Showing posts with label Ireland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ireland. Show all posts

18 September 2019

All the World's a Con, Dublin Style



by Robert Lopresti

Two weeks ago I wrote about my recent trip to Ireland.  We finished up at the World Science Fiction Convention in Dublin.  Imagine 5,000 plus dedicated fans spending five days discussing books, movies, writing, science, and related issues.  Bouchercon on steroids.  So here are some highlights, and a few, uh, sidelights.

As it happened the first panel I attended was "A Portable Sort of Magic: Why We Love Books About Books."  Oddly enough, it turned out to NOT be about books.  It was mostly psalms in favor of libraries; not that I complained about that.  Genevieve Cogman writes a series of books called the Invisible Library, which (as I understood it) features people collecting books from around the universe.  A.J. Hackwith has written The Library of the Unwritten, about the place that books go if their authors never get around to writing them.  Tasha Suri, who is also a librarian, made useful distinctions between a library and an archive (briefly: an archive stores the only or original copy of something).

She also pointed out that those beloved "little libraries" that pop up on so many street corners are not libraries either.  They are book swaps.  Not that there is anything wrong with that, of course.  And I learned that almost every bus in Hamburg, Germany, has a book swap shelf.  What a great idea!

For some reason I wound up seeing a lot of panels featuring editors, and they were full of startling moments.  For example, one important book editor was not familiar with the phrase "Kill your darlings," which astonished me.

At one panel someone mentioned elevator pitches and editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden quoted what seemed to be a standard joke pitch for (I assume) a TV series:  "He's a chimp.  She's the Pope.  They're cops."  I'd watch that!

There was a panel of anthology editors and I asked: when they solicit stories from authors, what do they tell them about payment?  The editors seemed astonished.  "Nothing!" they declared.  Apparently science fiction authors are much less tied to petty materialistic things than mystery writers...

But the highlight for me was when I attended a panel featuring Wataru Ishigame, who edits science fiction for Tokyo Sogen.  Afterwards I went up to introduce myself and explain our connection but I never got the chance.  As soon as he saw my name tag he said "We publish your books!"  So we had a lovely chat.

I attended interesting science panels on "The Future of Food" and on DNA testing.  I won't attempt to summarize that stuff.

But honestly I didn't attend as many panels as I hoped because the Convention Centre Dublin was overwhelmed.  If you wanted to attend a session at noon you had to forgo any 11 AM session and get in line by 11:30.  It was that kind of crowding.  And the security staff was pretty unbearable, especially on the first day.  (The week before had been Comicon and I wonder if they were, in effect, fighting the last war?)

My favorite example of the problem.  My wife had been waiting in line for half an hour when a security guard came up and told her she was facing the wrong way.  Not that she was in the wrong place.  Not that she was in the wrong line.  But that she had to turn around and face the same direction as everyone else.  Daring rebel that she is, my wife said "No," and the guard backed down.  But, sheesh.

One more story.  I volunteered to work at the Registration Desk on Wednesday and Thursday morning.  During my four hour shift on Thursday my daypack vanished.  I didn't think any member of the public would have been able to steal it so I figured one of the other registration mavens had relocated it.  But no one could find it.

The good news is, it turned up on Saturday, literally minutes before I was going to leave to try to purchase a replacement.  I am very grateful to everyone who hunted for it and made an effort to get it back to me.

But, as they say in management school, it is possible to distinguish between process and product.  While the product was great (got my daypack!) the process had a few bumpy patches.  To illustrate, let me imagine a discussion that must have occurred.  I will try to refrain from sarcasm.

"Hey! Here is the daypack that charming and devilishly handsome volunteer was looking for.  I will take it across the foyer to the Lost and Found desk."  
"No, don't do that."
"Ah, I understand.  Because it is the end of the day you think I should take it directly three flights up to the Ops Office where lost objects are locked safely away for the night."
"No, don't do that either.  I happen to know that that volunteer's wife was working in the Finance Office, so take it up there."
"Are you sure she will volunteer there again?"
"No, but it stands to reason if she did one shift she will do another, doesn't it?"
"I suppose so.  Very well.  I will carry the daypack up the five flights and leave a note for her so she  knows it's there."
"Don't be silly!  No need to waste trees with paper notes. Just tell whoever is in the Finance Office about it and if/when she returns I'm sure one of the people you mention it to will happen to be there at the same time, will recognize her, remember what you mentioned, and be able to find the pack in the office, which, of course, is not set up to store missing items."
"Yes, that makes perfect sense.  But first I will stroll over to the Lost and Found Desk and tell them so they can stop looking for the pack and delete it from their database of missing objects."
"Again, why this obsession with direct communication?  I'm sure if we simply float happy thoughts in their direction they will grasp that the object has been found and make the corrections to their files."
"Thanks.  Now I understand.  I will  carry the daypack up five flights on the overcrowded escalators the nice security guards asked us not to overuse, rather than simply walking across the foyer to the Lost and Found Desk where any sensible person would expect a missing object to be returned."

