Monday, September 14, 2009

High Fiving a Demon

The Mississauga Literary Festival was a blast!

First off, let me say that last Friday was a boatload of suck. A friend and I went to a restaurant called The Host. My "Shrimp and Scallop Curry" was 4 tiny scallops mated with 4 tiny shrimps on top of a bed of snow peas instead of what was advertised as "stir-fried vegetables". If that wasn't disappointing enough the waitress claimed I only gave her a twenty and a five when I actually gave her pair of twenties and that devolved into "yes I did" "no you didn't fight". Then to add to the general misery we went to see the movie 9, which was OK but so short that you left the theater feeling cheated. Alright, we've established the Friday was terrible.

Now lets contrast that with Sunday. I woke up before my alarm and had plenty of time to get up, get dressed, and get going. The only hitch was forgetting the directions in the apartment and having to walk up five flights of stairs to get them. So far, not so bad. The Living Arts Center in Mississauga was not hard to find and I arrived a few hours before Robert J. Sawyer was set to talk so I decided to browse what was there. At the Library book sale I found the Janes for planes from 1996 to 2000, something I was sure my friend Jeff would love, but man were those suckers heavy and they did not fit into the backpack I was carrying. A quick trip to the car to drop them off and it was back to browsing. One thing that stood out were the people in costume, including one girl in a Queen of Hearts getup from Alice in Wonderland; very cool!

Browsing didn't take long so I checked out what other authors were on tap to speak that day and didn't find anyone else I had a huge hankering to listen to, so I head out to Square One for lunch. This meal was the exact opposite of the one I had on Friday so the day continued to shine, but the highpoint still hadn't been reached.

I got back from lunch with about an hour to spare before Rob was set to go on, so I pulled out my copy of Wake and continued reading. Wow is all I can say. After reading that the bar I've set for myself for my writing just went up a couple notches. I now have a definite standard to judge myself against and I'm keeping that in mind while revise the Tesseracts project.

After reading for awhile I got up and headed over the BMO room to grab a seat before the reading started. The author reading beforehand was just finishing up so I received the tail end of a lecture on gardening; not something I'm interested in but not torture to listen too. As the gardening enthusiasts filed out I snuck up front and grabbed a seat in the first row. A few minutes later I hear "Hi Rob" and then Mr. Sawyer's response, which I honestly can't remember after being starstruck. I turn to my left and there he is, red shirt and blue jeans with a splash of facial hair, and I'm thinking to myself here is what a Canadian author looks like. I won't describe any more, as it is not hard to find a photo of Mr Sawyer online, except to say that I was struck at how small he seemed. How could such a giant of media, the "dean of Canadian science-fiction", be contained in such an average looking frame. The truth is it couldn't.

The talk began with Rob apologizing to the audience that he was tired from celebrating his father's 80'th birthday last night and outlining that the plan was for him to read the first chapter from Wake and then he would take questions. This was the point where I learned that "dean of Canadian science fiction" could not be contained. He was on fire! He went back and forth across the front of the room, making eye contact at random with people in the audience. You could see the passion in his eyes as he read the first chapter from the small electronic device in his hand. If he was tired it wasn't obvious, in fact, he seemed anything but tired. We all clapped at the end of the reading and people started to fire off questions. A large portion were obviously related to FlashForward, the new television show based on Mr. Sawyer's novel of the same name the premiers on my birthday of all days, but I was able to sneak in one asking what resources he used in his writing and he elaborated on how the Internet was both and boon and bane for his work. Hey, it's not everyday you get to pick the brain of a Hugo and Nebula award winning author so I'm please to have worked up the courage to at least have asked one question.

Next on the agenda Rob had to dash downstairs to claim his table before it was given away so he could sign and sell books. I tromped down with everyone else and ended up chatting with a lovely Asian girl named Lillian. Heck, any day you get to spend time chatting with a pretty woman is a good day, so the bonanza of awesome continued. When I got up the front of the line I had a few brief moments to chat with Mr Sawyer. He is very personable and took the time to ask me how to spell my name. I have a very common male name with the less than common spelling and anytime someone goes to write it down I have to correct the spelling. It was nice not to have to do that. A few months earlier when Dan Abnett was signing my Gaunt's Ghosts collection he did the same thing, so I've marked that as something a professional writer should be aware of.

Anyways the chat was brief and while I was there I purchased a copy of FlashForward; the old paperback copy with the funky artwork and not the newer copy with a still from the upcoming TV show. I liked the artwork on it better than the still photo, and Mr. Sawyer commented that he did too. I had just enough time to stammer out my thanks for the advice offered on his website and that I was working on an entry for Tesseracts, before the next person in line took over his attention. I would have loved a chance to chat with him for a longer period of time but there we're people waiting and I already had taken up too much time from a very busy person. So, back to the car and off I went.

Oh, and the whole high fiving the demon thing from the title? One of the workers at the Festival was dressed up as Aku from Samurai Jack and I was able to snag a photo, turned to walk away and felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and there was Aku offering me the high five, so I had no choice but to take it. It's not every day one gets to high five a demon. :)

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