Friday, March 29, 2024

Comic Cuts — 29 March 2024

Well, that was a heck of a week, with some highs and lows and a relentless pace. In the movie of my life this week would be interrupted by two songs, one an uptempo all-cast dance number possibly called The Badger Burlesque, set against the backdrop of the Holiday Inn, Bloomsbury; then there would a a darker, more tragic song about regret, ageing, and working through pain. I'm going with Old Bones, but I'll try to think of a better title later.

So, Friday was fine; I had a visit from Karl Kennedy, who helps run some of the comic swap meets that have now been running for the past couple of years. I had a table at the Colchester Swap Meet last October and did surprisingly well, and was kept cheerfully busy in between sales signing old copies of the Prion War, Battle and Air Ace reprint books.

What I didn't realise at the time was that having a table meant I also had a raffle ticket... and I won a poster of Codename: Warlord in a nice clear frame. My thanks to Karl, who came round despite a dodgy knee to deliver my prize. I'll have to see if I can dig out something suitable for the next raffle.

On Saturday, I tried to get some notes together for an obituary that The Guardian commissioned and spent part of the day reading True Names by Vernor Vinge, which was an astonishingly accurate depiction of 'cyberspace' before the term was coined three years later by William Gibson (Neuromancer, 1984). Vinge thought its denizens would create a fully immersive fantasy landscape (the Other Plane) where warlocks (hackers and trolls) attack corporations and vandalise their data sets. Vinge also predicted The Singularity, and in 1983 gave us 30 years. Well, all he missed was man's (and I do mean man's) ability to be distracted by using any new technology for porn so that AI is swamped by deep fake pornographic pics of some 4,000 celebrities and you can now chat to an AI girlfriend, as long as you sign away every quantum of privacy and you don't care who knows everything about you.

Once we've got over the "horny young men" bump (think of it as a speed bump on the information superhighway), AI will get back to the task in hand: astounding the world with new medicines and slowly crushing the population as it takes over your job. Something cheerful for you to mull over while you head for work this morning.

I was also prepping for my Big Day Out to the Paperaback & Pulp Book Fair on Sunday. I'd pre-booked my ticket and had a shopping trolley full of books... all I needed to do was get down to the train station on time. We're on a direct route to Liverpool Street, which is useful. Then it was four stops on the Central line to Holborn, a walk up Southampton Row, a right turn and a left turn and I'd be at the Holiday Inn in Bloomsbury.

It's days like this that make me realise how physically unfit I am. Overweight, sure, but quite weak through sitting in front of a computer all day, tapping on a keyboard; the most physical things I do are rolling a tiny wheel on a mouse and carrying the kettle to the tap when I need more water for coffee.

The trolley was very heavy — and top heavy because of the way I had to pack the boxes in, so the wheels weren't taking the most weight. I managed to turn off Southampton Row a road too early and wandered around for fifteen minutes trying to reorient myself; before that, I'd forgotten the stairs at both Liverpool Street and Holborn. By the time I got to the Fair, my back was aching, and every tendon twanging.

But I was there! I parked my trolley next to Bob Wardzinski's table(s) and whipped off my coat and jumper to reveal a one-off t-shirt I'd had made of the BEYOND THE VOID cover a couple of weeks ago.

I was pretty quickly inundated (in a nice way) by people who were interested in the book — some had already ordered copies to be sent to their home,  three of the copies I'd taken up were earmarked for collection and I knocked the book out for a "Fair Special" price of £20.

And the books all went. I had to keep one back to show people that it existed as a real book, but the rest... gone. I even sold a couple of THE TRIALS OF HANK JANSON.

It was incredibly busy for some hours, and I spent most of the four hours or so I was there chatting with people, about Badger, about paperbacks, about how busy it was... I met up with old friends, made some new ones, was briefly filmed for Jules Burt's latest Book Fair video, which I recommend you watch if you want a taste of what it was like. Jules' video has snippets of interviews with dealers, punters, and the organisers, through whom we learn that there will be a second Fair later in the year,  most probably on 24 November.

I doubt I'll be dragging up books for that one. It'll be dark and cold, but I'll certainly bring up anything if it's ordered. As long as I don't need to bring that damn trolley.

This has rambled on far too long. I'll do another Comic Cuts column for Saturday morning to fill you in on the rest of the week's doings. See you tomorrow.

(* I'll put in some links to Jules' videos as they become available. The pic of Jules and the column header are screengrabs from his video — my photographic skills let me down! — and the other two pics are by Karl Kennedy and used with permission.)

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