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London, Returned

Originally published at Ben Peek. You can comment here or there.

 

I got back from London on Friday, but having managed to board the flight with a cold that was only made worse over the next twenty four or so hours of travel, I spent the next three days sleeping and eating drugs. But it’s Monday now, and I feel a semblance of normality, and so what follows is mostly what I can remember, or at least what others assure me happened.

The big thing that happened while I was in London was that the Godless was released. It was pretty exciting, since it had been well over a year since I sold the series, and edits had taken place, and covers had been made. To have it out and have it so that people could buy it was pretty cool, but then, then–

godlessheathrow

This.

This photo (not taken by me, but by Iain Triffitt) is of the Godless in Heathrow airport, believe it or not.

It was a bit of a holy shit moment, really. The Godless is my fifth book and I have, literally, seen one single copy of my work in a bookshop, once. It was a copy of Black Sheep, and I saw it a handful of years ago in Galaxy Bookshop, which is one of Sydney’s specialist genre stores. That’s been it. That’s the only time I have seen a book of mine in a store – which is not to say that they haven’t been there, because they have and people have sent me photos of them, but you’ve had to search for them, you have had to know about them beforehand, and you certainly haven’t seen a motherfucking stack of them in a goddamned international airport with a promo sticker on them.

So, it was pretty cool, y’know?

(Later, My girlfriend and I saw them at Gatwick Airport, and I have been told, by those who traveled more than myself, that you could even find it in trainstations and all over places, which is frankly mind boggling.)

There have been reviews on blogs, and I have been thankful to see that a number of them have understood what it is that I wanted to do with the book. If you’re curious, you can check out a few here at the Bookonaut, the Book Plank, Lynn’s Book Blog, Gizzimomo’s Bookshelf, and A Fantastical Librarian. As always, there’s some people who didn’t like it, but so far no one has compared me to Michael Chabon as a criticism, so I’ll spare you the link. You’d be surprised by how many misspell names and incorrectly report plot details, but that’s negative reviews for you. You don’t much care if you do not care. However, that said, if you have read the book and have liked it, I’d appreciate it if you did drop a few words on it at the various amazons and Goodreads - I am not sure if it makes a difference, but despite the above photo of airport success, the book still needs help to find its audience, and for its audience to find it, especially in this month of big releases by big names.

Anyhow, while the book was being released in the UK and USA, I attended Loncon, and met various people who I work with that I have not met before, and thought that they were all quite nice. It helped that the majority of them bought me food and drinks when they met me, as if they understood that the only way to win my approval was to purchase it quickly and cheaply, and who knows, perhaps it’s true, for I think well of them. I went to a few panels and I did my thing on them – including moderating the panel on Australian and NZ fiction after being told I was doing it five seconds before – and I met some lovely people there, and I did a signing. The book had only been out for a day, so I sat there politely surrounded by other peoples lines, and later introduced myself to Joe Haldeman, whose novel, the Forever War, I think highly of (and occasionally teach). But the signing was a good example of how to keep your feet firmly on the ground, I assure you. In fact, I believe I signed three things: a copy of Black Sheep, a copy of Above/Below, and an autograph collector’s card. To be honest, it was more than I thought I would sign. Later, however, I signed some books out at the Forbidden Planet stall and Steve Cameron took this photo of me while I was unawares.

bensigningforbiddenplanet

He claims he told me was doing it, but clearly, such is naught but slander, for I would have looked much better if I had actually known my photo was being taken. But that, for those of you curious, is the UK hardcover edition of the book and that is me looking like I know how to sign a book.

After Loncon, my girlfriend and I drifted around London for a week and a half. We saw a castle, we saw the London Eye, we saw the River Thames, and we saw pubs. A lot of pubs – seriously, I didn’t realise that you would be able to find a pub every block in London, but you can. In some I tasted the worse beer I had ever tasted – micro brew with spices, come on – and in others, some that was not. There was food, as well. My girlfriend discovered the Branston Pickle. And we toured through bookshops, and museums, and went down to Brighton where a friend of mine told us about the jealous peir that burnt down the other pier, and ate in a vast array of mostly fine food (except for that pork pie I had in the same pub as that bad spiced beer).

It was a fine trip, thought I have to admit, I would have preferred to have begun it under different circumstances. My grandfather died the week before we left, and the funeral took place on the day before our flight. For a while, neither of us were sure if we would be able to take the flight, but after the funeral, there wasn’t much reason to stay. Still, I carried his passing around with me for the two weeks, I suspect, and at times I’m sure made me a little less personable that I normally am (which isn’t much, really). Both he and my grandmother had been born in England, and had lived there for thirty five years, both before, during, and after the war, and the memories of them lurked around in every corner. I saw the sea of red poppies at the London Bridge (I think) and thought about how the Royal Navy had used its own sailors to test gas masks and chemicals, an event that would take my grandfather’s eyesight in his age, and see him discharged from the Navy he loved. Still, what can you do with the memories but live them?

In that fashion, the trip was a bit bittersweet at times, but still, it shouldn’t get in the way of the good things that I saw and experienced, of which there were many.

And I mean, my book was in a fucking airport – how crazy is that?

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ironed_orchid
Sep. 3rd, 2014 05:25 am (UTC)
That is fucking awesome. That's what it is.
benpeek
Sep. 3rd, 2014 05:36 am (UTC)
i know, right?

still, it's not all airports, and there's still a lot of work to be done. another shop told me today that because of all the high profile releases, they didn't order much of my book 'cause i'm an unknown, which is fair, and perhaps a more realistic outlook to take on the current world.
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