Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Brighton, 2010

Well I'm back, from England and Brighton and the World Horror Convention.

The business end of it was pretty straightforward, and went very well. We had to get there on Thursday in time to launch ChiZine's line of books that night. This, we did - with a certain amount of gusto, I think. Gemma Files, Philip Nutman, Douglas Smith, Tim Lebbon, Claude Lalumiѐre and I all presented and read and signed while publishing/editing/domestic duo Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi made it happen. 

After that, it was as these things are, when they're good: meeting up with a lot of good folk, seeing a fabulous town and enjoying the hospitality of the Royal Albion Hotel (whose staff were, I will say, very helpful in correcting some of the most eyebrow-raising hospitality infractions to be seen outside Fawlty Towers). I didn't make it to very much programming - which was a disappointment. Organizers Steve Jones and Amanda Foubister did a fantastic job and I should really have paid it more heed. 

Blame the bright glories of Brighton, and the conversations with so many new friends and old ones I don't see often enough.

Gemma Files (pictured at left) was my travelling companion to the World Horror Convention in Brighton. Here we are, just off the red-eye from Toronto at Heathrow, awaiting our motor-coach. Gemma, incidentally (but not co-incidentally) is the author of A Book of Tongues from ChiZine. It had its launch in Brighton, and has received a very favourable review in Publisher's Weekly. Gemma's grin here has nothing to do with that review: this was Thursday, days before the review came out.

It was also several hours before we arrived in Brighton, and at our hotel.

The Royal Albion.

The hotel looks quite lovely from the outside - particularly on a bright morning like this one. In this sense, it leaves a misleading impression. The Royal Albion is well-suited to hosting a horror convention because it is, in so many ways, a horror show.  From the dead flies on the pillows to the toilet that would not flush, the showers that ran cold, the bath plugs only removable with the complimentary tea spoon... well, you won't be hearing about that sort of thing on this blog. Email me separately if you need to hear more.

Feast your eyes instead, on some of the decor: like this Green Man hiding surreptitiously on the corner of an armoire in the hotel's lobby lounge.

Or this rather spectacular lamp, next to the Green Man at the gateway to the dining hall:

The lamp, really, makes a perfect introduction to Brighton's big tourist draw, the Royal Pavilion. Constructed by King George IV when he was just prince, the edifice seemed to have been made with the dual purpose of blithely misrepresenting Asian cultures (aesthetically, it's a bizarre and opulent mash-up of a mogul's palace, a Merchant-Ivory production, a Chinese restaurant and the planet Naboo), and making George's father Mad King George III even madder. I can't show photos from inside, because photography's not allowed, but here are a couple of exterior shots to give you an idea:

The pavilion was built on the site of a farmhouse that the Prince Regent purchased on advice from his doctor. As might be inferred from this statue, George suffered from a certain amount of gout:

It's unlikely, however, that the waters of Brighton helped much - because the structure became a kind of Pleasure Dome of George, Prince Regent, where guests were fattened by an army of cooks and servants, under 30 foot long, dragon-wrapped chandeliers, before they danced like fiends, drank like fish and succumbed to any vices that might be left over after that. It was many years before Queen Victoria would move in and put a stop to all that nonsense.

A group of us headed out to see the place Saturday morning - including Jetse de Vries, who some of you may know as editor of the important new optimistic sf anthology Shine:

When I speak of new friends made at the convention, I mean Jetse - and Alasdair Stuart, and Philip Nutman and Anya Martin, and Sandra Wickham, and Benjamin Kane Etheridge... and that's just a start.

I didn't take pictures of them - stopping mid-conversation to snap a picture is a buzz kill, I find. But we did all get together for a fantastic time Friday evening, courtesy of extraordinarily generous dark thriller author Heather Graham. She was good enough to cut a deal with a pub at the end of the Brighton Pier (pictured here) -

- to cover drinks and victuals for everyone at the convention, whilst she and a band of horror-author minstrels rocked out on the stage. For anyone in need of a little fear, she made sure that the Horror Hotel across the pier provided free shrieking terror to anyone who dared set ass in buggy.

Don't tell anyone, but Gemma kept her eyes closed through the whole ride.

It was, overall, a very good convention and I could go on for five thousand more words easily. But that would take too long. So in their place, here are five more pictures, which should be worth about the same:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Now about WHC...

I'm going to be at the World Horror Convention, cheerful but bleary-eyed after a red-eye flight from Toronto to London, and a bus ride to Brighton, on Thursday morning. If you're there, Yard-ape, say hello. I'm not signed up for any programming, alas - I got my membership after all that had been finalized. But I'll be there at ChiZine's Euro-Launch, introducing Monstrous Affections and a bunch of ChiZine's new titles to the British horror crowd. And I'll be around.

I will also be thanking Ellen Datlow in person, for including my story "The Radejastians" from Tesseracts 13 in her short list of recommended short horror fiction, at the back of The Best Horror of the Year Volume 2. Michael Kelly's T13 story "The Woods" is also on that list. And Ellen said some kind things about the powerful-ness of Monstrous Affections in the introduction. So she's going to get thanked for that too.

