Friday, 9 December 2011

An evening of Steampunk, or, the eccentric world of a Genre Meet

I went to a genre meet! Yay me! One of the perks fo living in London is wonderfully fun, slightly wacky evening like this, Pornokitsch's steampunk evening at Blackwell Charing Cross.

Strangers. Moustache optional.
I meandered my way across town, from splendid Camberwell, to a really quite large gathering of people at the back of the Charing Cross branch, oddly situatred amongst Law and Economics textbooks. Arriving just in time for speeches from Jared, one half of Pornokitsch, and guest speaker Adam Roberts (who, alongside China Mieville, mentioned earlier, seems scarily intelligent). After hearing about rum, bad jokes and Lukacsian readings of Victorin Historicism, it was time to mingle and chat all things genre and Steampunk. Which, it turns out, is slightly nervewracking when you're in a room full of random strangers you've never met before.

Now, this is the first post of a new blog, so you might as well get to know me. I normally don't shy away from chatting to random strangers. From the bloke at the supermarket to my Literary Theory seminar at uni, to the lady who dropped her Oyster on the Tube, I'm happy to make conversation and espouse my own views wherever, whenever. However, to the SFF event newbie, it was truly intimidating to be faced with the well connected circles of knowledge, through the blogosphere and Twitter, that ensued. Plus, God (AKA China Mieville) was a few steps away.

I pottered about a bit, listening in on conversations, knocking over the Christmas Tree, and generally feeling like a fool. I knew nobody, nobody knew me. I wasn't dressed in a fun costume, nor do I have a splendid moustache. There were circles of people, and author's who I had heard of, and whose books I had read! Argh, I nearly upped and left then.

Luckily, there was rum.

A few rum-and-coke's later (quick thumbs up to Kraken Rum, sponsors of the event, for their splendid concoction, tasty both neat and with Coke...) and I plucked up the bravery to talk. Not to anybody even on a slight scale of famousness mind you, but the nice lady who smiled at me. She turned out to be stood next another nice lady, who had stepped on that sliding scale of geek-famousness (where Gaiman is top and I am bottom) - the truly lovely Sarah McIntyre. In fact, after a quick chat about my love of all things Mieville, and my tongue-tied nervousness of talking to him, she whisked me off to talk to 'one of her best friends', Philip Reeve.

Also available in front view...
Who, by the way, is the picture of upper-middle-class lovliness, and seems to embody everything I'd imagine an Oxbridge Don of the late 70's would be, even down to the suit he wore to the evening. He was lovely, and a quick chat later, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. I stopped to talk to Rhys of Thirst for Fiction (whom I deeply admire, for his contacts/achievements relative to his age) and be recommended to write this very blog, before gathering all my bravery, and setting off in China's direction.

God awaited me, hemmed in by fans, in the corner by the staff room. He couldn't escape, and, as I neared, nor could I.With my voice having failed me, but standing 3 feet away, Sarah once again came to my rescue, introducing me with a touch of embarrassment as someone 'who was too nervous to talk to you'.

Mr Mieville was, of course, a delight. There was no reason to doubt it, I guess. Like Roberts, he is scarily intelligent. I listened to him talk, without a trace of bitterness, about his creative process, his 'inspirations' and his 'daily routine', questions he's probably been asked a million times. Google them, they're there. We ended up chatting Blade Runner, Director's Cut versus not, and the Sapir-Whorf hypotheses in relation to his latest novel, Embasseytown (beware a sad looking Jimmy Wales in this Wikipedia link). he signed my dog-eared and tatty The Scar, and even had the kindness to get his photo taken with me. Looking badass. Him, not me.

See? Badass.

Having had the highlight of my evening served to me on a plate, font-of-all-contacts-Sarah hurried me to Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, the ridiculously wonderful authors of the Edge Chronicles. We chatted how they write, how they met, why they do what they do. And very interesting they were too. Before I wandered off, to take my lonely 68 bus home, I took this beautiful photo of Philip Reeves, Chris, Paul, Deadly Knitshade and others with the rather delightful Plarchie the Squid, one of the other incumbents of the steampunk evening.

Chris, Paul, Philip, Knitshade, Someone.
All in all, it was a welcoming, wonderful start to life as a fully fledged fan, going beyond merely reading the books. Long may it last.


  1. Excellent blog post, you certainly captured the heady vibe of the event. I found that "knitting" at DeadlyKnitshade's slake moth nursery was an excellent way to fight the Nervous Fan Debility that invariably sets in on such occasions. (I say "knitting" in quotes, because my modest attempt was made of #fail). We can only hope that the Epic Badassness that China MiƩville exudes will rub off on us, in some small way...

  2. If I could knit, I would. Unfortunately, my kn owedge of knitting is limited to poking people with needles. Hopefully, next time I'll have chats with people I'll know :)

  3. Great to meet you, and well done for the quick blogging! I'll try to get somethig up tonight or tomorrow. :)

    Oh, the person on the right in the last photo is writer/illustrator Alex Milway:

  4. First off, hello!

    You did a much better job of summarising the event than I did. You managed to include everyone and everything!