Saturday, 17 February 2007

Easterweekend 2006: Concussion in Glasgow

Last weekend, I’ve been to the eastercon in Glasgow, and since speaking English felt so international and important, I decided to start my blog with an English-language-section. This will probably contain lots of misguided metaphors, misinformed slang and bad English in general, but nevertheless …

So, Glagow. I’m still stunned by how great this has been. To those who don’t know: the eastercon is an annual gathering of Science Fiction writers, artists and of course: fans! While I try to go by the first category in Germany, in Glasgow I happily belonged to the fans. And there were more than enough people to be fan of: Among the guests of honour were Justina Robson, M. John Harrison and Liz Hand (just to mention my personal demigods), as well as Brian Froud (who, as I found out, did much artwork for the film The Dark Crystal, that provided for the scariest, most wonderful 90 minutes of my childhood).

So, one thing after another: On arrival, I was introduced into the Glasgowian way of hospitality by Louisa (please forgive me for spelling mistakes!) and Stephen (friends of a friend), meaning: They invited me to a couple of drinks in a pub and we had a very nice chat. Thanks again to both of you, hope to hear from you soon!

After that, I moved on to the next pub to visit a reading by the SF writers clubs of Glasgow and Manchester, among them Paul F. Cockburn and Hal Duncan. To those of you who have never heard of Hal Duncan: shame on you. He’s probably the most hyped new author in the fantastic field of this year, and more than rightfully so. Your should read his first novel, Vellum. In fact, everyone should read it. In fact, everyone should read it and live according to at least some of the ideas embodied in it. In fact, everyone should read it simply because I think that spreading joy and terror and intelligent, critical thinking is among the most noble causes possible and that reading Vellum will provide for both to a quite significant degree.

But enough of the Vellum-gushing – you can have more of that in my review, if necessary ...

However, Hal invited me to another drink – of course, at that time I was still to awe-stricken to talk very much. So I listened to the reading for most of the evening. I wasn't really tuned in to Scottish English by then, so the only thing I can really remember were some quite disturbing things I learned about poly-bags that evening …

The next day, I arrived at fancy Crowne Plaza Hotel were the convention was held, right next to the Glasgow Science Centre, which looks like a giant, lazy robot armadillo and is – not surprisingly – called “the Armadillo”. After receiving my badge and a few tons of convention material, I started looking for CELEBRITIES. And found them pretty soon: At first opportunity, I ran up to John Clute and Liz Hand (which I had seen last year when they were in Berlin) and used the magic formula (for those of you who don’t know, it’s: ‘Hannes sends his regards!’) to start a conversation.
Liz Hand did a wonderful reading of her current book (Generation Loss), a mainstream novel – seems to be a kind of a thriller about punk and the eighties. If I read only one non-SF novel this year, it’s definitely going to be this one! Furthermore, finally a book that I can give to all of my friends who do not read SF.
And John Clute – John Clute was simply there, and when he said something, you could really feel not only his deep knowledge of fantastic literature, but also his immense respect for the work of all the authors he’s written about.

I also met Geoff Ryman – an author by which I had read only one novella, which I really liked. My flatmate Uwe has read his novel The Child Garden and really loved it, and I always wanted to read it as well – but with all the interesting new books being published, one never takes the time to read an ancient novel from 1989 … stupid me, because now I finally started reading it and it’s among the most intelligent, topical stuff I’ve read in the last few years (edit: review now added to this blog).

Geoff himself really left an impression by saying all the right stuff in a very, very precise way. There was a panel on ‘Foreign Cultures in SF’, and he managed to get the whole problem of SF (and not only SF) using the ‘alien’ as an externalisation of the Other into a few clear, quite understandable sentences. He’s also a very tall person who has a way of looking at people very attentive, showing you that he really listens … so the two times I had an opportunity to talk to him I was quite nervous and didn’t get out anything intelligent. Anyway, he received the British SF Award for his new novel Air, and I’m definitely going to read that one as well!

Justina Robson has already been mentioned among my demigods. I truly love all of her novels. They really seem to address all the ontological questions you have to deal with in real life, and all that in a laconically funny, believable and quite suspenseful. Justina herself is quite funny – she moderated the panel on the question if we should just trash fookin SF and start something really new. Big entertainment! I asked her for an interview – in the end, it didn’t work out, but for compensation, she invited me along for lunch with all the guests of honour. Wow! So I was sitting there between her, M. John Harrison, John Clute, Liz Hand, Brian Froud, Farah Mendlesohn … I nearly fainted from so much exposure!

The interview that did work out was the one with Hal Duncan, and that turned out to be really interesting, not only regarding Vellum, the sequel Ink an the ethics of dissidence embodied in them, but also his next, stand-alone novel. I just wish I could get my hands on all of these books right now! I also had a great time hanging out with Hal at the hotel bar, talking zombie movies (among them the unjustly neglected Ninjas vs. Zombies: The Quickening!) and being invited to more drinks.

There’s so much more to write … at the Awards Ceremony, Pat Cadigan received the Richard Evans Award for authors who have contributed in a significant way to SF (congratulations!). And I watched the Call of Cthulhu silent movie. Get it, if you can get your hands on it – this is Fritz Lang meeting Lovecraft meeting proto-Ray-Harryhausen!

One anecdote that must be told (can’t stop the signal!): On Monday, I thought I had lost my mobile phone. I rummaged through my bags several times, finally got convinced it had been stolen, suspected all other seven people in my room and then tried to call my provider to block my number. First I needed an international phone card, that would provide about 2 minutes of calling time for 3lb. Nice. Of course, I ended up in an audio menu: ‘Welcome to O2! If you already are an O2-customer, please enter your mobile number …’ (‘I don’t know my mobile number, you damn dirty robot! My fookin mobile knows my mobile number!’). Beep. 'If you’re interested in our flat rate offers, please press …’ Arrgh! Slamming the receiver down (no – do not destroy the property of your hostel …). Several tries, several phone cards, nothing helps – time runs out again and again. I finally call Louisa to ask her if I can call from her phone. After that, I open my bag to put my notebook back in … you’ve probably already guessed what I found in there: ‘Where have you been? I should end your puny electronic existence right now …’

So much about my weekend. So now I’m a convention junkie …

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