Thursday, April 28, 2011

I'm Back!

Forgive the lengthy silence, please. I was otherwise occupied. The National SF Convention occurred in Western Australia this year, over the weekend of Easter -- which happened to coincide with ANZAC Day as well.

The NatCon is my Moveable Feast. Go look at the Aurealis Awards, the Ditmar lists - or even just that "year's best" list in the previous post. Most of those people are friends of mine, and more, they are like-minded peers. Not like-minded in the sense that we share the same politics and opinions, atlthough that can be the case, but like-minded in that sense of childish curiosity and energetic creativity which goes with the territory.

Writing's a lonely job. It's all the lonelier because even when you aren't locked away in your study, the people around you hardly ever have any real conception of what you're doing. Writing books and stories isn't the same as having a job, even if you treat it that way. It's different, and mostly, you do it on your own.

The larger conventions - and of course, because of my isolation out here, and Natalie's role as a doctor, and our three kids, I can only really afford the time to pick the larger ones - are the place where I go to stop being a freak. The first night in Perth, I dove headlong into conversations on 'the universe as simulation', on 'top-down versus bottom-up development of artificial intelligence', and 'intergenerational ethics and climate change'. I was more or less out of my depth at several times in each conversation, but I listened and learned and contributed and argued and I was absolutely rapt.

By the second night, I was at a room party, and there I was swapping wrist and armlocks with Alan Baxter (see that 'best of' list again) who teaches Choy li fut in Illawarra, and arguing trivia with a roomful of half-pissed people. And so it went. I think it was Saturday that I spent an hour and a half trading whistle tunes and off-beat music with Laura Goodin (thank you for the Rustavi Chorus, Laura - and the Chinese classical stuff too. I'm still following up on the others!). By Monday, I was reduced to discussing the cuboidal shape of wombat crap, though. One does get tired. And yet even that discussion spawned the possibilities of Dr Theophrastus Coprolite and his partner in research the Lady Prof. Fastidia Porcelaine in their endless battle with the fiendish Thomas Crapper and his hideous steam-powered water-closet automata... No. Don't ask. When it's done you'll know.

The point is, I love these people and when I get to spend time around them, the ideas bounce, ricochet, regenerate, and return tenfold. There is nothing like a roomful of slightly tipsy SF writers. Seriously. I remember telling Ellen Datlow at one point that if I had Robert Bloch's timestopping pocketwatch from "That Hellbound Train", I would happily pull the pin on history... and her only comment was something like "Go ahead! That would be great!"

So it was a long, long weekend, but never long enough.

Started badly, though. Against my own better nature, I booked a Deathstar flight to Melbourne on the Wednesday, leaving at 1330 to get a 1600 flight to Perth. I did this because Qantas won't land in Launceston, and the Virgin insists I have to go through Sydney to reach Melbourne, at a cost of two or three extra hours in the air, and another $500 on the ticket price.

And to no great surprise, I wound up on the Virgin anyway. Because about the time I had to leave for the airport, Deathstar texted me to say my 1330 flight had magically become a 1930 flight, which really wasn't going to get me to my 1600 connection without involving closed timelike curves, which I still don't understand. They offered me a Thursday flight, which would have been okay - but then rescinded it, and said the best they could do would put me on the ground in Perth around midnight, Friday.

Fucking great. And so I took the Virgin alternative.

There's no way I can list everything I did, and all the people whose company I enjoyed. I had a truly marvellous time, though. Chaz kindly invited me out to dinner on Sunday evening, so I missed the awards ceremony (for which I'm quite grateful, really). I also got to meet his absolutely lovely wife, and I was plied with fine wines and twice-cooked pork belly such that when the day comes that Chaz visits Taz, I shall have to work hard to make the occasion properly special.

Seriously? Note to Chaz: food brilliant, wine excellent, company best of all. Now: finish at least one goddam piece of writing!!! Because it's in you, and that's what you have to do.

Peter Ball: the more time I spend in your company, the more time I wish I had to spend in your company. I shall write a manifesto on this topic sometime very soon, I feel.

Angela Slatter and her inseparable companion Mme Hannett: my pleasure, as ever, ladies. Thank you!

