Saturday, 18 August 2018

The Manuscript (Part One)

Gordiscope by Darmy

Let me start this epistle with an apology. It has been some weeks since you heard from me. I hope you didn’t think I’d been squashed beneath the wheels of a car, had my head bitten clean off my a neighbourhood hound or some other such horror. I was merely ‘on tour’ with my agent. Entertaining my clutter, if you will. Or my clowder. There are so many collective nouns for our species, I lose track.

In any case, the new short story collection ‘Vestigial Ghost Tails’ came out a few weeks back. Which means a contractual obligation to follow my agent around to wherever he thinks the books will sell best. Or at least create a buzz, which might sell more books. Perhaps my adventures in the foreign climes I visited will make their way into these sheaves of the interweb. Perhaps not.

I suppose I was fortunate enough to acquire an agent for Shadow Murder relatively quickly after I’d finished the book. I know others spend years trying to find someone to ply their wares for them – my tall Slave for instance hasn’t found one yet, just a sheaf of rejections. But sending my first novel away wasn’t without its problems…


            In the olden times - or you might say: ‘back in my youth’ - agents preferred proper printed documents. My Slaves do have a desktop inkjet printer thing, which would have been convenient, but for the fact they didn’t have enough paper and the machine took ages. Also, trying to print off a thousand or so sheets surreptitiously wouldn’t be easy and they would be sure to notice. I considered engineering it so they blamed it on one another, but ultimately, I didn’t think this was fair on them. They had just started spending a lot of money on my gourmet food, appeasing my fastidious dietary desires – I really didn’t want to risk a return to the cardboard flavoured generic branded cat meat. (I’m sure you know which one I mean, but I’ll refrain from writing the name here for legal reasons.) So, I had to think up another plan.

            I was sitting in the garden one night, wondering what to do about this, watching the distant stars, when I heard a scuffling nearby. Moments later, The Architect loomed into being over the top of the fence. The fence wobbled for a moment beneath his bulk, before he landed on the patio next to me. I was, as ever, surprised by the light grace of his movements, which belied his size.

            ‘Greetings, my good sir Architect,’ I offered.

            In response, the cat issued a deep mioaw. He remained silent for a bit longer, so I resumed my search of the heavens, hoping for Bastet to reveal herself and solve my problems. Perhaps she was busy in her human form, dealing with their multitude of problems. I believe they call her Artemis, but I could be mistaken.

            Some time after this, The Architect chose to speak.

            ‘Your neighbour remains quiet…,’ he said, talking of Athena, the Rock Star cat.

            ‘Quiet? She’s been making an awful racket. Apparently she’s in some creative purple patch. The Owl is her muse. Et cetera,’ I explained.

            ‘Oh, right. I think…’

            ‘Therefore you are cat?’

            ‘Very amusing. But Let me rephrase that. She has been quiet when it comes to time,’ said the Architect.

            ‘I didn’t realise time was loud.’

            ‘My ears are attuned to its vibrations. In a similar manner to those cats which can detect Earthquakes before they hit.’

            ‘Are you trying to say thanks?’ I asked.

            ‘In a manner of speaking,’ he replied.

            ‘Well, perhaps there is something you can do for me…’

            I explained my predicament, The Architect nodding as I outlined how such a transgression as abusing my Slaves’ printer would likely not pass them by.

            ‘Well, perhaps you could try the library?’ he suggested.

            ‘The library? Isn’t that just full of books?’

            ‘It is quite different to the feline libraries you’ve visited. As well as books, Human Slaves like to populate their libraries with CDs, DVDs, books which can speak to you and computers which can print things. It is just around the corner,’ he continued, raising one paw to point over the high wall that ran along the alleyway behind the garden.

            As I’ve pointed out before, I am not really one for climbing. At most I will jump onto the garden table. But that is about my limit. I regarded the wall with suspicion.

            ‘Isn’t it a bit high?’ I asked, half expecting The Architect to call on his fox friend to help. But he didn’t mention it. And I was reluctant to ask this favour of him, due to my rather British sensibilities.

            Eventually he replied: ‘Look, I’ll go first. You follow my footsteps. If you fall, you’ll land on your feet anyway.’

