there was a theme to this year's Worldcon for us, it was that we
were less compelled by the panels. Now some of this is due to the
tourist factor, and some of it was due to the fact that I was working
on a load of interviews. I have to say that the panels we attended
were well run, organized and very entertaining. But we didn't find
ourselves running around from panel to panel as we did in 2003.
Is it possible to get acclimatized to convention panels? I don't
kind of party favors. Well, I did pay for them. After all.
That said, I'm reaching back through the faltering layers of gray
matter and find Claire and I having quite a nice time in the SECC.
Shocking though it seems, the food there was remarkably good. Having
finished my interviews till noon, we wandered over to the main food
stand and bought a couple of these grilled sandwiches that seem to
be ubiquitous in the UK. I can see why; they're pretty good.
Now, the good news was that there was a panel I really wanted to
see; the bad news was that I had to leave early because I had an
interview with Terry Pratchett. But having finished our lunch, we
wandered over to the Imaginary Cities panel, where Jeff Ford, Ian
R. Macleod, Michael Swanwick and Claire Weaver talked about their
efforts to create places we could travel to in our minds. China Miéville
was expected but couldn’t make the panel. I've enjoyed work
by Ford, Macleod and Swanwick, and though I've not read Weaver, this
panel did the job of getting me interested in doing so.
The panel was held in two rooms melded together as one, and as such,
it was pretty big and pretty packed. But it was well-moderated, the
participants could be heard by those of us near the back, if not
seen. Marring the panel somewhat was a constant influx and outflow
of audience members, to which Claire and I would eventually contribute.
I was pleased to hear the name of Mervyn Peake and Gormenghast repeated
more than a few times. To my mind, we are now in a period when Peake's
work is exerting the kind of influence over writers that Tolkien's
did in the seventies and eighties. However, the nature of Peake's
work is such that the influence results not in bland imitations but
rather in exceptionally imaginative extensions. Of course, Jeff Vandermeer's
'City of Saints and Madmen' was mentioned as one of these extensions.
Ford commented on how Vandermeer's creation of an imaginary city
inspired and enabled him to extend the boundaries of the novel in
the regions of what is called the "mosaic novel". For all
my whinging about panel at this particular con, this panel exemplified
why we go to them and we love them.
Shortly before the end of the panel, we slipped outside and headed
back to the press area, for my tête-à-tête with
Terry Pratchett. Once again, in spite of the humble digs, Pratchett
and I got on extremely well. Well, Pratchett, really, who is an absolute
wonder. He's remarkably intelligent, caustically humorous and very,
very generous. This is a deliberate strategy on his part; he tries
to work with the off-beat and less-than-known to impart a bit of
chance in his literary life. He did express some concerns about his
latest novel; with a title like 'Thud!', he opined, it had better
sell, otherwise the jokes to be made at its expenses were quite painfully
obvious. I think he has little to worry about in this regard. Pratchett
is the kind of author who only finds more and more readers, and I
count myself among them.
My appointment with Pratchett was supposed to only be half an hour,
but we talked -- on and off the tape -- for almost an hour. Claire
and I walked about in a bit of a daze, looking at panels but none
of them really grabbed us. Since we had a party to attend tonight
our first ever Worldcon party -- we decided to head back a bit early
and rest up. We trudged out to the tube station -- a not inconsiderable
walk -- and then back from the station to our hotel, where we collapsed.
I read a bit -- Gaiman's stellar latest -- and by the time I had
a cup of coffee in me and was vaguely alert, it was time to leave.
I'd been fortunate enough to be invited to the Pan Macmillan Tor
UK party in the basement of the Borders bookstore in Glasgow. Claire
and I had spotted it on one of earlier walks about town. In Glasgow,
seven PM is early, so we set out at that time and arrived a bit late.
Fortunately, the party was positively hopping. Unfortunately, it
took me a while to get my bearings. Eventually, I spotted Gary Gibson,
author of 'Angel Station', who introduced me to Peter Lavery. From
there Peter became the most genial host I've ever had, taking me
around to meet the entire Pan Macmillan crew. It was certainly a
star-studded party, and I can see why they would be such a draw.
I got to meet many of the writers I've been reading for years, and
speak again with those I've met before.
Duncan and China Miéville at Worldcon Tor UK party. Photo
courtesy Rebecca Saunders.
It was a wonderful
experience, but I feel a bit dicey writing about it in too much detail
really. I mean, I could reel off the names
of the authors I met, all of whom were very nice and quite generous
with their time. I did manage to buy a few copies of Miéville's
latest, 'Looking for Jake' and Hal Duncan's 'Vellum'. By the time
we left it was nearly ten PM. Claire and I left with bags of books
-- including Gary Gibson's latest, 'Against Gravity'.
Gibson and Al Duncan at the tor UK party. Photo courtesy
Ten PM is late in California, but up in Glasgow, it's just barely
got dark and folks are setting out for dinner. We found a small Italian
restaurant with seats in the cellar and had one of the best four-course
meals I've ever eaten. It was spectacular, and served by a genial
waiter who looked properly Italian but dashed reality every time
he talked in a Scottish accent. It was surreal and superb. A fitting
description of our trip, thus far.