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Lauren Beukes

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

London – Wondrous! Frightful! Marvellous!

A much belated report on those wondrous! frightful! marvellous! events that occurred on this humble adventurer’s travels in that great city (as told in a narrative of point form brevity & some meagre wit).

* Dined upon Chinese food with near strangers: Nick Harkaway and his good lady wife, who seems a paladin of sorts, campaigning for the rights of all humanity. Transpires that my host is not only a writer of mad invention & dazzling wordplay, but also John le CarrĂ©’s son. (Resolved to Google Stalk future encounters more thoroughly.) Discussed books & the sinister qualities of rocking chairs & the unadulterated niceness of our mutual friend, William Gibson.

* Lured in, quite against my will, to many boutiques and merchant’s shopfronts by diabolical & ruinous magicks controlled by sigils that read in variations of “70% off” and “summer sales”. Evil forces are at work here. Travellers beware.

* Lunched upon fare traditional to this place with my UK-rights agent and conspired on stratagems for my next four or possibly five manuscripts. Discovered to my chagrin, having slighted the gentleman in question on many occasions, that the agency also represents master Dan Brown esq.

* Another meal, this time with Angry Robot Overlord, Marc Gascoigne (may his empire reign eternal) & a big name producer of magic light shows, who preferred that I draw a veil across her face for the purposes of this missive.

Suffice to say, dear reader, that she expressed considerable interest in a certain tale of Hillbrow & magical animal familiars.

What may come of it, we can only wait to see. These “movies” are a fickle business, far tricksier than daemon-summoning.

* After pleasant hours perusing wondrous wares, such as a delightful cat transport from a magic light show from the East known as My Neighbour Totoro, Marco & I spent the remainder of the day “exploring” the city. (His term, I would have described it as “backtracking once more after getting absurdly lost, once more”).

But we still arrived timeously for a meeting of that secret society of misfits & malcontents, the British Science Fiction Association. I was interrogated by one of their number, Jonathan McCalmont (but also by the assembled crowd), who fired at me many questions, difficult & terrible. (A recording was made by the painted man, Del Lakin-Smith & posted to WordPunk here).

One question in particular came up, on the pedigree of my peers. For that, I refer you now to Nick Wood’s excellent piece on Science Fiction in South Africa originally printed in that that excellent journal Locus, but also to new up & coming names such as Sarah Lotz & Louis Greenberg (aka SL Grey) whose fine & gruesome horror, The Mall, is to be unleashed upon the UK by Corvus next year, & masters Charlie Human & Sam Wilson, assuming these two gadabouts stop gadding & finish their manuscripts.

At least intrepid investigative lady journalist Theresa Mallinson of The Daily Maverick had brought one of my creatures, a Moxy, far from home, to lend me strength in the light of the grilling I received.

Perhaps I exaggerate a smidge for effect. The truth is that my hosts were warm & effusive & kind. But where is the drama in that, dear reader?

After, we adjourned to dinner nearby, in company that proved both wry & entertaining, including writers & historians and Difference Engineers. And then vile hordes of daemons attacked with grasping claws & wings that crinkled like cellophane! No, not truly. But again, I fear I’m lacking in drama.

* Another special event; this time at Forbidden Planet, which, it transpires, is neither forbidden, nor a planet, but seemingly a doorway to a parallel place of lustful objects. It was maddening. I considered gouging out my eyes so that they could no longer take in all the beautiful things not quite sufficiently beyond my reach. Such wonders! Such books! Such toys! Such comics! One could devastate whole generations of cards of credit in such a place.

The Zoo City hardcover was unleashed upon the physical world! Like The Necronomicon, there are only a paltry handful (assuming one’s hand might hold a hundred) in existence in all the world. If you hurry, you may yet be able to acquire one such rarity.

Art toy familiar Bi-Polar Bare was in attendance, as were old friends & new (particularly among the social circles of the Twitter gentry), fashion plate and Angry Robot editor, @leeaharris, Forbidden Planet goddess @danacea, @ghostfinder who served as my correspondent on alchemical knowledge for Zoo City, @neverwhere, @liz_uk, @Adamantine_lady, @sennydreadful, @gregaroth, Jon Harrison, Nir Grodzian and Sean Wallace among others, including, most appropriately, genius illustrator Simon Villet who helped conceive of the idea of Zoo City in the first.

& after there was much drinking & writer-talk & nonsense at the Phoenix.

* Lunch again. Endless, these lunches. Or perhaps I only wish it so. This time with depraved & shifty writer types, who prove the best possible company including Paul McAuley, Kim Newman, John & Judith Clute, Pat Cadigan & Chris Marlow & Jay Russell.

Had every intent to act upon Paul’s recommendation to visit the Tate to view the art work of suspended aerial machines myself, but alas, my internal navigation system sent me on a detour to the British Museum instead. The mummies proved good company, but were not the jet marvels of the future I had hoped for.

* Saturday was spent with Cheryl Morgan, who led me into temptation in Camden’s markets. & a few snatched moments more with Clute at his residence, previously only known to me in the fiction of Pattern Recognition.

* My last event, this time with the good folk of the British Fantasy Society (& by good, please infer “mad” & “wonderful”, most especially my escort, Ian Whates). I had to play at being my own interrogator on this occasion, although the assembled audience helped, prevailing on me to not only read aloud bits of the book written by other people *, but also a passage I had scripted by my own hand.

After several hours immersed in fascinating conversation with wonderful people, I was set to depart, all the better to make preparations for making the long trek to Heathrow at half past two in the darkest hours of the morning thanks to an accursed travel agent who had booked me on an early zeppelin.

But then, my chaperone, Cheryl, spotted someone across the room. She dragged me over to introduce me to Mike Carey, who is, I must confess, dear readers, one of my favourite writers of graphic storytales. I was in the thrall of admiration when he yanked from his bag a copy of MY book, Moxyland, for me to sign. Forgive me a lapse from my period speak to say “Reverse Fangirl Squee!”

& then it was over. Three hours in the frigid halls of Heathrow, which must surely serve as a hell for other dimensions, & then I was leaving that great city behind, to return to work behind my keyboard, newly inspired & invigorated by my adventures & the lovely companions I encountered along the way.

I know I have forgotten names or omitted details and for that please forgive me. I promise to redress all wrongs upon my next visitation.

(* Three chapters in Zoo City were outsourced: to writers Sam Wilson & Charlie Human & music journalist Evan Milton)


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    August 18th, 2010 @23:14 #

    What marvels! What magick shows! What ampersands! I LOVED this, and I will now prove myself worthy of being yr editor by asking if, when clicking on Cheryl Morgan's link, one is supposed to land on the webpage of a California dentist. Also: you share an agent with he whose name rhymes with Man Down? Should I be repulsed, impressed or wildly envious? Prepare to be grilled when next we meet...

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Mandy J Watson</a>
    Mandy J Watson
    August 19th, 2010 @20:43 #

    Bliss! Jealousy!

  • Bhanu_Tiwari
    August 25th, 2010 @21:18 #

    The moment I saw this The End Of Nations piece I decided that this Lauren Beukes's readers absolutely must be able to express their opinions on this!

    Bhanu Tiwari

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    August 25th, 2010 @22:36 #

    What's the verdict on Bhanu Tiwari?

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    August 25th, 2010 @23:18 #

    Oh, let him stay. His apocalyptic shadow looms quite Zoo-Cityishly over this post. I reckon Zinzi would tolerate him.

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    August 26th, 2010 @08:02 #

    I shall be guided by you, Fiona - until, that is, he makes a nuisance of himself.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    August 26th, 2010 @10:02 #

    Or starts peddling anything other than doom...


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