DragonCon 2014

It’s a bit difficult to keep up with things this fall. We’ve moved house and I’m still not unpacked, with so many things looming that Must Be Done in the next month or so — making insulating curtains, getting my poor migrated perennials out of their pots and into the ground before the frost, making an insulated trapdoor for the attic to forestall the escape of most of our heat upwards … the laws of thermodynamics have become a significant concern. Meanwhile, such minor matters as unpacking my clothes and the boxes of books which occupy every square foot of the study not claimed by my desk get put on hold, and the kitchen cupboards still have labels to tell us where to look for the plates. It’s been a week since DragonCon, though; time to get something up.

Me and the big poster for The Leopard. That Swanland cover looks gorgeous blown up to this size. Wish I could have smuggled this away for my wall at home.

Me and the big poster for The Leopard. That Swanland cover looks gorgeous blown up to this size. Wish I could have smuggled this away for my wall at home.

So what did I think of my first DragonCon? There was a lot standing in queues in the scorching sun, and that was just to pick up my badge. I’m not sure that combining people needing to pick up prepaid badges into a many-blocks-long line with people who wanted to buy a day pass is an idea that will win the organizers any friends, though. Printing the map very, very small, on newsprint, in pale grey, is likewise not really the best notion anyone ever had. However, once I finally was permitted to be admitted, and had found the Pyr Books booth, my home away from home for the duration, I greatly enjoyed the chance to meet people and talk books with them. It was particularly great to connect with some longtime fans face to face. (Jay, that means you!)

Signing books at the Pyr Booth at DragonCon 2014. All photos in this post are by Lou Anders - the silly expression is his fault.

Signing books at the Pyr Booth at DragonCon 2014. All photos in this post are by Lou Anders – the silly expression is his fault.

Signing books again (still!)

Signing books again (still!)

Jon Sprunk, Joel Shepherd, Clay and Susan Griffith, E.C. Myers, J.F. Lewis, and I pretty much moved into the booth for the duration, to hang out with our editor Lou Anders and Meghan Quinn and Mariel Bard, the pool-playing publicists, while Mike Resnick dropped by a couple of times. We did a lot of people-watching as well as bookselling, as you can imagine. Quite a lot of that involved me saying to Jon or his wife Jenny, “Um, so what’s that one?” since I’m not really that up on recent TV. I did see a very well-executed Moist von Lipwig in Postmaster regalia, although I didn’t get a photo as I hadn’t brought my camera. I met up with Rob Sawyer on the flight home, so it was a chance to renew old acquaintances too.

K.V. Johansen and Jon Sprunk, hanging out at the Pyr Books booth.

K.V. Johansen and Jon Sprunk, hanging out at the Pyr Books booth.

I staggered into my house at about 2:30 in the morning, home at last, to be met by a very excited dog, who, after the obligatory greeting, headed straight for my backpack. He was somewhat disappointed to find it a) zippered and b) devoid of exotic foreign biscuits, after the Marks and Spencer Almond Biscuit Incident of the prior week. (Those who follow on Twitter will recall that I brought home my long-remembered favourite M&S biscuits from London, since M&S abandoned the Canadian market some time ago, only to have Mr Wicked discover them in my backpack and devour half the package before I had been home ten minutes.)

Posted in Blackdog, Marakand, sf conventions, The Leopard | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Round and About in London

This gallery contains 17 photos.

Gallery | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

“Ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples” — a voyage up and down the Thames

This gallery contains 15 photos.

Gallery | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Photo Gallery: Greenwich

Gallery | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

So that was Worldcon: the SFF Masterclass and Loncon 3

Loncon 3 was my first Worldcon, and in fact my first really big con at all. When I try to get my thoughts in order, I find I’m still a bit overwhelmed by it all, though London itself has a lot to do with that. How to give it all a focus ….

Well, I can’t. It’s just too big an experience. All I can say is, I had a great time. I began with the SFF Masterclass, which in itself was also a great time, and at which I met some great people. For three days, we were centred in Greenwich, in the Endeavour Room at the Royal Observatory, and you can’t get much more central in Greenwich than that, right up in a former telescope dome. I have to confess that on the occasions when I wasn’t instructing, I played truant, rather than sitting in on the sessions that Neil Easterbrook and Andy Duncan were doing, and went wandering. I explored the Royal Park at Greenwich and spent a (hot) day at the British Museum. Seeing the latter has been a lifelong ambition of mine. But I really enjoyed the masterclass sessions I was there for (my own) and found the discussion elicited by the books I’d assigned to be quite stimulating.

Actually, I did sit in for part of one other session, since while I was in London, a number of copyedited chapters of The Lady: Marakand Part Two arrived for me to deal with. As my computer chose those days to have a serious crisis, once I did get it restored to functioning (thinking, right, I’m in London sitting up to one a.m. trying to fix my computer — successfully, after a couple of days), I needed to do some real work. So I sat in the telescope dome at Greenwich Observatory and worked on The Lady. Appropriate, I suppose, since the most noteworthy architectural features of the temple of the Lady are the two domes.

I had a friend’s Oyster card and found getting around London by Dock Light Rail, Tube, London Overground and Thames Clipper mostly straightforward with a few bursts of confusion, the rare occasions when I’ve been anywhere with public transit being Toronto, where there are hardly any transfers between subway lines or to West Berlin of the eighties, where the system was a time-punched card.

I was thinking about what a literary city London is; not a real place at all, but an assemblage of associations. What is the British Museum? Sutton Hoo and The Story of the Amulet, The Magician’s Nephew and Greenwitch. What is the Thames? So many things — most recently the geographical thread binding Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant novels — but so much history. And Our Mutual Friend, and the waters of the Isis and Handel, “the fever is abroad in Rotherhithe”, the Docklands and the Blitz . . . . So many streets and neighbourhoods resonate with so many stories, known names. One walks on the heels of Paddington, of Holmes and Watson, of Psmith and Wooster, Peter and Harriet, just in reading the names on the signage or of the Tube stations.

