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Helium Boobs, Coconut Cows and Flying Eyes


So that was the 2011 Eastercon, Illustrious. It might very well have been a train-wreck – hotel in the middle of nowhere, military sf theme, disorganised programme… – but it actually turned out to be a blast. In a good way, of course.

The train journey there took me less time than I’d expected, so I arrived feeling quite cheered. Registration was a bit of a faff, but never mind. I dumped my bag in my room – which was very nice – and then went looking for friendly faces in the bar. Of which there were many.

And that is where I spent most of the weekend.

As is usually the case, I spent most of the con talking to various people in the bar, both with and without beers. I always tell myself I should go to the programme items – and I always afterwards spot ones I would have liked to have gone to – but… This year, I was on three. The first was cancelled, perhaps because it was scheduled against the BSFA Awards Ceremony. The other two were part of the con’s Women in SF programme stream.

“Women in SF (versus Fantasy)” took place at 10:30 am on the Sunday. I’d been up until 4:30 am the previous night, so I was probably not at my sharpest. I seem to remember it went quite well, however. “Great Women of SF” was late on the Monday afternoon, just before the con ended. It too was good. Kev McVeigh had produced a hand-out listing 150 female writers of sf – based in part on my two meme lists here and here – and the discussion covered many of the authors listed (and a few that had been missed off). Several people asked for the correct spelling of authors and titles, so I’m happy the books we mentioned will be read.

The only other part of a con I visit often is the dealers’ room. This year, I didn’t actually buy that many books. I’ve no idea why. I saw many I wanted. But the ones I bought were…

Among the many people I met over the weekend were Lavie Tidhar, Lauren Beukes and Aliette de Bodard. So of course I bought their books. And they signed them for me.

The Compton is for the collection, and the two Sellings are British SF Masterworks reads.

The Steph Swainston is for this year’s reading challenge. Toiya Kristen Finley is a writer whose fiction I’ve liked a great deal since reading her story in Text: Ur a couple of years ago. The book of reviews by Gary Wolfe will go with other two books I own.

Some more for the British SF Masterworks reading list: Rex Gordon, Kenneth Harker and Charles Eric Maine. I bought Metropolis because I’d not known it had been novelised. The Wells, The World Set Free, amused me as the back-cover blurb praises Wells’ accuracy in predicting the future… including the nuclear war in 1956. Moon Zero Two… well, I like reading novels about pre-Apollo Moon landings.

I can’t remember every conversation I had over the weekend – but most were about writing and science fiction. I recall chatting to Gav Smith and Pete Hamilton – and Pete asked me if I’d reviewed A House in Space by Henry SF Cooper Jr on my Space Books blog. I was somewhat surprised to learn he knew of the blog.

The title of this post comes out of several conversations with the usual suspects – Mike Cobley, Paul Cockburn, Gary Gibson, Andrew J Wilson, Neil Williamson, and newcomer Tracy Berg – from the Glasgow and Edinburgh writers’ groups.

There was apparently a painting in the art show of a woman with unfeasibly large breasts. Tracy pointed out that the weight would prove painful. But not, we suggested, if the implants contained helium. Then the conversation turned silly.

While queuing up for food on the Saturday night, I asked one of the servers if the rogan josh was dairy-free. (It was; it was also not very nice.) Neil asked me if I could drink coconut milk. I pointed out it did not come from coconut cows… which led to a series of extrapolations in which cows lived in palm trees and were eaten by huge coconut cow crabs.

The Flying Eyes refers to a book of the title which had a perfect piece of cover art for Good Show Sir. Foolishly, I didn’t buy it straight away, and someone had beat me to it when I went back to do so.

Others I spoke to included: Paul Cornell (the ageist), Tom Hunter, Ian Mcdonald, Ian R Macleod, Kev McVeigh, Cara Murphy, Roy Gray, Philip Palmer, and my agent John Jarrold. Plus those on the two panels I was on. And probably many more I’ve forgotten to mention. It’s the people who make a con, and they made Illustrious a very good one indeed.

It is in the paradoxical nature of the Eastercon that it physically drains you but creatively recharges you. And so for this one. Talking about stories makes you want to rush away and write them straightaway. It is my theory that the constant barrage of ideas, conversation and beer so stuns you that your brain no longer realises your reach exceeds your grasp. But at least you’re going to have a damn good try.

Of course, I spent the entire weekend handing out Rocket Science flyers to all and sundry. The response was amazingly encouraging. I expect to be bombarded with excellent fiction and non-fiction come August.

I’m very glad I didn’t write-off Illustrious because if its location, theme, or confusions over the programme. I had an excellent weekend, and can’t wait for the next convention.

6 thoughts on “Helium Boobs, Coconut Cows and Flying Eyes

  1. Dammit man, I was tired and confused. Must you expose my elderly befuddlement to the world? Have you NO HEART?

    Over and above that I completely endorse your views. I had reservations going in, but enjoyed it immensley in the end.

  2. Nah, mate, nah! – there were good bits to Illustrious but overall I felt that the organisational flaws and the diabolical hotel (and its sadistically hot rooms) militate against a postive review. I is curmudgeonly, like!

    That said, it was a gas to meet yerself and a gaggle of other writer buddies. Next year – back to Heefrow, gawd elp us.

  3. Where’s that copy of “Harm’s Way” you waved at me in the dealers’ room? Don’t tell me you didn’t buy it! That cover was priceless, not least because it proved you shouldn’t judge a book by one…

    Good to see you and good luck with “Rocket Science”.

  4. I see you’ve procured Compton’s ‘The Missionaries’ — I desperately hope that I’ve some how massively misinterpreted the work in my review…. But, let me know what you think!

    • It was the only Compton first edition available at the Eastercon – although there were plenty of paperbacks of his other books. But I must admit I’m intrigued to discover if it’s as bad as you said it was.

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