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Fantasy = Realism?

Panel: Elaine M. Brennan + two random fans

When we came back down from the rooftop restaurant Lany and I went back to the room we had just left where Kat and Mina had stayed on for the next panel. This panel was supposedly about how modern fantasy is trying to be more realistic in the way its worlds are portrayed, detailing complex aspects of finances and society dynamics and asking whether this is necessary. On paper this sounds potentially interesting.

The problem was that only one of the assigned panellists showed up for it and so she picked two random volunteers from the audience to actually get up and sit on the panel with her. To make matters worse the “Freakazoid” Daryl was there and he literally took over the panel with constant questions and interruptions. Mina had gotten bored and left long before we arrived but Kat was still doggedly sitting through this crap until we came in and rescued her.
There was not long till the end of this panel and we definitely wanted to be at the next panel that would be in this very same room (yup 3 panels in a row, very strange) so we just hung out in the hallway outside for half hour or so chatting about how much of a con-freak the Freakazoid is. Eventually the people from that panel including the Freakazoid left and a lot more BWB members showed up so we went in to take seats before the room got too full.

We Are The Knights Who Say F***!

Panel: Patrick Rothfuss, Mark Gascoigne, Guy Gavriel Kay, David Anthony Durham, Ellen Kushner

Patrick Rothfuss took the same chair he had sat in for the Archetypes without Stereotypes panel earlier on but this time he would not be moderating the panel. Guy Gavriel Kay took charge of this outstanding all star panel and really showed how a panel should be moderated. I am not saying Patrick did a bad job of it earlier on, far from it, but I think he may have learned a thing or two from Guy about how to press the other panellists to dig deeper and examine their answers and opinions in new ways. As much of a learning experience for them as it was for the audience.

Guy opened the panel by reading a classic Ursula Le Guin quote about how “Elfland is not your home, it is not a nice place, it is not Poughkeepsie”. He then read a passage from Le Guin’s canonical “change four words” essay ‘From Elfland to Poughkeepsie’ in which just four words are changed from fantasy names and locations to real world equivalents and thus poses the question does the language, diction and terminology used make a difference between a work of fiction set in the real world and a work of fantasy set in an imagined world?
Ellen Kushner speaks about the strongly opposed views she had when Le Guin’s essay was first published and how she decided to sit down and write a complete rebuttal of all of its points. By the time Ellen finished her essay she found she completely agreed with everything Le Guin had said. Quite the turnaround of opinion. However, Ellen went on to say “The ways in which we use language in fantasy have changed since Le Guin wrote that essay. I’m in sympathy with what she says, but I’m not sure how it relates to the modern genre.”
David Anthony Durham said that he feels like he's not writing novels of the modern, but writing novels of history. At the time I took him to mean that he only writes historical fiction but judging by his fantasy epic ‘Acacia: The War With the Mein’ this is clearly not the case. David said “You couldn’t change four words in my book and make it a contemporary novel, but you might be able to change four words and make it into a historical novel. I’m not sure what I think of that yet. And I’m not sure how non-fantastic fantasy fits in.”
Mark Gascoigne says one of the thrusts behind his new publishing group, Angry Robot, is fantasy for a “post-YA” audience and that the assumption is that they will have grown up with computer game fantasy and terminology. “For them the idea that fantasy should transport is crucial. But it can’t have the same plot as, say, a crime novel.” He goes on to say that “although one might copy Le Guin's trick, it doesn't invalidate the quality of the work.”
Patrick Rothfuss had a harder opinion on this saying he feels “Le Guin is really pulling a stage magician trick and is guilty of reductionism. For a certain type of fantasy, the payoff for the reader is the Sensawunda [fandom slang: ‘sense of wonder’], but to say that that's the only goal of all fantasy is not something I think she means to say. The wonder and delight that she speaks of is a certain kind of fantasy and that she might be right about, but it’s not all fantasy. When it comes to fantasy that is evaluating aspects of our reality from the distance that fantasy provides she might be quite wrong.”
Guy follows this train of thought linking it to another Le Guin point about fantasy being a metaphor for travel. “Are perceptions of travel different today? Is there more of a desire to explore the remote but remain anchored in the familiar? Do we have a generation of readers who have grown up with that as their default and who cannot read in the way Le Guin wants?”
Patrick responds with “It’s always been an issue. Much of the Sensawunda type fantasy falls under stories of the fae, and most urban fantasy also belongs to that genre. It's the intersection of that supernatural and mundane worlds that makes the genre and much other recent fantasy so compelling to many new readers.”
Guy asks Ellen about the language and diction used in cross-world fiction. Ellen quotes Gaiman that every book is made of words and the diction you use is what defines that reality. “We talk about worldbuilding a lot, and worldbuilding doesn't always use all of the senses, the music of the words you choose isn't often discussed as part of that.”
