I ran into Rick Kleffel from Trashotron.com/The Agony Column at the Tor UK party at Borders on the Friday evening of the Worldcon, and had only a few short minutes in which to chat to him (as others have noted, both the sheer volume of convention participants and the fact events were spread over several locations across the city made it hard to find anyone more than once, let alone at all). He'd been about to buy a copy of Against Gravity, so naturally I reached into my bag and pulled out a mint copy I already had stashed away to hand to any passing reviewers.

Rick's written up a short piece in his news section about the book, in which he says some very nice things that, as those writers like myself will know, can provoke those 'is he really talking about me?' kind of moments.

" What Gibson excels at is creating that "fish out of water " feel that science fiction readers love. You know, where you’re reading a novel and on one hand you can see what’s happening in each individual scene, but as you try to put the story together in your head, connecting our world to the one you’re reading about, you're thinking "What the hell?" Gibson is able to tear open the mind, put in those scenes and give you the most enjoyable possible path to put them together in a satisfying story, and he does it with stand-alone, non-series novels."


Since the end of the Worldcon, it's occurred to me that my purpose in life is not so much to be a science fiction writer as to provide light comedy relief at science fiction conventions.

This particularly came to mind on the last day of the convention. John Berlyne - the UK Editor for the SFRevu website - had spent most of the weekend trying to organise the filming of a documentary about sf writers and fans, working in conjunction with a chap named Russell.

Now, by Monday early afternoon, I'd gone several days without adequate sleep, particularly worsened by the fact my convention effectively started a day early with the Nova Scotia launch at Borders on the Wednesday evening.Myself, Mike Cobley, Deborah Miller and Hal Duncan all got squeezed round one side of a dinner table in a restaurant while four people point a camera at us. Which is about the point I started sneezing uncontrollably.

At first it was just the occasional sniff. Then it became a sonic deluge of honks, snorts, sneezes, coughs and splutters, with the added visual effect of increasingly bleary eyes and a lump of paper handkerchief gripped in one hand. By the end of the interview - and my mind was so gone by this point I have serious trouble adequately recalling what I did say - I was a wreck. All I could see were the vaguely horrified expressions of John and his colleagues as I almost literally dissolved before their eyes.

Well, in retrospect, if I'd been able to think more clearly I'd have bowed out and let the other three get on with it, but so it goes. Sorry, Russell. Sorry, John. With any luck you'll be able to salvage at least twenty seconds of usable footage out of, what, forty-five minutes of filming?

Concerning the documentary: John and Russell are doing the documentary 'on spec', meaning they're not under contract - they're just hoping someone will take it on board at some later date, which I vaguely recollect is often the case with such things. Things I learned: John told me the SFRevu site gets not far off half a million hits a month. I don't know if that's sheerest hyperbole or not, but to me it's very impressive if true. It also makes me wonder what kind of hit rate sites like Sci Fiction get... Anyway, here's a quick breakdown of how things went, day by day:

(Nova Scotia launch)
Things really kicked off a day early with the launch of the Nova Scotia anthology on the Wednesday: it went pretty well, I think, and most people headed off for the Counting House afterwards. There were certainly a lot of people there.

(First day of the Con)
I think it was round about this point I knew there was no way in hell we were going to manage a line-up of the whole writer's circle in front of the SECC, and I was right. I managed to get a few photos, but nothing definitive, as it were.

Plus, I was the first thing on, pretty much: a reading at midday, which went not too badly (at least, I think it didn't) considering I only start functioning around this point most days. It didn't help I didn't really prepare for this, either, so I was kind of jamming/flying by ear on this one. But people tell me it went well enough.

I ran into a lot of people, with particular mention going to Eric Schaler, John Scalzi, Rick Kleffel, Al Reynolds, Ria Cheyne, Jeff Ford, etc, etc, etc.

My first real panel, as opposed to the reading the morning before, on scottish writers: apart from myself, there were Richard Morgan, Mike Cobley, Neil Williamson, and Jack Deighton. They argued for the case that there's a recognisable body of scottish sf writing, at least in the cultural sense, and that this is often exemplified by space opera.

