Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Whirled Con

Where to start? Shit, where to start?

OK, let's start as Scottish people do, when it comes to drinking -- early. The con kicked off for me, I guess, on the Tuesday, when I wandered down to the SECC and picked up me badge and book. I thought, hey, let' skip the crowds and sign up sharpish, scope out the place. I mean, I know the general layout of the SECC from gigs and stuff, but I have the memory of a goldfish so I reckoned it might be an idea to have a nosey; needless to say there wasn't anything to actually nosey about other than the Registration Room but... well... ye see... OK, OK, so it was the WorldCon in me home town with me debut novel coming out and I was just plain EXCITED. Kid in a candy store. And suddenly I was in a new position. I had to register as a -- ooh ooh -- Programme Participant. Is that sad of me? Fuck it. I had to go down and see if there was something cool and exciting I needed to do. I had to go down with that knowledge that this time I was gonna be there in exactly the way, ten years ago, I'd dreamed of being. There wasn't actually anything extra for me to do, but it was still kinda cool just knowing that in the very near future I was going to be doing stuff there as a proper author... wandering around... buzzing like fuck.

Anyway, to get into the SF/F spirit of things I went off in the evening to see Charlie & The Chocolate Factory. I was thinking of getting blind drunk beforehand and lying down across four seats while watching the movie in a dazed haze, as an attempt to recapture my early con-going experiences of Liverpool Eastercon (1992? 93?), that experience of crashing out in the Video Room because you're fucked out of your face, you don't have a hotel room, you've lost the person you were going to crash with and Tetsuo 2: Bodyhammer is not that loud and jarring that you can't sleep through it; but I did the sensible thing and, with a wee movie and a few drinks after with me mates Mags and Claire, I started the con thing gently.

But not that gently.

The next night, Wednesday night, ye see, was the launch of Nova Scotia, brainchild of Neil Williamson and Andrew Wilson, two hardcore members of the Glasgow and Edinburgh mobs repectively. An anthology of Scottish Speculative Fiction, you say? For release at the Worldcon, you say? Why, that sounds like an idea! And lo, they made it so. I mean, forget the fact that they got Edwin Morgan and Charles Stross, Ken Macleod and Jane Yolen to contribute, forget the fact that the book is a peachy keen taster of folks to watch out for, like Hannu Raijianemi and Gavin Ingles, Phil Raines and... Christ, pick a name from the line-up. This was a stonking opportunity for a piss-up! And a damn fine piss-up we had. I, of course, managed to arrive late and miss all the bloody readings, joking that, well, I have a story in it and they never asked me to read, so pshaw! Still, I walked into the downstairs area of Borders and the first thing that happens is someone hands me a book to sign. Which is kinda fiucking cool. And the next thing that happened is we went to the pub.

So we had a good few hours in which I managed to catch up with past members of the GSFWC long disappeared into the mists of time, like f'rinstance Bill King, the man who sliced my first ever Circle submission into little pieces (I remember the phrase "Doctor Who fanfiction" particularly well; being a long-term hater of All That Is Who that was like ripping my heart out, crushing it and then pissing in the open chest wound. He was, of course, quite right -- the story was unmitigated shite). I vaguely remember staggering out of a taxi headed homewards, to grab a Scooby Snack (burger, bacon, egg, black pudding, tatty scone, etc.) on the way home. I distinctly remember aforesaid scooby snack being yummy.

So when the con actually started on Thursday at midday I already felt like it was Saturday at an Eastercon, sitting there with me bottle of Irn Bru in Gary Gibson's reading in the Fyne room (which seemed awfully appropriate to the soldiers-in-evil-experimental-lab section Gary read, what with its Guantanomo-effect breezeblock walls and cell-like atmosphere). Had some Electric Velocipedes to drop off at Borderlands Books in the Dealers Room so after some persuasion that, no I'm not a scurrilous roge trying get access to all the neat books before everyone else I get myself escorted to and from the stall. Not exactly sure what they were expecting me to do on my tod but hey ho.

