I had received an invite to a Science Fiction convention in Luxembourg. I was expecting a relaxing weekend, sitting in an empty room. You see, everybody knows Luxembourg is tiny, and since they never had a convention before this, the organisers were doomed to struggle for numbers. They might get twenty people, I thought. Thirty tops...
I've never been so wrong in my life. The place was swarming with people. In fact, it was the largest Con I had ever attended outside North America. But where the hell did they all come from?
Europe, of course.
My mistake was to think of Luxembourg as a country. Well, it is, but that's not what's important here. What's important, is that it no longer possesses any borders. People arrived from Paris and Brussels by trains that never even slowed down when they passed from one state to another. They drove by car from Germany and only realised they had crossed over from their own country when they started spotting road signs in French.
Then, they reached the Con -- thousands of them, overwhelmingly young, buying wonderful Belgian frites with the same currency they already had in their pockets.
I sat in the sunshine speaking to people, sometimes in French, but mostly in an English that many of them had honed by spending time studying or working in the UK. I admired their incredibly creative costumes, and more than one person sported a t-shirt with a Union Jack on it, because in the heart of our continent, among the youth, Britain was seen as cool; as forward looking; as open.
This was Europe as it was always meant to be. Friendly, vibrant, thriving. Made possible, not in spite of, but because of decades of regulations and the harmonisation of national laws. It's what the young see when they travel. It's their country now, the one they would "want back" if ever they were to lose it.
I get to experience a little of that here in Ireland too.
I remember the bad old days, growing up in Donegal, and having to pass over the border. I remember soldiers scarcely older than myself, armed with big guns, passing down the aisle of the bus while everybody stared at the back of the seat in front of them.
Yet now, when I attend my favourite convention -- TitanCon in Belfast -- I just hop into my car, and keep driving until I reach the hotel. Nobody says "boo" to me. I don't have to wait in a line of traffic while every fourth car is searched for contraband or terrorists. It's all so... frictionless. Sure, the road signs are in miles, rather than kilometres, but that's actually charming. The only thing I miss, really, is the Euro.
I'm heart-broken over the UK's vote to leave us. I'm terrified that the lovely European dream I experienced in Luxembourg might soon be at an end and I'm working hard to stave off bitterness and resentment. I want the future to be "brilliant" again, the way I thought it was, or at least, the way it might have been.
I rarely do videogames any more. But for some reason yesterday I started playing This War of Mine from 11 bit Studios. It's a simulation where you control a group of refugees trapped in a war torn city. They are constantly hungry and tired. They get injured and sick. Your job is simply to keep them alive and there's never a comfortable moment. Standing on guard every night. Scavenging for scraps and so on. At one point, a young boy knocks on the door of my group's shelter. His mother is sick, dying maybe. Do we have any medicine to share? We did. But my characters were sick too and I needed to keep it, so I clicked on "No". It was a moment of such genuine horror, I had to stop playing.
Well, some interesting reads came my way and I'd be a fool not to indulge...
First up, was Peter Newman's The Vagrant. You all know I'm a demon -- not literally -- for worldbuilding, and this world is pretty darn cool. It takes "grim" and "dark" to whole new depths that I didn't think were even possible. The main character too, doesn't speak, which is a pleasant change...
Then, from my friend Jeremy de Quidt, I got an ARC of The Wrong Train, his collection of YA ghost stories. I've only read the first story so far, but, by golly, if it's not the best ghost story I've read for YEARS. Both creepy and pitiful...
Tonight! Oh, tonight! I will start watching the new series of Orange is the New Black. I love that show. The characters are among the best I've ever seen.
I've also had my snout in the trough of The People Vs. OJ Simpson. I... really like it so far. Great drama, great acting and a whole palette of moods inside each episode. Can't wait for more.
And finally... Yes, episode 9 of GoT was mega. I hated one particular moment, maybe two... But overall, it had the most exciting battle scene I've witnessed for quite some time. Roll on the finale.
Watching Gomorra can be a bit like seeing somebody play Grand Theft Auto. They don't kill people, they simply dispose of them with less emotion sometimes than flicking hair out of their eyes. But what makes the story satisfying is how the characters convince themselves of their own honour and likeability. "Sure, I strangled my wife in a fit of pique, but, you know, I'm not like that most of the time..." That sort of thing.
I can't look away.
Also, bereft of likeable characters so far, is Versailles 90210, or as the BBC call it, just Versailles. It's a sumptuous French costume drama, made entirely in English and full of beautiful, beautiful people getting it on. Episode 1 felt pretty vapid. Episode 2 showed more teeth, but Wolf Hall it ain't. If they want me to keep watching -- and I know they care very deeply about that -- then they'd better crank up the character development pronto!
