19 July 2005
Continuum - A Con in Three Parts

It all began with anal bleaching.

It went downhill from there...

Actually, it began a long time before that.

I'd seen the brochures last year and thought, "It's about bloody time that Neil Gaiman bloke came down to Melbourne..." So Ghost and I booked our tickets quick bloody smart. Having missed out on attending Fiddler's Green last year, despite being on the organising committee, be buggered if I was going to miss out on seeing him in my own backyard.

I was going to ensure I got some time with him this time around. I was determined, I was driven, I was shameless.

Shortly afterwards, thingies of various stripes were asking if there would be couch space at Chez Ghost and Tree. Margret and Our Lady of the Squeakers were the lucky ducks who got the opportunity to get up close and personal with our floor.

The fun really began the Thursday before the con, when my mobile rang and a familiar English accent politely introduced himself and we had a long chat about the nature of fame, poorly designed air conditioning controls that make the baby Jesus cry, the availability of black jumpers (since some pointy headed git had sent his heavy leather jacket home not thinking it would be THAT cold in Melbourne in winter) and the necessity of avoiding a situation where certain black clad authors would be forced to wear something with a cockatoo on the front.

A lunch date was swiftly arranged and us thingie types prepared for the con (which consisted largely of purchasing outrageous amounts of Mint Slices and Tim Tams for consumption at the con).

Friday - Part the First

Ghost, myself, Margret and Miss Mousey showed up at the Hilton to hook up with Reg and Matt and our lunch date.

Quelle horreur! He had been hijacked by a secret signing. We trooped down to the comic shop in question. The store owner made it clear that the signing was by invitation only. I made it clear that we were invited by the GoH. We stayed.

The man in black greeted us cheerfully as he came in and I checked with his handlers, the very charming Medge and Bean, that he had been fed and watered.

He had not. We headed out to source good sushi and some water. Miss Mousey was the designated sushi-approver as we trundled around trying to find something decent. Good raw fishy identified, we snuck back in and I left lunch-y goodness on the signing table for him.

We indulged in lunchables ourselves and made our way back to the hotel. Filling in time before the opening debate, I had the distinct pleasure of introducing Miss Mousey, Margret and Ghost to the joys of Monkey.

We also discussed the nature of fame further, where it was established that I was a complete attention whore and would most likely enjoy the sort of attention that famous English authors attract, while everyone else felt it was a bit of a hassle.

The mobile rang again that afternoon and I was most effusively thanked for the sushi. Another lunch date was arranged for the following day (although looking at the con schedule, I was somewhat sceptical that he would be able to make that one).

And so onto the debate.

When the first speaker for the affirmative opens with the contention that we are not natural creatures because we bleach our anuses, you know you're in for a hell of a debate.

And when Neil Gaiman suggests you try www.ismyanuspaleenough.com, then it's ALL over.

Poor Jack Dann did his best to try and moderate and Russell Kirkpatrick did his best to try to add a modicum of decency to proceedings, but the rest of the panel weren't having it. There were tales of unfortunately timed gas, golden possum showers, the assertion that all men are bastards and a certain amount of confusion about who was meant to be on which team and where the loyalties of the moderator lay.

A certain English chappy, who shall remain nameless, was a shameless vote whore, flinging sweets into the audience, offering us chocolate if we voted for his side and even threatening not to sign for anyone who didn't applaud for his team. Most unsportsmanlike!

My face hurt by the end of it and I may have required a change of knickers.

We retired back to our room to consume excessive amounts of chocolate and tell ridiculous stories and laugh ourselves stupid.

Saturday - Part the Second

Being the excitable little bunny that I am, I couldn't sleep, so I dragged as many people as I could find out of bed and down to the nearby boulangerie patisserie for a spot of breakfast. Yum.

We piled into our first panel of the morning and watched Poppy, Neil, Jack Dann and Fiona McIntosh discuss the perils of moving out of genre fiction. Interesting stuff.

Neil waved us down as he was leaving the panel and indicated that lunch was most certainly on and since he only had an hour before his GoH speech, how about we go down to the hotel restaurant?

So we did.

We six thingies, Bean, Medge and Neil piled around a table, ate nummy food, took photos and Ghost continued the discussion of the nature of fame. Neil indicated that despite the distinct possibility that having thousands of young Asian schoolgirls screaming your name could do your head right in, it was all worth it. I showed Neil photos of Pam and Caitlin and a lovely time was had by all.

Although he was less than impressed to find out his fabulous assistant had sold him out for 2.2kg (4.8lb) of Tim Tams.

We then zoomed back upstairs so as not to make the man himself late for his speech. I heard my first two chunks of Anansi Boys and saw the press kit for MirrorMask. It was most loverly.

We retreated back to home base (Ghost and my room) where we chatted about various things, ate more chocolate and called the lovely Pam, during which much squee-age ensued.

Margret and Reg went off to get Neil's sister, Nell Gurgle, to sign their books, Ghost, Miss Mousey and I watched Poppy talk on a panel about forensics in literature. Quite cool.

I ducked out after that to get my minty-fresh new copies of The Feast of St Rosalie, Liquor and Prime signed (did I bring any of my old Poppy books? Did I buggery... [mutters darkly]) while the rest of the thingies congregated to hear Neil, Robyn Hobb, Richard Harland, Tony Shillitoe and Kim Wilkins discuss fantasy and fairytales. I only caught the questions at the end, but it was fascinating anyway.

We retired back to the rooms to lounge about, solve the problems of the world, eat chocolate and text the lovely Mr Gurgle to thank him for letting us witter on at him over lunch.

Then it was time to prepare for the Maskobalo.

