Goats! In Cloaks!

I never blog, unless it's to contradict myself, or I have something of interest to report. This is the latter. Just (and by just, I mean, still getting over the travel angst, which, since it involved Ryanair, and a 2:00 am drive up from Dublin, fog and chip'n'pin cardreader failure at a gas station, is considerable) back from Pyrkon, at Poznan in Poland. This is the national Polish SFF convention. It takes place in two of the buildings of Poznan World Trace Center, and caters for film, TV, manga, comics, anime, gaming, cosplay and books --the usual 21st century mix. This is it's 12th year

Last year, Pyotr, the organiser, got 4000 people through the door. This year the sun shone and there were 6,200 attendees. I'll say that again because your blink may have meant that you did not read that properly. 6,200. Paying attendees at that.

I was the foreign guest writer -- I get the feeling I may have been the first. If not, please feel free to correct. The concom are keen to do it again and to get Pyrkon to register more prominently on the international convention scene.

It was great. The sun shone, I had well attended panels, did a load of interviews and had a book signing queue that extended out of the hall. People who asked questions had read my books. Which were widely available in very handsome editions. And sure there are lots of kids running around in neko cat-ears and tails, but if even ten percent --hell, five percent, buy a book and read it, that's a load of readers. I like festival-type conventions. They get people in. There is much to be said for the fan-run con, which is meeting old friends and being together in a convivial atmosphere, but the festivals seem to get the kids in, and that's the audience that interests me. I was talking at Pyrkon about how SF has become primarily a visual medium and that the appurtenances of SF have become divorced from the spirit of SF, which is science or technology at at the core of the story, hence my little tweetburst about 'hard sf' --a term I think damages the genre because it makes it seem unapproachable, 'difficult' and overly macho, in our general anti-science culture. I disagree, but that's another post, if I can be arsed.

But Pyrkon was exciting and felt fresh and encouraged me that potential readers are still coming to the genre. Books aren't the entry drug any more. Books are the hard stuff, the crystal meth of genre. Yoyu start off on a few tokes to visual media, maybe get into costuming (very taken with one dude who had a quick think about what to go as, found a fez and a tweed jacket and hey presto! The fact that he looked like Boris Johnson made it all the more glorious) and some day someone offers you the stuff that comes wrapped up in paper (or laid out in lines on the screen of an e-reader). I do believe that books offer something no other form of the genre can. Some will reach them and be happy ever after. Some won't. That's cool. SF has become a broad church and I think that is good. (At the same tinme, I do feel that tastes within that broad church are narrowing and hardening, which is the antithesis of what reading is about. But in general, I do not feel I have lived and fought in vain.

The people were wonderful and welcoming, the organisation was excellent, I am the proud recipient of the Polish Post-Apocalyptic Babes Calendar, Team Ireland narrowly beat Team Poland at drinking, the hotel bar had a two lane skittles alley in the basement bar and the local radio in the breakfast room played hits from the 80s with so much reverb the vocalists sounded like they were at the bottom of a well; our room overlooked an old socialist era zoo, with lemurs and petting ponies and an aura of such melancholy hopefulness that made me go back and walk around every day.

Poznan has secret delights --two hundred people gathering as clockwork goats on the town hall clock butt heads twelve times at noon! The same goats featured in the posters --in cloaks. Goats in Cloaks! Goats! In Cloaks! In this town priests still wear birettas. Everyone is impossibly young and good looking (this is Poland) except for me.

Pyrkon has ambitions. I salute them and wish them every success in acheiving them. Good con, people.
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My Worldcon Schedule


• The Psychogeography of Ideals (Panel), Thu 11:00 - 12:00, A04 (RSCC)
• Pyr (Publisher Presentation), Thu 13:00 - 14:00, A11 (RSCC)
• Literary Beer: Thu 15:00 (Literary Beer), Thu 15:00 - 16:00, Hall 2 Bar (RSCC)
• Reading Jam (Activity), Fri 11:00 - 12:00, E1 (RSCC)
• Reading: Ian McDonald (Reading), Fri 15:00 - 15:30, A15 (RSCC)
• The Future of Cities (Panel) (M), Fri 17:00 - 18:00, A01+6 (RSCC)
• Autographing: Sat 13:00 (Autographing), Sat 13:00 - 14:00, Hall 2 Autographs (RSCC)

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I've been persuaded by Cheryl Morgan at PCon to attempt twitter, so I'm at @iannmcdonald. It still won't be topical or interesting. Or regular.

