The Shadow Plagiarising, Part 2

“Sorry about that, really. I guess I just got the old blood up, heh heh, and you took the sword and everything, I just didn’t recognise you from the rafters.”

Forsaken_1 picked himself up. He was bleeding in a half-dozen places from the shattered pieces of Callandor, which had broken as he fell on it.

“Don’t mention it,” he said. “I didn’t think the thing would break that easily. I guess the Warranty That Is Not A Warranty just expired,” he grinned at his joke, which didn’t get the response it deserved, like all of his other jokes. This thought reminded him briefly of Chucky and the hateful Pole Thogugh, and he frowned at the remembrance. “Sorry you, uh, didn’t get your man.”

“Makes no sense,” Cooper Two said, shaking his head. “The Dragon has to come and get the sword. This one was a fake, of course, because I think this here’s the proper one,” he gestured to the sword slung across his back. “Maybe I should have waited to see who was going to come back for it. But I was driven by the Prophesy, you see. I was sure the Dragon would come to the Heart. That’s what they do, sooner or later. Dragons, I mean. Always going for the Heart of the Stone. Oldest trick in the book, the old Go For The Heart of the Stone Trick.”

“So where do we go now?”

The gholam looked at Forsaken_1 with a horrifying sort of concern on his face. Forsaken_1 realised he was dripping delicious nutritious blood on the floor, and tried not to seem terrified and vulnerable to the sharp-toothed weirdo. Finally, Coop seemed to rouse himself and come to a decision. It was clearly a non-killing-Forsaken_1 decision, too, because Forsaken_1 was still alive, which he wouldn’t be if Cooper Two had made the other sort of decision.

“Well, I guess we can see who’s in charge now, and get you patched up. Then I can get to concentrating on where exactly Lews Therin has gotten to, and how I might get to him. But we’ve got plenty of time. He’ll come to me because I have the sword, and in the meantime I’m just enjoying not having a churning stomach and spinning head for once.”

“Huh?” Forsaken_1 frowned. “Oh, right, that,” he brushed the crumbs of glass off his colour-shifting cloak. “So where do you think we should go?”

“Up.”

“Up?”

“Can’t go down any further. There’s nothing down there. All the people are up there. I can smell them. Well, they’re all over the place, but … well, we might as well go this way.”

The gholam sheathed the glimmering sword in the back of his shirt, and did a quick barrel-roll to the closest set of pillars, where he flattened himself against the thick redstone column – literally. Then he peeked out, barrel-rolled across to the next pillar, and repeated the procedure. Forsaken_1 limped after him.

It wasn’t long before their path crossed that of some individuals coming the other way.

“Hah! Eat ter’angreal, Lews Therin Tela… oh. Whoops.”

“Don’t hurt me!”

The other three Ogier gathered around their cowering comrade and looked at Coop worriedly in turn. Coop contrived to look apologetic, and re-sheathed the Sword That Is Not A Toy. Forsaken_1 stood and watched the little scene, wondering who was going to get killed next. Nobody, it seemed.

Coarshus climbed to his feet and looked down at the grinning gholam. “Hello…” he said uncertainly. “You have the Horn of Valere.”

“What? Oh yes. Parp parp,” Coop grinned again. “You haven’t seen Lews Ther-”

Mister C of 9 stepped out of the shadows of a nearby pillar. Like Cooper Two flattening himself, it was not a figure of speech, and Forsaken_1 could have lived without seeing it. “I’m rescuing these guys,” the sunglassed halfman said, “so whoever you are, you’d better not interfere. Oh, hi Child Foreskin. Or are you meant to be some sort of Ranger now? Foreskin Son of Arathorn? This is the dumbest story in the world.”

Cooper Two was looking at Mister C with great interest.

“You’re an Eight-sixty model!” he exclaimed.

“A what?” Mister C of 9 turned his normally chilling eyeless stare on the first humanoid he had ever encountered that was actually thinner than he was while not turned sideways.

Coop spread his arms. “Aginor Bio-Weapons, service with a smile-”

“-and a smile with a catch,” Mister C’s frown deepened. “How did I know that? Where’s it from? It’s an advertising jingle. I hate advertising.”

“You’re a Fetch. Eight-sixty model, from Aginor Bio-weapons. Same as me. I mean, not exactly the same, you’re a production-line churnout of a different weapon-class, but we’re from the same ‘dar.”