            ‘I’m not so sure…’

            But as I spoke those words, the Architect had launched himself back up the fence, teetering on its summit.

            ‘Hang on! I’m not ready! I need to get the disk!’ I replied, dashing back into the house and charging up the two flights of stairs. This was before the ubiquity of USB sticks and the invention of cloud drives. Data had to be saved to a shiny disk, which you’d transfer between computers – the disks themselves were housed in brittle plastic cases. I selected the disk onto which I’d saved my opus magnus and gently placed it into the belly bag I use to transport things around the place.

            Moments later, I was downstairs, watching the Architect swaying on the top of the fence. The disk strapped to me was bulky and uncomfortable; even worse, it seemed to get in the way every time I stretched for the jump. I shook my head, expecting the Architect to say something, but he remained patiently silent.

            I jumped. But undershot. And was forced to scrabble up the creeper which grew up the trellising. I almost lost it at one point, but then I was up there, next to The Architect, feeling the structure yaw. My thrashing around caused the security light next door to flash into action. Remaining mute, the Architect turned and jumped straight at the wall, leaping over the length of the alleyway and attaching himself to the vertical surface. He climbed up like a fat spider, before settling himself on the top and glancing down at me from what seemed like an unfathomable height.

            I sat there contemplating the leap until the security light flicked off again. The Architect vanished against the night sky - all that remained of him were the glittering eyes, like two additional stars in the sky. Soon though, the rod cells in my eyes became accustomed to the dark, the crevices of the wall; even the footholds my friend had used became visible. I decided to go for it, leaping across the expanse. But then as I hit the wall, I found myself sliding downwards, my claws too finely trimmed by my Slaves to make purchase on the surface. I flipped backwards and felt myself falling, gravity pulling me upright and I landed with a bump in the alleyway.

            I looked around, noticing a rat next to me, baring its teeth. I swiped at it, but it ducked, refusing to back away. Brazen creatures, are rats. I swiped again, but the creature refused to move, almost as if it was interested in me. Seconds later it pounced and we began to tumble around, scratching and biting each other. And then, as quick as the attack had begun, it shot off down the alleyway. Feeling lighter, I quickly discovered that the disk had vanished, my belly bag empty. I looked around in a panic, hoping it had just fallen out in the scrap. Unable to find it, I realised that the rat had taken it.

            Above, I saw The Architect charging across the top of the wall, keeping pace with the rat as it plunged along the alleyway. I also began to pursue, darting through the overgrown lane, giving the large bush of holly a wide berth, jumping over the old pots and pans left to moulder over the years, and then speeding up as I reached the stretch of herby stuff which sprang beneath my feet. At the end of the alleyway, a bike was locked up, its wheel jutting into the alleyway at an angle, spokes glinting in the moonlight. Some movement also flashed nearby: the disk which contained my novel.

            And yes, before you ask, this was the only copy. And yes, I should have known better. There is a lesson here for all you writers. But I suspect these days everything is automatically saved onto your cloud account. Nothing can ever be deleted. These words will remain here, on the interweb, in perpetuity. Even if I remove them from this website, they will remain saved somewhere on a hard drive deep beneath the earth’s crust. But this wasn’t the case with my novel back then. As the flashing disk disappeared around the corner of the alleyway, I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. And a sense of disbelief, which slowly morphed into anger.

To be continued next week…


Saturday, 16 June 2018

Athena's Owl (Part Two)

Owl and Cat by Zelda's Slave

The story continues...

            I waited a few days before I put the second part of my plan into action. Part of me hoped that this wouldn’t be necessary, that fate would intervene on my behalf and engineer some kind of encounter with my neighbour, the Rock Star cat. But the thread of this feline’s fate was not to be interfered with.

            Let me explain first where the idea came from. It was born out of my own stupidity. But perhaps I’m being hard on myself – the human and cat eye are not exactly comparable, nor is the way we perceive the world. In any case, I had of course, become aware of the black box in the corner of the room, which seemed to pour out light and noise. The same one which my Slaves enjoyed watching for hours on end. Sometimes they were so engrossed they even forgot to feed me and I had to remind them of their duty.

