So then, the SFX Weekender. Quite a lot of gripes from many people (see the SFX forum), mainly about accommodation and organizational shortfalls. Not me. Macmillan cleverly rented a beachside house for its authors, just outside the barbed wire perimeter of Pontins Camber Sands. As a pilot version of Author Big Brother I’m not sure it’ll ever get picked up by a network; but the four of us, myself, China Mieville, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and Mark Newton, were looked after by a squad of publicists and editorial staff catering to our every whim –take a bow Julie, Chloe and Amy. It was a bit like being royalty really, I can’t remember the last time three people cooked my breakfast for me. I did have to butter my own sandwich at lunch, but I am prepared to overlook that particular hardship thanks to the excellent dinner I was taken to on Friday night. Apparently it wasn’t quite the same for team Gollancz, who had themselves a Pontins chalet. Not that team Macmillan would ever take every opportunity to point out the few modest differences between residential facilities –like showers that didn’t have Deathworld fungal formations, and beds wider than bodywidth, and oh I don’t know –heating in February. That would just be churlish of us.
And the organization? Well, the SFX staff organized it for me to meet Gerry Anderson. OMG as young people of today would text. Stingray and Fireball XL5 and the awesome Thunderbirds were my first true exposure to SF, so I’ve basically been wanting to meet the genius behind the shows ever since the 60s. And I did, there and then at the SFX Weekender. And did I manage to produce a single coherent sentence when I finally got to shake the great man’s hand? No! I babbled like an idiot. But Gerry Anderson was the epitome of charm and grace, and even signed some of the old Thunderbirds records I kept hold of from my childhood. (Mrs H please note: see, it is worth cluttering up the house for 40 years with my old stuff. Old stuff should not be thrown away. Not ever.)
I’m giving the bad impression of being aloof from everyone else who was there. Not quite the case. Aside from a nice bedroom and Gerry Anderson, I pretty much spent the rest of the time in the bar. Got to talk to a lot of people, sign books, do panels, did a reading and Q&A, jumped up on stage during John Meaney’s session and nearly had a fight with him, but he started it, so there. Also took part in the pub quiz. I was one of the questions! One of my favourite memories is of the utter bewilderment on the faces of the team sitting next to us when that was asked. I’m not saying what position team Macmillan finished, but clearly having better accommodation gives you an advantage over other author teams.
It was a good convention; and I haven’t even mentioned the stilt girls. I know it was more of a media-based event than one for the written word, but it was very nice to see family groups there. If asked I’ll certainly be going again.
Peter F. HamiltonM