I've got about what -- an hour to pound out a bit about what I've
been up to here in Glasgow before I get on the next merry-go-round,
so here goes....
Let's see, when last we spoke -- ah. First day of the convention,
not covered well. Second day of the convention, not covered at all.
So, take a deep breath. Starting on Thursday morning. Yes.
"The Portrayal of Science and Scientists on SF TV" featured
Andrew Adams, a computer scientist, Genevieve Dazzo (biologist) and
Therese Littleton (also biologist? -- brain shrinking rapidly). A
very entertaining panel on the reality versus the stereotypes of
scientists as seen on SF TV shows, and yes they did talk quite a
bit about the runway models you see five nights a week on the various
CSI derivatives. Adams in particular distinguished himself, and it
came as no surprise when he later showed up the BBC report about
We then wandered about for an hour and picked up a bit to eat. Now
con food is or should be notoriously bad, but I've got to admit the
little booths about the SECC were actually rather decent. I wouldnt
want to eat that food and that food alone for thirty days, but they
do offer cups of coffee with shots of espresso and sandwiches that
aren't archaeological relics.
In general, the concourses were pleasantly but not excessively crowded.
I know it goes to my growing agoraphobia to suggest this, but some
of the crowds at Torcon were pretty difficult to navigate. Here the
hall seemed a bit bigger -- and the con correspondingly smaller,
so that it was in general easier to get about, though when you got
into the various suites and rooms things could get pretty packed.
concourses made the SECC a nice place for a convention.
Next up, at 2 PM, was a reading with Alastair Reynolds from his new
novel, a lovely little bit of action from 'Pushing Ice'. It provided
me with the ultimate author-reading satisfaction; I got to see the
monster! Just a bit, just a corner of a corner of a tentacle, enough
to entice and tantalize, not enough to spoil. Al is a great reader
of his own work, though my lovely wife did poke me when I closed
my eyes. I do this to drown out the visual world when I listen to
readings, to let the movie play more effectively in my mind. Really!
It's one of the pleasures of going to a reading.
We chatted with Al and his wife for a bit and then wandered off to
the dealer room, where I took some rolling shelves piccies. That
was a just a blip of time before the opening ceremonies. Since I
was doing a radio piece about Worldcon, I first headed to the pressroom
where I had the exciting experience of getting my press pass. Woo,
fun! There I met up with Laurie Mann, one of the great fan organizers
and a name I know I recognize from Usenet days of yore, I believe,
as far back as the 1980's. She was very nice and very helpful, got
me all set up and signed up to cover the Opening ceremonies. My original
plan was to just hold up a mic while sitting in the front row, but
since we got there early, I wandered to the sound boards at the back
of the room, and the helpful gents there wired my little Edirol R1
directly into the board. It made for a far better recording.
humor for the opening ceremonies, as ususal.
Then I went back to our seats in the very front row, and we watched
the opening ceremonies. I have to say that such goings-on usually
fill me with a combination of dread, embarrassment and boredom, all
of which were happily evaded here. Some decent comedy about the launch
of the weird looking Armadillo building as a spaceship preceded short
and well-delivered speeches by the previous con chair, current con-co-chairs,
and the mumble-something mayor(?) of Glasgow who did particularly
well. Short and to-the-point it ended well before everyone was hoping
to leave. They then ushered the crowd into an incredibly generous
reception. Much wine and other libations were served up -- a lot
more than I would ever have expected for such a huge crowd. We were
entertained by a duet performing on keyboards and Theremin. Alas
the speakers they were using were a bit on the dodgy side and the
auditorium was not kind to the music -- boomy and cavernous. But
an appropriate if under-amplified musical accompaniment.