“What is he talking about?” Mister C demanded. Forsaken_1 shrugged. The Ogier looked nervous, but that wasn’t actually an alteration on their earlier expressions.

“Oh come on. Eight-sixty, as in one out of every eight hundred and sixty trollocs turns out to be like you.”

“Trollocs!” Coarshus moaned. “I knew it, you’re a halfman!”

“It’s a disguise,” Mister C of 9 assured the whimpering giants. “You’ve all seen it. I’m a gleeman, remember?”

“I heard you were only an apprentice,” Forsaken_1 corrected.

“Glad you’re here,” Mister C growled.

 


 

“Right,” Angamael said, looking around the table purposefully. The Amyrlin’s office had been cleared, and a large conference table moved in. It was a wonderful old piece of furniture, with seven-striped laquer that Angamael had planned on peeling off and replacing with black, but he hadn’t gotten around to it yet. “Righty right right.”

The people gathered around the table looked at him nervously. Asmodean fingered the side of his face. Padan Fain scratched his nose. Bayle Domon ducked his head under the table and came up with a mouthful of coarse, wiry black hair.

“There isn’t much to add at this stage, I’m not calling a full meeting for another few months,” the Nae’blis said. “In the meantime, your assignments are to continue. There’s the issue of the Aiel Waste, of course.”

“Yes, Nae’blis?” Demandred said.

“The new Dragon – the False Dragon – will be heading there to ensure the Aiel support his cause,” Angamael said. “I have seen it in … the books.”

The Forsaken nodded. The books. They were on familiar, if slightly wacky, ground now.

“Anyway, they will be heading in that direction, and we will need to see to it that they are, if not stopped, then at least observed.”

“We can send a force of trollocs and draghkar…” Rahvin said, glancing at Aginor for confirmation. Aginor made a note in a small pad, and nodded. “They’ll make short work of this small band. Uh, unless that’s false confidence, Nae’blis,” he added hastily.

“It certainly is,” Angamael said, sounding pleased. “Do you know what the trollocs call the Aiel Waste, Asmodean?”

Asmodean looked up with a wince. “Yes, Nae’blis?”

Angamael turned his attention from Rahvin without missing a beat. “Well?”

“The … Dying Grounds, Nae’blis?”

“Right. Something like that. So we’re not going to be idiots and send Shadowspawn out there, are we?”

“No, Nae’blis,” the group chorused. The shaggy yellow-eyed lunatic sitting on Fain’s other side laughed derisively.

“We’ll send out somebody the Aiel won’t kill. A peddler,” he turned to Fain. “Think you can manage this?”

“Of course. And I am to kill the Dragon?”

“Yes. And the dagger – which will undoubtedly be with the Dragon and his friends – is yours,” Angamael nodded. “And Lanfear, I suppose you’ll be wanting to go along.”

“Why, Nae’blis?”

“Why, to keep up with the … oh wait,” caverns of flame erupted as Angamael laughed. “Of course, Lews Therin is dead again, there is no reason for you to go into the Waste. But it would be a good idea to put a couple of people into their group. People they will trust.”

“That’s me out,” Fain said dryly.

“Me too,” the one known as Noam said quickly. “They know I’m evil.”

“I’ll go,” Asmodean said. “I am a master of disguises.”

“Hmm,” Angamael said, thinking about it. Pure narrative drive pushed him towards the decision, but he knew how Asmodean would end up if he was sent into the Waste. It was inevitable. “I’ll have to think about it. In the meantime, Aginor-” this time, he turned to the right guy. Aginor was the wrinkliest person in the room, and very difficult to get mixed up with anybody else, “-will you please introduce us to our latest … asset?”

“Of course, Nae’blis,” Aginor nodded smoothly, concern and embarrassment and uneasy pride on his wizened face. The former two emotions, he managed to hide from Angamael, but the others saw it as he turned from the table. He made a beckoning gesture with his fingers. Several of the Forsaken shifted in their seats as he channeled. Old habits died hard, and the Chosen were still not at ease about letting their colleagues embrace the One Power while they remained defenceless.

There was a heavy shuffling sound, and a vast grey shape moved into the room. There were gasps from all around the table. Padan Fain, most notably, had gone utterly white and was staring at the enormous rough-hewn figure as if staring at something out of his own terrible, haunted past.

It’s entirely likely that he was.

“This,” Angamael said happily, “is Smith. Say hello, Smith.”

“Ullo,” Smith said. His distorted little face puckered like a collection of deformed sphincters.

