Friday, 10 February 2012

SFX 2012: Part 1

Yes, that's Lavie Tidhar with Monkey.
Honestly, I have no idea how to make sense of the SFX Weekender.  Just mentally sifting through the haze of drink and fried breakfasts and steampunks and crazy welsh weather is a feat in itself.  It's tempting to just pull a lazy Best. Con.  Ever gag and leave it at that.  Which, after all, it was - because however great last year's Fantasycon was, at no point did it include a Storm Trooper fighting with a Dalek or Bananaman in crime-fighting conference with Spiderman or ... er ... Lavie Tidhar with Monkey.  And from here on in, such things will be my measure of Con greatness.  Because it turns out that everything in life is better with cosplay.

I got in at about half three on Thursday, and was kept company by the station cat while I waited for my hotel-roommate-to-be, the aforementioned Mr Tidhar.  Then we trooped over to our hotel, the Beaches, which it was abundantly obvious even from a distance would be much nicer than the rundown holiday council estate that was Pontins Prestatyn.  (This would turn out to be a generous assessment in favour of Pontins, which by all accounts was a dire hellhole - whereas the Beaches was all-round lovely.  Good call on leaving booking too late to get a chalet, Tidhar!)

Yes, that's Stormtroopers doing car checks.
We made our way around the barbwire-topped fences, snuck past the Stormtroopers doing car checks on the gates (I kid not!) and somehow blagged our way inside to hunt down Angry Robot co-editor Lee Harris, who had our passes, slyly smuggling in Ian Sales on the way.  If the Stormtroopers hadn't been a giveaway of what was to come, the fact that the lobby had been turned into a spaceship interior - complete with Aliens - sure was.  Then we tracked down Lee in the bar-cum-cinema that was the Screening Zone, and I was pleased to find him and the other Angry Robot-ers sitting with Alasdair Stuart and Ro Smith, old friends from my York writing group that I don't see nearly often enough.

Then Lee opened the celebratory book-launch champagne. Then Paul Cornell turned up.  Then, apropos of nothing, they started showing Labyrinth.  And truly all was right in the world.

The rest of the night is a bit of a blur - of the catastrophically drunken kind - so jump forward to Friday morning.  Friday morning began bright and early with Lavie forcing me to get up for breakfast at some ungodly hour, after about a fifteenth of the sleep my body would have needed to break down all the alcohol in it - an event that, against all reason or mercy, would be repeated over the next couple of days.

Yes, that's Robert Rankin about to heatray Lavie Tidhar's face off.
Still, it meant I got to attend the Elf Preservation panel - starring Joe Abercrombie, Juliet E McKenna, Graham McNeill, Adrian Tchaikovsky and Gav Thorpe - and then promptly almost nod off in it.  No representation of how interesting it was, I promise, just sheer sleep deprivation ... it would have taken the guests attacking each other with ray guns to keep me awake after the previous night.  Which, fortunately, was exactly what (okay, very nearly) happened when Lavie was contentious enough to suggest that the Victorians may not have been the loveliest people in history to Robert Rankin during the Steampunk panel.

After a brief diversion to attend the Kitschies ceremony (Lavie's Osama being deservingly up for Best Novel), we resumed our acquantance with the pub.  As evening settled in, reasoned debate and polite ultraviolence were abandoned once again in face of good, honest liquor.  But things took an unexpected turn when we got invited to / possibly inadvertently gatecrashed a party held by one of the big publishers at their big-publisher author chalet (I think it was Pan Macmillan, but the answer seemed to vary on who you asked.) Under the firm supervision of our agent John Berlyne, Lavie and me soon found ourselves somewhere that looked a lot like nowhere in the Welsh countryside - only to be rescued from likely death by our taxi driver coming back to admit that the address we'd given him probably wasn't that of the cat sanctuary he'd dropped us off outside.

And yes, that's Benedict Jacka's first non-YA novel
The party started well.  My particular highpoint was being a colossal geek by helping Adrian Tchaikovsky explain the apt / inapt concept from his Shadows of the Apt series to Benedict Jacka*, despite his quite obviously not needing my help because he, you know, invented it.  But it quickly became apparent that there were dangers lurking beneath the still party waters.  Because, where was all the booze?  By the time we arrived, there were two boxes of beer, half a dozen bottles of wine and a dangerous amount of rum between fifty or so people.  Lavie had had the good fortune to discover a hidden stash of lager, but it soon became apparent that even that wasn't going to save us.  Left with no choice - unless you consider sobriety a choice, I suppose - we set out back to the internment-camp horrors of Pontins, where there was at least fizzy alcohol-water on tap.


* Whose first non-YA book comes out next month, and looked good enough that I picked up a copy despite my famous cheapness.


  1. Hi David

    Looking forward to reading part 2... ;-)

  2. Okay, the storm troopers doing car checks... that's not something I've seen them do around here. I'll have to suggest it. :)

    I thought I was blase about 'em, but apparently not when they do something silly/entertaining enough!

    P.S. Frugal. Just use a more expensive word. ;] 'Cause authors have lots of style, y'know. =twinkle=

  3. I just caint be paying out for them tenpenny words, Ms Starbuck. Cheap is cheap enough for us northern writer types.

    The stormtroopers were great up to a point. But half the time the droids they turned up were exactly the ones they were looking for, and then things got nasty.

  4. =laughter=

    It's better than storm troopers in kilts. Far better.

    And what do you expect of droids? They oughtn't be drinking in chalets, it's just bad for them. There's a reason to have smuggler's hideyholes and priest holes (and probably droid cubbies, for that matter!).