Notes from New Sodom

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

Thursday, November 09, 2006


So I'm home. Another WFC over, another wild week of erudition and excess. I'm going to keep this one short, I'm afraid ("aye, right" or "about fucking time", I hear you say), cause I've just crawled out of me bed after a wee post-trans-Atlantic-flight nap, and am therefore not terribly capable of stringing a coherent sentence of sense together, never mind reconstructing the last week or so in copious detail. Add to that the fact that I got dropped on the head, and ye'll have to excuse me if I spent 18 hours in the bar talking to ye and forget to mention it.

Dropped on the head? Yeah, yeah, we'll come to that.

So I arrived in NY last Tuesday, on one of those flights that leaves Glasgow at 09:00 UK time and hits Newark -- I dunno, five, six, seven or some ungodly number of hours later -- at 12:00 NY Time. Note: this type of schedule means yer up at the crack of WHAT THE FUCK KINDA TIME IS THIS?! and are going to be screwed by jet-lag if ye go to bed at a regular time; the solution, I've found, is to get shit-faced at a karaoke bar with various Del Rey folks, and be staying with yer editor out in Princeton Junction so that when you finally arrive back at his place at 01:00 NY Time, you crash out like a light thrown at a wall and wake up peachy keen the next morning at a time that means ye've had a long lie by your circadian rhythms.

Left NY with Jim Minz the next day for Austin, where Chris Roberson picked us up at the airport and took us to the hotel. Acquiring John Picacio and Joe McCabe in the bar, we then headed out to see the new Gilliam movie, TIDELAND, in the groovy Alamo Draft House, a cinema set out like a lecture theatre, with a waitress service offering beer and food. Cool! The movie itself was the sort of thing the phrase "fucked-up shit" accretes to. Pretty much everyone but me hated it, Chris and Jim being particularly uncomfortable with the whole little-girl-in-sexual-peril thing that kicks in towards the end, them having daughters and all. I didn't *love* it, but I was defending it in the pub afterwards, as much on a Devil's Advocate basis as anything else. I can see what he's trying to do, what with the whole "dark fairy tale" thing being typical Gilliam; I'm just not sure what point he was trying to make. Anyhoo, we all headed back to the con and had an early night, I think, on account of the bar being closed by the time we got back.

Thursday the con started for real, so this is where it starts to get blurry. I'd no sooner finished me breakfast than Jim was snagging me for lunch with Chris and Lee Modesit. Not being that hungry I was more concerned with finding a head shop that stocked rolling tobacco, natch. Anyway, after lunch was when BarCon properly started. I remember Bear's hat, of course -- and a swell hat it is too -- but, dude, I don't know which of us is more of an attention-slut, me or the hat. So from here on in, I'm not even going to try to name-check all those I was drinking with; there's just too damn many. Just look at all of those people in those photos wearing that hat for an idea of who I was hanging with. I can't remember where I ate on Thursday night, never mind anything else. I rolled into the room about 05:30 am, is about all I can tell you.

Friday opened with poor old Jim, who I was sharing a room with, coming down with the Bug To End All Bugs. Man, I woke up in the morning to the sound of him coughing and spluttering, staggering to the toilet. Poor sod spent the rest of the con like that, to the point where Chris Roberson was reckoning our room was built on an ancient Indian burial ground or something, what with Jim struck down by illness and me getting dropped on the frickin head. (But we'll get to that.) Anyway with occassional bouts of guilt over enjoying meself while Jim suffered I spent most of Friday in the bar. The highlight of Friday was the Morhaim Family Dinner, the black tie affair thrown by me agent every WFC, where we all got to / get to dress up in penguin suits and play at being billionnaires. I had a reading that finished just when folks were leaving for the restaurant, while Jeff Ford followed direct after me, so the two of us did our shit all dolled up to the nineties, and I hung around to catch Jeff in action. I did a bit of VELLUM then my Sonnets For Orpheus (the latter of which went down really well -- I had a few really cool comments afterward from people basically saying "fuck yeah!", so I think my drama queen gene served me proud). Jeff followed up with a great wee story that's mostly conversation between a couple, funny and quirky, but really quite moving in a lot of ways. The dinner was great. I didn't manage to chat to Moorcock as he was way across the table from me, but I did manage to cadge a damn fine cigar from Jeff VanderMeer. In my tails and cummerbund and shit, it was all terribly decadent.