Loncon itself was a lot of fun; to be honest, I had expected to be a bit oppressed by crowds, which I don’t enjoy, but it was far less crowded and frenzied than I expected, because the venue, the Excel Centre, was actually big enough to hold the thousands comfortably. There were a few long queues — the one for the theatrical adaptation of The Anubis Gates was the length of the Excel. Compared to other cons I’ve gone to, admittedly only a few and much smaller, it was admirably well organized, too. Even eating was easy; the central boulevard of the Excel, which is almost a km long, was lined with fast food places, some of them very good and none with huge lineups, which is a bonus at a con. The panels I was on or attended were all very interesting, well-moderated and with a lot of good discussion. Taken all in all, Loncon 3 is going to be the con against which I judge all others. (And the takeaway curry from the Mint Leaves a new standard in basic curries.) Went to some parties and receptions, met some old friends in person for the first time, made some new ones, discovered that some of my work as a feral academic is rather better known than I thought

And then there was my voyage up and down the Thames on the riverbus, a walking tour of the heart of the city, and a day at Kew Gardens. More to come. Mostly photos! I’m going to make a couple of galleries, I think.

I’m very grateful to the friends and relatives who helped me make this trip possible, and to ArtsNB, the New Brunswick Arts Board, which offered a grant to assist with travel expenses. #SFWApro

Posted in Loncon 3, Marakand, sf conventions, The Lady | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My Worldcon (Loncon 3) Schedule

Thanks to assistance from ArtsNB, the NB Arts Board, I’m able to attend Loncon 3. If you see me wandering, do come and say hello and don’t wait for me to speak first. Talk to me about Blackdog or The Leopard or The Lady, or what I’m working on now or my books for children and non-fiction, or the weather or the British Museum or British beer … I’m going to Loncon eager to meet people, but I’m sort of overwhelmed by crowds (unless I’m standing in front of them speaking, in which case I’m fine).

Since it’s been pointed out that most of my photos online are actually photos of Mr Wicked, who distracts the eye of the viewer with his shiny white coat and noble pose, here’s what I look like without a dog — because it’s tricky to go around peering at nametags, right?KVJ

Here’s where to find me:

Crossing Boundaries: Histories of International SF/F for Children

Thursday 11:00 – 12:00, Capital Suite 6 (ExCeL)

Is there a ‘shared’ understanding of the fantastic across cultures? How have fantasy (and science fiction) narratives for young readers evolved in different countries and storytelling traditions? What kinds of stories succeed or fail in crossing national borders and why? How are these transnational stories from ‘Other’ places received and read in their new contexts? What are some affinities and tensions between these different ‘imagined communities’? This panel will address the development of international traditions of fantasy (and science fiction) for young readers and the relationship between the local, the national and the global in the world of children’s literature. Drawing upon the range of the panelists’ national and transnational experiences, we will explore issues around the intersections between regional, national and international literatures and the representation of diversity, identity and the Other in fantastic texts for young people.

Dr. Patricia Kennon (M), Sanna Lehtonen, Michael Levy, KV Johansen, Catherine Butler


Thursday 17:00 – 18:00, London Suite 5 (ExCeL)

Fabio Fernandes, KV Johansen

Sense of Wonder in Children’s SF

Saturday 10:00 – 11:00, Capital Suite 1 (ExCeL)

YA books are well known for their dystopias and their grand adventures. What is it about these categories that have so effectively captured the young adult imagination? When Alice walked off the literary page she opened the door to a truly wondrous world filled with unimaginable things. Since then literary children have latched onto that sense of wonder in literature from Neverland, to Narnia, Hogwarts, and Panem. What is this “sense of wonder” within literature and how does it continue to “blow the minds” of young readers? What are the most spectacular feats of worldbuilding in the YA canon? Where can we find the best aliens? And what about those wondrous infernal machines?

Farah Mendlesohn, KV Johansen, Ian McDonald, Ben Jeapes, Jo Fletcher

YA Fiction: The History of a Genre

Monday 10:00 – 11:00, Capital Suite 1 (ExCeL)

Join our panelists as they drill down into the history of the YA genre from the old classics to hip new urban fantasies and science fiction novels.How has children’s literature changed? What turning points did young adult and middle grade literature going through in order to become the genre we are familiar with today? Has the genre solidified or is it still in transition? How has the re-categorization of books within the genre affected the history and development of literature, with a specific eye toward young adult fiction? What might be coming next?

Edward James (M), Helen E. Gbala, KV Johansen, Dr. Patricia Kennon, Michael Levy

I’m also going to be at DragonCon, where you’ll find me there hanging out at the Pyr booth.

Posted in Loncon 3, Marakand, sf conventions, The Leopard | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

A couple of brief and entertaining interviews

I’ve done a couple of short interviews recently for Marshal Zeringue’s blogs. For the first, I applied the ‘page 69′ test to The Leopard. You can see what I discovered, approaching page 69 as a reader who hadn’t read the book, here.

For the second, I was interviewed not primarily about writing, but about the celebrated canine known to social media as Mr Wicked, though his real name is revealed. (Actually, it was revealed in a long ago blog post here on TheWildForest as well.) So, the truth about Ivan the Wicked, coffee, and the squirrel, can be found here, as well as a number of dog photos, because he’s so darned photogenic.

And because he’s so darned photogenic … here’s Ivan.

A deer! A deer!

A deer! A deer!

Posted in dogs, Marakand, News, The Adventures of Mr Wicked, The Leopard, Writing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment