Caledonia Uber Alles
The West Coast was represented: by Mike Gallagher with a sorta modern day folk tale called "The Soul Skerrie" and a shorter piece co-written with Andrew Wilson (co-editor of the Nova Scotia anthology); Richard Mosses (whose first novel ENOCH'S VAULT is probably sitting on some agent's desk somewhere right now) with a tight wee SF story called "The Search Engine"; Phil Raines, with one of his Clean Steve fucked-up Glasgow stories, "A Christmas For Christmas" (one half of the Raines/Welles writing team that's been in a few Year's Bests now, Phil currently has John Jarrold touting two novels, MOONDOG and THE FANCY, around town -- we expect big things of Phil, we do); Paul Cockburn, who we stole from the Ediburgh group a few years back, bwahahah, and who gave us "Bastard No-Show", a dark wee story of when dates go wrong (and which he insisted was NOT based on a true story); Mark Harding, a relatively new member of the GSFWC, who bravely performed a story done as a sort of mock interview with himself -- which required him to turn this way and that on stage like a madman in order to play both parts; and of course meself, doing my twisted, poignant, little thousand-worder, "The Disappearance of James H___".
Of the East Coast mob, we had Stefan Pearson (he of the also wonderful "The Bogle's Bargain", also in Nova Scotia) with an extract from his patently mad novel set in the mad teuchter land of Kinlochbogle (or wherever the hell it is), titled "My First Shag", but dealing with something entirely different from what you'd expect. That was based on a true story, he told us, "but with the names changed to protect me". I tell you, if half the stories he was telling us at the bar afterwards of his upbringing up North are in the book... man, I have to read it. I thought Kilwinning was fucked up. Andrew Wilson (yes, Nova Scotia, yes, you know that) gave us some in-flight reading of the future, including a great wee travelogue of the planet Biblios that managed to be somehow both Borgesian and Lovecraftian, but was also quite definitely Wilsonian. Jane McKie, who we're stealing away to Glasgow on the patently absurd excuse that her and Phil are getting married (I mean, come on... who would marry a guy who comes on stage with little plastic elephants attached to the shoulders of his dinner jacket?), gave us a "Stocking Filler" of her own, as well as reading a Santa's-elves-discover-Marxism story by a writer who couldn't make it along, and whose second name I can't remember... Morag... something. Anyway, that was a hoot. And then there was Alan Campbell, who gave us three wee shorts about adventurous explorers and who, it turns out, has an urban fantasy novel called SCAR NIGHT coming out from Pan Macmillan / Tor UK next year.
It was such a packed programme (with mainly short pieces being read) that I'm sure I've missed someone out, but for the life of me I can't think who. Anyway, as well as enjoying watching consummate performers like Gavin or Phil work the audience, it was just great to look around the room and see a bunch of people that a year, two years or three years back were just waiting for that Big Break, all mixed in with the folk who in a year or two, I reckon, will be getting their chance. With Neil Williamson (Nova Scotia editor, short story collection THE EPHEMERA out next year, etc.) and Gary Gibson (ANGEL STATIONS, AGAINST GRAVITY and more to come) in the audience, and realising that yet another Scot had been signed to the same stable as meself and Gary, I really had the sense of "something happening here". I mean, last year I think it was, someone passed on a remark they heard made at a con, where somebody had asked "What do you have to do to get a book deal?", and the answer was "Live in Scotland".
Heh. It's mainly bollocks, of course -- wishful thinking and happenstance -- but it's great to see how the GSFWC and Edinburgh mob have become sorta support systems for those willing to make the long haul from newbie to neopro and, hopefully, onwards. I certainly expect to see some of the other guys publishing novels in the future; fuck, some of them are dead certs, I reckon. So, even if it's just chance that Scotland's got Banks, McLeod, Stross and Morgan, even if the rest of us are really just a few young pretenders trying to muscle in on their action, well, it's nice to see there's so much fucking talent bubbling away under the surface. To be able to at least pretend that it's all just about to erupt in a huge explosion that critics will invent silly names for... which we'll all deny vehemently, of course. The New Scottish SF! The Glasgow Boys! The New Weans! Cyberjock!
Ach... maybe I just want more mates to get book deals so there's more excuses to party... as if an excuse was actually required.