Saturday was the day of the banquet and the World Fantasy Awards, introduced brilliantly by Brad Denton. As ye'll probably all know by now, I didn't win. I was more bummed by the fact that Peter Lavery didn't win in the Special Award (Professional) category, actually, and, as far as me own award, I had more than enough folks offering commiserations and "You was robbed, dude" sentiments to make up for it. If I didn't win the head, I got a ton of egoboo from a shitload of friends. And I got a ton of free drink, for that matter. Jay Lake had me judge some weird-ass contest at the Tor-eadors party. I met the guys from Farrago's Wainscot (or maybe that was Friday?). So it was all going swimmingly, up until, that is, I got dropped on my frickin head.

So, yeah, the story is, according to Jason Williams of Night Shade Books that we were in the lobby bar and aiming to go up to the party. I, however, by now exceedingly drunk and glued to the chair by laziness asked to be carried. Now, I remember being grabbed around the waist by Jason and slung over his shoulder like a sack of potatos, but I don't remember having any say in this at the time (some may say that I have in fact been known to do the ole doe-eyed "Carry me" routine for a laugh, on numerous occassions... but I couldn't possibly comment. The fact remains: I got dropped on my frickin head). I mean, yeah, we made it all the way to the actual lobby before Jason lost it and I got dropped on my frickin head, but that only meant we'd left the nice soft carpeted area and were onto the marble fuckin floor. Marble fuckin floors are not comfortable places to get dropped on yer frickin head, I tell you. Now, it may be true, as Jason insists, that at the point we reached the marble floor, I "squirmed". It may also be true, as some reports suggest, that my lighter fell out of my pocket and I was reaching for it. It is not, I confess, entirely unlikely that seeing my lighter fall, in my state of intoxication, I would consider that nothing in the world was more important than retrieving said lighter... and would endeavour to defy the laws of human physiognomy and gravity in order to simply reach for it from my perch atop Jason Williams shoulder. But the fact remains, Mr Williams: I got dropped on my frickin head!

Didn't really bother me too much, I'd have to say, but it seemed to scare the shit out of everyone around me. I didn't even know I was bleeding, but they way Chris Roberson describes it was like the last fucking scene in PLATOON, with Willem Dafoe on his knees, arms spread and leaning back, blood streaming down his face. Much fuss was made as people tried to establish if I was concussed... with not much success. I'm incomprehensible when I'm sober. Add a few drinks and fuck knows how any American makes sense of my rambling gibberish. So the question "Are you OK?" would just get met with a string of randomly selected affirmatives, expletives and hand-gestures, in no particular coherent order. The only way they knew I was cool was when, after Allison had patched up the wound, someone tried to hold a cold beer can to my head to deal with the swelling. I, naturally enough, reach for it. They, foolishly enough, think I want to hold it myself. So they give me it. So I pop the ring-pull and take a slug, of course. Fuck the head wound; it's beer, dude.

Anyway, it wasn't as bad as it looked to folks, just a wee bump and a bit of broken skin. Hell, there's a photo out there on the interweb and there's really not even that much blood visible. Still, at least I can now say I've been dropped by a publisher.

Right so. Sunday... ah, bollocks if I can remember much more than Neil Williamson finally appearing and looking perky rather than half-dead, having finally adjusted to the time-difference. Or actually that might have been Saturday. I know it was out on the patio, but fuck it, man, I spent a lot of time out on that patio. Plus I got dropped on my fricking head, so ye cant't expect me to remember what happened when, right? Had dinner with Gigi, Chris Billett and... t'others whose names I'll just mumble and look sheepish about and again point to my big lump on head.

And then it was over for another year, and I had a couple of days in NY on the way back, time to discover St Marks Bookshop and the Velvet Cigar Lounge, and to meet up for lunch with Colleen Lindsay, Superstar, but not time enough to get past the "shit, it's over". Man, I swear to God I could've happily stayed. It was great getting to hang out for a fair time with Chris and Allison and John, in particular, but, fuck, man, there were fucking scores of folks it was great to see again or meet for the first time, and if I tried to recount them all I'd be here until next WFC. So fuck it. I'll just quote Jay Lake's comment over on Neil's blog.