“It’s a forger,” Demandred said. “But … but they crumble to dust when taken away from Thakan’dar!”

“Aginor Bio-weapons is back in business,” Aginor said, still looking worried. “I managed to introduce an inhibiting agent to the calcification…” he paused, and saw the polite expressions on the faces of his associates. “Smith can leave the forges, for extended periods of time,” he simplified. “He will get, after a while, a similar affliction to that of the Ogier – the Longing, if you like, and he will need to return. But until then, he is autonomo…uh, free to roam.”

There was silence for a moment.

Why?” Padan Fain whispered hoarsely. “Why? Why have you brought this … this thing? This torturer? This devourer of souls? This destroyer of lives? This dunker in the riverer of peddlers?”

“I was wondering that myself,” Aginor admitted.

“Because, ladies and gentlemen, we have a rather large problem, which should have been dealt with a long time ago,” Angamael planted his hands on the table. “The Green Man, who has been an ironic thorn in the side of the Blight for thousands of years, still lives, and he will be making trouble for us. His powers are unforeseeable, and his wisdom is unmatched. He is a loose cannon.”

“What’s a cannon?” Graendahl asked.

“Never mind. Smith?”

“Yezzuh?”

“What is the Green Man?”

“Nym, zuh.”

“And what do you forgers use Nym for?”

“Firewhud, zuh.”

Angamael grinned as, slowly and painfully, comprehension dawned on the faces of his highest and most mighty lieutenants.

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The Shadow Plagiarising, Part 1

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose out of nowhere. In utter disregard of the laws of meteorology, it generated itself out of still air on a plain known as the Caralain Grass. It thumbed its nose at the Coriolis Effect and swept directly into an area of high pressure, where it gave convection currents a wedgie by sweeping upwards as it cooled…

Wilson Paperclip sighed and set the paper down atop the larger manuscript that was growing out of the Wheel of Time Experiment. It was going so well. What brought a tear to the eye was, only he could recognise the fact that it was going well. If he showed this to the Head Publisher, the poor man would blow a hole in the wall with beard-shrapnel. No, there were going to have to be some creative reports from now on, and things would carry on nicely without any unwanted attention from those who would disapprove.

As if on cue, the intercom on Paperclip’s desk went ping, and he shuffled together a bunch of discarded material from Crossroads of Twilight. It was sufficiently deviated from the original storyline that the Head Publisher wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, and yet it was still what he would deem acceptable.

As an afterthought, Paperclip picked up the first page of the newly-arriving manuscript, and threw it in the waste-paper basket under his desk. That would have to be re-done anyway.

 


 

A thermal updraft of hot air wafted from the crest of Dragonmount and cooled as it ascended on its own inertia. Then it began to descend in accordance with the laws it knew and respected, before becoming, to all intents and purposes, a gentle wind. The wind was not exactly scientifically correct. There is neither sense nor science to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a wind.

North and west the wind blew, across the villages of Jualdhe and Darein and Alindaer, where bridges like stone lacework arched out to the Shining Walls, the great white walls of what many called the greatest city in the world. Tar Valon. The wind swept through the streets and along the wide avenues between the ancient buildings, sweeping towards the greatest of them all…

The wind was suddenly sliced into a matching pair of divergent breezes by the opening of a gateway which swung into being in the middle of a large crowd of petitioners, men and women noble and common alike who had gathered to have their problems solved by the Aes Sedai. Those who had not been touched by the opening gateway screamed and scattered down alleyways. Those who had been touched by it just screamed.

A tall man with close-cropped white hair and a red silk coat with black stripes on its sleeves stepped out of the gateway and looked around at the dispersing crowd with distaste. His elaborate silver-worked boot came down on a severed piece of a petitioner, and there was a squishy noise. He growled and strode on through the localised wreckage, hefting a sack on his shoulder. As he approached the entrance to the White Tower, Angamael appeared in the doorway in a swirl of blood-coloured cloak.

“Ah, I see you fetched quite a haul,” he remarked.

“Yes, Nae’blis,” Be’lal replied. “The Great Holding held some useful items, but many ter’angreal were too heavy for me to move away.  Perhaps we could open a larger gateway, and take a team of oxen at a later date. Still, I have brought what I could.”

“What happened to your clothes?” Angamael pointed at the front of the red silk coat, where a vivid stripe of white had been scrawled across the material. Be’lal grunted.