I disagreed - rather strongly - pointing out that when you have several men, all from roughly similar socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, they're inevitably going to wind up thinking what they're into somehow represents what's going on in science fiction writing in Scotland. I have my serious doubts that's the case. Later that afternoon, myself, Jay Caselberg (moderating), Keith Brooke, and Martin Sketchley (I think) were on a panel together. Unfortunately, given the late nights that are part and parcel of conventions, what you had were very four tired men saying 'I think ...' and then forgetting what they were about to say. I was the worst. Jay turns to me at one point and says "So Gary. Summing up." To which I look around with an expression that seems to say 'where am I?'

So it goes. The panel was on 'blowing worlds up: the pleasures of destruction', which is pretty vague, so we covered everything from Greg Bear's The Forge of God to JG Ballard's disaster novels, and the idea that the pleasure of destruction of worlds is really about (or so I argued) the innate fear of change, and how this is reflected (as others have noted) in sf's ability to embrace overwhelming change (where 'mainstream' novels, it's been argued, tend to reject it by defeating the agents of change and returning the status quo. Basically any Michael Crichton novel).

OK: so my first ever panel done and dusted. Next up that evening was the Tor UK do at Borders, which went exceedingly well. As I've said before, one of the things that bugged me was the complete lack of any of my books at the convention, despite my second book coming out a couple of weeks ago. Well, I worked out why last night. Like I said before, I don't know the circumstances, but the review copies of Against Gravity went out late. In order to make sure it got reviewed by the magazines, the official release date was moved back a month, despite the fact it was already on sale on the internet and in the bookshops. Because the release date was moved back, it turns out those book dealers who wanted to sell the book at the convention were told by their suppliers the book wasn't available yet ...
(Through gritted teeth)
So. It. Goes.

Meanwhile, copies of Nova Scotia are flying - flying - off the tables. Anyway. Hal got truly and completely smashed (one particularly recalls him bellowing 'I want the finest wines in the house!' across the basement music department). I spent a lot of time chatting to my agent Dorothy Lumley and, of course, my editor Peter Lavery. One good point about this is there were nearly eighty copies of Against Gravity there, about half of which I signed. After
all this, there was a Gollancz party at a club round the corner called Tiger, Tiger. Headed there, along with a good few of the Glasgow contingent, a couple of people from London (hi Gaie, hi Sarah), and MJ, who turned up and effectively became Hal's minder for the night (which mainly involved preventing him from stumbling in front of fast-moving traffic).

I could tell you about how a friend of a well-known writer nearly punched out someone in the industry, but professionalism prevents me. Oh well. Unfortunately, a certain laxity in terms of checking who was going in and out of various industry parties meant one or two people simply wandered in who had nothing to do with the convention. One woman, in particular, was clearly several glass panes short of a greenhouse. At some point, my inner fanboy came out while talking to David Pringle. Who can blame me?The entire first two floors of the Hilton were given over to party space.

The SECC got very quiet after seven or so, and everyone moved on to the Hilton. Good stuff. Lots of people. A Klingon in a kilt, about which I shall say no more. As others have noted - it may have been Ken MacLeod - far less people in silly costumes than in previous years. Naturally, the press showed an unerring ability to zero in on these people as somehow representative of what was otherwise a remarkably sober and industry-oriented affair.

As you'll have noticed, I wasn't really going to that many panel items, although I've heard really good things about most of them. I think this might be at least in part because the kind of discussions that go on in panels tend to make up a not insubstantial part of my average Saturday night out.

Also, I view conventions as primarily social events with a vast opportunity to meet'n'greet. I enjoy panels, but I always find myself wondering who I could be chatting to I otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to chat to for another year or so. I turned up for a Tor UK presentation at ten in the morning, in time for some Nazi in a suit to tell me hot drinks (my coffee from the concourse coffee shop) weren't allowed inside the seminar rooms. Almost certainly blatant rubbish, but I only had the energy to argue with him for a minute or so. I ended up leaving itsitting outside the door: to my surprise, it was still warm an hour later when I re-emerged.

One of the things that stood out was Cecilia Dart-Thornton's presentation around her fantasy book The Iron Tree. Whatever Tor are paying her, it's got to be good, because
she paid the company behind the game Myst to create fully interactive 3D programmed environments based on her books. There were a series of long - perhaps too long - presentations on these. I seem to recall it's possible to get these environments on disk, bundled with one of her books. I think. I think there were publisher parties that night, but I skipped them, already feeling like a zombie. Hit the parties at the Hilton, of course, until the early hours. More Klingons in kilts.