            In any case, I hadn’t paid this thing much attention, until one day something darted across the box. The thing immediately caught my eye. It looked like some kind of bird thing. I immediately jumped off the bed, where I had been lying next to the Tall Slave, and set about examining the box. The bird didn’t appear for a while, but other strange things flickered over the box’s face. Eventually the bird was there, flapping around. I reached up and tried to touch the box’s face, but there seemed to be some kind of forcefield in the way. So I checked around the back of the box, but behind was all wires and dust. I moved back and carried on watching, intrigued by the bird. Meanwhile, my Slaves were watching me, waiting for me to click.

            Of course, I know now that this is a television. And I’d been tricked by the bird on its surface. But at the same time, this hadn’t been any old bird. This bird was some kind of metallic owl, from a famous film of long ago. I didn’t think much of the rest of the film at the time, but that owl caught my imagination. In fact, to the point that I wanted one for myself.

            Now, across the universes we inhabit, there are many different creative cats: there are writers, like myself; there are musicians, like Rock Star cat. But the diverse interests spread amongst the Caterati doesn’t stop there. Smith lived up to his name, and was a dab hand in metalwork, and clockwork. And, to fulfil the second part of my plan, it was Smith I sought out. Following the preceding paragraphs, I suspect you know why.

            ‘You want me to make you what?’ asked Smith. He was a burly ginger Tom, sporting the long leather overall of his trade. His expression was one of almost constant surprise, due to the singeing of his whiskers and face.

            ‘A clockwork owl. Which flies and everything.’

            ‘Right. And you want it to speak too?’ he asked, jokingly.

            ‘No, I’m not that fussed about it hooting,’ I replied, deadly serious. Noticing my demeanour he then brushed away the hilarity, mimicking my expression of seriousness. Good salesman, he was. ‘But it needs to have bewitching eyes. And it needs to come back when I call it.’

            ‘That’s not just clockwork, that’s sophisticated electronics, that is. So it’ll cost you.’

            ‘I’ve got the money.’

            ‘What was this film you mentioned it was from?’

            I pointed him in the direction of a relevant youtube clip and we then agreed on a price. It was steep, but what I expected from such a highly sought after craftsman. And he didn’t disappoint.

            When I returned two weeks later, the bird was complete. He nodded as I walked in, gestured that I follow him. He took me out into the yard of his forge, littered with old machinery and pieces of metal, some of which were draped in thick black covers. Perched on the corner of a large vice was the owl. When Smith clapped his hand, the bird fluttered into life and began to circle us, the technology within preventing it from hitting the surrounding obstacles. I instinctively tried to snatch the owl from the air, but it was too quick even for my lightning reflexes.

            Smith then made a whistling sound and the bird returned to its perch on the vice.

            ‘It’s perfect,’ I told him.

            ‘I know,’ he replied.

            He then showed me how to set it to come back to my command, how to increase the amplitude of its circling motions, how to track it to my movements, how to wind the thing up and so on. I left with my clockwork owl, the facsimile of that which I’d seen on my Slave’s television all those years ago, fluttering beside me.

            I had to wait until my Slaves had gone to sleep that night before I put the final parts of my plan into action. Under cover of night, I sat in the yard and let the owl free: it shot off across the gardens surrounding the buildings which surrounded my castle: a shard of glittering silver glinting in the moonlight. Keeping it company were other shadowy parts of the dark: the local bats, which darted about, sating their appetite on the evening’s insects.

            I sat waiting, watching the owl do its circuits. Occasionally, I’d miaow and it would return and I’d wind it up or change its settings. This went on for a week and I began to think that Beast had been right – the plan was crazy, and likely induced by the cat nip. Or perhaps it was too clever - too reliant on ancient Greek history – the human mythos of course reflecting that of the original feline.

            But then, during the second week, it happened. As the owl came to perch on our cast iron table, there was a noise in the alleyway behind our yard: a kind of scratching sound. And then she was there, tiptoeing across the top of our fence, eyeing both me and the owl suspiciously.

            ‘What is that thing?’ she asked, demurely.

            ‘It is a metallic owl,’ I replied.

            She jumped from the fence, landing gracefully amongst the beds of lobelia and peonie and scampered over to where I sat.

            I miaowed, issuing the command for the bird to take off. And we both watched as it rose up and darted behind the stand of bamboo.

