I have this theory that friendliness comes from a chemical that your brain makes - smilotonin, nycine, various other friendorphins - and it can only make so much of this chemical at a time, and the last few days I have used all of mine up. So today I have hidden in the upstairs floor off my house, like Miss Havisham, but beardy and track-suited, not talking to anyone.
Continuum X, for those who don't know, is a science fiction/fantasy/horror convention. I had been to very few before, and I was quite nervous, and I feared that there would be Famous People. My usual technique, by the way, when I meet Famous People, is to tell them what they do. I met Robert Silverberg a few years ago. I didn't recognise him until someone mentioned him, and then I struck.
|Here is a slime mould, my vote for most amazing fungus, although technically they are ex-fungi. They can change shape.|
"You're Robert Silverberg!" I said.
"Yes," he said.
"You wrote Lord Valentine's Castle," I told him.
"Yes" he said.
"In the eighties," I explained.
He opened his mouth.
"Nineteen eighty," I said.
He closed his mouth.
"About that planet that was really light-weight, and the juggler, and the aliens."
He nodded again, backing away. The man who was with him attempted to move in between us, sacrificing himself to save his friend, but I continued.
"It was called Majipoor," I explained. "Lots of aliens. There were two headed ones."
By this time he had backed into the lift, and was frantically stabbing at the buttons.
but he nodded as the door closed.
Some of them had two heads!" I shouted. "They were called Su Suheris!"
He nodded as the door closed. I never saw him again.
|The same slime mould, having changed shape into a vaguely frogomorphic shape to further creep people out.|
This was a few years ago, and luckily this is now. The Convention was held in an incredibly impressive hotel, the kind of one you feel uneasy in, as if you will soon be discovered and then they are going to kick you out, and the presentations (dragons, romance, zombies, sexism) were fantastic, but for me the best thing was the people.
I met an editor whose work I have admired for ages. I met a woman who plays the double bass and another who studied aboriginal astronomy. I talked about James Bond and other, smaller sex-starved mammals that fornicate themselves to death. I talked about being a religious spec fic fan and I talked about fungi who plan railway planning and it all went went very well.
|Slime mould enjoying a refreshing beverage|
And I made friendships and I strengthened existing ones, and I got drunk on tequila and sangria, and I managed to fall up a flight of stairs without hurting myself, and it was wonderful. I am going again.
|Slime mould having found its way through a maze|
Here, by the way, is a warning - it is the mediaeval monk Richard of Devizes writing about the dangers of big cities (specifically London around about 1190 - London being the Melbourne of the Northern Hemisphere): "Whatever evil or malicious thing that can be found in the world can be found in the city. There are masses of pimps - do not associate with them. Avoid the theatre and the tavern. The number of parasites is infinite. Actors, jesters, pretty boys, singing and dancing girls, belly-dancers, sorcerers, extortionists, night-wanderers, beggars, buffoons, magicians and mimes abound."
Beware the mimes.
Thanks for listening,