Oh, and of course, I then get to go to the programme participant registration place (and stand wistfully under the Hugo Nominees Registration playing make believe) and get a pretty ribbon for my badge -- yes, a pretty ribbon that makes me feel Important (sad, but true). Anyhoo, by now I'm hanging with Jim Campbell and Richard Mosses, bouncing up and down like a small puppy and asking "Am I insufferable yet? Am I? Am I?" and so the three of us head off in search of the bar. We do find the Real Ale bar, which is Good, but it's no smoking, which is of course Bad. Nevertheless, we have a wee pint before I realise it's 2:00 -- time for the Del Rey promo thing.

OK, I admit it. I'm partly curious to see what else is coming from Del Rey in the next year or so but (of course) I'm most curious to see if they'll talk about ME. And besides, I reckon it's a good idea to introduce myself to Shelly Shapiro and Steve Saffel before the Del Rey brunch on Saturday morning, ("brunch with Del Rey" I say to Jim and Rich, with a mock casual yawn and a wave of the hand. Then grin "Am I insufferable yet?"). I mean, I should at least try and make a good impression rather than have them see me for the first time as a shambling wreck the morning after the Tor UK party. Anyway, you know, not only do they talk about this exciting new book called VELLUM but towards the end they're talking about the re-issue of Silverberg's Book of Skulls (which Gary Gibson forced on me a couple of years back, rightly insisting that YOU MUST READ THIS). Anyhoo, I'm sitting in the audience nodding vigorously and Steve Saffel says "So, you've read it, Hal?" I mutter something incomprehensibly Scottish about it being "fucking brilliant, but" and have my jaw hit the floor when the reply is "We should get you to give a cover quote for it".

I mean, come on to fuck. Me give a cover quote for Robert Silverberg. How insane is that? OK, so it wasn't perhaps the most serious comment. I'm quite sure there's a damn sight more important authors than me who'll give a blurb for that goddamn classic. But how can you not be tickled pink as a puppy's peter by that. Me give a cover quote for Robert Silverberg. I don't know whether to laugh or explode with chuffedness. Needless to say I will, later in the day, recount this incident with great joy to all and sundry, following up with the point where I'm wandering round the Dealers Room (now officially open) and Steve calls me over to actually meet Silverberg himself. I splutter and mumble, shake hands and generally corpse. Total crisis of identity. What am I? Fanboy? Writer? Fanboy? Writer? Oh God. It's Robert Silverberg! Shake hands and RUN AWAY!!!

"They asked me if I'd give a cover quote for Robert Silverberg." I say to Gary, evilly, deliciously gloating and preening.

"Am I insufferable yet?"

"You've always been insufferable." says Jim.

"But am I really really insufferable yet?"

Eased from quiet drinking into solid drinking over the course of the day, met up with Peter, Stef and Rebecca from Pan Macmillan. Apparently they'd already met with Gary, who was a bit miffed with his books not being available in the dealers room. I hadn't been sure meself if any of my books would be there yet, given the launch not being till Friday, and many of the dealers being from the States and all, and... well, Murphy's Law told me that I should expect to be disappointed. There were indeed no copies of VELLUM in the dealers room the whole convention. I did hear that at least one of the dealers had tried to get hold of it but was through a mutual friend and maybe it was a wee white lie. Hey ho. Whatever. My Amazon rankings and gobsmackingly good reviews make up for it, I reckon.

A few beers later it's time for food, and meself, Eric Schaller, Nick Mahoney, Ian Sales and Craig Marnoch (or was it Danny Livingstone? eek?) head out for Korean. I'm a little disappointed that they don't have any live squid for me to eat a la Old Boy, but you can't have everything. For some reason, I'm sure, we'd all arranged to meet back at the Moat House, but I have no idea why or what for. Part of me even begins to wonder if we were heading back for the Nova Scotia reading, which would mean we went for Korean on the Saturday. If so, then fuck knows what happened on the Thursday. Did I eat at all? Hmmm. If anyone knows what I did on Thursday evening prior to ending up at the Hilton bar, please do tell me. I know that by the end of the night I was drinking with the lovely Alistair McCullough and the even lovelier Marwan Bukhari, and I believe Mark Roberts of Thackery Lambshead fame, John Berlyne of SFRevu and I may have been reprising our Eastercon anthem of Born Free, but other than that... oh dear. It's not an alcohol-induced blank spot, honest it's not. I'll remember any time now. Any time now...

Anyhoo, so that's us up to Day One of Whirled Con. I reckon I'll post this and carry on with a new entry for Friday -- Day Zero, the Launch of VELLUM.


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