“I was … attacked in the Great Holding,” he replied. “A woman was down there looking at the merchandise, and when she saw me she fired … well, balefire at me. I spun reflexively, as you can see, but it was too late, and she hit me dead centre. However, it was the weakest little effort I have ever experienced – it scarcely burned the pattern out of my coat, let alone burning me out of the Pattern. Ha ha.”

“Ha ha,” Angamael replied dutifully. Be’lal had a terrible sense of humour, and for an American to notice, that was terrible indeed. “So what happened then?”

“She said an awful word, and ran away. I took a shot at her and missed, but didn’t give chase with regards to your regulation about giving chase to mysterious people and forgetting the primary goal of operations before the opportunity to give chase came up.”

“Excellent.”

“So I picked up what I could, and left. I also went back through Illian as you commanded, and found something rather interesting.”

“Oh?”

Be’lal reached into the sack, and pulled out a fragment of shattered pottery of some sort. It was white, except for a little sliver along one edge, which was black.

“I found it lying on the floor in the room we had set aside for turnings,” he said. “It looked as if it had fallen out of somebody’s pocket, and broken on the floor where it landed. It is one of the seals of the Great Lord’s prison, Nae’blis. I found another of them in the Great Holding,” he went on, “this one intact. I now hand them over to you.”

Angamael took the sack. “I don’t suppose Callandor, or that fake Horn of Valere, or a certain ruby-hilted dagger were anywhere to be found?” he asked, rummaging in the sack and pulling out the black-and-white disc of the intact seal. He reached out and banged it experimentally on the side of the doorway. White dust was chipped out of the ancient stone, but the seal itself did not crack.

“I found nothing like that, Nae’blis,” Be’lal replied. “Shall I inform, er, Asmodean that he is to return to his role in Illian?”

“Yes, I think that would be best,” the head of the Chosen nodded thoughtfully. “In the meantime, we have a lot to do, and you have some new friends to meet…”

Nae’blis?” Be’lal said, seeming to pluck up courage from the soles of his silver-wreathed boots. “When you gave us all of our assignments, and sent Asmodean and I to Illian, you were aware that it was Asmodean and not Sammael, weren’t you?”

Angamael looked blank as only a man who has been diverging from sanity for millennia can manage.

“I don’t follow,” he said.

“Sammael has died the final death, as all those who betray the will of the Nae’blis,” Be’lal prompted. “He has been dead for some time. Remember? You had his corpse chopped up and you put it in the cooking pot of that elite group of trollocs of yours.”

Angamael laughed, and his eyes and mouth flashed with fire. “Oh yes. But … Rahvin, was it?”

“Asmodean, Nae’blis.”

 

“He really looked like Sammael. He had the scar and everything, and he didn’t get Healed…”

“When you told him, ‘Sammael, you will go to Illian with Be’lal’, he was a little concerned,” Be’lal said tactfully. Asmodean had, in fact, almost thrown a fit when they were in the privacy of the Skimming Plane. “He is well-known as a performer, however, so in order that you not be displeased or thrown off-guard, he impersonated Sammael, right down to the personality traits.”

“That must have been painful,” said Angamael, remembering the reports of Sammael’s broken nose and his refusal to have it Healed in the proper manner.

“Well yes. He drew the line at the burns when we had the … accident with the myrddraal,” Be’lal said. “He would like to go back to being Asmodean now, however, and if that puts his assignment in jeopardy-”

“Oh, no! It’s not a problem. He’ll be required for another assignment soon anyway. It’s all part of the meeting I was planning for later on,” Angamael beamed. “Now that’s all sorted out, we can carry on. Things are going nicely in Illian, and ‘Lord Brend’ can take a back seat, and Lord Whoever-you-were can take over.”

“I can be Lord Brend just as easily as Asmodean could,” Be’lal bristled ever so slightly.

“I believe you could, Balthamel. I truly believe you could.”

“Be’lal, Nae’blis.”

“Him too.”

“Balthamel is also dead, Nae’blis.”

“So he is. Now come on. We have plots to hatch.”

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Kotaluus

The Mystic Mountain was home to a strange paradox. Every single one of the immense realm’s inhabitants was unique, each one of them singular and individual. Oh, there were a few who were twins or odd little pack-groups, but they were unlike anything else in the urverse.

Kotaluus Pardok, then, was the only truly extraordinary being in the Mountain.