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Before I cruise down to Dublin for PCon, I'm delighted to announce to that I'm a finalist for the 2011 Arthur C Clarke Award --and it's a very strong list that shows the huge diversity of what's going on the genre at the moment. Great company --and congratulations to flister triciasullivan. And all the other nomimees, of course.

book delivered!

Instancing some champagne: Planesrunner (part one of the younger readers series I'm writing for Pyr) delivered by click yesterday. And John Picacio is doing the cover. You'll notice I'm not saying much about this series. It all starts to ramp up in book two, of course.

Water Wars II

So, it was actually three burst pipes over Christmas, not two, which we got sorted (temporarily) with an end-cap on the pipe. Thank you Super Mario. We'll get the rest sorted out when NI Water clean up our stopcock in the street, which, given the state of things, may be some time. Now we have no water at all, due to the Great Northern Ireland Water Fail. People lining up at leisure centres to fill buckets and flagons. Some places haven't had water for over a week. We got off lightly, to be honest --off yesterday at 11:00, theoretically on today at 10:00, and our gym up the road is fine for showers and toilets. It's things like washing hands/dishes/floors where you have to catch yourself and say, 'ah, actually, that's not working'. The temperature has shot up 20 degrees almost overnight in the Mighty Thaw --from minus 10C to plus 10C.

Amd I forgot to mention, before Christmas, slimmeroftheyea's triumphal performance as Mrs Malaprop in Sheridan's The Rivals Only one of the best women's comic parts ever written. And she got big big laughs. And my Christmas prezzie to her --tickets to see Derek Jacobi in King Lear. We saw the live relay from the National Theatre of Rory Kinnear in Hamlet at the QFT and it got me all Shakespearean. But ... you know... Derek Jacobi. (I got allotmenteering gear and a Larousse Gastronomique, since you enquire)

wet wet wet

Two pipebursts in three days. First one, no problem. Fixed. Second one: four thirty on Christmas Eve. No chance of getting our Super Mario plumber out to that. Thankfully, it's an external pipe so it's spraying away outside and leaving a truly impressive ice slick down the street. Unthankfully, it's knocked out all our internal watrer except for one tap in the kitchen. Victo
rian Christmas, anyone? The bummer is that the previous owners, in their home improvment frenzy, concreted in the stop cock, so the only way to shut the water off is the mains valve in the street, which (1) is under ice and (2) takes out the houses on either side of us. Godammit! And how was your Christmas?

When the Moon is eclipsed by the earth...

because I was up early to do a bit on da book, I stepped out to see the lunar eclipse, which, viewed from the deck at the back of the house, was more or less directly over Knockagh across Belfast Lough. Totality at about 07:45. It went blood red. I tried to get a photograph but the light was too low and my fingers too chilled and thick. It's good to be drawn out (especially at this very internal time of year) to contemplate things that are not a product of human culture. Damn cold --we must have had a total of thirty centimetres of snow since last Thursday: it's bedded in some, but shows no sign of leaving us. The Google weather alert says -13 C in Tinseltown in the Rain last night, which is pretty mind-buggering, even if I do take it with a pinch of (road) salt. I do remember seeing the sea freeze in Bangor marina waaay back, it's getting to that kind of temperature here. I wish I could find it again, but last year, in February, the last big freeze, someone on my flist posted a singularly alarming picture, from NOAA: a satellite thermal image of the North Atlantic conveyor. The Gulf Stream, thermal red, instead of curving easttowards Europe, was diverting west between Baffin Island and Greenland. meaning: the Gulf Stream is shutting down. I wonder if there are any NOAA shots from the present freeze?
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