Guy then turns to Mark and asks if there's more emphasis on the language used in fantasy published for younger readers. Guy thinks pace might be a more important issue and cites Tolkien as an example of slow pace. Mark replies that as an editor he finds it is necessary to guard language and sometimes he “must hide the broccoli under the burger. We all think that the adult thing to do is to grow and experience everything the world can give us, some might argue that that's didactive. We're not telling the young to do things just because they're good for them, but also because there's joy and wealth to be found in those things.”
Guy then cites a discussion he read on a librarian’s email list that some books might show you things that are outside your experience (window books) but that this sort of book is losing ground to books that reflect back on the reader their experience and language (mirror books). Is this a loss of sensitivity to language among readers, a desire for a mirror of the familiar? He asks David, where fantasy sounds like history, would Le Guin have an issue with it?
David says when he was writing historical fiction set in our world it was easy to seek out period terminology and use that. When it came to writing fantasy outside of our own world he tended to want to move away from diction that was either too familiar to us or to make one up that was specific to that imaginary place.
Pat thought about this same issue during his worldbuilding and said that ‘A Clockwork Orange’ helped him with this because he appreciated it but didn't really enjoy it. “What you’ve done here is impressive, but I don’t want to fight this hard” and so he wanted to create something that was easier to get into and understand.
He goes on to talk about teaching Children's Lit and says that you always want to push children to read at the top of their reading level and adults don't always try for that same extreme of their abilities. After teaching about three classes of his Children's Lit University course a student, who had previously been home-schooled, comes up to him and objects that “these things just can't happen, it is impossible.” She was completely lost by depictions of the fantastic. She was not equipped to understand the imaginary or expand her mind to accept the concept of the “other” in that way. As Patrick put it “she was the equivalent of milk-fed veal.”
Guy then asked Ellen “do we need to differentiate between challenges of language and challenges of theme or content?” She replies that “when you're bringing in people from another world it's really necessary for them to speak with a different manner, and that the author must be fluent in both dictions. One of the joys of doing something like urban fantasy is making those two languages dance together and that you can distinguish the people from the other world by their use of language. Two guys walk into a bar, and you can tell who the elf is by how they talk.”
Guy then brought up two examples in the BBC TV production ‘Merlin’ and the movie ‘A Knight’s Tale’ where there is an obviously deliberate mash-up of historical/mythic and modern tone, diction and dialogue. For some the payoff is to hear Arthur saying “Screw you” while to others that's an unpleasant betrayal of the original version. Mark comments that “Shakespeare was writing in his time’s contemporary English”, Ellen interjects with “But his language was glorious! Much more metaphorically rich than ours is”. Mark responds with a comparison that “Ben Johnson was the venal gutter writer. The Joe Abercrombie of his age.” Mark goes on to say he is torn and that both are valid, and both are potentially valid tools but either is as capable of failing or succeeding gloriously. Ellen brings in a food metaphor of hot dogs in the ballpark vs. duck l'orange. Sometimes you want one over the other but you know which type of place they belong to.
David speaks up to say that his kids are homeschooled and they know a lot of fantasy stories, oh and they also love broccoli.
After the laughter died down Guy returns to Shakespeare to point out that his Greeks and Romans never try for anything like Greek or Latin language, but then here's Caesar saying “Et tu, Brute,” Why just that line of dialogue in Latin? But the point is that the language isn't flattened or simplified, it's every bit as deep as it could be, but Pat speaks up and says that at the same time it's completely clear at multiple levels and not opaque at all. Mark points out that Shakespeare certainly wasn't averse to using crass and silly humour when it wasn't an obstacle to the story. But as an author you need the ability to move between the two modes we’re discussing.
Ellen says she doesn't want to see this turned into a debate about whether it's OK to use modern language. Guy says “It’s fundamentally true to say that it's all in the execution, if the author inspires confidence in the reader that they know what they're doing they can proceed however they choose. But there are situations where we can say it’s a good thing to make the reader work, to make them comprehend the alien.”
David says it is one thing when the two worlds mingle but there needs to be a difference in diction, but what about when the diction is unique to the created world. Guy mentions a series with a completely invented language that is deliberately inaccessible. He says that the idea that language should be constrained for younger readers could be an obstacle to writers.
Pat says that occasional opacity via a foreign vocabulary can be useful and valuable. In terms of the language, we talk about the music and sound of the language. Pat says that he spent a great deal of time creating idiomatic insertions from the different cultures in his world. “Pulling my leg” has no place, no meaning in a secondary world, it must have its own idioms. Patrick then references the panel title while saying that he has the most fun creating vulgarities because what a culture regards as taboo reveals so much. A vulgar idiom that he included in ‘The Name of the Wind’ was “shit in God’s beard!” “Shit in God’s beard? Did he really just say that?”

