2/26/2005

So remember I mentioned the 'Aye Write' Glasgow literary festival launch do I got invited to, at the City Chambers last Saturday?

I'd received an invite that very definitely didn't mention bringing anyone else, so I went on my own. MJ wanted to do some studying and wasn't particularly interested in literary festival launches, anyway. The City Chambers themselves are sort of impressive, in an Extraordinary League of Gentlemen meets Overlook Hotel kind of way: ludicrous quantities of marble, a (marble) staircase leading up four floors, of the grand and sweeping variety. Wallpaper that looks like they maxed out on the local gilt supply, where you can see it behind the four foot tall paintings of a hundred years worth of Lord Provosts.

Funnily enough, I got talking to Duncan Lunan about the City Halls, and he compared it to the Emperor's Palace in the movie of Dune ... you can make up your own mind by looking at a picture of the banquet hall here.

So.

I get there at exactly eight. The Chambers is right at the heart of the city, on one side of George Square. Walk in enormous front entrance. Get eyed suspiciously by two heavily brylcreemed gentlemen in identical electric blue jackets clearly positioned in order to meet and greet. Did I mention the piper standing just outside? Cold night. Knees clearly turning blue under the kilt. Upon entering, immediately have brief mental flash of Tom Cruise entering big scary house full of rich weirdos in Eyes Wide Shut. Go up four floors, having failed to find elevator.

Twenty people standing at far end of enormous hallway immediately reminiscent of set for am-dram production of Agatha Christie novel. Men all wearing suits, women dressed up. Glance down at own leather bomber, black t-shirt, black jeans, black boots. Recall distinctly that the invite said informal.

Phone MJ.

"They're all wearing suits. I don't even own a suit. They're looking at me like I got in through the back door."

"I told you so."

Hang up. Ten seconds later, early-thirties-looking guy wanders in wearing donkey jacket and faded jeans. Immediately relax.

Invite says eight for eight-thirty, so stand around feigning deep interest in paintings of past Lord Provosts. Get chatting to little old lady. My hearing being not the greatest, mistakenly believe her first name is 'Blair'. There's a little monkey-voice in the back of my head shouting 'It's Emma Blair, you twat! Author of 'Tea at Miss Cranston's and a dozen enormous great family sagas set in Glasgow and the lowlands!' But of course, I'm too nervous to check. We discuss invites; it's clear that in fact bringing a companion was entirely acceptable. MJ however, has already decided to stick with the studying, so I'm on my own. The shame is, I could have brought someone from the writer's circle.

Eight-thirty: down stairs and into ginormous dining chamber as in above picture link. General free-for-all for seats. Fail to spot any other sf writers, not even comics writers, not a rare species in Glasgow (Grant Morrison for example). Nor a Richard Morgan, or from slightly farther afield Ken McLeod and Iain Banks, who are taking part in the festival, but given it would mean a long drive from Edinburgh I can hardly blame them.

Do spot Alisdair Gray, however, sitting at next table. Don't know him personally, but some friends of mine do. (By the way, if you happen to be a fan of Gray's stuff, and you're coming to the Worldcon, make your way to the Oran Mor theatre/bar/restaurant in the West End, which is in the process of receiving a Cistine-like paint job from Mr Gray.) Emma Blair is on one side of me, a guy called Tony Roper (I think) opposite her. I chat with him quite a bit: he's vaguely familiar from a couple of tv shows.

Rapidly realise there's an awful lot of actors and theatre-types there for a literary festival launch.

Food quite good: four course meal. Evening gets quite interesting, conversation-wise. Apparently (unless my lousy hearing was once again taking advantage of me) author of well-known children's book The Gruffalo is at the table, although I've no idea which one it is. Discuss medieaval weaponry with bloke on my left whose name I've since forgotten. Lord Provost's speech mercifully short. By shortly before eleven, too tired to remember very much of what's subsequently said during speech by Liz Lochhead (another writer).

I get asked if I'm going to any of the festival events, then realise the only one I might be interested in (Banks/McLeod) I won't be attending, because Banks was through only a few weeks before promoting his new sf novel at Waterstones, and McLeod is going to be fairly prevalent at the Eastercon in March.

Conclusions: fun, in a haven't-done-that-before kind of way, but not necessarily of any great advantage. I got chatting to some interesting people, but it all confirms the real networking gets done at genre conventions. Would I go again? For free food? Of course I would. Except next time I'm taking somebody.

1 comment:

taleswapper said...

I'd allow Gray into the SF fraternity, surely? The only book of his I've read was a Frankenstein-like thing. It was at least "speculative".

Always accept free food. yes.