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Chaz'z Blog

Monday, August 22, 2005

I just spent the weekend in Henley-on-Thames, being the brideís best man at what was undoubtedly the Wedding of the Year, my old friend Helen getting hitched to the man she found on an eclipse-chase in Madagascar. Just the best fun all round.

Two days before, I thought I wasnít going; Misha was being sick again (in a very literal, all-night-long sort of way), and the vet was talking about hospitalisation and drips again, and I couldnít go swanning off under those conditions. But bless her, she rallied at just the right time (a cat with generosity? Itís unnatural...), stopped vomiting and started eating, and so was fit to be left for a couple of days.

Hence train down on Friday, book in to Polish-Catholic religious retreat centre - shortly to be filled with extraordinary catalogue of Helenís friends-and-relations - and begin party. Party continues through Sunday lunchtime, and almost certainly beyond, if it is possible to party when I am not actually there (think trees, quads and God - solipsism has always come very easily to me, and when it comes in limerick form, all the better).

I had no duties, except to give a reading at the ceremony (in the garden of a hospice, this great gorgeous mansion which used to be Ian Flemingís family home); so I read Eclipse by John Mark Linden, on account of its being rather wonderfully relevant. Oh, and I had also to propose a toast to Helen & Mark, as they cut the cheese cake. Which was, as I have spelled it, a cake made entirely of cheeses - three of them, a Caerphilly and a Vignotte and I canít remember the third. And then I got drunk enough to dance and not remember, which is the best way to do these things, in order to avoid later embarrassment.

And was driven home Sunday afternoon by mífriend Joan, in her convertible yellow Mini with the top down all the way. Every now and then, the boy-racer that is buried somewhere within me stirs into a half-life once more; but is swiftly drowned again, usually by the thought of water. Going down to Henley does this to me, every time: I do so want a house on a river. Many of my friends have the same water-fixation thing, but their soul is given to the sea; I do understand that entirely, but with me itís rivers every time. I guess this is something to do with growing up in Oxford, which is about as far from the sea as you can get in England, but which has two rivers of its own (including the Thames, which is so much Oxfordís own river that it has another name, the Isis, within the city bounds) and a canal besides. Thereís even this stretch, this footpath known locally as Mesopotamia, on account of having different waters on both sides. Thatís my childhood, and it does still sing to me. And I would love, I would dearly love a boat. Splish-splosh.

Posted by Chaz at 02:22 PM GMT [Link]

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Itís not all glamour and glitz, yíknow, itís 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 doesnít 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 íem? 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 íem, and post íem 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 theyíre 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 Yearís 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 Brenchleyís 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 íem 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 íem in the pub, but decided against (see above, under Ďheavyí - 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 donít 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.

Posted by Chaz at 06:24 PM GMT [Link]

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

SF fandom is such a community sui generis, and so insular by nature, of course it has a language of its own; the plural of fan is fen, and evermore shall be so.

More relevantly, an egoboo is that warm feeling generated by any fanac [sorry, thatís 'fan activity'] that reflects well upon oneself: from being asked for an autograph, on up.

My egoboos of this week, my pet moments:

sitting at a table with a dozen other writers, signing sheets for various limited-edition publications, and suddenly here is Brian Aldiss sitting next to me. We talked. He talked to me. He, Brian Aldiss, spoke to me, and gave a wonderful impression of enjoying the conversation;

being at a party on a tall ship, and being introduced to Pat Cadigan, and not having a chance to say how much I enjoyed her work before she was saying "Oh, you're Chaz Brenchley! You're so cool, I love your books...";

getting home to find that my story Going the Jerusalem Mile has been nominated for the British Science Fiction Association short story award. Any BSFA members out there - the shortlist is compiled from those titles that get the most nominations, so don't let it rest there, nominate again. And again, and again, and...

Nah, actually I'm happy just to see it on the list. It couldn't ever win anyway, and this is one of those cases where it's true to say that the real award is to be nominated. Chuff, chuff.

Posted by Chaz at 12:14 AM GMT [Link]

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Home he was, and bleary-eyed...

Actually, though, I have an excuse. Two excuses, but not the one you think. I have had, I am having an ocular misadventure, a failure of spectacular engineering. In every sense.