Saratoga! Saratoga!

(Hmmm, why do I have a sudden image of John Belushi in a white sheet?)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most of us get dropped on our heads when we are babies. Not you man, leading the way as always!


6:49 pm  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

You should just move to America, Hal. You're becoming a fixture anyway. ;-)

7:09 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Hey--great to have a chance to talk. Hope you recover from the jetlag soon.

I heard about the dropping on head thing. Jason was very sheepish about it all.

I also heard great things about your poetry reading.

As for WF, everybody loses more of these things than they win, but you're gonna be a fixture on the finalist list and you're going to win it more than once.


7:36 pm  
Blogger Chris Roberson said...

So wait, you got dropped on your head? I don't think I heard anything about that...

8:16 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL! Nice one, Chris.

8:28 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ndI heard that you got dropped head first onto a marble floor by a marine corporal. Which was oddly believable...

Jim Steel

9:59 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dude. on your head.

10:46 pm  
Blogger Jason Erik Lundberg said...

You were robbed! There, that's one more. And I was really rooting for you, mate.

And I'm glad to hear the head injury wasn't more serious. At least was the talk of the convention. :)

10:56 pm  
Blogger Gigi said...

It was only a flesh wound! You were perfectly coherent on Sunday, dinner was loads of fun, and I can't wait to see you next year. Cheers!

12:30 am  
Blogger sdn said...

i'm still trying to process the image of you and jeff ford in tuxes standing next to each other.

your head looked fine to me, but it was bandaged by then.

is jim better now?

5:06 am  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

Jay: Or just 35 years late.

Chris: If I could just transplant Glasgow and me mates to a little island just off Manhattan, I'd do it in a second.

Jeff: It's all good. Jetlag clearing, bump shrinking, ego as tough as me noggin anyway. Great chatting to ye and cheers for the cigar at the Penguin Dinner.

Chris: Yeah, honestly. I got dropped on my fricken head.

Jim: That's right. By Jason Williams.

Ben: Dude. On my *frickin* head.

Jason: Yeah, actually it wasn't that bad... but don't tell Jason Williams I said that. If he's guilty enough maybe I can get a sweet sweet book deal out of it.

Gigi: Yeah, it was great chatting to you guys. Cheers for inviting us along.

Rajan: Ditto. Sorry, I totally forgot your name in the debadged outside world.

Sharyn: I'm sure someone took a photo, but I've yet to see it. I imagine we looked like a pair of alternative stage magicians -- the Fantastic Brothers Fuckinovsky.

Chris: Great to meet you too; should definitely hang out more at Saratoga. And, yanno, actually the podcast thing sounds like a cool idea. Hmmmmm...

2:01 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard the marine story too. And not wanting to know what you were doing with a marine!

3:05 pm  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Which head were you dropped on?

8:52 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hal, you know Jason Williams never drops anything unless he wants to. Man, he selected that marble floor for ya.

10:49 pm  
Blogger Jess Nevins said...

Great seeing you again, Hal.

The way I heard it, you actually headbutted the floor--something about being insufficiently shined and needing a Glasgow handshake. Not so?

8:08 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hal, I just read your WFC blogg and laughed until I cried as usual. Oh, to be half my age again. I remember having that much fun.

I'm Deborah Layne's Mum. Since she told you about me, I decided to comment. I'm in awe of your intellect, your humour, your thinking, your wide range of knowledge.

And none of the books could have been better than yours. Leila

9:32 pm  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

Saffron: re-enacting PLATOON, apparently.

Cheryl: my frickin one!

Anon: I don't believe that for a second. Jason "Butterfingers" Williams is a fine upstanding gent who'd never be so cruel and heartless, I'm sure. Clumsy, yes; cruel and heartless, no.

Jess: Ye know I'm always insufficiently shined (too much is never enough), but the solution for that is simple: more beer! Great seeing you too, btw.

Leila: Thanks!

I remember having that much fun.

Hope there was no permanent damage. :)

12:32 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, ye great Scot git!

Nice talking and drinking with ya (and drinking, and drinking...)

O' course, if I'd been there when you were dropped on yer noggin', I'd have seriously thought about diving under you to save your skull -- then taken another sip of my beer and thanking the Drinking Gods I hadn't spilled any...

Mikal Trimm

12:40 am  

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