            ‘Don’t worry, it’ll be back in a second,’ I replied, happy that I’d already broached the subject of time. At least in a certain manner.

            ‘I’m Athena by the way,’ she said. I’d known this of course.

            I told her my name, explained I was a writer. She said she’d heard of me, read some of my stuff. But at this point, I wasn’t well known, so I think she was just being kind.

            The owl returned and I showed her how to reset it, how to make it fly in smaller circles. She was transfixed, unable to keep her eyes off the thing. Eventually she told me she wanted it, in fact that she had to have it.

            ‘It isn’t for sale,’ I replied.

            ‘I’ll pay you. More than twice the amount you paid for it.’

            ‘It is one of its kind. There won’t ever be another,’ I said, resisting.

            ‘Four times the price. It’ll be perfect for the new stage show.’ The last she said more to herself than me, but I heard it anyway and knew the plan was working.

            ‘Well… four times the price… I suppose I can’t really say no.’

            She leapt up, excited and began to chase her tail. Such affected activity may work on humans, but it doesn’t cut the mustard for me.

            ‘There is one thing though,’ I said.

            ‘What’s that?’

            ‘Once the bird is programmed to your command. Well, you mustn’t stop time.’

            ‘Why not?’

            ‘Things get reset.’

            ‘And the owl won’t work?’

            I shook my head, gravely.

            Of course, you’ll realise that I didn’t actually speak or suggest an untruth. Stopping time would have done nothing to the metallic owl. I simply told her not to stop time and pointed out that it can reset things, as indeed The Architect had shown me. Athena made the link to the owl, because I wanted her to. And when she asked me if the owl wouldn’t work, I shook my head: she perceived this in context, not as the literal answer to her question.

            She bought it though, and the effects lasted. Athena and the Owl became inseparable, as in the myths of old. The Owl became, in many ways, her unique selling point, featuring on many of the following album covers. And becoming a cult amongst her multitude of followers.

            Of course, many years later, I told her about what I’d done, but she didn’t seem to mind. In fact, she seemed almost grateful. As if the time spent off line, where she’d stopped the forward motion of the clock, had somehow become addictive. It was almost as if my intervention, on behalf of The Architect, had somehow saved her. I wonder now if that was perhaps his intention all along…

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Athena's Owl (Part One)

Portrait of The Cat by Zelda's Slave

            Every night I trick my Slaves. Around ten o’clock, I wait at the top of the stairs, beckoning them upwards. Informing them, with increasingly loud miaows, and increasingly agitated movements, that it is their bedtime. And, this usually works. Having impressed my feelings that I need to sleep now upon them, they usually complete their ablutions quickly and retire. I curl up next to them and when I am certain they are asleep, I creep off, upstairs to the study. Where, I can write my stories.

            As I said, this usually works. Sometimes, they will dally. Often this happens when I smell alcohol on their breaths, or when they have friends over. All of which can be particularly annoying if I have a deadline to hit. But then they’ll usually sleep in the next day, so… On one occasion their friends brought some catnip over for me, wrapped in the form of a mouse. Or rather a packet of three. So I was expected to perform with one of these toys and as a result spent the rest of the night intoxicated. The subsequent words that issued forth have yet to see the light of day.

            It was the presence of this so-called ‘toy’ in my Castle that gave me an idea about how to contact Rock Star cat.

             You’d think it would be easy, speaking to a neighbour. But there were a number of problems. Firstly, I wasn’t sure she wanted to hear what I had to tell her. And in trying to impart to her that her behaviour wasn’t entirely acceptable, I risked coming across like an officious schoolmaster. Which, I was certain, being a creative like myself, was something she wouldn’t respond to. This meant I had to first take her into my confidence, somehow. And secondly, there were the crazy hours she kept, as a result of her band practices and gig schedule.

            I wished I hadn’t agreed to say anything. Couldn’t The Architect do his own dirty work? Couldn’t he get through to her about the effects her ever longer intermissions were having on the timeline? As he’d explained, you simply couldn’t stop time for such long periods without ill effects. But of course, I reminded myself, he had tried to speak to her. And where he had failed, he thought I could succeed. To this end, The Architect had also given me his blessing to abuse my time privileges more than was usual. Not that this had been of any help just yet.