But the ChiZine Launch is the big deal. Here, from ChiZine's own dark-tinted lips, is the press release/invite:

The End Is Nigh . . . Where Will You Be?

Commanding Hordes of the Undead

Leading a Posse of Gunslingers through Hell

Seeking Oblivion in Drugs, Booze, and Rock 'n' Roll

OR . . .

Carousing at the ChiZine Publications Launch Party!

CHIZINE PUBLICATIONS co-publishers' Brett Alexander Savory and Sandra Kasturi -- along with authors Philip Nutman, Tim Lebbon, Douglas Smith, Gemma Files, David Nickle, and Claude Lalumiѐre -- will treat you to a dazzling night of books and booze at the World Horror Convention 2010.

On Thursday March 25th CZP will be launching its new fall titles at Bar Rogue from 8:00 PM – 10:00 PM

These include:

Chasing the Dragon, Nicholas Kaufmann
Chimerascope, Douglas Smith
A Book of Tongues: Volume I of the Hexslinger Series, Gemma Files
Katja from the Punk Band, Simon Logan
Cities of Night, Philip Nutman
The Thief of Broken Toys, Tim Lebbon

ChiZine Publications

Saturday, March 20, 2010

How I'm feeling...

I know I promised not to write about feelings (see the Yard's mission statement to the right of this post). But as the case of my friend Peter Watts and the guards at the Blue Water Bridge sinks in, feeling seems to be all I'm doing. So while this might be a good time to start telling you about the ChiZine launch at the World Horror Convention in Brighton next Thursday, I've got no stomach for it.

I wasn't at the trial in Michigan, where a jury delivered their conviction Friday morning; I was here in Toronto, in a meeting with my superiors at the paper, cheerfully talking about how the Toronto mayor's race was shaping up. I'd pretty much convinced myself that, based on what I knew about the case and reports I'd gotten about just how well Peter's lawyer Douglas Mullkoff was arguing it, there would be an acquittal.

After all - under cross-examination by Mullkoff, the border guards had conceded that Peter hadn't assaulted anyone; hadn't threatened to assault anyone; and that his aggressive stance was nothing any reasonable person would consider aggressive. The allegations that he had somehow choked border guard Andrew Beaudry while Beaudry was hitting him, were demolished. The only choking going on is mine right now, typing that Beaudry was merely somehow mistaken when he accused Peter of being a strangler.

If I was wondering anything, it was what we'd be eating at the homecoming party.

Didn't work out that way. Because, there is this statute - that essentially criminalizes non-compliance to such a broad degree that asking a question (as Peter did) before complying with an order from a border guard is a felony. In terms of the sentence one might serve - well, Peter might as well have choked Beaudry. It amounts to the same thing.

As Peter explains on his blog:

The press has frequently characterized the charge against me as “assaulting a federal officer”. The alleged (and discredited) “choking” episode has been repeated ad nauseum. Here at the Sarnia Best Western I don’t have the actual statute in front of me but it includes a lengthy grab-bag of actions, things like “assault”, “resist”, “impede”, “threaten”, “obstruct” — hell, “contradict” might be in there for all I know. And under “obstruct” is “failure to comply with a lawful order”, and it’s explicitly stated that violence on the part of the perp is not necessary for a conviction. Basically, everything from asking “Why?” right up to chain-saw attack falls under the same charge. And it’s all a felony.
This shouldn't surprise me - the United States is a foreign country, for all its nearness. Its founders espoused different values from those of the architects of my homeland; those founders' sons and daughters today espouse values utterly alien to my own. That an American state should pass a law that criminalizes the act of questioning - of hesitation - in the face of a physical assault by a representative of their federal government... that might come as a surprise in the particular case. But generally, in the context of American history, it's not so far off the mean that I should be as shocked as I am.

The temptation to fall into anti-Americanism has the pull of gravity right now; the "neighbour to the south" feels to me like the kind of neighbour that returns our tools broken and leers at our daughters. Ask me now if I ever intend to visit the United States, I'd say no. Not again. Ask me if you should, and I'd say: only if you can't avoid it. And if you do go, bring a bagged lunch, a thermos of coffee and only order glasses of water in the restaurants. Keep your at-par dollar working at home.

That's how I'm feeling - but look, I understand it's not productive. I know too many Americans, and love and respect too many Americans, to start thinking about building walls and silly little personal economic sanctions. America has become fearful for its safety since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Really, it would have far more cause for that fearfulness, were it not for the goodness of so many of its people.

