I figure I’d better write this now while I still have some memory of the events of the trip! First and foremost, I was a plague rat for most of my time in the UK, and the consensus from friends is that I was probably sicker than I thought I was … but it’s probably best that I maintained a healthy dose of cognitive dissonance as it meant I could still do all the things I needed to do, like be on a panel, sign a LOT of books, and attend the big launch of Fearie Tales in an upright position.
So, beginning at the beginning: I had five days in London on my own, which was great for doing all the touristy/researchy stuff that’s very hard to do in Australia simply because we don’t have the British Museum (which I visited three times this trip) conveniently located anywhere in our country at the arse-end of the world. Nor the Tate Britain, nor the National Gallery (the UK one), nor the National Portrait Gallery, nor St Martin’s in the Field, nor Forbidden Planet (OMG Forbidden Planet, cathedral of nerdom), nor the V&A (soooo many lovely old things!!) … y’know, stuff.
I wandered and I wrote, and I saw stuff and I gradually incubated the cold that would almost undo me in Brighton – I wondered why I felt so warm all the time when everyone else was wearing a coat. I’m smart like that, me. And then Brain arrived and if I didn’t get well suddenly then at least I had the best company in which to walk around in a daze. We went to Forbidden Planet for a signing by Sean Williams and Garth Nix, then a bunch of us headed off to a pub, the White Hart (if my memory serves correctly, which it may well not), possibly billed as the oldest pub in London? Lisa and I didn’t eat there as we’d already eaten earlier at the worst pub in London, which may well have gloried in the name of the Bloomsbury something or other.
The next day we set off for Brighton on the train. Distinct lack of rolling hills and green fields on the way, which was a bit sad. When we arrived and schlepped our bags out to the waiting taxi rank (side note: Brighton Train Station, worst and most disorganised taxi rank ever, room for three cabs, home to 38 or so, like a clown car challenge). Then halfway down the hill our driver got into an altercation with a couple of cyclists and started screaming obscenities and death threats. Welcome to Brighton.
Upon finally arriving at the hotel and successfully checking-in, and catching the lift with Joe Hill and his wife, we found we had a very nice large room with a great view of the sea-tossed burnt out ruins of an old pier/boardwalk thingy – and it was raining by this time. And it rained pretty constantly for 4 days – no surprise, really, it’s Britain.
But that’s okay, as the action was on the inside of the Hilton.
From registration (and collecting the free books, droooooool, freeee books), it was fantastic – and I say this as a person suffering a fever and a cough that made me sound like a hell hound, and with a pallor that made me look like a bride of Dracula. The worst thing was not meeting all the people I’d wanted to meet (folks I’ve corresponded with for years in e-form) coz I was spending large amounts of time between public appearances just lying in bed doing my best not to die.
But anyway! The highlights were catching up with Steve Jones and Jo Fletcher again, and of course, Rob Shearman. Finally meeting the lovely Helen Marshall and her sister Laura, and the hilarious Sandra Kasturi and Brett Savoury, Pete and Nicky Crowther, Les Edwards, Nina Allan, Michael Marshall Smith, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Rio Youers, the delightful Mark Morris, John Berlyne, Sally Harding, Ron Eckel, Ellen Datlow, Simon Marshall-Jones, Maura McHugh, Lynda Rucker, Lisa Tuttle … the list could go on, and if I’ve forgotten you I apologise deeply and sincerely. I was, as I’ve said, dying (*may be exaggerating for purposes of comedy and/or sympathy extraction).
It was especially lovely to finally meet Ray and Rosalie of Tartarus Press, who published Sourdough and Other Stories and are gamely gearing up to do the same for The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings.
I think the best bits for me were the public appearances, even though they were a bit challenging. Having the first reading spot in the Cabinet of Dr Probert was daunting, but amazing and so much fun – and it was WONDERFUL to finally meet the Good Dr Probert himself and his lovely bride, Thana Niveau (both terrific writers and performers), and Master Reggie Oliver, Esq. The tower room was wonderfully set up and filled to the brim!
The panel Lisa and I did on Fifty Shades of Fae, with Joanne Harris, Tanith Lee, and Graham Joyce, ably moderated by James Barclay, was fantastic. Really enjoyable and illuminating. And meeting Tanith Lee – the Queen of us all – in person, was utterly fabulous and I will admit to one of my very rare fangirl moments. I managed to keep the squeeeeeee in; at least, I think so.
Finally, the launch of Fearie Tales: Stories of the Grimm and Gruesome was an amazing experience. Towards the end I got to have a chat with John Ajvide Lindqvist about “The Coffin-Maker’s Daughter” and his experience of turning “Let the Right One In” into a screenplay. I must publicly acknowledge the wonderful Justin Ackroyd of Slow Glass Books for bringing me a constant supply of water. It was so lovely not just to be signing Fearie Tales but to find people had brought often multiple copies of Sourdough and other Stories as well as A Book of Horrors along as I was generally the only author who hadn’t signed their copies due to the tyranny of distance!
I also spent some time with the signing sheets for my Spectral Press chapbook, Home and
Hearth, the signing sheets for the limited edition version of Fearie Tales which PS Publishing will be bringing out presently, and signing the new Fedogan & Bremer release Weirder Shadows Over Innsmouth, with its wonderful Les Edwards cover.
And when it was all done, I stayed an extra night in Brighton, changed my flights and went home five days early – I had also been missing David terribly and that didn’t help. It was great to have a bit of an Aussie contingent around me, not least because Alison Goodman hand-delivered cold medication to my room when I ran out! And because Lisa kept making sure I was alive, which was comforting.
So despite the setbacks, it was totally worth the trip – and a big thank you must go to Arts Queensland for the grant they gave me to help defray the costs of a trip to the UK.