I'm halfway through Joe Hill's The Fireman. So far, it's OK, but I haven't stopped reading, so, that's pretty good for me these days. I swear, I'm getting more crotchety by the minute.
I've also purchased Peter Newman's The Vagrant for the TBR pile on the basis of a sample chapter. The worldbuilding and the main character both look like they might be intriguing. So, that's probably next...
MY NEW WEBSITE
After my last website bit the dust due to a mix-up with a band of fridge salesmen, I now have a new place to call my own: peadar.org. Please give it a spin! It needs to be in good condition by the time The Call hits the book shelves of the world!
Thanks for all the birthday wishes yesterday. Much appreciated! And you'll be delighted to know that I did indeed have a a good one :)
I would dance, but that would be unseemly.
wherever you lie on the political spectrum, whatever way you plan to vote on June 23rd, I'm here now, representing nobody but myself, and pleading for you to stay with the rest of us in a messy, messed up, peaceful union.
OK. I'll get up off my knees now. It's a lovely day for sitting in the sun. Why don't you join me?
So what will I get up to as I await the return of saner temperatures? Thanks for asking!
I finished up with a few good books over recent weeks. Devil's Blood, sequel to Prentice and Weil's excellent Black Arts kept the fun going, transferring the mayhem two hundred years into the story's future. There were devils, by the score, a sinister aristocrat, as well as a visit to Bedlam and other parts of 18th century London.
Right now, I'm reading the Preacher graphic novels by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. These stories are... extreme. Not just in terms of sex and violence, but along several other axes as well. Constant blasphemy, obscenity, racism and gore spatter the pages, but also humour, friendship, love and loyalty. If you're easily offended... No, strike that! If you *can* be offended, this might not be your cup of tea at all. Personally, I love it. The more I read of Garth Ennis's work, the more talent I think he has. I'm not really qualified to judge the quality of the art, though.
Netflix has a series of documentaries about famous chefs called, Chef's Table. Series 2 is now available and the first episode of it, is absolutely outstanding. I have never seen such a pure expression of creativity in any field as this. Seriously, just watch the first 5 minutes of it if you get the chance. Hugely rewarding, in my opinion.
As with most cookery programs, my vegan friends may be put off by some of the food on offer here, but not in the first few minutes...
I have a draft of the next novel out with my beta readers right now, so I have a few days off to do absolutely nothing. However, I expect a LOT of work to come back my way in the next few weeks.
How're you all doing? Try not to get burnt out there!
Google I/O is on right now and the keynote address yesterday left me goggle-eyed and drooling. Basically, we're on the cusp of a personal AI in every pocket. Of an honest-to-God holodeck in every home. Or field. Or wherever you want one.
The video below is nauseatingly slick, for all that it'll rob you of less than three minutes of your life. But look out for the bit where the little boy is interacting with Google Assistant -- at about 1:06. It's mind-blowing. Anybody who says this is "just Siri" or "just Amazon Echo" is badly missing the point...
Absolutely everything in this video is possible right now.
MORE REVIEW GOODNESS
I'm delighted to say that great reviews for The Call keep pouring in. Belfast's Culture Hub magazine compared my work to sources as diverse as Goya and The Manic Street Preachers. The verdict? "Highly Recommended".
Why, yes, since you ask. I am happy :)
- Current Mood: cheerful
Some time ago, I wrote a post about meeting Michael Swanwick at Boskone. I gushed a little about his novel, "The Iron Dragon's Daughter".
For some, like John O'Neill of blackgate.com, that wasn't bloated, long-winded or gassy enough. He persuaded me to write a full review.
Well, it's up right now -- on the actual INTERNET!!!
Don't be too astounded!
Hopefully tomorrow, I'll have another Reading/Watching post...
LuxCon? I really have nothing to say that I haven't said in previous years. A lovely Con run by lovely people. They always have the coolest guests of honour. This year's English language GOH was Belfast's own Ian McDonald of whom you have seen me rave on this page more than once. It was great to hang out with him and Wolfgang. It was even better to eat frites and to star on the winning team of the table quiz -- take that Mancunicon!
I've just completed David Mitchell's Black Swan Green.
It's yet another one of those books about growing up in the '80s, with all the usual elements -- you know, the music, the video games; awkward discos; casual racism; dodgems. So, yeah, more of the same except that it is astonishingly well written with tremendous characterization. I loved it by the end and especially appreciated the slight aftertaste of magic realism that threw everything else into relief.
Whether you're a refugee from the '80s, or simply a wannabe, Black Swan Green carries Peadar's highest recommendation.
I also found time to reread Michael Swanwick's The Iron Dragon's Daughter. More of that another day...