Alan Baxter: it's great to meet someone you've encountered online, and discover that they're even more fun. Next time, though, I want striking drills. After the Gentlemen's Entomological Society Meeting, of course. And beware the Cancer Puddings!

Cat Sparks and the Redoubtable Rob Hood: any gathering with either or both of you in it is guaranteed to be more fun than it truly, legally should.

Laura Goodin: tunes, music, White Rabbit beer, epistolary possibilities, and the adjective 'snockered'. Good lord. When did I hear that last? Thank you, Laura!

Simon, Sue and the Andromeda Table: note that most punters prefer the orphan to be kicked, rather than spared. A depressing fact, but it does sell magazines.

Ian Nichols: well, yes, actually it does sell them. But even when it doesn't, it keeps the punters still long enough for you to move in for the kill. Salut!

Russell: I have the Bristol Stool Chart. Your shirt is in development. Beware.

Paul Haines: solidarity. And all my best. Call me when you need the fucking fences put up, you bastard. I can't let you fight wallaby wire and star pickets on your own.

Amanda Pillar: your Paranormal Noir story is well underway. In fact, two of them. I'll send them both, just to irritate you.

Ellen Datlow: Thank you once again, as ever. And don't forget - next time you need a roomful of incredibly dubious snacks, I'm your man!

Kate E and Rob: Viva, Brizvegas! Kate - I'll send you 30,000 words or so in a few months.

Kaaron: Wow! We actually got to chat! Admittedly, it was in a large, crowded pub, and you were under attack from Cajun Zombie Chicken hordes, but nevertheless, it was a chat. And it was face to face! And you're so much less scary than your stories. Not like that Haines bastard...

(Slowing down now...)

Tehani: I hope the car repairs go well. And if I had to choose somebody with whom to be trapped on a Perth highway for three hours, awaiting towing and repairs, I could hardly do better, could I? Thank you!

Helen and Terri: and yes, also there in time of potential disaster. Terri... you really, really need a map, lady. How can you lose a bloody airport? Helen - grilled haloumi! Yay! And... a southward drift? Here's hoping!

Alisa and Chris -- Chris, it was a pleasure to meet you. Another time, when Alisa's NOT the convenor, it would be cool to take a bit of time. In the meantime: well done, sir. And Alisa? Very well done indeed. I had a really good convention.

So many names. So many others! Rob Harland. Paul Kidd. Martin Livings. Liz Gryzb. Tansy! Young Shani. Emma Kate and her Divorce Tattoo. Natalie Latter. Peter Hillier. The irrepressible Ju... if I've missed you, please forgive me. Remind me at the next gathering, and the drinks are on me.

It was a brilliant long weekend, even if Perth didn't open for the whole damned time. I didn't go there for Perth, after all. I went for the ephemeral world that fell into existence at the Hyatt Regency, and fell out of existence again just a few days later. Like falling into the rabbit hole, or venturing into the mounds of the Sidhe, it is a different time and space. I now have so much writing to do I barely know where to start, and so much energy I hardly can bring myself to finish.

Thank you, one and all.


  1. Yet another event I wish I could have attended. Vividly described.

  2. Our chat was short, but to me it seemed to encompass a year of friendship...can't wait to read the story.

  3. Glad you had a great time mate, you are very ephermal with tyring to get your argurment across try being a bit more direct next time!!

    Have taken on board what you said and will oproceed accordingly

    Marcela & I had a great time as well.

    Paul, so when can we expect you?

  4. Awww - thank you, Kaaron. And yes: given the lack of 'face time' between us overall (I hate that term, but it works) in retrospect, I found it surprisingly comfortable to just chat with you.

    It works that way sometimes, I guess. Especially if there's all that prior peripheral contact via friends and internets and stuff.

    When I think about it, that's pretty interesting. Because the process of 'making friends', back in the pre-Net days, was very different.

    I'm going to have to think about this for a while. There are some interesting implications to the idea.

  5. Chaz: heh, yeah. Sorry - I owe you an apology there. But in my defense, you plied me with excellent wine, then addressed a topic which constitutes one of my few lifelong passions. There was always going to be a certain vehemence.

    Besides, it's true. You KNOW what you need to do next.