            I wished I could put a signed novel through the door. Show her I was a creative too - that because of this coincidence, there could be some kind of connection. But at that point, my oeuvre was confined to short stories - some of them award winning, like the stories to which The Architect had referred. I’d had the idea for Shadow Murder, but I hadn’t finished it. And I just didn’t think putting through one of my contributor copies of Cat’s Cradle issue 19, containing Die FrankenMaus would cut the mustard. (And yes, before you mention it, this was a Mary Shelley inspired effort, although more of a crime fiction than science fiction - the latter, as discussed previously, not being my genre.) It was The Architect himself who suggested I try something more oblique.

            So there I was, looking at this stuffed mouse, or at least trying to, with my eyes pointing different directions. And the idea occurred to me. I’d done a reading of the aforementioned story a few days earlier, so its content was still fresh in my mind. And subsequently twisted by the Nepeta drug. The idea wasn’t a very good one, as you’ll see, but I ran with it all the same.

            Firstly, I needed some hard cash - I had some, but not nearly enough for the purposes I required. But that was easily resolved. Or at least I thought it would be. I had two more toy mice, stuffed with catnip, which would fetch a decent sum on the black market. If only I knew who to speak to. So that night, instead of writing, I snuck through the portal, sniffing out the ever dependable Beast. By the way, for those of you who are keeping tabs on my timeline, or checking for continuity errors, this was before he left. Although it goes without saying that remembering things accurately and keeping track of timelines may well be a function of fiction, but the converse is much more like real life. I digress…

            Beast’s neighbourhood was in a quiet patch of rural Devon, lacking light pollution. Given it was a clear night, the entire cosmos was spread out above me, as if rendered three dimensional. The starlight cast eerie shadows across the land, and there was the smell of odd country creatures. I found him sitting in his favourite spot, on the top of his Slave’s garage, surveying the darkness.

            His reverie was shaken when I jumped down next to him and he sat up abruptly, bearing his claws, before he realised who it was.

            ‘Do you really have to sneak up on me like that?’ he asked.

            I apologised and began to explain what I wanted to do.

            ‘So you basically want to be a drug dealer?’ he asked, incredulously.

            ‘Well, look, if you want to buy them off me…,’ I began.

            ‘No, I don’t,’ he sighed. ‘Look, I know a cat… But this is dangerous. If the Mice Police get you… What grade of stuff is it anyway?’

            ‘I don’t know that kind of thing!’

            ‘You’ve tried it?’


            ‘And this is when you came up with this ridiculous plan of yours?’


            ‘Right. It’s the strong stuff then.’

            Beast’s directions led through a portal, back to another part of the human aspect of the layered worlds. To what was a well-appointed Victorian street. I’d expected some concrete jungle, stained with blood and smelling of urine, but I suppose this is a clichéd perception of those who deal in illicit substances. These terraced houses were well kept, with flower baskets outside, and neatly manicured front gardens. Cars were parked on the road, all of which bore the specific brandings which I associated with human wealth.

            I was careful to avoid human contact, sneaking behind a privet bush when I heard some voices. Wild humans, when they encounter a cat, are unpredictable – at best you might get a rough stroke. At worst they might grab you and carry you away somewhere and torture you. And if you try and defend yourself, they get irrationally angry. Can you imagine a giant picking up a human and them not having anything to say about it? In any case, I had the toy mice strapped to my stomach, which might have attracted attention.

            The street curved around and then ended abruptly at a gate, which led onto a wide expanse of grass. In the distance, I saw some humans dressed in white clustered together. There’d be an occasional crack as something hit wood. I was halfway to the pavilion, edging around the field, when something planted itself in the foliage in front of me. Suddenly a horde of the white clad humans were shouting and charging toward me. Without hesitating, I bolted away from them, the distance between me and the pavilion closing rapidly. It soon became obvious that they weren’t after me, and I slowed, turning to watch the crazy humans as they retrieved some kind of ball and threw it in the air, cheering all the while. And they think we are stupid when we play with toy mice?

