Saturday, November 2, 2013

On the road again: World Fantasy Con, Brighton, day 3

I slept rather poorly but for a very long time, so I started the day late.  Two panels I attended were notable. 

The first featured Jim Blaylock, Tim Powers, and K.W. Jeter discussing their early steampunk works and the origins of the term, which Jeter coined.  Their stories were entertaining and contained bits of the history of our field that I had not known.  I quite enjoyed it.

The other panel featured a half a dozen authors discussing whether epic fantasy was dead.  I considered the topic rather silly, but some of the writers were of interest to me, so I went to see if I had perhaps missed something.  I had not.  The panel was indeed silly, as fantasy of all sorts is thriving, but most of the writers were entertaining nonetheless.

Lunch was at Smokeys, a nearby restaurant that features, of all things, American barbecue--more or less.  Two of us shared this enormous pulled-pork sandwich and the sides of salad and mac-and-cheese. 

Click on an image to see a larger version.

Though not pulled pork as we in North Carolina know it, the meat was still tender and tasty. 

The wind blew fiercely from an amazing late-afternoon sky on the short walk to the restaurant.

It wasn't even five o'clock yet when I took that shot.

Between work and a bit of con wandering, dinner came rather late.  The wind on this walk made the afternoon appear still by contrast.  I had to lean into it and at times felt it straightening me against my will, and I am neither a small nor a light person.  We wandered a bit and settled on a Chinese place, China Garden, that the con staff had reviewed kindly.  The food was quite tasty, though again way more than we needed. 

This hotel has not, to put it mildly, been my favorite, though it is also not bad overall.  I do have a sort of Fawlty Towers view of the ocean, as you can see in this shot.

If you can't see the ocean, click the image to see a larger version, find the scaffolding between the buildings just to left of center, and look above that metal to see the water.  While you're at it, check out the grey-blue roof in the lower right.  Though it's hard to read in this picture, the white text says, "DRUG DEALERS MURDERED MY DOG."  Picturesque.  

Time has been odd this week, because it's the one time of the year the U.K. has fallen back its clocks but the U.S. has not, so we're only four hours ahead over here.  When I wake up tomorrow morning, the time difference will again be the five hours I expected.  My mental time-zone math will thus be back to normal and not require special adjustment, but keeping pace with work will become that extra hour more annoying. 

Tomorrow will bring not only this change but also the World Fantasy Con banquet, after which we'll see the presentation of the World Fantasy and British Fantasy awards.  Half an hour after the show ends, if all goes well, I'll pile into a car for the ride to London and what will most definitely be a nicer hotel.  I look forward to the few days in London. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

On the road again: World Fantasy Con, Brighton, day 2

It's three in the morning here in Brighton.  I should have hit the sack two and a half hours ago, when I left the still lively party going on in the main reception area.  Instead, I caught up on work.

Today was a recurring blend of work and con stuff, like the same clothes going round and round in a dryer.  Notable events included attending interviews with Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, and Sir Terry Pratchett; a dinner with friends; and time at the mass signing and subsequent party with more friends. 

If I learned anything at all from today, it's a lesson I already knew but have been unable to act on:  I need to spend more time writing. 

What a surprise. 

I'm out.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

On the road again: World Fantasy Con, Brighton, day 1

After a reasonably long but very fitful night of on-again, off-again sleep, I got up, worked, and headed out for a bit of tourist time.

First up was lunch at a small shop that served passable French sandwiches and frites.

After it, we headed to the day's main non-con attraction:  The Brighton Royal Pavilion.  A non-food example of Henry IV's excess, the Pavilion is quite the sight, even on the outside.

Click on an image to see a larger version.

In the entrance to the ticketing area sat this dragon, a creature who reappeared in many of the rooms.

Dragons and serpents are key parts of the Pavilion's interior design imagery, which Frederik Crace and Robert Jones provided, presumably at King George's request.  They focused heavily on Chinese-based designs, while architect John Nash built the outside in Indian style.

I would have taken more pictures, but not only did signs prohibit photography, alert security people in every room were on the watch for it.  

Had I seen the Pavilion before I visited the palaces of the de Medicis and Hapsburgs, I would have found it a suitably grand, though often gaudy, royal indulgence.  Having visited those places earlier this year, however, I occasionally found myself wondering, "Henry, surely you can be more wasteful than this."  To be fair, though, this was just a retreat, not a main palace, and Henry was dealing with the world a couple of centuries later, during which time wealth had spread around a bit more.

All of that is just analysis, however.  My gut reaction was what Henry and the designers must have intended:  Wow.  The Pavilion is a fun, over-the-top, grand place, with a beautiful dining hall that includes an amazing, thirty-foot-tall main chandelier; a kitchen that was the state of the art for its time; and a music room about the same size and almost as grand as the dining hall. 

