Slovenia: Another Green World

14370104_307442482961442_2108315721701869949_n

Here’s Janez Grm, me, Funda Cinoglu, Vassilis Danellis, Avgust Demšar AKA Tomaš and Alibi mastermind Renato Bratkovič at the legendary Bar Grega. In Casablanca, everybody goes to Rick’s; in Slovenia, everybody goes to Bar Grega.

I was unprepared for just how amazing Slovenia would be. I thought it would be fun of course, as it usually is hanging out with other writers — but I had no idea how crazy beautiful this country is. Seriously, book your holiday today before everyone discovers it.

See the whole photo album here. There’s just too many wonderful pictures. Renato was a brilliant host: he took me to Lake Bled where we had their famous cream cake, then I got to nap a little at Hotel Jakec to get over my jet lag, then my first visit to Bar Grega to be greeted by the genial host Borut, who had the welcoming mat out:

2016-09-22-21-03-15

The next day the other writers arrived (not having to come quite as far) and I met Janez, Vassilis and his lovely wife Funda — they live in Instanbul so it was fascinating to hear their perspective on current events, plus they’re both delightful. Avgust AKA Tomaš is quite a legend, like the Val McDermid of Slovenia. He has a wicked dry wit. We were lavished with attention at Bar Grega, then taken to dinner at the amazing Gora pod lipo, a stunning alpine restaurant set in a restored country house with all modern meeting rooms and the food — did I mention the food yet? Surrounded by vineyards and served the most tasty array of foods. When was I ever so spoiled?

2016-09-23-19-15-06

As Renato said, nothing’s really free. He had us draw from potential titles because Saturday we would be back at Gora pod lipo to write the stories. Yes, we had most of the day to write, pampered with tea and wine and snacks like roasted pumpkin seeds covered in dark chocolate (oh, and I thought I hated pumpkin!). So of course I wrote about 6K — haahahaa! Imagine how much I’d write if I always lived like this.

Then we were whisked off to the cinema to see Psi brezčasja / Case: Osterberg, a noir film presented by writer Zoran Benčič and producer Tomi Matič. Zoran is also lead singer of Res Nullius, Slovenia’s premiere rock band (check them out). The film is based on his novel. Though we didn’t have a subtitles, it was pretty easy to follow the story (I’ll write a proper review over on Graham Wynd, maybe tomorrow). I was surprised to learn it was a no-budget film as it looked really good. The film premiered at the Festival of Slovenian Film in September 2015 and received unanimous critical acclaim while also winning the FIPRESCI Film Critics award for best film.

Then we all repaired to Bar Grega to chat and drink more Laško Noir — the official beer of Alibi — until everybody was too tired. So Renato drove us back up the winding mountain roads to Hotel Jakec (I think Janez probably still dreams of those drives and wakes up ill).

Sunday it was back to Gora pod lipo. I put the finishing touches on my story (would Borut live or die? 😉 following in Eddie Vega’s footsteps I put our Bar Grega host into my tale) then just enjoyed the beauty of the mountain and the bounty of our hosts. They took great care of us. Then it was time for the reading in the wine cellar. You can’t beat that for cool.

2016-09-25-17-07-44

Then we had a wonderful dinner with Renato’s family to wind up the day and it was just the thing we needed. His daughter is a budding Evelyn Glennie and his wife Alenka made sure we were all eating enough. It’s a wonder I did not burst at some point during the weekend.

It was hard to say good-bye! Good thing I had Venice to entertain me — but more of that later.

Save

Save

Digital Britain & Harvard Art

2016-03-26 08.57.10.jpgI ran off to Cambridge over the weekend to attend the Digital Britain conference and happened to run off from that to wander through some art at the Harvard Art Museums. I put some photos up on a Facebook album because that’s the easiest thing to do (it’s public so you don’t have to belong to Facebook). It was a good weekend. A lot of great ideas, some good conversations, terrific art and reacquainting myself with the city where I lived for some years.

Much has changed: the Harvard Book Store is still there, but few others. Chain stores fill a lot of space in the Square, but it’s still a mad rush of people on a Saturday night. I enjoyed strolling through the campus that used to be so familiar. I even thought I saw an Easter bunny scamper under a hedge but looking closer of course I saw it was only a rat.

I’ll write up the conference itself a bit more for the Digital Humanities Initiative when I get the time. I loved this candelabra because I am immersed in Hannibal at present; there was a sculpture in the same vein which you can see in the album.

Albacon 2016 This Weekend

2016-01-13 14.33.21I will be making an appearance at Albacon this weekend, the local speculative fiction conference. Say hello if you’re around. I can’t promise dragons but I have two panels on Friday at 2 and at 3:

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 11.11.02 AM

and one on Sunday at 11:

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 11.11.38 AM

See the complete schedule here.