Many of those people did, in fact, contribute to Peter's defense fund, that allowed him to make his case so eloquently - to discredit the lie, that he did anything to deserve the brutal beating he received at the hands of Andrew Beaudry, or that he did anything that might warrant the hell he and those close to him have gone through in its wake. Some jurors even appear have come forward and added nuance to their decision, in singular missives among the many vile comments on newspaper articles and blogs. Like this one, at the Times-Herald, by a commenter claiming to have been on the jury:

proudinjun wrote:
As a member of the jury that convicted Mr. Watts today, I have a few comments to make. The jury's task was not to decide who we liked better. The job of the jury was to decide whether Mr. Watts "obstructed/resisted" the custom officials. Assault was not one of the charges. What it boiled down to was Mr. Watts did not follow the instructions of the customs agents. Period. He was not violent, he was not intimidating, he was not stopping them from searching his car. He did, however, refuse to follow the commands by his non compliance. He's not a bad man by any stretch of the imagination. The customs agents escalted the situation with sarcasm and miscommunication. Unfortunately, we were not asked to convict those agents with a crime, although, in my opinion, they did commit offenses against Mr. Watts. Two wrongs don't make a right, so we had to follow the instructions as set forth to us by the judge.
Or this one, on Peter's blog:


I believe your description of the trial and deliberations is more accurate than you could know. As a non-conformist and “libertarian” (who has had some experiences not unlike yours) I was not comfortable with my vote, but felt deep inside that it was consistent with the oath we took as jurors. I believe nearly all the jurors searched for a legitimate reason to vote differently. In the end it came down to the question “Was the law broken?”. While I would much rather have a beer and discussion with you than Officer B. I never the less felt obligated to vote my conscience. I also believe most, if not all, the jurors sincerely hope that you are handled with a great degree of leniency, we, unfortunately have no say in that matter.

They both sound like good-hearted people. My own conscience would have driven me to a different decision than the one they made. Even if it weren't my friend's life in the balance, I like to think I would have asked the judge the question:

If we feel the statute is mis-applied, if we feel that the accused is a victim of a crime and not a perpetrator - and that statute is functioning to mask the real crime - can we without violating our oath deliver a verdict of not guilty even if the accused's actions technically fall within that statute?

But if some of the jurors' values appear to also be mine - I know that my conscience is not theirs. As Peter said in his blog, they deliberated for some time before coming to their decision. They took the matter seriously. That's something.

It doesn't comfort; it doesn't change anything.

But it's something.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Peter Watts was convicted today

The news of this hit me hard this morning. Peter, you may recall, was beaten and pepper-sprayed while crossing the Canada-U.S. border at Port Huron, Michigan. For his troubles, they charged him with resisting arrest and assaulting a federal officer - a young man named Andrew Beaudry, who accused Peter of attempting to choke him during the beating Beaudry was administering.

Good people around the world - the first of which were Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi - mobilized to help us gather Peter the funds he needed for an excellent lawyer and a vigorous defense.

The fundraising worked wonders. The justice system of that place in Michigan failed profoundly and delivered a conviction.

Here is Peter's own, more generous account of the verdict.

I would link to the local Port Huron paper's coverage of the trial - it's a good account - but the comments by local readers so sicken me that I cannot in any conscience send you there.

Here's the Toronto Star's wrap-up that went online today.

I will write more on this later.

CORRECTION: MARCH 22: Up top in this blog entry, I'd suggested that the Port Huron paper's coverage of the trial was a good account.

In fact, I have since been informed that the paper incorrectly reported that Peter Watts was convicted of assaulting a federal officer. As of this morning, the newspaper has not corrected the error.

As a journalist myself, I regret my error in misplaced professional courtesy, and any inconvenience it may have caused.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Never Open A Book With The Weather.

This is Elmore Leonard's first rule of 10 rules of writing. And it is a good one.

He doesn't say anything about opening a blog posting with a picture of the weather, though: particularly this knobby bit of ice at the end of the Leslie Spit in Toronto, photographed by me, on a freezing cold bike ride there, earlier today.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Lots of Affections for America

This is a note for U.S. yard apes that might have been thinking about getting ahold of Monstrous Affections but were feeling stymied by its spotty availability. For a few weeks now, Amazon.com's been promising more stock real soon. And who knows where the books are available on the ground?

Two bits of encouraging news, then. First, Amazon.com's re-stocked, and will be filling those orders that came in during the stocking haitus. Check it out here.

And second: Brett at ChiZine informs me that Borders has placed a very large order of Monstrous Affections for the chain. It is the kind of order that might just put the second printing over hump-day, and should stock shelves in a sizeable number of the bookstore chain's outlets. Soon.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Stop by for a Bite...

This evening, I'm planning on spending some time at the Bitten By Books site, along with fellow Tesseracts Thirteen authors - for a part of a day-long marathon online interview-fest, in the continued launch of the chilling edition of the Canadian sf anthology. My story, "The Radejastians," is an innocent enough story about the benefits of regular church attendance; others are more ghoulish.

So stop by and talk about it. Bitten By Books has an RSVP site which you can visit to find out more, and RSVP, to be eligible for PRIZES PRIZES PRIZES.

It's right here.