11 August 2005
It’s not all glamour and glitz, y’know, it’s not all hanging out with the superstars (there is a debate raging, whether Sitting Next To Brian Aldiss might not actually count as inferior to Being Thought Cool By Pat Cadigan in the egoboo stakes) and being nominated for awards that actually matter. Among the other, the many other duties of being a genre writer in the front end of the twenty-first century (somehow that just doesn’t sound as good as its predecessor, the back end of the twentieth, but hey...), if one sells stories to limited-edition anthologies, one has to sign sheets. This means hundreds and hundreds of pieces of paper, which are then bound in as pages in the book, so that every copy of the book is signed by every contributor, although the actual books at this stage do not actually exist. (Oh, what, did you think the publishers ferried three hundred or five hundred or a thousand volumes around the world, for everyone to sign ’em? Or - a much better idea, but alas still not true - ferried the writers to wherever the books were being printed? Nah, not so. We get a thousand pages, and sign ’em, and post ’em on to the next poor contributor in his garret.)
So anyway, the best way to do this is in a crew, at a con (as herebefore, Chaz Sits Next To Brian Aldiss); the next-best is on your own but in the pub; hitherto, the bottom-grade has been doing them at home, with only cats for company. I have always loved my cat(s), but even so, sometimes they’re just a little irritating and non-contributory.
Long years ago, I was invited to contribute a story to an anthology of stories set in the pub, inn, bar or tavern of your choice. Regular readers of this journal will know that there is a particular pub, inn, bar or tavern that is very much of my choice, and I spend a lot of time there. Writing a story set there was no problem, indeed it was a joy; I resurrected a character (Luke, the fallen angel) from a previous novel, and wrote the story on New Year’s Eve when the deadline was midnight, the end of the year. I sent the story off by e-mail (by rare permission) with a couple of hours to spare, and went off to party.
I think that was three years ago. Every book takes longer than you think (as does everything: this is Brenchley’s First Rule of Everything, that Everything Takes Longer), but this has been a long, long time in the brewing. However, here we are, the sheets are going round collecting signatures, and mine arrived while I was in Glasgow. Which meant I had to collect ’em from the post office in town, and they were heavy, but hey. My brother is heavier; I coped. And brought them home, and considered the notion of carrying them back down the hill today to sign ’em in the pub, but decided against (see above, under ‘heavy’ - and there were rather more than could comfortably be signed in one session at the pub, before the alcohol began to rob my scrawl of any coherence whatsoever). So I cleared and cleaned the dining-room table, set them out there, and set to.
And have now discovered a new good way to deal with this, which is to sign sheets while England are doing actually rather well on the cricket field. One can keep pausing the signing-session, to go and watch the TV for a while; one can open a bottle of wine and drink slowly, sensibly, pleasurably, without disrupting the validity of the signature too badly; one can get through - oh, I don’t know how many there are, but six hundred sheets at least and likely more - in an afternoon, with suitable breaks; and all this time one can listen to the radio and cheer, as England make 350-odd for five wickets on a sunny day at Old Trafford. Against Australia. Whoop-do-doo.
© Chaz Brenchley 2005
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.