Patrick goes on to say “That’s what got me about Abercrombie’s books (which I like) – he has references to Shakespeare in his titles, epigraphs from our world. Is that a cheat?” Ellen replies that “Fantasy is in the end made up. I’m a fantasist second and a contemporary novelist first. I’m not going to be able to create from whole cloth, I make something new out of parts.” “So you’re playing? I’m with you on that” said Guy, “If the reader never questions it you’re doing your job” says Ellen.

David says that even though Pat's phrases sounded in place in that world, it didn't really feel alien. He wonders if they'd ever say something that seemed really incomprehensible to our readers. Patrick confirms that there will be more foreignness in the second book.
Ellen says she often thinks like she is writing in translation. Guy said he used that same metaphor in ‘Song for Arbonne’ and consciously tried to write verse that seemed like it had been competently translated into English.
Guy asks about language used to hook the reader on page one. Is it always a good thing to have an immediate approachable “hook”? To what extent is that an assumption in contemporary fantasy? Pat said it has to be legitimate, not a trick. It was really difficult for him and it took a long time to set his hook, it wasn’t until he found the narrative framework he wanted to use for the book that he was able to work out what the hook should be.
Guy asks Mark about boredom, whether the threshold is more readily reached in younger readers. “We’re not used to lengthy prologues, as readers. What we expect is a good story right from the start, we as a mass media consumption culture have changed and that to some extent is a cause of the vernacular used in Hollywood.”
Dave says “I’m aware of having to promise that what comes later will be action-y and exciting. I don’t necessarily have that immediate hook, but I feel that need.” Ellen said “I think language may vary, mileage may vary, for different readers at different times. I couldn’t read Jane Austen until I was in my 20s. You can learn. I suspect that contemporary genre fantasy can be a gateway to older works and different ways of using language.”
With only a short time left Guy now accepted a couple of questions from the audience. Firstly someone asks about Mary Renault's ‘Claudius’ books. Guy says that the dialog can be as contemporary as it can possibly be if the pace and the depiction reflect the setting appropriately. That one must elicit the trust of the reader. David says he reads Graves and enjoys it but that it's an English guy playing a Roman, but he doesn't disconnect from it any more than that, for Renault it's a much more dramatic change in perception. Ellen says it's about the rhythm of the language used.
The second and final audience question was about translation. David says he is not bilingual and so has to trust what his translators tell him. Guy says that as a writer you are astonishingly vulnerable to the translator and he has no way of personally knowing if most translations of his work are any decent reflection of his voice. He has a friend that says that Twain reads better in the original Hungarian.
Patrick then told us something which I personally found interesting and that is that he has set up his own wiki site just for the translators working on ‘The Name of the Wind’ so they can ask him questions about what he meant in any particular scene. This is especially important in languages like Chinese and Japanese where there are many different ways of referring to oneself depending upon what you are talking about. While taking the trouble to keep up with the questions is time consuming he hopes the benefit of this will be worth it in the end.
This really was an excellent panel, thoroughly interesting throughout and all the panellists had good points to make. By the way I did not memorise all this stuff, there are several scattered reports about this panel on the net and I pieced things together from these and my own recollections. From here most of the group went shopping to buy the beer for the BWB party later tonight.

Reading: Neil Gaiman

This time I decided I was not going to miss Neil Gaiman and so I left the group in the corridor after the panel and rushed over to the large room where Neil would be reading to make sure I got in before it was too packed to even get in the room. As I stood at the back looking around for some friendly faces I spotted Luga right down near the front on the right hand side waving franticly at me. When I got there I also found Lucky Pierre in the row behind Luga and there was a spare seat next to him which I was very grateful to sit in. Mich was also there for the reading but I believe she was stood at the back of the room.
Neil was running a bit late and came into the room in quite a rush to the applause of the assembled crowd. I just think he knows how to make an entrance. Neil read two short stories. He reads with such flair and character. With his right elbow tucked in firmly holding the microphone in place close to his chest he does not waiver or lose concentration except for at one point early on where he asks the audience not to take flash photographs since that does distract him. He says this looking directly at me as I raise my camera just about to take a photo. But I was not going to use the flash, it was some guy in front of me who had taken 2 or 3 in a row right before I did who was using a big flash on his camera.
First up was his Jack Vance inspired short story that will be included in the George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois edited ‘Songs of the Dying Earth’ tribute anthology. Not being familiar with the work of Jack Vance would be considered a cardinal sin by George who regularly cites Vance as the greatest author he has ever read, however I have to confess to being guilty of this sin, and therefore unable to really tell you where Neil’s short story fits in with the Dying Earth mythology. I can tell you it was about a man who lives at the end of the universe’s existence with his family and has a time travelling doorway in his private library which leads to another world, another time where he has another family. The man’s son living at the end of time witnesses his father’s death and must escape from the killers through the doorway. There was something of the comic about the way the story was told, especially regarding the clever way the character of the son talks his way out of trouble on the other side.
The second short story Neil read was from a collection of love letters released for Valentine’s Day 2008 entitled ‘Four Letter Word: Invented Correspondence from the Edge of Modern Romance’ edited by Joshua Knelman. To quote Luga this was completely “AWESOME!” I would guess Neil has read this a few times because he totally nailed this with subtle pauses and perfect tone and pacing throughout. This is a love letter that a man writes to the woman he loves which begins thus:
"Let us begin this letter, this prelude to an encounter, formally, as a declaration, in the old-fashioned way: I love you. You do not know me (although you have seen me, smiled at me). I know you (although not so well as I would like. I want to be there when your eyes flutter open in the morning, and you see me, and you smile. Surely this would be paradise enough?). So I do declare myself to you now, with pen set to paper. I declare it again: I love you."
You might think that from there this becomes a sappy love letter but Neil so cleverly turns the narrative around and the ending is so utterly creepy that there were audible gasps and shivers from the audience. A thoroughly enjoyable reading and it has to be said totally AWESOME.

The Enslaved of Paedar Ó Guilín

At the same time as Neil’s reading there was something extraordinary going on in the signing area of the Dealers Room. Earlier that morning Paedar brought along five copies of his book ‘The Inferior’ which he sold to members of the BWB including Pebble, Kat and Lany. Everyone of course wanted signed copies but most decided they would come to his signing in the afternoon to help make him feel more popular. We are so nice to him aren’t we? However, Kat was planning to be elsewhere at that time so Paedar began signing her book, only he wrote "Lany you are so _______" instead, oops. But in his defence he was distracted. Kat and Lany just swapped books, no problem.
But then Lany noticed that she could not read the last word Paedar had written. The word was actually "awesome" but Lany thought it looked like "enslaved". At the signing Lany asked him what it was and Paedar replied that he could not remember. When Lany told him what she thought it was he blushed and said “maybe I was having a fantasy”
When Pebble arrived at the signing she ran in squealing “PADDDAER” as loudly as she could and while holding the book out in front of her she tripped, dropping the book on the floor. It tumbled to a stop by the horrified authors’ feet. After that she even had the temerity to ask him to sign her cleavage much to the amusement of author Ben Jeapes in the background. Pebble has no shame I am telling you.
After the signing Lany and Pebble went into the dealers room and asked the person on the badge making stall to make a badge which read “Enslaved by Paedar Ó Guilín” (which you can see here modelled by Silverstar’s Head). Lany bought 4 badges and gave them to the other ladies who had bought his book. I think it was Sunday when they got the T-shirts made and this was also when Paedar went to the badge stall to check it out for himself. Apparently the button guy noticed him standing there awkwardly and finally said "You look like you have a question." To which Paedar replied that he wanted a few of that button. When asked how many he replied "I'll need quite a lot." The button man realized suddenly and announced "It's you, isn’t it!" Paedar admitted that it was, and bought a bag of buttons. I find it so funny that Paedar was rumbled while buying copies of his own badge.
Paedar gave “enslaved” badges to various BWB ladies including Mich when Limecat pointed out that was sexist and so became enslaved himself. In addition it appears several non BWB con attendees also bought the badge, it seems to have really caught on. In fact I think we have totally started a fan phenomenon here, Paedar’s fanclub will have to be called “The Enslaved of Paedar Ó Guilín”, he is going to need a website of the same name and in fact I highly recommend that he starts work on a major series of novels about slaves immediately.