Well, one anyway.

At some point I caught Hal doing a reading from Vellum. He started howling when he got to the Iggy Pop bit, which sort of rattled on the eardrums a bit.

Yeah, the Hugos ... got to be honest, I skipped them. An awards ceremony is an awards ceremony. To be honest I regret missing them now, but at the time I was beyond shattered. (On the Monday, in the dealer's room while talking to Mike Cobley, we ran into Charlie Stross, who'd won a Hugo the previous night. He had this glassy-eyed, thousand yard stare about him. The kind of look I imagine I'd have on my face if someone told me I'd won a Hugo.)

Another panel in the afternoon, which I almost forgot I was meant to be on, on breaking into writing. This one went pretty well, actually. Simon Green - author of the Deathstalker books - had a lot to say. His story on writing the novelisation of Prince of Thieves was particularly amusing (apparently the script he was given to work from was particularly appalling. The movie makers had decided that, being set in Britain, the characters would sound more authentic if they said 'bollocks' a lot. The movie novelisation industry being what it is, and the book being written under such a tight deadline, apparently it went to print straight from the word processor to the typesetting machines with only a brief stop at the spellchecker which, unfortunately, turned every occurrence of 'bollocks' into 'bullocks'. And it still made the New York bestseller lists.)

The panel went so well, at the end a member of the audience said it was the best panel of its type they'd been to at a convention. Well, maybe they hadn't been to so many conventions ... we also covered issues like book doctoring, which led on to why outside of a very few trustworthy agencies like John Jarrold's, you should never, ever pay money to companies to publish your work. Money, as they say, flows towards the author, not away. Unfortunately, at least one member of the audience had, it turned out, paid money to put out their work. I don't think anybody had the heart to tell them they'd almost certainly made a big mistake.

I think it was that evening I wound up going to Mother India with pretty much the entire T-Party writer's group from London. Or was it the Saturday? Arse. Can't remember.

Occasional glimpses of Hal going this way and that, usually with some kind of doppler-effect ...aaaaaAAAAAAaaaa... thing going in as he receded once more into the distance.

Sunday night led to the best full-on industry party of the week: Orbit's thirtieth anniversary bash at the Arches nightclub in the city centre. This is a movie-maker's idea of what a publishing industry party would be like. One of Glasgow's trendiest clubs and exhibition spaces, stuffed with agents, writers, editors, critics, and me. I managed to blag a couple of friends in with me as well which, to be honest, was pretty easy. Well, okay, we walked in. That's how easy.

Managed to say hello to a quietly bemused John Scalzi and myself and Andrew Wilson, co-editor of the aforementioned Nova Scotia, managed to press a copy of the aforementioned anthology into Mr Scalzi's hands. This is a good thing, because Scalzi gets a lot of hits on his site, and there's precedent in the fact Scalzi has also sent out copies of his own books for similar promotional reasons to other people who blog. I seem to recall John Scalzi's website gets something like several thousand hits every week or so, which to me is an astonishing figure.

Then the Hugos, which I sat out in the Moathouse chatting to people, after having dinner with an old friend from London I hadn't seen in a long time. Then the inevitable sojourn to the Hilton again, which was interesting: mostly in good ways, but as happens at these things, I did fall out with someone - for very good reasons, from my point of view. So it goes. And then Monday, and the horrible realisation I had to go back to the real world, including the hilarious 'sneezing interview' episode.

I'd thought about hanging around for the dead dog party, but I skipped it and instead opted to go home and collapse in terminal body shock and enjoy a really stinking cold which kept me horizontal until the next afternoon.


Photos in order: me and Al at the Tor UK do on the Friday: authors read from Nova Scotia at the Wednesday launch: Jim Campbell, Hal Duncan, Gary Couzens at the Nova Scotia launch: preparing for my reading on the Thursday afternoon (thanks Lori!): another photo from the Nova Scotia launch, Paul Cockburn of GSFWC to fore: Hal Duncan and Mike Cobley of GSFWC sign books in the dealer's hall: the Scottish SF panel: Deborah Miller in the concourse: Gavin Inglis, Andrew J. Wilson and John Jarrold chat in the Hilton: and Mike Cobley comes out of the newspaper shop.


I'm still working on a post about the Worldcon, but knowing my usual procrastination skills, it'll probably be next week before it goes up.

