After a relatively quiet summer, September and October were filled with travel, including a couple of international trips - a bit of a novelty these days.
|Enjoying a typically delicious Dutch appelgebak in Leiden
I started off with an enjoyable weekend as Guest of Honour at the UK Fantasycon in Birmingham. I was very pleased to be invited, and the reception couldn't have been nicer. The event hotel seemed very good and quite well located for the centre. I sat in on a few panels, attended others, and had a very nice time at the banquet and awards ceremony. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures, but I'd like thank all involved, and in particular Allan and Karen, for making me most welcome. In this day and age the genre boundaries seem to be increasingly porous, but it was still very nice that a "sci-fi guy" was invited into the fold and made to feel like one of the gang.
After that, I had a few days home before I was off again. This time it was to France, for Les Aventuriales, a lovely laid-back SF&F event near Clermont-Ferrand, in the Massif Central. The event itself took place in a small town called Menetrol, a few kilometres from Clermont-Ferrand.
Near the venue, a few of us noticed this striking wall mural:
Rather wonderfully, you only got the full view of the cat when you'd peered around the edge of the (real) wall:
The festival itself took place in a sports centre, with Medieval tents and tables set up outside during what was a spell of very pleasant late September weather. As is the norm with French SF&F events such as this, there's an emphasis on dealer tables and signing, so you tend to stay parked in your seat unless you're doing a panel or suchlike. That can sometimes be a bit of a strain, but it was far from the case in Les Aventuriales, as I had such fine company. To my right was Sara Doke, writer and translator, who was always on hand if I needed help, and on my left fellow writer Jolan Bertrand, who was equally delightful to hang out with. Here I am pretending (I stress pretending) to play Jolan's ukelele.
|With my little stick of Blackpool Rock ...etc
Everyone I met was extremely nice and welcoming, and a bottle of Leffe went down very well at the end of proceedings. When does a bottle of Leffe not go down well, of course. Here I am with French fan Olivier - also a Peter Hamilton fan, so I made sure to show this to PFH when we met for a coffee recently:
And finally, here are my two hosts for the weekend, Marie and Jean-Pierre, who couldn't have been kinder. There were some unavoidable complications with my outward journey which caused us all a bit of stress, but it was all resolved efficiently, with the only downside being a very late arrival at the hotel. I'd like to thank Marie, Jean-Pierre and Dominique for sorting things out - and my wife for handling the emergency back in Wales! She was going to come with me, but we'd had a disastrous experience with an earlier attempt to travel to Paris in June, and she decided to sit this one out. This brings me to the minor observation that flight delays and cancellations have been a real headache with these trips, with each aggravation making the idea of flying next time just a little bit less attractive.
|My lovely hosts for Les Aventuriales.
After some further complications on my return leg via Paris, I was back in good old Brexitland for just over a week before another trip, this time back to the Netherlands and a return to my old place of work, ESA's ESTEC Space Technology and Research centre, based on the Dutch coast in Noordwijk, close to the fine old university city of Leiden.
I was over there to participate in another Space Rocks event, this time in conjunction with ESTEC's annual open day. I've been honoured to be part of the Space Rocks family since 2018, but things have understandably been a bit quieter through the Covid years. Space Rocks is ramping up again now, and I couldn't have been happier to be invited. My hosts were Mark McCaughrean of ESA, and Alexander Milas and John O'Sullivan of Space Rocks. I was interviewed by Mark as part of the Space Rocks program of events, where we talked about the interplay between science and science fiction. After the interview, I was delighted to be presented with the inaugural Space Rocks inspiration award:
|Mark McCaughrean presenting me with the award
There was also an opportunity to sign a few things just after the interview and presentation:
|This is my truth, tell me yours.