Party Setup

At 4 pm the BWB assembled outside suite 2815 of the Delta Hotel to start setting up for our party. Before we touched anything Luga took photos of the room so we could see where everything was meant to be, this would prove vital for clear up the following day. Here I am scoping out the view from the top of the stairs. The X’s had brought along the party gear which included two electric fans – these really were very important, cloths to cover tables and paintings, blue fairy lights, blue curacao for tonight’s drink – Blood of the Kraken. They had also brought tape, bin bags, poster putty, posters, pens, blank paper and the huge plastic crates they brought everything in would be where the ice and drinks would be stored later on.
We rearranged the furniture so that the tables that would become the bar went in the downstairs lounge area and that meant that we needed to pick up and move the very heavy sofa up the stairs to the bedroom area. But before we could to that of course we needed to remove the bed, at first we thought it might have been fixed in place but fortunately we were able to take it apart and move it out into the service corridor on the 29th floor. When we removed the base unit of the Queensize bed we discovered loads of old rose petals on the floor. Luga lay down as if to luxuriate in them and Pod picked some of the petals up and threw them over her! We acquired a vacuum cleaner from the service corridor and Lany cleared up the dirty floor for us.
So having got the furniture arranged the way we wanted and the TVs, phones and other stuff from the suite safely stored away in the upstairs cupboards we got down to the finer details. Pebble and Kat started putting blue fairy lights around the columns of the upstairs bedroom area, Tycho and Drac put the lights around the bar area. More lights were wound round the stair banister and finally Kat and Tycho hung the last set of lights from the archway between the two sections of the downstairs lounge area.
Lucky Pierre had brought along beads to be given out to all our party guests and he also brought glo-sticks for everyone. He had plenty of help tying the neckstrings to the glo-sticks from Scott and Soph, Flip and John. However, I then took Soph away from this task to help me with setting up the posters that would advertise our party. Soph has neat handwriting and so she wrote the room number and arrows on to the beautiful flyers that X-Ray had produced for us. We set them up by the elevators on the 28th and 5th floors and also one in the hotel lobby. There were two big posters which we put up one in the corridor pointing the way and the other right outside the party suite’s doors.
After this pretty much everything was done and so X-Ray gathered everyone together to give a short thank you for your help and let’s have a great party speech. She advised everyone to go eat now so they don’t crash out later on and that is what most people did. However, I realised I had still not made the signs I needed to for my Charity Prize Draw Raffle. So I sat down and using up the last of the paper I created some fairly shitty looking handwritten signs for the event. But they did the job. Pat came by and dropped off a large bag of 8 books that he donated to the cause. I added these to the list of 9 books I had brought and so we had a total of 17 prizes to give away. While I was working on the list the hotel staff delivered our ice which was dumped into the bathtub. I got the signs finished and tacked up on the wall and then stashed the books into the upstairs cupboards out of the way and went off to find some dinner.

Dinner – Limecat’s beef gingerman

I wandered all the way out to the downtown area where we went for lunch on Thursday and found a diner opposite the Eaton Shopping Centre. I enjoyed a half chicken half pork ribs BBQ meal with a strawberry shake, it was delicious.
Meanwhile across town, at the same Chinese restaurant that Pod, Tycho, Drac and I went to on Wednesday night, a group of borders were enjoying what they describe as the funniest dinner ever! Any time you have either Pebble or Limecat involved a good time is going to be had and having both together guarantees laughs. Lany and Pebble laughed so hard they had trouble breathing! Much of the hilarity seems to stem from a piece of beef that Limecat discovered, it was shaped like a little man, a gingerbread man made of beef if you will, and Limecat felt he just could not eat him. And so he not only left the beef gingerman un-gobbled he decided to keep him and used a safety pin to attach the gingerman to his glo-stick neck-tie. Limecat loved that little beef gingerman and he kept that poor little guy round his neck all night long.
I don’t know what happened to the little beef gingerman. Did Limecat finally eat him? Did he get binned? Is he preserved in fine vinegar for posterity? I don’t know. But what I do know is that brave little soldier will live on in the hearts of those who witnessed his triumph. Yes.