I’ll finally get to hang around with Debi whom I haven’t seen since World Fantasy because we’re both so busy. I do believe she’s planned a high tea. I’ll try to remember to bring some books. I’ve got the last few ‘I’m Pledging Sigma Tau Nu’ badges for Satan’s Sorority, so grab one if you can.

Occult Art & the Language of Birds

Yes, I am going to write up the Occult Humanities conference when I get a moment, but apparently today is not that day. So here are some of the paintings in the Language of Birds exhibit at NYU’s 80WSE gallery that really knocked me out. There was so much more!

carrington nigromante.jpg

Leonora Carrington’s El Nigromante [The Necromancer]

16_leonor_fini_le_carrefour_d_hecate

Leonor Fini’s Le Carrefour d’hecate

02_alison_blickle_new_keys

Alison Blickle’s New Keys

17_juanita_guccione_three_women_and_three_owls

Juanita Guccione’s Three Women and Three Owls

See a bunch of the artworks here.

In New York City

I can’t vouch for the lord‘s whereabouts but this afternoon I head down to the city for the Occult Humanities conference at NYU, which includes a visit to the lovely Katja so that’s a definite plus. I’m sure I will have stories and photos to share upon my return, though be warned that things continue just as hectic hereabouts while I constantly change hats as I move from project to project.

I never managed to make it down to the city last semester other than heading to the airport. Making plans to get back down again soon, maybe with the lovely QoE Stephanie Johnson to see the cards exhibit at the Cloisters and a few other things (there are always things to see).

 

 

When Worlds Collide

21canons_yeoman2b

Our brains like to label things and categorise them neatly. We can ‘unsee’ things we’ve seen if they don’t fit our categories. But we vary in how much we do this: at one end of the spectrum is the rigid labeling that leads to racism and xenophobia, at the other end lies an inability to learn because everything is seen as unique.

I’m not sure where that leaves me: I do categorise and label things but I seem nigh on incapable of making categories that others can see but make perfect sense to me. Things collide in my head in odd ways. It took me some years to understand that. And it’s okay, it works for me. Well, apart from the tendency for other people to look at me with arched eyebrows and narrowed eyes.

Example: somehow Chaucer’s Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale and Maurer’s The Big Con collided in my head and so I’ll be giving a paper at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds next summer on alchemy called ‘Chaucer and the Art of the Grift’ which should be fun.

Here’s the precis:

‘Of all the grifters, the confidence man is the aristocrat’, David Maurer wrote in his linguistic study _The Big Con_. Chaucer’s _Canon’s Yeoman’s  Tale_ offers a narrative of crime. As in his fabliaux there’s a delight in the spinning of the yarn even  while he deplores the deception. Nonetheless, I will argue that Chaucer reveals a grifter’s appreciation for the aristocratic con because he recognises it shares the same engine as his poetry: the power of a good story.

Am I having fun researching into the world of grifters and con artists? Yes, I am. I’ve always had a fascination with that art, probably at least since my brothers and I saw Harry in Your Pocket and spent the next few weeks perfecting our technique (only on each other, I should clarify). Of course there’s also the glory of The Sting, which sprang from Maurer’s study directly. Just something in the air in 1973, eh? It was the year that Watergate broke (though it took much longer to unravel…)

World Fantasy Schedule

I will be heading up to Saratoga for World Fantasy with the lovely Maura. We’ll be rooming with the equally lovely Debi. If you are not among the early arrivals you’ll miss my panel which is Thursday at 2pm:

City Center 2B Magic is the essential ingredient of Epic Fantasy… except when it isn’t.
Can a story be Epic Fantasy if there isn’t a spell hurling mage? Do all quests need a wizard? The panel will discuss how magic is used in Epic Fantasy and some of the texts that do things a little differently.
Paul Di Filippo (mod.), Max Gladstone, Kate Laity, Amal El-Mohtar, Karl Schroeder

As I neither write nor even read much epic fantasy this will be…interesting. I have no idea where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing after that, other than of course catching up with friends, schmoozing at the BU Rapid Fire Reading (Broadway 1 3pm-4pm) and you all know the con default: the hotel bar. There are all kinds of interesting events though this sounds like a particular winner:

Friday 3:00
Suite 458 Hilton
The Intoxication of Fantasy
“This book made me drunk,” Cory Doctorow wrote about Under the Poppy. What books or stories do the same for you — send you reeling, knock you out with their wordplay or invention? Kathe Koja will read from a selection of such intoxicating books — bring your own favorite! Intoxicants will be both read and served.
Kathe Koja

And of course, I’ll be going to this:

Sat 10:00

City Center 2B

A Tribute to Graham Joyce
Gillian Redfearn (mod.), Jeffrey Ford, Christopher Golden, Gary Wolfe, Rio Youers

See the full schedule here.