Kotaluus was a Molran. A plain, ordinary Molran, one of trillions upon trillions spread across the Corporation and near-charted regions Beyond the Walls. There was nothing remotely interesting about him, unless you counted his decision to go and live in the Mystic Mountain. And the mysterious authorities of the Mountain deciding to let him.

It’s possible that the authorities had a sense of humour. Because in allowing a representative of the most common Corporate species to come and live among them, they made him into the most unique Mountaineer of all. The only completely unremarkable one among the multitudes to exist in a realm full of singular entities.

Kotaluus collected currency markers and obsolete trade tokens from different places. It was obsessive and engrossing work, done mostly from a relay-comms station in his modest Mountain accommodations. He would send a message to a bank or trading establishment off-world and introduce himself, explain briefly that he was a collector, and conduct a simple trade for the currency markers he was interested in. They would send them with the next materials shipment. It wasn’t exactly “Mystic Mountainy”, but it was what he loved.

The rest of the Mountaineers thought he was just the most baffling and enigmatic being to walk their dusty halls. He never once lapsed into strange trances, gave voice to mysterious prophecies or worked secretively on great projects of urverse-shaking significance. His collection wasn’t very secret at all. In fact, if you let him corner you in a passageway, he could hold you up for some considerable time telling you all about it.

The other denizens tended to avoid him whenever possible. And that was just fine with Kotaluus.

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Happy weekend, someone

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Character study: The Majarthian

She was a starship, but not according to most standard definitions. She was relative-capable, heavily armed and armoured, and possessed of a unique and darkly quirky personality, but none of these specifications corresponded to any Corporate or known Alien technology. She travelled the trackless emptiness of Dimension after Dimension by a whimsical itinerary of Her own.

She was the Majarthian, and She was unlike any other vessel in the known urverse.

Her very construction was part of what set Her apart. Technically Divine, a supernatural life-form rather than a ship, She nevertheless manifested as one. Where She’d come from, who or what had built her, whether or not She’d even been built at all, nobody could say. Her origins were ancient, references to Her existing in the earliest writings of the Elder Races. Back before there had been any Gods but the Firstmade ones, the Majarthian had floated in the darkness. Waiting.

Some said She was a rebellious offshoot of the Leviathan’s dominion, a lost shard of the mysterious objects that had formed the Dark Realms and the Gods within. A sixth Dark Realm, in fact, a wilful Being that had long since separated from Her fellows. This was fanciful and compelling but unfortunately impossible to verify. Of Her power, however, there could be no doubt.

The Majarthian’s sole purpose was the safe transportation and storage of dangerous Gods. And She did it well.

The ultimate authority to which She answered was the Corporate High Council, although they did not often dare to invoke Her name. Nor had it always been the case. The Corporation, after all, was a relatively new arrival on the urversal stage. The Majarthian had been flying from place to place, gathering up Gods and delivering Them to Their assorted places of imprisonment and torment, for a very long time.

In form, She was immense. More like a growth than a vehicle, the Majarthian was some thousands of kilometres long at last sighting, dark and craggy and slicked with the thin, turbulent atmosphere-pockets that clung to parts of Her hull like lichen. She was, for all that, very clearly a formed thing, not a naturally-occurring object. Whether She had a crew, or builders, or was entirely self-determined, nobody knew. On some stretches of Her great grey-black hull, lights like windows ran in rows. Of Her interior, endless theories abounded.

She was not without followers. The Majarthian flew through a wide range of Dimensions and environments, and even along the Highroads from time to time, but one thing remained constant: where the Majarthian flew, Gods crept away and kept silent. A certain type of nomad – one without a strongly developed sense of irony, for example – found that absence desirable. And so a travelling flotilla-city of assorted creatures followed in the Majarthian’s wake … but not too closely.

Because sometimes, whether by coincidence or design, things happened among the nomads who lived in the Majarthian’s shadow.

She could be spoken to, although even the highest mortal powers of the Corporation seldom dared – and the immortal powers not at all. She could be appealed to, in times of desperation. And She might, just maybe, turn Her great battered nose in the direction of the complainant’s home world. But if She did, there was no knowing what decision She might make upon arrival. And Her followers were deeply strange.