Brotherhood Without Banners Party

I hurried back to the party to make sure I was there before it started at 8 pm. Already there was a queue for the elevators so I took the service elevator and got up to the 28th floor nice and quickly. I was thinking about all the things I needed to organise to get the raffle tickets sale started but I need not have worried because Mormont had thankfully taken care of everything while I was gone. He noticed I had included the word “free” by mistake on the sign and since we were trying to raise money for charity and selling tickets at $1 each it was definitely not free. Mormont had also found the ticket book and pens in the upstairs storage cupboard and had found volunteers in Paedar and Chataya to sell the tickets – two outstanding choices and what an incredible job they both did! One with his cheeky Irish banter and friendly manner simply charmed the money out of our guests, while the other was dressed like this. Men could not give their money to Chataya fast enough. One guy told me “she kept saying buy another and I just kept looking at her and saying yes.” Some men have no willpower
Several other people had dressed up for the occasion including Lany, Lucky Pierre, Tenalpia and Mich in her awesome corset – doesn’t George look happy in that picture?
At the start of the party there were only BWBers milling around, talking and enjoying the drinks from the bar. Mr X, Luga, Mich and Drac did an incredible job working on the bar all night long. Tycho, Scott and myself all made ice runs and probably some others did as well.
Lucky Pierre did an incredible job on the door giving out beads and BWB badges which Kat had made again this year. In Denver we were making those badges on the night but this time Kat had left the badge machine at home and done all the work producing them before making the trip. The 2009 BWB badges are much sharper and better quality than the 2008 ones and Kat also managed to fit the BWB name, the website address and convention name and year around the edges of the badge – very impressive, thank you Kat. All through the Con Kat had been carrying her bag of badges around making sure everyone of us had one and now we were giving them away to the first hundred or so guests at our party. We kept back a few for special people which would prove handy and since I had pockets I ended up carrying them for Kat. Other people who did door duty through the night included Kat, Lany, Luga, Regina, Tyria and probably a whole bunch more people that I am forgetting. You all did an amazing job of making people feel welcome at the party.
There was one last emergency to fix - the twin bin bag setup had become untapped from the container carton! Scott was on rubbish [US translation: garbage] duty and he performed his sacred duty proudly. Scott with assistance from Limecat repaired the downstairs bin and then Scott with assistance from Pod repaired the one upstairs. Seemingly everyone took pictures of them hard at work much to their bemusement and our amusement.
Shortly after 8 o’clock George and Parris arrived signally the true start of the party. George took the sofa seat by the window with a full view of the room so he could survey the party like a King. We brought down a sturdy chair from the lounge area upstairs for Parris. It was about this time Pebble and Mina had a measure off and discovered that Mina is only 1.5 inches taller than Pebble.
So for the first couple of hours of the party I was free to chat and mingle with the various people who came in, which included the Finnish translator of ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ and her beautiful little girl who loved the beads we gave her. Kyle Cassidy was also there wearing a special self made t-shirt bearing the slogan “George R.R. Martin is not your bitch”. I took this picture of Kyle with George which was later posted on the Conreporter blog with a note that they were directed to it by a certain Mr Neil Gaiman. Fortunately it seems my picture gallery survived the 24,576 hits it received over a two day period after that was posted, unlike the website of Steven R. Boyett which after being mentioned on Neil’s blog was so inundated with traffic his hosting provider deleted the site to stop it taking down their servers. He did not even have a backup and lost a lot of material. Oops!
Speaking of authors we had a few at the party including a couple of very dedicated ones who deserve a special mention for staying for several hours. Daniel Duguay has written a book called ‘The Motley Man’ which is a mythical fantasy about a melancholic Earth-Golem. Unfortunately it has not been published yet and the deal he had with Macmillan’s (the parent company I work for) fell through because the editor who was going to publish it retired and nobody else has picked it up since. He seems like a really nice guy and he and his girlfriend/wife/fiancé (not sure which) spent the whole evening at our party because George told him he should come and I think they had a great time.
While I was chatting with Daniel, Kat came over to introduce a familiar face from our last Worldcon party in Denver, “Real Author” Tim Akers who Kat is quite taken with. Last year Tim was in Daniel’s position with his book kind of accepted but not released yet. Well fast forward to one year later and Tim’s book ‘Heart of Veridon’ has just been published. At the time of Worldcon in August it was only out in the UK but has since gotten a small scale US release in October. I found copies of the book in my local Waterstones but ordered myself a copy from Amazon, cos ya know, it was cheaper. I have not read it as of typing this but it definitely looks interesting, a steampunk/new weird kind of novel about a disgraced pilot turned criminal on the run in the streets of the city of Veridon.
I managed to get this great pic of Kat, Tim and his girlfriend/wife/fiancé (not sure which) Jennifer, with Daniel and his girlfriend/wife/fiancé (not sure which) (sorry don’t know her name). We gave them all BWB badges from the special supply held in my pocket. As we said to Daniel hopefully he will be in Tim’s position next year. Perhaps this will become a new tradition with struggling writers coming to the BWB Worldcon party one year and becoming real published authors by the next?
At this point I took over selling raffle tickets from Chataya who fully deserved a break to enjoy the party. I promptly sold tickets to both Daniel and Tim. I also sold tickets to Mark Gascoigne and the other guys from Bad Robot who stopped by our party. I told them we would have loved to have that incredible robot at our party but Mark said “if you knew how much he cost you wouldn’t”. Mich got a break from the bar and offered to sell more raffle tickets for me and did a great job selling a lot of tickets in a short space of time before returning to working on the bar. Such a hard worker – thanks Mich.
Another author I saw in our party was Mary Robinette Kowal enjoying the last night of wearing the Best Newcomer Award tiara. I think it was shortly after that when Fitheach arrived (who will probably not be happy about this picture of her that Pebble took). Fitheach got one of the last few BWB badges that we had left. We had a little chat before I introduced her to Mormont and a few other boarders. Unfortunately I got very busy after that and did not see much of her for the rest of the party and alas we did not get to say goodbye.