            The storage room behind the pavilion was strewn with exercise mats, on which Monty was lying, or rather lounging. He was a large Burman, his hair immaculately groomed. Which couldn’t be said for his company: a few moggy looking strays, which sat nearby, subserviently. Both bore war wounds: the one on the left had a scarred nose from a previous fight, and the cat on the right seemed to be missing most of an ear.

            I sat down in front of them, leaving a good distance between me and the exit. My hair was bristling and I felt the beginnings of a growl at the back of my throat. For a while Monty said nothing, just glared at me. When he actually spoke, where I’d been expecting a cockneyfied drawl, his words lacked an accent - a feature I associate with the more aristocratic felines.

            ‘I’m Monty. But I suspect you know that,’ he drawled, lazily. ‘And you are?’

            ‘I’m not interested in chit chat,’ I replied. ‘Someone told me you were the cat to speak to about a Nepeta deal. I’m selling.’

            ‘Ah, straight to the point. Excellent.’

            I undid the tie holding the two mice around my neck and let them fall to the floor. Even in their plastic packaging, the potent smell of the weed leached out.

            ‘Benson will come and check them out’ Monty said, nudging the cat with the scarred nose. Slovenly, the cat got to his feet and began to saunter over, his path following a loose arc as he approached, as if weighing up the surroundings. Or giving Monty time to check me out while my guard was down.

            As Benson approached, I raised my left foot, and placed it carefully on the small parcel. This was something Beast had told me to do. ‘You don’t want the cat scarpering with your goods before the deal is done,’ he’d said. ‘Exert your authority from the beginning. Then they will respect you.’ Benson wasn’t phased by this action and had begun to sniff the package with what was left of his nose. He turned to Monty and nodded, before sauntering back.

            ‘The money, Hedges,’ Monty said to the cat with the ruined ear. Soon Hedges returned with a wad of notes and placed it on the floor in front of his superior.

            ‘And now, we negotiate. How much do you want?’ Monty asked.

            But I was prepared for this, coached by Beast. Thereafter followed a few moments haggling, until we reached the price I had hoped for and which I expected I would need for this enterprise. And then, Hedges gave me the cash, while Benson liberated the goods.

            ‘A pleasure doing business with you,’ Monty said, but I didn’t reply. I was out of there, scarpering back across the cricket pitch, and along the terrace to the portal. And a few slips later, I was back at my home in Bournemouth.

To be continued...

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Post Eastercon Blues

It has occurred to me recently that my cat has been overtaking my Blog somewhat. With my consent, it has to be said. But even so, the real Guy T. Martland is being somewhat diluted behind his furry façade. Writing this blog post is my attempt to wrest back some degree of control from the sharpened claws of my significant alter ego. The Cat has made it clear what he got up to at Eastercon, but I haven’t. So here’s my bit.


To tell you the truth, I always find cons a bit difficult. The first one I went to I felt terribly alone and miserable for about a day, until I finally found someone I knew. And whilst things have moved on for me since then, I still suffer a degree of apprehension about attending. Being 6 foot 8 and having what some people might term a posh voice can make things somewhat difficult socially. I’m immediately shoved into the generic public school boy ‘rugger bugger’ category. Which, as those who know me, is really quite far from the truth. In addition, my height often belies my confidence at such events. I’m really not much of a social animal: I spend most of my life locked away in a lab looking at slides for goodness’ sake! Talking to loads of people at once can thus come as a bit of a shock.

There are a number of things that have helped with cons. Firstly, the Milford thing. This has been an absolute godsend when it comes to Eastercon and the like. Knowing that con stalwarts such as Jacey Beford will be there to support you and introduce you to other writers is wonderful. So, thank you Milford! And also, the friendships have blossomed from Milford course themselves. In fact my old pal Philip A. Suggars’ attendance was one of the deciding factors in making the long trip up from the South Coast to the darkest trappings of the North. Also, my wife seems to love these things as well, and has made pals with some of the Milford lot. Even so, I tend to stay at cons only a few days, finding a whole weekend just a bit too much. But that could be because of the quantities of real ale consumed...

I wasn’t on any panels or reading, like last year. Just happy to be there, hanging around, soaking up the rarefied atmosphere and feeling like a proper writer for a while. There were a number of fine moments this year, which I’d like to share with you. Of course, every con has magical moments, but these ten stuck out for me in particular.