Possibly a smidge of sarcasm slipped in there.  I hope you didn't notice.

To be fair, a Worldcon attendee whose opinion I greatly respect told me she would have also decided to bring the bag up to the Finance Office.  I replied: would you have told the Lost and Found folks that it had been recovered?  No, she said, but it would have been a good idea.

I think so too.

Those of you have seen my reports on other events can guess that I am about to include some quotes from panels.  There aren't so many this time because of the issues described above, but here you go...

"We can't put stuff back in Pandora's box but we can slip a warning label on the side." - Aimee Ogden

"A library is essentially a place of possibility." - A.J. Hackwith

"He's the sort of person you have to go into business with or you have to have him killed." - Patrick Nielsen Hayden

"When I originally wrote that novel I had a main character who I fired.  We had a labor dispute." - Benjamin Rosenbaum

"If your voice goes up at the end that doesn't necessarily make it a question." - Ginjer Buchanan

"I love that book.  It should not work.  It annoys me that he's that brilliant." - Laura Anne Gilman

"I am a science fiction writer and that is why I'm not having my DNA tested." -Aimee Ogden

"You have to blame something and it can't be me." - John R. Douglas

04 September 2019

Think Green




Meeting an old friend in Galway Cathedral.
by Robert Lopresti

In August my family spent three weeks in Ireland, the ancestral home of one-eighth of my genes.  I wish I could tie it to mysteries or writing, but I really can't (except for the ending of this piece, as you will see).  I suppose I should just be grateful I have no crimes to report.  But, in any case, here are my random  observations from the Rocky Road to Dublin.

* Speaking of crime, we were warned in advance that "People there are so friendly you will think they are trying to get something from you."  We found that to be an exaggeration, but in Galway, where we spent the first week, some people did go above and beyond. The same woman helped us in two different neighborhoods, making me wonder if she was following us.

* In Galway (but not Dublin) every supermarket sold packages of pancakes, just like you might buy tortillas or naans here.  They often said "American style!" although I have never seen them sold that way in America.

* And speaking of food oddities, This photo shows a combination I never expected to see:

*One more food thing!  Pizzerias in Dublin don't seem to believe that basil goes on a Margherita pizza.  It was invented to honor the queen of Italy and has the colors of the national flag.  Red (tomato sauce), white (mozzarella), and green (basil).  You guys are apparently honoring Switzerland. 

* Every shop in Dublin bragged of "Ireland's Best Coffee!" or "Dublin's Favorite Burger!" or "Best Ice Cream!"  If someone had promised "Temple Bar's Third-Best Tea!" I would have purchased some just out of gratitude for the change.

* By coincidence we arrived the week of the Galway Races, which is a Big Thing in the horsey world.  Every day one of the main streets was stuffed with buses taking people off to the track.  Thursday was Ladies Day and it looked like prom night, with the city full of young women in fancy dresses, wobbling along on five inch heels.

* One of the highlights of our trip was taking the ferry to Inis Mor, largest of the Aran Islands off the west coast.  They say there are three thousand miles of stone walls on the three islands, and I believe them.  We rented bikes and peddled our way to Dun Aonghasa, a fort that is at least 2,500 years old.  When I put this photo up on Facebook one my friends asked: "Is that blood on the gateposts?"  Could be, could be.

* My favorite living Irish non-mystery author is Roddy Doyle.  (You may have seen The Commtments, based on his first novel.)  A few years ago he created a Twitter account as research for a novel.  Doyle filled it with conversations between two imaginary friends in a pub and this proved so popular that he turned it into a play, which has been performed in pubs in the British Isles for a few years.  Two Pints just premiered at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.  We got to see it, and it is hilarious.  I hear it is coming to America  next year, so be on the look-out.

