Russell Kirkpatrick's Journal
First day of the Con: Friday
Up at 5 a.m., no hardship as Australia is two hours (and twenty years) behind New Zealand. A frantic hour later I have thrown together a presentation that should wow both people registered for my workshop (actually four confirmed by the previous Monday, apparently).
Four has transmuted into sixteen by 9am. Among the attendees is the redoubtable Karen Miller, she of wonderful bestselling novel and dreadful map fame, come to learn about maps because her publishers insist she has them. Mark Deniz is there, the Swedish Pom, and I am leery of his razor humour. Feeling sorry for me he reins it in, allowing me to make Karen the butt of all my lame jokes. The presentation lasts two hours, not one, but my participants tell me they have enjoyed it. Con-goers are so polite.
I crash a private lunch involving committee and guests – I didn’t realise but ate the food without any guilt. I meet Ella McKay, aka Mopsy from the Voyager Online community, and we spend the afternoon chatting – well, she chatted and I fell asleep. Sorry Ella, I’m an old man.
We get pizza for tea and eat it at Ella’s parents’ home. Ah, her parents are pure gold. Her father regales me with a story – stories are never far away, and he takes any excuse as an invitation to bring one out – while her mother mutters fond but disparaging comments in the background. We’re there less than half an hour, but I feel as though the air fare was well spent.
I attend the opening ceremony but leave at the beginning of the Great Debate. Apparently I miss Gillian at her incisive best, including references to me. Sorry Gillian, that broadside missed.
Second day of the Con: Saturday
Today’s task is to launch Sharyn Lilley’s and Mark Deniz’s anthology ‘In Bad Dreams’ (www.eneitpress.com), so first I must re-read it. I’m launching it in conjunction with Trudi Canavan, who decrees that she will MC and I will do the launch speech. Righto: I take notes furiously. Actually, even though I’m an experienced public speaker I’m very nervous. It is, after all, someone else’s book.
First I have a panel, ‘Portraying Race in Sci-fi’, chaired by Maxine McArthur. The redoubtable Keith Stevenson and I argue that the days of racism in sci-fi are largely over, with the better examples problematising human relationships at all levels. The audience join in, but I’m guessing they probably feel preached at a little.
Now to the launch. People are slow coming, and the energy is low when Trudi and I begin. I talk about each story, looking to generate excitement. Kaaron Warren, a spectacular horror writer, requests afterwards a copy of what I said. What can I say about Kaaron’s writing? She could write about the slowly decomposing body of a decapitated donkey and hold me enthralled. She writes domestic horror. The horror of broken glass on the floor, or a mole turning into a melanoma. A world of rank smells, a pungent, effulgent world of sharp retorts and petty jealousies, teeth clenched tight. Her work is disturbing.
The new two-volume Shorter Oxford English Dictionary contains illustrations for the first time, and under the word ‘disturbing’, drawn in a pale green wash by Edvard Munch, is a picture of Kaaron Warren. I wasn’t surprised.
I particularly enjoyed Amanda Pillar’s story. I’m not telling you what was severed, or where it was found.
I have another panel in the afternoon, this time with myself as chair. This means I have to allow the other panellists freedom to talk (which sometimes entails gently slapping down panellists hogging the microphone) and, conversely, find something to say if we run out. I’m always keen to involve the audience, which brings pressures of its own – there is always someone who thinks they should have been on the panel. So we talk about ‘Environmental Sci-fi’, and it turns out that Kevin J. Anderson, one of the international guests of honour, is passionate about global warming. As, we discover, is the entire panel. So we evangelise the audience and appear successful, apart from a couple of die-hards (who, to be fair, are good sports).
Tonight is the highlight of the convention, Gillian Polack’s Regency Banquet. Gillian is a foodie, and you can guarantee that anything she organises will be interesting and accurate. Unfortunately I cannot verify this as bookings had closed before I thought to purchase a ticket. So Karen Miller, Stephanie Smith (associate publisher, HarperCollins) and fellow New Zealander Ross Temple (threemonkeys on lj) come with me to eat ata fine Ethiopian restaurant. Lovely it was too, although something didn’t agree with Karen, who paid for it later that night.
The con’s half over already. Sigh.
Last night at my salsa dancing class, I sat down with a friend and noticed she had 'Path of Revenge' in her hands. I promptly bragged about how I met you over the weekend, and have my own signed copy.
She appeared suitably impressed. Then again, her partner works in the publishing industry, maybe she was just humouring me...
My head is quite indecently swollen, Gillian. I'm happy to pay for new hats.
Amanda, I don't care if your friend was humouring you. I'll take any comment as positive! I can't say I've ever seen anyone actually reading my books in public.
Salsa dancing? Woo hoo! Cha cha-cha-cha cha cha!