Thing is, Iíve been to WorldCon: five days in Glasgow with the cream of the SF and fantasy community, four thousand-plus of us [one taxi-driver, overheard speaking to another: "Is there a diet conference for Americans in town?" This is mean, but fair; these days your average SF fan is not a nerdy fourteen-year-old, but middle-aged and super-sized. Bless 'em, though, they do still wear the black T-shirts, and they buy a hell of a lot more books].

Anyway, I went - of course! - by train; and was due to meet a couple of friends at the station, so's we could travel together in a mutual-supportish kind of way. And it was a sunny morning, so I wore my shades on the walk down; and as I came into the concourse I swapped them for my regular glasses, and there was a metallic spung!ing kind of a sound, and my heart sank. Thing is, my current glasses are mechanically complex in an airy, scary kind of way: utterly frameless, and the lenses only attach at one point to the delicate titanium wires of their scaffold. And the whole system does work loose every few months, and one of these days it's going to come apart completely, if I don't get it fixed in time.

So thereís my poor friend Gavin, come to catch the train; and our mutual friend Gail hasn't made it at all, and there's me saying "Well, I'm here, but I'm not going to catch the train. I'm straight up to the opticians, or disintegration will occur, hundreds of miles from home..."

So I shot off to find the people who are supposed to fix these things, and they didn't (individual incompetence, I think, I hope...), and then I just had to go home and rout out a spare pair, to avert calamity.

And now I'm home again, and the wretched ocular people have taken the glasses into hospital and hope to let me have them back tomorrow, so I am still operating with eyes that will not focus properly through lenses that are no longer the right prescription (I spend so much on new glasses, I only ever buy 'em at four- or five-year intervals, so the spare pairs are never up to speed with current circumstances), and if my sight is blurry and my head is sore it is demonstrably nothing to do with five days of WorldCon, no sirree...

Posted by Chaz at 12:26 PM GMT [Link]

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Well, lawksamussy. Chazzie won a prize.

It is, I think, the second prize of my giddy career. The first was an answering machine, that I won in a Mills & Boon short-short romance competition. I didnít get the overall prize, which was a holiday for two in Jamaica, but the ansafone was probably more useful. I used it for a decade, and then handed it on in full working order when I replaced it with a hi-tech digital affair. Which was crap. Learn from this, Brenchley... (tho' I never have)

Anyway, this time I wrote a fifty-word review of a N'cle restaurant, for a readers' column in a foodie magazine. Why did I do this? For the fun of it; because I have always wanted to be a restaurant reviewer (free food, free wine, and a platform: who wouldn't?); because the prize was a goody bag from Bombay Sapphire, who make my favourite drinkin' gin. (Is there another kind, you ask? Well, yes, actually there is. Like most spirits, gin divides into everyday drinkin' varieties and specialist sippin' varieties. Oh, and never-let-this-stuff-pass-my-lips-again undrinkable crap varieties, of course. But Bombay Sapphire is a goodie.)

Posted by Chaz at 12:16 PM GMT [Link]

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Itís odd, what happens when there isnít a cat in the house. Thing is, I guess, there always has been; Sophie and Misha moved in here the month after I did, ten years ago. So Iím accustomed to being overlooked, criticised, expected to perform; and the only other time thatís been true as a continuum was in the family home, when I was a child and a teenager. Which means, when that regime is interrupted, I really do come over all adolescent. The emptiness gets to me, double-barrelled, as it always used to on those rare occasions when I was on my own at home: I feel freer and lonelier at once, finding my own unmediated company both delightful and inadequate. I tend to stay up later and lie in bed later, as I used to do; I read for long, long stretches (always tricky, with a small cat interposing herself restlessly between eye and page); I either bury myself in busyness, or else I run away.

Itís all right, though, Her Mishaship - I should say the Lady Artemisia - is coming home. Full of drip and breakfast, and facing a lifelong regimen of pills. Fun, fun...

Posted by Chaz at 11:45 AM GMT [Link]

Monday, August 1, 2005

Every now and again, the universe conspires (with itself, presumably) to remind me that I am not Julie Andrews. "Whenever God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window" - hah! My experience is rather the reverse, that whenever a door nudges open, another one unexpectedly slams shut in my face.

Misha-cat is in hospital again: on a drip and under observation.

I'm fairly sure that this is my own fault, for not being able to sing.

Posted by Chaz at 10:25 AM GMT [Link]

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© Chaz Brenchley 2002/2006
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.