Saturday began with my first ever TV appearance. Thankfully it wasn’t a live show, but we did record mostly “as live” so it was all a bit scary.
Attitudes towards science fiction are clearly very different in Croatia than in the UK. Later in the day the convention’s award ceremony was hosted by a young man who has a weekly SF show on national TV. I wasn’t on his show, however. Dmitry Glukhovsky and I had been invited to appear on a culture chat show. To put it in a UK context, it was like we’d been invited onto the Sky Book Show to talk to Mariella Frostrup. Can you imagine that ever happening?
The first thing that happened when we arrived was that I got whisked off into make-up to be made presentable. I’d expected this, and all I had done in the morning was wash my hair. I came out looking better than I’ve looked since 1999 when regular beauty salon in Melbourne got me done up for the Hugos (I could afford such things in those days).
The presenter, Vlatka, admitted that she knew very little about SF, though she had taken the trouble to read Dmitry’s book. She asked a few questions that some fans might find rather rude, but it was pretty clear that what she was doing was setting up popular stereotypes of SF and allowing us to demolish them. I was particularly pleased with the “isn’t SF just for boys?” question. Vlatka asked Dimitry to answer first, giving me time to cook up an extensive response that ranged from the Bronte sisters through Doris Lessing and Johanna Sinisalo to the current Ditmar short list.
Dmitry turns out to be a fascinating chap. The easy way to describe him is as the Russian Cory Doctorow, though I suspect that he’s heartily sick of the comparison, and Cory would be if people in the West knew more about Dmitry. The simple fact is that they both came up with the idea of promoting their work by putting it online for free at around the same time, and neither had heard of the other until recently. Dmitry mentioned on the show that some of the older Russian SF writers, who are very much in the Asimov/Clarke tradition, are a bit jealous of his success and complain that he’s just some kid with a website who doesn’t know how to write SF. Sadly Charlie has run out of t-shirts.
The program creaked a little on Saturday, in part because Dmitry and I were half an hour late back from the TV studio, but generally things continued to go well and the con was packed. There were a few very good costumes, the gaming room has been running pretty much since it opened, and the panel audiences are good. I missed half of the online fiction panel, but got back in time to give a good plug for Clarkesworld. Powers gave a great presentation on writing fantasy, and he and Milena did a fine double-act on the vampires panel. (Poor Milena has become known as someone who has actually read Twilight and can talk intelligently about it, which is a curse.)
My favorite panel of the day was Darko Macan’s cartoon history of Croatian SF. He did some great caricature sketches in chalk (Croatian universities still have chalk boards). I didn’t know most of the people he talked about, but the Croats were killing themselves laughing throughout. One anecdote I can relate involved an anthology he edited for SFera, the Zagreb SF club. This was back during the Balkan wars, and one of the stories, by Tatjana Jambrišak, told a tale of how all of the men of Zagreb went off to war and left the women to run the country. “This was very prescient”, said Darko, “because a few years later something very similar happened to SFera.” Yes, the club, and the convention, is now run by women.
In the evening we had an award ceremony, and the GoHs were asked to present some of the trophies. We started with a large number of awards for kids — anyone under 12 gets into the convention free, and there were literary and art contests for various age groups. After that we had the local SFera awards. And finally there were the ESFS Awards. The latter had a number of very pleasing wins. Jonathan Cowie got a nod for the Concatenation website. My French friends at Galaxies won Best Magazine. The team at the SF Encyclopedia won Best Promoter (a category that recognizes people who work selflessly to promote SF&F). Best Author was Ian McDonald, and the Grand Master award went to Brian Aldiss.
There’s a lot more I could talk about, but I have to be back at the convention for noon for a panel on electronic publishing.