Next up was for Claire and I one of the highlights of the day. This
was a panel on "Room 101 With Guests of Honor", including
Fan Greg Pickersgill, Christopher Priest, Connie Willis and moderator
Bridget Bradshaw. I sort of expected something rather dark and disturbing,
but Greg Pickersgill set the tone with his bit about fans who live
in what he called "the moving wave of the present" -- that
is, the idea that anything that happened in fandom in the FITY OR
SO YEARS THAT HAVE COME BEFORE just doesn't quite matter because
IT'S ALL ABOUT ME. He got us laughing and Christopher Priest and
Connie Willis had us in stitches as all three of them traded war
stories about the Panel from Hell. If you've been to a convention
then you've been in a panel from hell, which to my mind most commonly
involves an audience member who really feels that they should have
been on the panel and decides that they must hold forth. For Claire
and I, this was better than a visit to any comedy club. It was totally,
side-splittingly hilarious, though Christopher Priest did take a
serious moment to mention the US gent who has decided to take as
his pen name, you guessed it -- Christopher J. Priest, "because
it's cool." What's more, the guy is apparently something of
a jerk in the publishing world, so the real Christopher Priest is
now having to deal with a rep that is not his. Most unpleasant! But
still, laughter for all in the end. Great guests, great time, great
panel. Perfect con day.
Followed up by another panel, in a huge room and featuring Al Reynolds,
Richard Morgan, Ken Macleod, Andy Adams and Carolina Gomez Lagerlof,
who works in the Swiss Patent office and helped clear up the many
murky legalities of the "copyrighting DNA". The audience
here was pretty god, though one gent did seem like he was going to
rush the stage.
By the time we were out of there it was nearly 8 PM. Claire and I
had dinner with friends in the super-upscale Thai restaurant. We
stayed up way too late and had too much fun, which, is I suppose,
the point of such gatherings.
The downside of all this is my sleep --already disturbed was even
more off-kilter that night, so that I was waking up at 1 AM. I managed
to get back to sleep and even managed to get up at 6:30 the next
morning. But apparently, my hour is up and now I have to paste-up
and post, so more one Friday later, much later, probably, alas --
on Sunday. We'll see. (Pix to follow.)
|08-04-05: Not a second to spare
Actually, I have to be off in about ten or so minutes to talk to
Ian McDonald, so I literally don't have more than a couple of moments.
I'll be on the job today and see if I can't get something more
posted tonight. Saw some great panels yesterday; Science and the
Scientist on TV, a reading by Alastair Reynolds' from his new novel,
a hilarious panel on "What would you put in Room 101" with
Fan GOH Greg (may be butchering this name) Pickersgill, Christopher
Priest, and Connie Willis. It turned into a Panel from hell panel
and everybody was in stitches the whole time.
case of an atmospheric emergency, makie sure you
hook a cup up witht he correct atmosphere to your face!
Opening ceremonies for Interaction.
opening ceremonies, then another great panel with Al Reynolds,
Richard Morgan, Ken Macleod, and more) I'll name them when I have
a moment more to write about this because they were all very good
-- about "Can you copyright your DNA?" Phwew! Got to
run, more later!
Addendumb: Don't Take the Camera Unless You Put the Card back In
Well, we just got back from registering, sans piccies because YT
forgot to put the card in the camera. Rerwards of not researching
number 457: turns out the hotel is relatively distant from the event,
even when you hop on the train. And here in Glasgow, the weather
is even more changeable than in Santa Cruz, so you might step out
into a bit of murk only to find yourself in a torrential rain 5 minutes
Sydney. Glasgow Updated: Starship Armadillo!
When we realized how distant convention center was, we decided
to buy a train ticket that allowed us unlimited travel between the
hotel and the center, which looks like a junior version of the Sydney
Opera House. That involved getting our pictures taken, which involved
putting pound coins into a booth. That done, we headed to the center,
and got registered, got the very nice book -- which they offer in
a slipcased hardcover for a mere ten pounds. I passed.
The schedule looks pretty hectic with about four people appearing
in the first round I'd like to see; Dennis Danvers, whose new novel
I just finished, Simon R. Green, and a seminar on scientists in SF
TV. I'm inclined to head for the seminar.
Well, I'd best get back up the room and my wife whom I told some
time ago I was going downstairs to send an email, to which I've already
received my reply.