She’d been smaller, once. To hear immortals tell it, the Majarthian had once been little more than a strange monolith, an extrusion of some unidentified but presumably God-adjacent matter into the mortal sphere. With each new prisoner She took in and carried and – usually – released, however, She had grown and changed. Each inmate, each impossible containment of sentient power wreaked bizarre alterations on Her substance. Shapes decorated Her hull, like growths or reliefs, buttresses and carvings. Things that, it was said, could sometimes detach and go among the mortals. It was theorised that, when Arbus Rosedian began work on his deadly defence platforms and the autonomous weapons they carried, it was from the Majarthian that he took his darkest inspiration.

Indeed, if Rosedian’s Daughters were the fangs of the Gods, the Majarthian was the beast in the maw of which they should have rightfully resided. The historical irony was that they had never, as far as the official records showed, spent any length of time in the same Dimension as one another.

The official records were, in this  noteworthy case, incorrect.

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Worldcon Dublin 2019: A Chucky Report

The following is my brief, overdue and rushed account of Worldcon 2019, which happened in Dublin.

It was a lovely trip and the con went without a hitch. I’d never been to Dublin before and it was a brilliant place. As a particular point of pride, I should add, I was paying (airfares and  accommodation for five, con memberships for four) out of my Amazon cheques collected since Worldcon 2017.


Tuesday

After a long flight via Norway we finally arrived in the land of buffalo flavoured hunky dorys.

Not actually a hilariously non-PC yet charming way to refer to “bull” homosexuals.

We found our Airbnb, which was also nice, after an exciting bus ride and a little wandering. At this point I should explain what was involved in getting into our apartment.

First, the whole block was gated off from the street with a six-digit code. Then the building was locked up with another code. At the door to the apartment was a combination-locked drop box with one set of keys (2 keys in total for the two locks), for the door itself. My suggestion that two of us keep a key each and open the door like it was a nuclear launch sequence was ignored.

Anyway this comes back later on, so just remember getting in there was a big deal.

The place was nice.

We were next door to a pub called Cassidy’s but so were most buildings in Dublin.

My phone refused to get on the EU roaming bandwagon so as part of our exploratory walk we went looking for a phone shop. We also found some nice markets, a great pub / food court / fish n chips place that I swore we’d come back to but we never did, a pet shop that Wump and Toop swore we’d come back to and we did, several times. We also hit a shop called Needful Things that we simply had to go into and it was exactly as creepy as you’re thinking.

We found another market and the kids and I had sausage rolls and cupcakes while Mrs. Hatboy and anoppi went to an antique store of some kind. We were still waiting when I spotted a wine and cheese shop. I asked the proprietors if I could have the wine and my kids the cheese, and they were alright with that.

Then we got sushi, and went home.

The Cassidy’s roof, opposite our balcony, was a waterlogged electrician’s nightmare. That is to say, it was at once waterlogged, an electrician’s nightmare, and something out of the nightmares of a waterlogged electrician.

Still, it was a nice place and once we figured out the wacky Irish electricity and water heating arrangements, we were all fine. I mean the shower was unbelievably primitive and awful, but I’ve come to expect that from most non-Finland places.

Wump staked out a spot on our only couch and played a lot of video games.

Oh, turns out I actually got a picture of the wine and cheese place, along with the strange mead-like root beer I bought, and Wump’s stylish inside-out raincoat. Life hack, it’s like having two coats, one of which looks inside-out.

She ate the cheese and left bread and chutney for me. That was fine.

Wednesday

The next day, I made my way to the convention centre to scope out the con a bit. I was too excited to wait another day.

Hello Mr. Fusion, my old friend.

I understand that while I was doing dull and sadly unphotographed things at the con, the girls went to a park and a castle and did a bunch of other stuff.

Cute photogenic stuff.

I, meanwhile, started collecting my volunteer hours at the con. First up was a couple of hours of unpacking and cleaning mildewy books (actually hardbound fanzines from the 1960s) from an ancient collection. It was actually quite fun and I got to know a few of the other volunteers, including some random drop-ins from just outside Dublin and what seemed like a multi-generation Worldcon dynasty family from the States. They were all excellent people.

I also manned the sign-up desk as a “shout to people where they should be going, also stand next to this other volunteer so they don’t look like they’re going rogue” helper. Which was fun.

I got a volunteer ribbon and assorted others for my aid, but never quite mustered up the melanin or the balls to put this one on.

I had a persistent headache and realised it was because I hadn’t had coffee for a couple of days. I just hadn’t noticed because I was perfectly energised. Amusingly, other con regulars kept coming around and trying to make us eat and drink. Apparently it was not unheard of for con volunteers to go the full two days and two nights without food or sleep and then collapse, but since this was a five-day con they couldn’t take the risk. True story.