* Being archaeology nuts we made a special trip to Newgrange, a 5,000-old-passage tomb in County Meath.  What you see in this photo is a man-made hill. On the winter solstice the sunrise shines straight through the passage into the tomb.  You can enter a raffle to be one of the lucky people inside to watch it happen, but be warned that, this being Ireland in December, you may see nothing but fog and rain.

*We also visited Tara, the famed home of Celtic history.  Unfortunately, it is much more interesting from the air.  On the ground you see mostly rolling hills and can't detect much of the ancient patterns.  Not surprisingly, there are signs warning that drones are not permitted.

* If you know your Irish history you know that the General Post Office in Dublin was the center of the Easter uprising in 1916.  (So legendary did it become it that the joke goes that "thirty brave men marched into the post office and ten thousand heroes marched out.")  You can visit the GPO now and see a terrific exhibit that tries to explain the whole event with its bloody background and bloody aftermath.

* The National Library of Ireland currently has an excellent exhibit on W.B. Yeats.  It is definitely worth an hour of your time featuring recordings of his poetry, rare copies of his books, and art connected to his life.   (His brother and the unrequited love who was his muse were both fine painters.)  What struck me as weird was I did not see a single mention of what I think of as his most famous poem.  

Also on display was a survey Yeats received from some university on the subject of creativity.  One question asked: what did he do in the fallow periods when he was waiting for inspiration to strike?  His answer: read detective stories.  Good man!

The reason we scheduled our trip for August was to coincide with the World Science Fiction Convention, which was held in Dublin.  Some of you may remember that I reported here about an earlier Worldcon.  This one was also plenty interesting and I'll tell you about it in two weeks.  In the mean time have a cup of third-best tea, or something..





















03 March 2015

Her Terrible Beauty


by David Dean

The title of this piece just happens to be the title of my latest story in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.  This is not a coincidence.  I am utilizing my God-given right to promote my work in lieu of the huge monthly check I would normally receive from our generous paymaster, Leigh Lundin.  But I will not just promote, but educate as well, sprinkling tidbits of information throughout that cannot possibly be found on the internet.  For instance: Saint Patrick's Day is two weeks from today.


Yes, only a few hundred million of us woke up knowing this today.  What the devil does it have to do with my latest groundbreaking literary effort?  Very little, actually, but since this auspicious occasion just happens to be coming up, I thought I'd smoothly weave it in.  Just watch my handiwork.

My story takes place in antebellum Alabama, circa 1831, within the diocese of Mobile and concerns a brother and sister, murders and miracles, duels and deceptions.  It ends with a hanging.  St. Patrick has nothing to do with any of it.  Yet, if you go to Mobile, as I have, and visit the magnificent Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception you will discover a small, unique statue of him situated to the right of the altar.  If you look up, and you should, you will find a ceiling exquisitely rendered in gold leaf patterns of alternating fleur-de-lis and shamrocks, heraldic symbols of both France and Ireland.  Mobile, like most of the Gulf Coast, was originally colonized by the French and, in fact, it was here that the first Mardi Gras was celebrated in North America; not in New Orleans.  This was in 1703--another fun fact.  It is celebrated in Mobile to this day. 

How did St. Patrick sneak into this decidedly French environment, you may ask?  The answer lies with all the Irish priests and bishops entombed in the vault beneath the Cathedral.  In those days, the Irish were mighty and prodigious evangelizers of the Catholic faith and were forever charging into the breach.  It appears that they charged into the Mobile colony.  The French and the Irish have a long relationship actually, as both have found themselves squared off repeatedly with their mutual enemy, the English.  One happy result of this alliance was Hennessey Cognac; another the breathtaking ceiling of the Cathedral.  More fun facts as promised.

My protagonist opens the story with a request for one of these priests (French or Irish, it doesn't matter).  He wishes to prepare himself for his impending exit from this perplexing world of ours.  A rider is sent to Mobile to fetch one.  Thus begins our tale of madness and murder.  It's in the March/April issue along with many fine tales by such notables as Doug Allyn, Dave Zeltserman, S.J. Rozan, Loren D. Estleman, Marilyn Todd, and more!  I hope that you will get a copy of this issue, and that if you do, you find your visit to L.A. (Lower Alabama) interesting.

P.S. During my time here the news broke of Harper Lee's impending book release.  This was big down here as Monroeville, a nearby community, is both Ms. Lee's home and the setting for "To Kill A Mockingbird."

P.P.S. Oh yes, almost forgot, our fellow SleuthSayer, Dale Andrews, vacations yearly in nearby Gulf Shores, Alabama--a final fun fact.