn't there. Even if I was, it wasn't me. Honest, guv. A big boy did it and ran away. It was probably Iain Banks. He drinks Body Shop lotions, so I hear.
Look. If it had been at the top of my voice they would have kicked us out.
So eventually some of us head off to the Gollancz party at Tiger Tiger. I have no idea who "some of us" actually consisted of by that point, other than me and my newly designated "driver", a good friend who bravely and foolishly took it upon herself to steer me gracefully out doors avoiding collisions and catasrophes, and to hold me back whenever yours truly was about to blithely walk out into oncoming traffic (because all it takes, you know, is a Ratso-from-Midnight-Cowboy style "Hey! I'm walking here!" and the double-decker bus will stop. You know that, don't you?). Anyway proudly and drunkenly, I declaim to all and sundry "Follllow me! Ah know whrrr wrrr GOIN!" and then proceed to lead anyone crazy enough to listen to me along the road, round the corner onto the street where Tiger Tiger sits, round the corner just before Tiger Tiger, and off in entirely the wrong direction, turning right, next right, and right again, to do a full circuit of the block before actually reaching our destination.
"Hi. Excuse me." says my designated driver to the barman "We're looking for the Gollancz party?"
"RvvvrrrruzzaGollaanzz parrrry!" I clarify.
"Up the stairs." he says.
And so I stagger up the stairs and straight to the bar, say hi to Richard Morgan, but have at least enough sense not to try and engage in conversation right now; instead I -- naturally -- get meself a drink, and collapse into a stool at a table in the corner. My designated driver, bless her, brings me ickle pizza nibble things at some point to line my empty stomach, and a Coke to sober me up a little. I take a couple of sips of the Coke and abandon it, I must confess, wandering off, beer in hand, to dance with an equally wasted woman. Unfortunately, (or shamefully rather) I'm the male equivalent of a prick-tease when drunk; I'll dance raunchily with a girl at the drop of the hat, flirt with her outrageously, and then wander off with complete disinterest when something shiny catches my eye. In this instance, the "something shiny" was a big comfy sofa where a number of Waterstones staff were sitting discussing something terribly serious... morality or somesuch. I may have contributed to this conversation. I may have just sat there grinning like the Cheshire Cat only more inane. Or is it more insane? Probably both.
I do believe an agent gave me her business card at some point. I know this, in fact, having found it in my pocket the next day. Buggered if I can remember when though. Thankfully, my wise and wonderful editor, Peter Lavery, is smart enough to know when it's time to put food into yer stomach to sop up the alcohol, and so eventully 6 or 7 of us stagger out into the night to get some grub. I do have to get someone to call my mobile phone before leaving, I should add, having lost it completely, searched high and low, and not been able to find it. The phone rings. It is, of course, in my pocket.
Songs I remember singing in Pizza Express?
But fuck yeah. Friday was a fucking good night. And I even had two friends decide to, um, put on a -- shall we say -- "verbal fireworks display", as we staggered round the centre of Glasgow looking for a taxi back to the Hilton. It turned out all right in the end, I'd say... but I think I'll discreetly leave it at that.