Next time, a journey with the camera and the card!
|08-03-05: From the Massive Market Papberback
Book to Waterstone's in Glasgow: A Book-Oriented Travelogue to the
[Last minute note to mention I'm so frickin' unfamiliar with blog-o-style
that I had to jigger what you saw (or earlier today from my perspective)
abou to make it somewhat reasonable. I promise not to overly get
Well, we're here, or at least most of us. Bits and pieces seem to
have been sheared off in transit, but I'm actually plugged in (using
the Apple World Traveler Kit) and typing away in the Corus Hotel
here in Glasgow. Along the way I noted a couple of book-related items
of interest as well as the usual boxcar full of travel joys and woes.
depressingly non-liteary selection in SFO.
We left the hotel in San Fran Francisco at 9:30 AM. Silly us. We
thought that shuttle would just pop us directly to the airport. Instead,
we were the first of many hotels that the shuttle picked up passengers
from. We'd left ourselves some twenty or so minutes to get to the
airport, and it took nearly forty. Fortunately, because our flight
stopped in Chicago, it wasn't really an international flight, and
so we didn't require that full two hours in the airport at SFO. Thus,
we found ourselves with enough time for me to take a peek at the
airport book racks in SFO, and I must say I was shocked.
OK, so I do have this perhaps weird interest in how books are sold
at airports, based solely on an essay by Harlan Ellison I remember
reading sometime in the distant past. In it, he wrote about how there
was guy whose job it was to drive around O Hare airport continually
taking out books that hadn't sold on his last loop, replacing them
with books that someone thought would sell. It was the world of bookselling
evolution insanely accelerated. And thus, a weird obsession is born.
Once we were settled enough, I took my camera over to the shocking-to-me
racks at SFO. Why shocking? Well, I like to think of San Francisco
as a literary sort of city and I assumed that would be reflected
in the book kiosks. But that was clearly not the case. Talk about
sinking, the best sellers in SFO. Not my best
The selection of books there made the worst grocery store look positively
erudite. Essentially, you looked to have about 20 bestsellers by
about 15 authors. In the world of weird fiction -- or what had to
pass -- Dean R. Koontz was King, more than even Stephen King. He
had one of those must-be-odious paperback originals in his Frankenstein
series, and batches of reprints of older and surely better titles.
Here was the first airport book store where I saw only one Stephen
King novel! Shocking. Not a Star * novelization in sight, and I had
to classify that as a bad thing. But it gets worse, folks yes it
gets worse. I had my first run-in with the Massive Market Paperback
Koontz titles proudly represented the best that specualtive
fiction had to offer.
What is this, you ask? The Massive Market Paperback book is yet another
way to more efficiently separate the casual reader from their money,
offer less value for more money because clearly, far too many people
are actually reading. Here's what you get. These books are the same
width as Mass Market Paperbacks, the same font size and the same
binding. They're not one whit easier to read or nicer in any way
shape or form. What they are, however is taller by about what, an
inch or an inch and a half? And more expensive, each of them clocking
in at $9.95. They make trade paperback look positively generous.
They offer all the disadvantages of both formats. Claire called them, "the new
American book for the new American lap," and I think that gets
it in one. Fatter and stupider books for fatter and stupider readers.
saw someone reading this Vince Flynn novel on the plane.
Once we got on the plane at SFO, the first part of the journey was
pretty good. I whipped through about half of Robert Sydney/Dennis
Danvers' 'The Bright Spot' and enjoyed it, while Claire read her
second Tor Paranormal romance. Other than the mechanical aspects
of the romantic narrative -- she says that something "hot" has
to happen at a regular interval -- she rather enjoys them as classic
American Cheese. All hail American Cheese! If we just carpet bomb
the world with these babies, we'll win the battle for freedom without
firing a single shot.
In O'Hare, I expected I'd find a similar literary wasteland, but
I was shocked to find the kiosks were far better equipped with selection
extending to the heavily hyped 'The Traveler' by John Twelve Hawks
and a passel of what youd find in the first set of tables
in say an Odors or Be Dullton in the average American metropolis.
the Massive Market Paperbacks were in evidence as here too -- but
at least more than thirty titles total.
Once we were headed for the UK, as time wound back and jet lag set
in, I had enough time to take a gander at what was being read aboard
the plane. I saw a couple of Harry Potters, one of the Massive Market
paperbacks I'd seen in the airport and even a Newt Gingrinch and
William R. Fortschen alternate history titled 'Never Call Retreat'.