The BWB Charity Prize Draw Raffle

The reason I was busy is that it was fast approaching midnight and the first drawing of The BWB Charity Prize Draw Raffle. I was sorting out the tickets, tearing them off into individual tickets and putting them into Lucky Pierre’s hat which he kindly lent us. LP was at the same time doing an incredible job of loudly shouting out for last minute buyers and managed to sell a bunch more in those last few minutes.
As I was writing the contact details for some entries onto the back of several tickets I handed the hat to Mentat to hold for a moment. He promptly turned the hat the wrong way up dumping all the tickets onto the floor! Doh! He claimed that it was not his fault because I did not tell him there were tickets in the hat. Details, details, whatever. I think we managed to get them all picked up again and at least it did mix them all up which was something that needed doing. Thanks for the assistance Mentat!
Parris managed to get George back into the party suite just in time to make the draw for us, he had wandered off about half hour before to check out the other parties going on that night. There was actually quite a crowd gathered to hear the results. It was all going great. Then I realised I really needed to be upstairs sorting out the prizes so the winners could pick them. I dashed upstairs and got the bags out of the storage closet and began spreading the books out on the tables upstairs.
I had asked Blue to help me with recording who won what and she was there to lend a hand during those chaotic 10-15 minutes. George was downstairs picking winners with Lucky Pierre right beside him to shout the number out loudly. The winners then came up the stairs and queued up in order so the first person picked gets first choice of book and so on and on. Anyone who was not there we kept their ticket so we could contact them later but they would only be able to pick from the few prizes that remained at the end.
The problem was George and LP did not know exactly how many winners to pick and I was kind of flustered with people picking prizes and trying to record the details and Blue was having trouble with the pen and then she won a prize herself. It was chaos, but a fun kind of chaos. LP shouted up how many more, so I just shouted down to pick another five because I did not know how many they had picked, how many tickets for winners not present they were holding and I also did not realise that they took that to mean the end of the draw. Thus the hat was put away, George sat down and relaxed and people left. It later transpired that we were actually four winners short. So Lucky Pierre picked out four more tickets quickly and luckily enough three of those four were BWB members who were right there to make their choices.
Here is the complete list of winners with the prize they chose. Books are paperbacks unless stated otherwise. The column marked “D.” stands for “Donated by”. Obviously Pat gets books sent to him by publishers for him to review on his excellent blog ‘Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist’ and he kindly donated 8 books to the cause. The 9 books I donated were bought from the staff bookshop at Macmillan Publishers in Basingstoke where I work. I actually work in web production for ‘Nature Magazine’ but the parent company is Macmillan’s which means I get to go and buy good quality returned books at the price of 50p for paperbacks, £1 for hardcover. This money also goes to a worthy charity ‘Macmillan Cancer Support’ so I don’t feel in any way bad about losing money on this. My luggage was under the weight limit so it did not cost me anything to bring the books over for this event.

Winner’s name


Prize chosen





A Feast For Crows’ (hardcover) – George R.R. Martin


A very good first choice,
I believe he took it straight downstairs and got it signed



The City & The City’ (hardcover) – China Mieville


I also gave away a copy of this in York to williamjm

The Pebble that Hides


Empire in Black and Gold’ – Adrian Tchaikovsky


First BWB winner of the night

Blue Rose


Edge of the World’ – Kevin J. Anderson


This came with a CD, more about that later

Lisa Germino


Your Hate Mail will be Graded’ – John Scalzi


Tim Anderson


Rite’ (hardcover) – Tad Williams


I so wanted to win this one...

Chris Collins


This Is Me, Jack Vance!: Or, More Properly, This Is "I"’ – Jack Vance


GRRM’s favourite author

Annabel Seraton


The City at the End of Time’ – Greg Bear


Allen Jette


The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ and ‘Mostly Harmless’ – Douglas Adams


Omnibus edition of books
1-4 plus the 5th book



Perdido Street Station’ – China Mieville


First of the extra four winners picked by LP



Vellum’ – Hal Duncan


So glad Mandy won a prize!



Crimson Shadows’ – R.A. Salvatore


Last winner to pick a prize at the Party on Saturday

After this I had five prizes left which thankfully matched the five tickets I had for winners who were not present. This included one person staying in the Delta who I had a room number for, one winner staying at La’ Hotel Centraville, one who had left a mobile phone number and two people whose names I knew – Daniel Duguay and Mark Gascoigne.

I spent much of the following day trying to track down these five winners, leaving messages at the hotels and calling the mobile number I had, but I did not get any replies. I went along to Daniel’s reading on Sunday morning so he had first pick of the remaining prizes. He was so surprised and happy that I made that effort and chose ‘Un Lun Dun’ for his son who was there. I left a note on the messageboard for Mark Gascoigne but he did not pick it up till Monday. He sent me a text message while I was in Patrick Rothfuss’ reading but Mark did not fancy any of the books I had left. So not wanting to take the last four books home I gave them away to some lucky BWB members who were in the right place at the right time to say “yes”.

Winner’s name


Prize chosen



Daniel Duguay


Un Lun Dun’ – China Mieville


Daniel picked this after his reading on Sunday



The Dragons of Ordinary Farm’ – Tad Williams, Deborah Beale & Greg Swearingen


The following books were picked on Monday after no luck finding the real winners



Shriek’ – Jeff VanderMeer


Scott E. Ellison


The Last Colony’ – John Scalzi




Dog of the North’ – Tim Stretton


The last book which nobody else wanted…

Back to Saturday night and after the excitement of the prize draw I left the party to take the money we had raised back to my hotel room to count it. I am pleased to announce that we raised a total of $204 Canadian Dollars for our chosen charity Teachers & Writers Collaborative (, a children’s literacy charity in New York City. As I mentioned earlier in this review BWB member BJT works for them as an administrator and if we had not met at the New York meet on Tuesday night… well then we would have just had to find another charity to give to, but it would not have been so appropriate. Fate, destiny, coincidence? You decide.