In the meantime, I dropped a line to Joe Gordon over at the Forbidden Planet website about the books, primarily driven by the fact there was one copy of one of my books in the whole dealer's room at a Worldcon taking place almost literally around the corner from my house. Turns out both my books were already featured in FP's instore magazine FPI, for which I am eternally grateful: and Joe already had a piece on them planned for the FP blog/website, which you can find here.


It's just over 24 hours after the end of the first UK Worldcon in ten years, but I'm still too knackered to write up anything detailed. I took a few photos, and found a few more floating around on the net. Generally speaking, it was fun: a few downer moments, but I won't concentrate on those. A few thoughts: a very, very tiny minority at conventions really need to learn something about the art of politeness. It would have been nice, given that I live around the corner from the convention center, if more than one single copy of one of my books turned out to be for sale in the entire dealer's room, given that the second came out only a couple of weeks ago. But these things happen, I suspect, not infrequently. I'll be posting some photos - some from a camera, some from a cheap camera phone I picked up the other day, some by other people I know or found on flicker - but not until closer to the weekend.


Got an email through from Jim Steel that I'm on a list of candidates for what appears to be a special one-off set of British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) awards focused around Worldcon, called 'Best of British'. I'm on the list, apparently, for 'best newcomer', which is nice. Unfortunately, the deadline for voting was last Monday, except today is the first time I even heard about it ... so it goes. I don't know if it's a longlist, a shortlist, or whatever, but I'll probably pick up a copy of the BSFA's 'Matrix' magazine at the con and see what it says about me anyway. Just nice that people are thinking about me.


The BBC have come up with the absolutely superb idea of experimenting with putting some of their programmes up on the internet to view at the same time as it's available on the networks. If you like your humour quite astonishingly surreal, then I urge you to watch the second episode of The Mighty Boosh. Unfortunately - or at least so it says on the webpage - it's only viewable by people in the UK. I'm no expert in these things (though I can say it plays as a streaming realplayer file), but I wonder if someone out there can find a way around this. You'll need a decent broadband connection to watch it, natch.


Monday, and the Worldcon is only a couple of days away. What's weird about it is I feel like the opening act at Woodstock: I'm probably not the first one up in front of an audience, but pretty close with a reading at midday on the Thursday. Which is a bit scary, but I've done it before (okay, once). People are emailing bits and pieces around the GSFWC mailing list about stuff to talk about on panels, and I'm like, prepare? How do you even spell 'prepare'? I'm too busy hoping my bad back clears up before Thursday so I don't spend the whole weekend hobbling around with a pained expression and a pocket full of 400mg Ibuprofen. Plus, if there's one thing I really, really hate, it's the sound of my voice amplified. Too squeaky.

Like a couple of other people pointed out, there's a little in the way of pre-con preparation in the form of the Nova Scotia launch on Wednesday in Glasgow Borders - the same Borders that chucked our writing group out the door several years ago because we were 'too rowdy'. I'm not sure how a middle-aged, bearded, choir-singing sub-editor called Lawrence asking if we can have an extra chair and carrying one down from an upper floor qualifies as 'rowdy behaviour', but clearly we were far too violent, dangerous and badly behaved to be allowed to remain on the premises. I find it endlessly amusing that these same people now have to host a do on the Friday night for Tor writers, a few of whom (ie me and Hal) are members of that writing group.

I keep meaning to put together a list of things to go to at the Con, and particularly, stuff I'm supposed to be at, but I suck at organisation at the best of times. Probably I'll scribble something down (lacking a printer) at the last minute and hopefully not lose it.

One thing I am hoping to do at some point (and this is by way of a reminder to some of the other GSFWC people attending) is I'd like to take a picture of us, outside the SECC. There isn't much in the way of photographic evidence of GSFWC over the nearly fifteen years I've been a member, and considering the vast majority of the old crowd now either have agents or actual book deals it sort of makes sense to me to just take a picture. Outside the front entrance of the SECC, maybe. However, most of GSFWC suck at organisation even worse than I do, so there are absolutely no guarantees I can get them all in the same place at once. If enough of them turn up to the midday reading, I might try and entrap them there: except, of course, somebody won't be able to make it, and then there won't be any point. So what I'll probably try and do is just generally take pictures and post them up here as and when.