Man they really put the bucks into the latter -- they're illustrated,
crudely to my mind, but if you want to read about the North versus
the South, at least you'll get your share of bullet-riddled corpses.
Well, its better than the in-flight magazines. I know, I checked.
We were aboard the fannish express, as one of the passengers dubbed
it. I had a delightful conversation with a fan of some note who goes
by the moniker of Wombat, and I swear that I've seen something either
by or about him in my travels through this exotic realm. He told
me of his thirty-something years in this world, starting with a con
in Bristol back in 1972. Man time flies. It was pretty easy to spot-the-fan
on the flight, and wearing my "Rolling Darkness Tour 2004" T
shirt, I was not exception. (RD2005 is well past the planning stages
and coming to a bookstore near you; stay tuned here for more details
once this whirlwind tour is past!)
I managed to finish 'The Bright Spot' on the second leg of the journey,
not really sleep a wink, and arrived in Glasgow having started the
'Anansi Boys' by Neil
Gaiman with the now bannering at websites near
you advert of "God is dead. Meet the kids." Cute, and less
so flashed in your face every twenty seconds.
Pretty well wiped out, we staggered out of the terminal with enough
brain cells and British pounds to catch a bus with several other
fans to the heart of Glasgow. For those of you who are clueless as
I was, that's Glaz-go, not glas-gau. Just a point of order as I murder
one British place name after another, leaving a trail of dead USAisms
in my wake.
place to visit.
Once at the hotel I promptly learned that "WIFI" on the
website DOES NOT mean WIFI in the rooms. No, no, no. I love the Corus
hotel, and I'm glad we picked that over the Holiday Inn. We were
trying to leave the US behind and in that aspect succeeded admirably.
The rooms are very cute, especially as regards the implication of
small in the word cute. But WIFI access takes place downstairs and
requires a BTOpen contract. I hope you appreciate the sacrifice we
make for you! Just to bring you pictures of books and places.
Once I got that all sorted out and drained my pocketbook (or in this
case, the wife's CC with her permission, of course), we struck out
for a walk through Glasgow, with the intention of finding her some
walking shoes. Glasgow is a pretty peculiar combination of wonderful
ancient buildings with a crust of modern chain-store fungus growing
in the many cracks and crevices. We ambled about and I became more
and more punchy. Lightheaded and starting to stumble as my gyroscope
gave out -- and those who know me know the old gyro only works intermittently
in the best of circumstances -- I finally made it to a Waterstone's.
I have to wonder about that apostrophe, but I'll presume that they
know what they're doing in the birthplace of the English language.
Now, from what I can gather, Waterstone's is the UK version of Odors
(That stench had taken root between some fine buildings in the
downtown Glasgow promenade, and we know this because I enjoyed Ramsey
Campbell's fine 'The
Overnight'. No "Texts" to be found,
alas, haunted or otherwise.)
wife took this picture of the Glasgow mall.
But such is the wonder that featured in the window was Christopher
Brookmyre's latest 'All Fun and Games Until Somebody Loses an Eye',
and I was fortunate enough to pick up one of a very few signed editions
in the store itself. Now he does live near Glasgow, so I suppose
I shouldn't be surprised but that's what you get when you travel
to the home country of the your favorite authors. Good things.
By the time we picked that up, gyro failures were becoming alarming
dangerous, as the cobbled sidewalks transmogrified into obstacle
courses. This effect was not ameliorated by fish and chips and a
beer at O'Briens, a nice enough sort of Denny's-where-you-order-at-the-bar.
I always have to get over the shock of restaurants where and businesses
where you can smoke inside when I leave the super-sheltered enclave
of Santa Cruz. With the stumbling effect mysteriously magnified by
a good pint of Ten-something on an essentially empty stomach, we
barely made it back to the Corus. Now, it's 5:17 PM local time --
9:17 Wednesday morning back in Santa Cruz where I know the entire
household is asleep. Claire's asleep here and as usual, I'm banging
away on my column. Situation normal!
Oh wait, I'm calling it a "blog" so
I can join the "blogosphere". I thought I left blog behind
when I moved away from SoCal's San Gabriel Valley, where there's
so much blog you can barely see the mountains.