The problem I had now was that most of the money we had taken was in coins and coming back to the UK I would only be able to exchange notes back into British Pounds. Thanks go to Mich who offered the use of the petty cash from her workplace to change the notes into coins the following Friday in Toronto. After getting back to the UK I got the money exchanged, paid into my account (“it was only resting in my account, honestly!” - Father Ted) and then once I had gotten my PayPal account active again (don’t ask, it was a lot of trouble) I finally made our donation of $180 US Dollars to TWC on 5 September 2009. I received an email thanking us for our donation from Amy Swauger, director of TWC.
Thanks to everyone who bought a ticket and helping to make this such a great success. No doubt we will do the same again next year at Octocon 2010 in Ireland where George is the guest of honour. That is unless I win the lottery and can afford the trip to Worldcon in Australia of course.

EHK Tribute

Back at the party now and about half hour later a call rang out for silence, the door to the party suite was closed to keep the noise out and everyone gathered in the lounge area or on the stairs or balcony looking down as X-Ray took to the stairs, glass in hand to give a speech. She started out by thanking everyone for coming and making this such a great party, but this was in some ways a sad event because just over a month ago we lost a member of our community, Tom Wilcox better known as EnlightenmentHK or EHK, who tragically died at the age of 29 on the 4th July 2009. X-Ray also mentioned Manwoody who we lost in June 2003.
X-Ray said “Tom was such a huge character in our community, always with a strong opinion to give but also a great friend to all. We found a place here in Montreal that makes its own microbrews and it is only fitting that we toast his memory with this now because that was Tom’s favourite drink.” Various people passed round cups with a little of the microbrew for everyone, including dajamieson captured in this picture where you can also see George’s sombre expression.
There were more than a few people with something in their eye right then. After X-Ray stepped down I called out that I have been putting together a website collecting Tom’s best posts and rants at Sadly I have not been working on this as much as I should have recently but once this accursed long review is done I promise I will get back to work on the site.

The Quest

George now took to the stairs to address the crowd. “On a less sombre note,” he said “it is time now to continue a tradition that has been going on at Worldcon’s for some years. This began at Worldcon 2001, Philcon in Philadelphia. About 2 in the morning a group of us are out getting late night food and one of my fans says “my liege, let me get your food” and dropped to his knees before me, and there was someone else who just happened to be carrying a sword with him and so I took the sword and knighted him there and then on the sidewalk, a Knight of the Cheesesteak. Since then it has become tradition that newbies at the con will be sent forth to gather food for the Lords and Ladies of the party. This year I think we should have some of this famous poutine that I have been hearing so much about. Go forth prospective knights and bring us poutine!”
If you have ever wondered about the knightly orders of the past here is a quick list:




Knightly Order



Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Knights of the Cheesesteak



San Jose, California

The Knights that say “hint”


TorCon 3

Toronto, Canada

Knights of the Lamprey Pie


Noreascon 4

Boston, Massachusetts

Knights of Ye Olde Roaste Beefe



Glasgow, Scotland

Knights of the Haggis

and The Sullied Knights of the Dumpster


L.A. Con IV

Anaheim, California

Knights of the Pink Dog



Yokohama, Japan

Samurai Warriors of the Godzilla Suicide Squad, Order of the Bear (knighted by Pod)


Denvention 3

Denver, Colorado

Knights of the Mile High Tomato Pie



Montreal, Canada

Les Chevalier de Poutine

And so the six BWB noobs departed on their quest accompanied by five non-boarder con-goers who wanted to join the fun. I believe they had quite a journey to find someplace serving poutine at 1.30 am. When they got to the place they were told it would be half an hour to prepare the food and so they went into a bar close by and had a drink. The food was ready a bit quicker than expected and so Scot ended up having to chug down almost an entire pint of Guinness. This caused him to be very drunk for the rest of the night leading us to discover the awesome sight of Scot laughing uncontrollably for the first time. This also occurred a couple more times on Sunday, one occasion of which Pebble filmed and posted on Youtube. Watch Scot attempting to relay a story called ‘Act III: Oedipus Hex’ while giggling uncontrollably.

In the Worldcon thread John revealed the following story from the quest and I have only copied it here for completeness, at least that’s my excuse. Outside the poutine place the now very drunk Scot asked John and Limecat who they thought was the cutest girl at the party. They were both kind of non-committal on the subject but Scot told them that he really loved his wife, and he was really drunk, but there was definitely one girl at our party cuter than anyone else. The clue he gave was that she wasn't wearing a dress. Further probing revealed she wasn't wearing a catsuit either, although Chataya was "really really pretty". For those that know who Scot’s crush is this is kind of cute, but it still remains a mystery for some and I am happy to leave it that way. What happens at the Con stays at the Con.

Lords and Ladies

While the hopeful knights in waiting were away on the quest George again took to the stairs to commence the awards for Lords and Ladies. These awards are given to BWB members attending their 3rd Worldcon. Mormont had updated the records and made the list of members to be honoured. Dracarys read from the list to announce each member and Mich assisted George by holding the awards. Here then the complete list of Lords and Ladies made at Worldcon 2009 with photos of them bending the knee.
Lady Kat – Kat then gave a speech about how she would govern California and demand pretty rocks from her subjects.

Lady Regina

Lord Fenryng

Lady Kama (Filippa)

Lord John – John actually went on the quest and so missed out on his award, when he got back with the others everyone tried to get him to be knighted, including me, not realising he was in fact now a Lord.

Lord Mormont

Le Duc X – Mr X got a special title from George.

Lord JetBoyGirl – Luga chose to be a Lord rather than a Lady which is totally appropriate, huge cheers for Lord JetBoyGirl.