After a couple of hours there, we headed back to the con--but stopped first at Cloud 9, where I had a scoop of their very tasty and housemade vanilla ice cream. (Vanilla, though basic, is an excellent way to gauge how creamy and well-made a shop's ice cream is.)

At the con, I caught a panel on writing for comics, wandered the dealers' room a bit, and chatted with friends. 

After some work, a group of us headed out for a delicious dinner at Indian Summer, where every dish was one I had not tasted before. 

The rest of the evening went to work.  It's going on three in the morning here, I'm still jet-lagged and exhausted, and I have to get up early, so I'm signing off. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

On the road again: World Fantasy Con, Brighton, day 0

I wish I could sleep on planes.  I really do.  I can doze fitfully and uncomfortably, my head jerking spastically and producing strange noises, but I don't feel good afterward.  Neither do any of the people around me.  So, I passed last night's fly-all-night trip to Heathrow largely reading and watching a movie on the tablet American Airlines nicely loaned me.  (Yes, I was in First Class, which was glorious; miles paid for the ticket.) 

After landing and getting luggage, the next step was a ride in a car service--about the same price as all options other than the cheapest trains and considerably less hassle--through rush-hour traffic to Brighton.  Not a good time, not a bad time, just a ride.

Amazingly, my hotel room was ready, so I headed to it, caught up on work, and crashed for several hours in a nap.

Con registration proceeded smoothly, the early attendees wine reception was a bore because I don't drink and didn't know anyone, and so it was time to walk the town a bit and find dinner. 

The con's restaurant guide sang the praises of Havana, so when our winding path took us by it, we ducked in and enjoyed a very tasty meal.  I had a curry soup and a mushroom risotto, and both were delicious.

The winds are gusting over 22 mph, so the walk home was chilly and left me feeling like someone had sanded my corneas.  I'm now caught up on work, though, so it's time to sleep and then wake up, I hope, adjusted to local time. 

Tomorrow, I hope to get in a bit of touristing, and then the con starts in earnest!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I'm on a plane

By the time this post appears, I'll be on a plane heading to London Heathrow and, eventually, to Brighton for World Fantasy Con 2013.  I'll also be moving to London for a few days after the con to, I hope, stare at some great art, eat a great meal, sign some books (stock only; I'm really nowhere near enough of a draw to warrant a live signing) at Forbidden Planet, and see a pair of plays I hope are great.

Today has been a blur of work and rushing to the airport, so I have little to say about it.

I didn't comment on Lou Reed's death two days ago largely because I didn't feel I'd have much to add to all that others would say about him.  I can, though, add this personal note:  His music, particularly his lyrics, opened a lot of young minds, including mine, to a great many notions they had not previously considered.  I will miss him--though I never knew him--for this, for his influence, and most of all for the music himself.  Though thousands of people are highlighting the same tune, I'll put it here because Toni and I named an anthology after it.  Enjoy, and think of Lou Reed and all he gave us.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Things I learn in airports

Life constantly offers us the chance to learn, if we will pay attention. I often find airports particularly instructive.

For example, on the way back from New Orleans on Monday, while grabbing lunch in MSY, I learned that spoons are definitively the most useful bit of cutlery, because they are multi-purpose. Don't take my word for this profound insight; check out the declaration from the fine folks at Dixie, whose SmartStock dispenser makes this point clear.

Click on an image to see a larger one.

I would have chosen the knife, because with it you can both cut your po boy and stab the annoying people who are yelling into their mobiles a mere table away--not that I would do such a thing, of course.  I see now, though, that with the spoon you can stab with one end--not sharp, admittedly, but put enough force behind it and you might be okay--and then scoop out any loose bits with the other end.  Spoons it is.

One airport later, at DFW, while ordering the wonderful Red Mango mixed berry parfait, I learned that Auntie Anne's was now offering not only the amazing pretzel dog, but the even more handy cup full of pretzel dog bites!

Come on, admit it:  you'd like to tuck into a cup of these delicious rascals.  I know I would.

I now await eagerly the time when Auntie Anne decides to complete the circle of life, hot dog style, with the foot-long pretzel dog.  If you were to order and eat all three, I suspect you would achieve the kind of enlightenment that would stop you from even considering which type of plastic tableware is best for killing the annoying people yelling into their cell phones.

Not that I would ever do such a thing, of course.

Kill them, that is.  Of course I'd eat the trifecta of pretzel dog happiness.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Incredibly infectious

This song, at least the instrumental parts, is not my usual cup of tea, but for some reason I'm really hot on it right now.  With nearly 124 million views on YouTube, the song clearly doesn't need any promotion from me, but I like it so much that I wanted to point you to it.

I hope you also enjoy it.

By the way, if you want to skip the video, which does at times stop the music, and just hear the music, try this one.  As a bonus, it includes the lyrics.


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