But you can always see the books. More later!
Last night, after the entry, I did get to go on Mr. Toad's wild ride with my
wife behind the wheel. Though we live only about an hour from San Francisco,
we rarely travel there. I go up to KQED studios regularly but otherwise we stay
in Santa Cruz. But as yesterday was Claire's birthday, we decided to meet with
some friends who live in Walnut Creek; they came to our hotel, and we headed
off to Pacifica for dinner, because we never met a beach town we didn't like.
And we loved Pacifica, it was foggy and the waves were huge and craggy, not like
the calm waters of Monterey Bay.
But as we explored Pacifica, it didn't seem like we were going to find a restaurant.
When we asked a local, he directed us to Half Moon Bay "just twenty minutes
We had our doubts about that, and all of us expected him to send us back to Santa
Cruz. Lively discussion ensued, and we eventually decided to go the The Cliff
House, a famous SF restaurant, on, well -- a cliff by the sea. Claire likes to
drive places without actually looking at a map, while I prefer to consult a map
and go directly from A to B. Claire was driving, and so we went from A (Pacifica)
to B (The Cliff House) via C-Z. We found ourselves careening out into the out
reaches of coastal San Francisco and ended up in the kind of neighborhood where
the nannies and gardeners make six-figure salaries, down on a beach-dead end.
Kind souls gave us the vaguest directions I have ever decided to follow, and
we drove through neighborhoods great and small as I became more and more agitated. "Look,
there's K!" I say. "T! Where's The Cliff House??!?" until we practically
drove into it. Beautiful spot, and great food, nice dinner, lots of back-and-forth
about the evils of government in general and ours in specific.
So, dinner over, now we're heading back to our Comfort Suites. Do we just ask
and get on the freeway, make a beeline back? NO. Claire takes us once again on
the scenic route, which was immensely beautiful, fog-shrouded California coastline.
I'm beginning to think we'll end up in Santa Cruz, when she cuts in and we head
into some really fog-shrouded mountains. She ignores my pleas to take the freeway
and instead heads further into the fog. No, we dont make a U-turn and
go back to the 280 on-ramp, we drive into anonymous coastal hills in fog so thick
we can't see more than a few car-lengths. When we finally do see a freeway onramp,
I get my chance to make a suggestion...the wrong one. And so we're off the freeway
again, and sliding through slick streets down past I-sure-as-hell-don't-know-what-or-where,
and into eventually San Bruno. Then like a miracle we pop on the 101 and we're
back at the hotel in minutes. A nice traveling adventure and we havent
even left yet. Think what will happen when we get behind the wheel of a car on
the wrong side of the road. You've been warned.
It's in the final minutes here before the big lift-off to Glasgow. All this time
contraction and expansion has my head in a tizzy. On one hand, I'll arrive in
Glasgow in 24 hours -- 8:30 AM, Glasgow time, 24 hours from now. On the other
hand, I'll get there about midnight our time. Well, FWIW, that means all I have
to do is to sleep from 8 PM till midnight our time, and that gives me the normal
four hours. I've got precisely 34 minutes to get posted and packed. We'll see
if I can get this suitcase I have on the carry-on luggage.
UK Trip Blog
OK, I'm finally giving in and writing a fricking blog.
I hope you're happy.
At least as happy as I am. We're taking this trip slowly, which means that we
dont leave until tomorrow, and we left today at noon, to head up to San
Francisco. We got ourselves one of those stay-the-night-and-park-for-two-weeks
deals, at the freeway close Comfort Suites. Frankly, it's pretty rockin' except
for the fact that the chair I'm sitting in to write this is too low. We had a
lovely afternoon, I dozed, and started reading my next book, 'The Bright Spot'
by Robert Sydney, who turns out to be Dennis Danvers in a clever disguise. I've
been onto Danvers since 1991, when I picked up a remaindered copy of Wilderness.
So far, I'm liking The Bright Spot. And thus now back to it, trying to get a
bit more rest than normal. I'll get up early on the morrow and post something
for Wednesday, as I got a couple of books worth a bit of discussion minutes before
I walked out the door.
That's it for today's Blog.