World Fantasy – The Fun Bits

Like most other people, I had a good time at World Fantasy in Brighton. That should not excuse some pretty serious short-comings on the part of the convention, and I’ll write about those in due course, but enjoyment of a convention depends to a very large extent on the location, and the number of good friends you have amongst the attendees. From the location point of view, Brighton worked very well. I was also fortunate in knowing the city, and in having things I could do there outside of the convention.

Kevin and I traveled to Brighton by rail, and we took time out to take the short detour to Portsmouth Harbour. You can’t see the Victory from the dockside, and we had suitcases so we could not go into the museum, nor indeed did we have time. However, Kevin got to see the Spinnaker Tower and the Warrior, and got to see a little bit more of England.

We had an excellent room in the Hilton, thanks in large part to my having a Hilton Gold Card. That’s not something I earn through staying in hotels. Back when I had a proper job I signed up for an Amex card that gave me Gold status with Hilton. It has proved so valuable that I have kept it ever since. I knew that the Metropole had some enormous rooms, and thanks to the card we got one. This proved very useful as a recording studio as well as a base of operations.

Shortly after arriving we met up with Claire Parker who hosts the Time 4 T show on Reverb Radio, Brighton’s local station. This is the UK’s only trans-themed radio show. Brit Mandelo and I did an interview which I believe will be broadcast next weekend (Sunday 17th). I’ll let you know when it is available. The subject matter is mainly about the place of trans people in SF&F literature, and in the SF&F community.

Brit and her partner joined us for dinner at Dig in the Ribs. I was pleased to be able to take folks from Kentucky out for barbecue in the UK and have them enjoy what they ate. Well done, Vanessa & co. After that Kevin and I headed into town for Hallowe’en. We hung around in the Marlborough for a while admiring the costumes, then met up with Sarah Savage and moved on to the Queen’s Arms to check out the local drag queens. Kevin proved quite popular. Sadly Fox wasn’t well and could not get out to join us.

My Hilton card also entitled us to free breakfasts, which was very useful (and more than paid for the card’s annual fee right there). We were able to spend part of Friday morning checking out the convention, then I had a meeting with the PR people from Jo Fletcher Books, Jukka Halme and Snorri Kristjansson. We talked about the visit of Karen Lord to Åcon, and introduced Snorri to the possibilities offered by Finncon. Hopefully good things will come of this. I also got to meet another one of Jo’s authors, Amish Tripathi, who is from Mumbai and therefore an Indians fan. We did not come to blows over this year’s IPL semi-final, even though the wrong team won.

I took Kevin out for lunch to English’s Oyster Bar, and then we visited the Pavilion, which is pretty much a must-see tourist trap. It is hideously over the top, and yet there are parts of it that are extraordinarily beautiful. In particular I love the centerpiece of the dining room ceiling. I wonder how they managed to persuade Temeraire to pose for the sculptor.

Brighton Pavilion chandelier

My one panel of the convention was at 5:00pm on Friday. The less said about that the better at this point. After that we had a lovely Thai dinner with Rina & Jacob Weisman at Giggling Squid. The evening was given over to the mass signing, which I spent introducing people I knew to other people I knew. Hopefully they all found that useful.

On Saturday morning Kevin and I were hoping to play the lovely Pirate-themed crazy golf course that I had found on the front right by the Metropole. I was a little worried that we would find it closed for the season, but I was utterly gobsmacked to find nothing but a building site. Instead we wandered along the prom as far as Brunswick Square, then up onto Western Road to buy cheese at La Cave à Fromage.

We had lunch with Kameron Hurley and her partner, Jason, Foz Meadows and Lizzie Barrett. It was an official Angry Feminist lunch, and we plotted World Domination. Foz had asked for sushi, and in the morning I had spotted a place called Sushi Garden on Preston Street just round the corner from the hotel. It turned out to be so good that I tweeted Neil Gaiman with a recommendation.

On Saturday afternoon Kevin and I did an interview with a young academic from Sussex University who is writing her thesis on LGBT families and their representation in the media. We were delighted to be able to participate in her research. I hope she manages to find some more families containing trans people to talk to.

After that we managed to get everyone together to present Karin Tidbeck with her Translation Award plaque. Special thanks are due to Ellen Klages who quietened the bar and got everyone’s attention so that Gary Wolfe and I could make the necessary announcements, and Karin could give a speech.

That evening we had a dinner date with Scott Edelman, Ellen Datlow and Pat Cadigan. Pat didn’t make it — she had stayed behind in London to look after Bob Silverberg and Karen Harber. Bob had suffered a heart attack shortly after arriving in the UK, and both he and Karen needed help dealing with the NHS and general emotional support. It was really good of Pat to give up her convention for them.

Scott is quite the foodie, and he wanted to visit a place called Graze which offered a 7-course tasting menu. All of the courses were, of course, quite small. Even so it took us 3.5 hours to get through the meal. It was expensive, but well worth it for a one-off experience. I’m not sure I would recommend an additional £30 for the matched wines, especially as you’d be well pickled by the time you got to the end of the meal, but the food was really good. The company was too.

Sunday was mainly about packing up and moving out. We ate some of the cheese we had bought for lunch, and sat in the bar watching the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with Jukka. Sadly Kimi did not exactly cover himself in glory.

After the awards we headed off to Camden in the company of Gary Wolfe who was staying with the Clutes overnight. Our hotel was just round the corner from Chateau Clute, so we were able to travel together and catch up on industry gossip.

Monday was spent doing tourist things in London. I took Kevin to see the Old Operating Theatre and to the Museum of London to see the Cheapside Hoard (though I was actually much more pleased that he got to see a short clip of The Flowerpot Men).

In the evening we did some scouting for Scott in advance of next year’s Worldcon. We ate at Archipelago, managing to try zebra, python, locusts, crickets, mealworms and alpaca for the first time. I was particularly impressed with the alpaca. I don’t know what the meat is really like, because it was cooked Mexican style rather like a barbacoa. Mexican slow cooking is designed to make best use of cheap cuts of meat, so alpaca steaks might not be up to much. Then again the cooking style might just have been a cultural decision. I’d like to find out. What I can say is that the dish as cooked was spectacular. I definitely want to go back. Many thanks to Jon Courtenay Grimwood for the recommendation.

All in all it was a great weekend. It was rather expensive, but we knew that going in. I didn’t get to talk to nearly as many people as I wanted to, but thankfully most of them will be coming back next year for Worldcon. I did also talk to a few people about future Wizard’s Tower Press projects, including Grimpink. I’ll have more news on that in due course.

What’s more, I managed to enjoy myself despite all of the ugly looks I got from the convention’s senior management throughout the weekend. I guess they really wanted me to have a horrible time there. I’m sorry to disappoint them.

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