I got my phone fixed but by evening its battery was almost dead. I returned to the apartment … only to find it locked, no key in the drop box, and nobody home. Since the girls had thought they’d be home first, they had the keys.

Phone battery almost depleted, I took a photograph of Cassidy’s Pub and sent it to Mrs. Hatboy with the message “phone dying, I’m in here, rescue me when you get back.”

And then I went into my first proper Irish pub and had my first Dublin Guinness. Which was nice. I don’t know if it’s a myth about Guinness tasting better in Dublin but it was nice. After my first pint I ordered another, and the barman said he’d bring it to my table. When he did I asked how he wanted me to pay for it, and he said he’d put it on my tab.

I had a tab!

And so I sat, drinking Guinness after Guinness with an occasional detour into Irish gin, and watched the bar. It was brilliant, especially the pair of old regulars whom everybody greeted (and the elder visitors stopped to chat with). I tell you, the rest of the world has tried to copy Irish pubs but we’ve gotten them wrong.

By the time the girls arrived I was well merry, and insisted they get a drink and put it on my tab. Then we went home via the corner fish n chips place, and ate mass quantities of fish n chips.


Thursday

Officially day 1 of Worldcon, I volunteered for a while at the check-in desk where I got to meet a bunch of friendly and interesting program participants and fortunately only one “Do You Know Who I Am?” (or more specifically “Do You Know Who My Father Is?”), and I didn’t have the heart to be blunt about that one because she was so very old and sad and presumably her father even more so. I still don’t know who the fuck she was though. Her or her dad.

I was also thoughtfully gifted by an elder fanzine writer with a not-for-distribution copy of a new fanzine in the line of the hardcovers I’d cleaned the day before. He was happy to hear about my cleaning work and was touched by how excited I was about a 50-plus-year-old fanzine run.

Apparently that night I had chicken wings for dinner because that’s what I scribbled in my notebook. Go figure.


Friday

I did some more volunteering on Friday while anoppi took Wump and Toop to the zoo and Mrs. Hatboy did her own thing (including a kaffeklatch with Afua Richardson that I’d sneakily signed her up for while volunteering at the sign-up table the day before … there hadn’t been any names on the list at the time and I felt bad; everyone else’s loss though, because Richardson is amazing and now we have a bunch of her art on our walls).

See? Right there next to our Kasurinen Pony collection.

I helped run the info desk at the second convention location for a bit, and delivered newsletters to various locations. I paid for my lunch with volunteer groats, used my volunteer perk to sign myself up for a kaffeklatch with Paddy Lennon (an Irish author, in case the name wasn’t a giveaway, whose table I had encountered and with whom I’d had a chat; he had been by his own modest admission worried nobody would come to his kaffeklatch so I promised I would). I also got my volunteer T-shirt.

That night, as in Helsinki two years earlier, we were invited to the Secret Chili Party.

As in Helsinki, it was a highlight. The food was delicious, the company and conversations were interesting (even the extremely intense professor named Lars whose monologues were incredible, and somehow still fascinating), and the setting was the Oscar Wilde house. Brilliant stuff. And at the end of it I walked out with a thumping big plastic bag of Keith Kato’s famous “Silverberg” red, and a backpack full of fixins, and a solemn oath of my own devising that if George R R Martin was going to get any chili this year (he stood us up again, but Silverberg and the Haldemans were there because they respect tradition) he was going to have to deal with me.

Fortunately for Martin, he didn’t bump into me at the con. I would have quite liked to put a baggie of red in his participants’ dossier.


Saturday

On Saturday morning I broke my fast with Silverberg chili and about half of Paddy Lennon’s first book, because I wanted to have something to talk about at his kaffeklatch.

It wasn’t half bad. And the chili was perfect.

On the balcony of our apartment, it was one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had.

It was another exciting con day with nothing much in the way of volunteering to break it up. Just table-hopping and kaffeklatching and chatting with random folks in the corridors and eating spaces. Paddy’s kaffeklatch was a lot of fun, and I did turn out to be the only person there – aside from his friend, colleague and cover artist Ben Hennessy, who by Paddy’s own admission had agreed to join in so Paddy wasn’t alone with a possibly mad stalker fan who insisted he was from Finland despite clearly being Australian. Still, it was great. I got the rest of his trilogy but have unfortunately not finished reading them yet. Been kind of busy.