1)    Attending the NewCon press book launch, including the best of British SF 2017 book launch. Seeing Mr Philip A. Suggars in his pomp, soaking it all up behind the writers’ desk on the stage, was fabulous. And I managed to get hold of a copy of Liz Williams’ Winterstrike sequel, for which I’ve been waiting a long time.
2)    A very drunken Adrian Tchaikovsky telling me how much he’d enjoyed my band. Until he realised I wasn’t Jon Boden. And that in fact the only thing I had in common with former Bellowhead chanteur was a leather jacket. And a ridiculously handsome face.
3)    Simon Morden asking me if Dominic Dulley was my significant other. As much as Mr Dulley is a fine looking chap, he really isn't my type - thankfully, this slightly awkward situation was soon resolved. I reminisced with Simon about the Noesis days, when we shared space in the short-lived magazine. I think Dom, as a newbie author, seemed pleased to have some advice from the seasoned Morden. Incidentally, Dom’s debut ‘Shattermoon’ comes out next month on the Jo Fletcher books’ imprint and it is fabulous.
4)    Listening to Kim ‘Stan’ Stanley Robinson’s recollections about his mate Iain Banks. Until this point, I hadn’t realised they were such good pals.  Stan recounted a visit to Iain’s house in Queensferry, South Scotland. ‘Where shall we go to lunch?’ asked Stan. ‘The Hebrides,’ Iain replied. And so it was, the meandering roads of Scotland providing no match for Banks’ lightning reflexes behind the wheel of his Porsche. And when it came for Stan to fly back, realising that he’d got the wrong airport, Iain simply replied: ‘Good’. Because this meant he’d have the opportunity to put his foot down and break the speed limit. Stan made his flight.

5)     Running the Harrogate ParkRun, with Simon Morden and one of the guests of honour Christina Lake. Well, I say running with them, but the leisurely run around The Stray descended into a full on endurance fest, when it became apparent that half the course was just a muddy bog. People were losing shoes in the mire, others were just giving up. I persevered, completed the course, and returned to the hotel with mud up to my waist.
6)    Getting Jeff Noon’s new novel signed. He tried to nick my pen because it was a Black Muji 0.5mm tip. By way of explanation, he told me that he also wrote with those pens, hence why he’d tried to lift mine. He then accused me of buying them all up which is why there were never any left when he went shopping. Perhaps this explains the Noonisms that appear in my prose when I jot in my notebooks with these implements.
7)    Catching up with Marcus Gipps who revealed that there were a few old unpublished J. P. Martin novels which he was thinking of kickstarting. When asked what I was writing, I said something like: ‘been writing these cat stories.’ And didn’t really elaborate much further. Really selling myself there to one of Gollancz’s prime editors, I reflected later...
8)    Seeing Peter F. Hamilton and Kim ‘Stan’ Stanley Robinson hugging each other in the bar. Settling old grievances? Rekindling their bromance? Or just happy to see one another?
9)    Going for dinner with the most excellent Carl Allery, who has been missing in action the last few Eastercons. Lovely to see him again. And we went to the most splendid and ridiculously ostentatious curry house.

10)And of course, hanging in the bar with Philip A. Suggars, Dominic Dulley, the Morans, Sue Oke, Noel Chidwick, Tina Anghelatos, Jacey Bedford, Dave Allan, Matt Colborn and a whole bunch of other Milford folk.

I also believe The Cat was active over the weekend, posting all kind of nonsense. You can find it in the hijacked parts of this blog, I’m sure.

We stopped at York on the way back. Walking the walls, it struck me that York is very much George R. R. Martin’s Winterfell. Well, he’s admitted before that he nicked Hadrian’s wall for ‘The Wall’ in Westeros (England). In fact I heard this from the horses’s mouth at Worldcon a few years ago (the con referred to at the top of this piece). So York as Winterfell it isn’t such a stretch. Then we went to look at some trains, had some more beer and went home.

And that was Follycon, 2018.  Next year we return to the Ballardian landscape of Heathrow. Martland will be once again stuck on his Concrete Island. Actually, Balard’s protagonist was named Maitland. Close, but no driving off the M4 into a decrepit wasteland populated by nutters just yet.