Lady XrayThe Comtesse de Cocktail’ – another special title from George and another loud cheer.
There was one final special award presented. BWB members attending their 5th Worldcon become Prince or Princess and on this night we celebrated the crowning of:

Princess Chataya

You might wonder what titles may follow this and to be honest we don’t really know. Pod was crowned as King after his 6th Worldcon in LA and he has now been to a staggering 8 Worldcons, only missing out on Denver last year, but has not received any higher title since. In Denver Caress of Cersei was made Queen at her 6th Worldcon. We don’t know whether George plans to only have one King and Queen at a time or multiple monarchs, we will just have to wait and see what the future holds.

It was shortly after this that I went out to pick up more ice and was followed back to the party by this group of friendly people who decided to hang out with us for the rest of the night.

Les Chevalier de Poutine

Prior to the party night the Lords and Ladies of the BWB had a quest of their own to perform, finding a sword for the knightings. It was Dracarys who finally managed to track down a wooden sword in a pharmacy in Chinatown of all places and purchased it on behalf of the Brotherhood. The sword has now joined the store of party gear held by the X’s and will be used again in the future.
It was a full hour after being sent out before the Chevaliers returned with the poutine. First through the door was Scot who immediately knelt before George holding the brown paper bag containing his offering of poutine. It would have made a great picture but I missed that and so asked Scot to kneel again for a picture. George was not ready with the sword right then and this led to accusations of Scot having premature genuflection. The sword was fetched and the knightings began in earnest. Here then the full list of Chevaliers de Poutine knighted by George:
Ser Scot the Swift – because he was the first one back and so prompt with his offering.

Ser Limecatthe Woeful!

Ser Tyria – amusingly named “Ser Tyrian” by some.

Ser Dean (non BWB)

Ser Tor (non BWB)

Dame Mina

Ser Mentat

Ser Kevin (non BWB)

Ser Matthew (non BWB)

Dame Pebble

Pebble then presented Silverstar’s head for knighting, George was a bit surprised by the request at first but then said “I knight you… Ser Fuzzy Thing

Ser Ian the Tardy (non BWB) – so named by George because he arrived so long after the others. This guy was actually quite excited to be part of the group, wanted to meet everyone and know all about us. I thought he might actually join the board but true to his name, no sign of him yet.
The knightings are over – yay!
And so we began to tuck into the 12 portions of poutine, one from each quester including Ser Fuzzy Thing. Poutine is basically chips [US translation: French fries] topped with fresh cheese curds and covered in gravy. I thought it was delicious and just the sort of junk food I needed right then. Lucky Pierre also had quite a bit of it but little Mina out-did everyone eating almost a complete container by herself. She declared it “the best poutine” she has ever had and with her being a Montreal native that is quite a statement.

Worshipping Toe-ny

It was a little after 2.30 am when we ran out of alcohol and from that point people began to leave our party and drift away. It was planned that way because we did not have the money to keep the drinks flowing all night long so running out of what we had was a good thing and a sign of a successful party. Shortly after 3 am we closed the door making it a private BWB party from then on. We closed up the bar and began packing some of the stuff up which was a good job considering the trouble we would have the following morning.
It was shortly after this that Pebble and Mina decided it was time to call it a night. Just before they left Kat managed to insult them both horribly. In Kat’s defence she was pretty drunk at the time. Kat said that they were both really small and while Mina was a tiny bit taller she thinks of her as being smaller because “there is less of her”. The funny thing was that with each justification she gave for her opinion she was digging the hole deeper and deeper. Oh how we laughed.
Mina stayed with Pebble and Blue for a couple of nights and all day Mina had been carrying around a yellow plastic bag which had her four paperback copies of ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ which she had hoped to get George to sign at Sunday’s Signing. Several times through the day Mina had almost left the bag behind when leaving places, like the restaurant earlier on and a couple of panels as well. She is kind of scatter-brained and was also kind of wasted. Well unfortunately on the way back to Pebble’s hotel she left the bag behind once too often when she left it in a bus shelter to go across the road quickly to buy a drink. Two minutes later when she got back the bag with her books and her con badge including BWB badge were gone. To be honest when I found out the day after I felt really sorry for her, so I gave Mina the last of the BWB badges from my pocket.
Back at the private party and we had separated into two distinct groups. In the lounge area was a quieter group around George discussing the future of the con and other higher thoughts. There was Luga, Scott, Ser Knight of Somerville, Mr X, Flip, John, Blue, Mormont, MG, Kat and Aoife. George talked about how Worldcons have changed over the years. He also told us that several years ago he was going to a convention and discovered an actor from a show he once worked on was travelling first class while George was in coach and the actor was also being paid more for attending. “That’s when I thought, hang on a minute here. I wrote the fucking words that that guy is saying and he gets a better deal than me? That’s not on.” So George now has a strict policy of making sure he always gets first class travel and has the same attending fee as the top guy at the con. I am not sure if that includes Guest of Honour fees, which for this con may have boosted Neil’s fee to a higher rate than George’s. If any convention turns down these terms George does not attend and most organisers know that to not have George attending is a big no-no, certainly for any self-respecting Worldcon.
The other group in the bar area were sat around on the floor and were much louder, rowdier and more fun. One of these five people discovered on the floor in the middle of our bar area – a toenail! They named him Tony and they worshipped him as a prophet. But one of the five declared that Tony was a false prophet and thought they should instead worship the discarded safety pin also found on the floor. WTF? I don’t really understand it but they were all laughing and having a good time which is all that counts.
Just after 4 am George left along with several other people and about half an hour later the rest of us called it a night. Mr X locked the suite up and we all wandered off to find our beds knowing we had to be up about 5 hours later to meet at the suite for party clear-up at 10 am.
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