Paddy and Ben are comic and con veterans at least in the Ireland vicinity, and I hope to see them in Finland or at future Worldcons.

I also had a great sit-down with a couple of cancer survivors who I’d agreed to do a chat session with, since the organisers hadn’t let them be part of the official program and I sympathised because they hadn’t let my cancer-surviving arse onto the program either.

I mean, figuratively speaking. My arse was the part that didn’t survive cancer. But you know.

We took a taxi home and I made nachos out of Kato chili (Marion Zimmer Bradley for the girls, Silverberg for me) and Tesco’s Doritos and an assortment of fixins. Perfection upon perfection.


Sunday

Sunday (after another breakfast of chili) was my day to look after the kids, so I took them to the kids’ Worldcon area (well played Dublin, Helsinki could learn from you) while Mrs. Hatboy and anoppi did whatever it is that they did. Something educational and cultured and stylish, no doubt.

We, however, made boffer lightsabres, and when a boy tried to tell them how to play with them, Wump and Toop and another little girl told him to ‘shoo’. It was glorious.

We also got our hair done up all nice.

I didn’t. Only Wump and Toop. I might have done, but the poor volunteer was worked half to death with just the kids.

Same guy who made our amazing balloon animals at Worldcon Helsinki, by the way. Great job.

They were brilliant and the girls were super thrilled.

He even let them pick their own decorations, and check out his handiwork using a mirror and a mobile phone.

Kudos.

Once we were done, there was nothing for it but to go and show their hairdos off. And pappa knew just the place for it: the Guinness brewery!

They don’t know it yet. Lucky lil tackers.

Back in the late ’90s, I’d won a T-shirt for drinking 12 pints of Guinness. It entitled the wearer to “free pints” at the brewery in Dublin. I’d brought the shirt with me for this very occasion. Across half the globe and over 20 years, my patience knew no bounds. And the joke was about to be on them!

Also I dealt with these two whining ragamuffins through the entire really quite expensive brewery tour, so I deserved pints over and above the 1 pint and 4 half-pint samples the ticket price included.

The brewery was pretty incredible.

This giant bronze statue with the chandelier hanging directly above it was, and I can’t stress this enough, a pint of Guinness.

And there was a nightclub where you could get free samples, and I didn’t have to leave Wump and Toop in a locker.

They were actually really well behaved, and charmed a great many tourists.

The tourists were easy to charm for some reason.

Then the time had come for me and my T-shirt.

Still fit. Not well, but it fit.

The bartender was dubious, and told me I could have a free pint. I said the shirt clearly used the plural so that wasn’t good enough (I was quite tired by this stage). He asked me what exactly I was hoping for, and I said “well, pints implies at least two, doesn’t it?”

So I got two pints.

He could have been clever and poured me two pints of water, since the shirt doesn’t specify. But I think pouring a pint of water in the Guinness brewery is a capital offence.

After finally leaving Guinness Heaven (“Can I get a taxi from here?” “Ah, jes’ roll out the door an’ ye’ll fall inti one lad.”), we headed home.


Monday

Monday was cleaning up, packing, and heading to the airport day. We went through Norway and I purchased a mess of gin.

Also a bottle of Gunpowder gin from Tesco’s.

And that was about it for our Dublin odyssey. Sorry it wasn’t super detailed but time is limited right now. It was, in short, another amazing experience.

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The News (Tuesday, October 8th, 2019)

Where was I? What’s going on?

Just settling into my new job at Etteplan. Pretty much like my early days at Lionbridge (or BGS as it was then), I have a trial period that hopefully I’ll get through without difficulty. This one is six months instead of two (I seem to recall the probations were shorter back then), but oh well.

Seems a nice place.

Panda Egg is in editing, and Gabriel is working on the cover which will be a continuation of the anthology covers for Deadshepherd and The First Feast. I’m quite excited, this story collection came out of nowhere (and started as a bit of a joke, like all my best stories) and I rather enjoyed the results. I hope my readers do too.

I’ve sent a feeler-message to an international publishing agent here in Finland, so now I just need to wait and see if they like feelers and whether they feel my modest portfolio is something they want a piece of. Fingers crossed. I’d rather get 3% of 2000 books a month than 70% of 5 books a month. Actual mathematical figures may not be accurate.

That’s about it for now. Just sitting on the metro headed for the Helsinki Baltic Herring Market, to stock up on pickled herring for the winter. Mmmmmmm.

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