Matt and Margret went in mufti. Ghost put his hat on backwards and declared that he was Michael Moore and tried to interview people using my mobile phone. Reg came appropriately attired in tails, a blood red waistcoat and a spiffy white bow tie, Miss Mousey was truly stunning in white, stripey goodness and I threw on some belly dancing bling. Photos to come, promise!

The Mistress and I got our groove on while the boys observed approvingly and Margret retired to the video room. Some of the costumes were truly inspired, including the most incredible wolf I've ever seen. Medge came as Cap'n Jack Sparrow and had the walk, the gestures and the speech right down. He richly deserved the prize he won. Bean had thought to come as Princess Fiona, however, given the choice between dinner with Neil and painting herself green, she chose the sushi.

Much dance-y goodness ensued, with the pair of us dancing like crazed monkeys for a couple of songs, retiring to catch our breath and then squee-ing with delight when another good song came on and racing back to the dance floor. And the stripy one did not manage to accidentally proposition Neil in his role as a judge, no your honour, she did not.

I'm going to burn in hell for that one.

Just in case you think I'm making it all up, you can see us in the background of this photo, printed in The Age the following Tuesday.

Neil sent Eddie Campbell's lovely daughter Hayley over to find us so that she could see Miss Mousey's incredible tattoo. She also remembered me, ironically as the person who bought the white chocolate Tim Tams as a drunken welcome gift when I was up in Brisbane some years back. Well, there are worse things to be remembered for...

We were turfed out of the ballroom and settled on the floor amongst the salon that Ghost and Bean had managed to cultivate in the foyer. We chatted, took more photos, I taught a couple of attendees the secret of good shimmies and finally, on to bed.

Sunday - Part the Third

Not so much with the springing out of bed bright and early this time around. I had makeup smeared from forehead to chin, and for the first time in my life, I ACHED from dancing. Yep, really getting old.

We all went our separate ways, packing, grabbing breakfast, checking out panels and checking the weather (if you were Reg).

Medge and Bean grabbed us and let us know that another lunch was in the offing. I suspect that we were being used as an excuse to keep the signing that Neil was supposed to do before lunch to a manageable length, but if it meant the opportunity to chat privately with him again, then we were happy to be used.

I queued with all the others who had missed out on a Nell Gurgle scribble while others checked out the panels. Medge and Ghost eventually had to play line Nazis to ensure that Neil got a break, and believe me, they are not two gents to be messed with.

The delightful Hayley Campbell and her boy and a lovely author bloke whose name I don't recall but think was Sean someone and his daughter accompanied us and we had a brief, but lovely lunch where more photos were taken and Neil almost managed to concuss Miss Mousey.

And there was no irony in Neil and I discussing health and fitness tips while we loaded our plates with dessert. None whatsoever.

Nor will I squee over hearing that he thinks I look gorgeous since shedding 120 marmosets.

Well, maybe a little.

We managed to miss the opening of Poppy's GoH speech, unfortunately, because it sounded really cool. But I got to hear her read a Doc Brite story, which was very cool indeed.

The next panel, Reinventing the Creation Myth: Gods and Monsters, was a very interesting one. Now, prior to writing this, I discovered that the moderator of this panel has a LiveJournal and may likely read this.

Well, tough.

He was, to not put too fine a point on it, a bit of an arse-hat. We all walked out of the panel with the distinct impression that he had a series of terribly pretentious points that he wanted to make regardless of what the panel had to say and that he was somewhat miffed when the panel went off on its own merry way anyway.

He managed to completely reinterpret questions from the audience into his own agenda and it was a relief when Neil whapped him over the nose with a Harlan Ellison quote. Then the panel finally got interesting and stopped being a platform for this guy's personal opinions. Good stuff, although fisticuffs would have been cool too.

This also may have been the panel when a certain black clad gentlemen muttered something about minature Daleks being studded for her pleasure, but my memory is somewhat hazy at this point.

Ghost had to work the next day, so sadly he bailed at that point, and we were all flagging. The rest of us sat in the foyer for a bit and I read aloud Chapter Six of The Black Crusade by Richard Harland, one of the chapters that carries an explicit warning on the cover that it should not be read aloud, in public or at all. Hilarity ensued.

We then toddled into the Young Adult Fiction/Genre Writing panel, more to get front row seats for the final panel of the day than for anything else. But it was a bloody good panel and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Props to Robin Hobb, Richard Harland, Russell Blackford, Lili Wilkinson and Tony Shillitoe (whose works I'll have to track down because he struck me as a really cool bloke) for running a smart, funny and interesting panel.

The Worst Ever panel was anything but. Lucy Sussex took it a bit seriously, although she won worst ever book hands down, but it was all in good fun and we all got to share some truly horrible reading and viewing experiences. Miss Mousey and I simultaneously reacted when Danny Oz mentioned worst music in a film. Ladyhawk all the way, people.

Of course, having written Ghastly Beyond Belief, Neil was almost overqualified for the panel, but fun was had by all.

The closing ceremony dragged on interminably (Poppy was yawning, poking faces and giggling over Richard Harland's GoH gift) and it was a welcome relief to finally escape. Miss Mousey grabbed Neil on his way out for a farewell hug as she was leaving the following morning and missing the signing at the State Library on Monday night. We all piled down to the casino so Margret could see giant balls of flame and we could get something to eat.

As we straggled back to the hotel to collect our bags, who should pull up in a cab but Poppy, Jack Dann and Neil. We stood in the hotel foyer as Margret discoverd that Jack Dann went to school next to her home town, Miss Mousey and I chatted to the lovely Poppy and we all caught up with a very tired looking Neil one last time. Massages were given, hugs exchanged and, as we made our way up to the rooms to collect our stuff, Neil promised to be nice to my mum at the State Library signing.

Farewells were made to Reg and Matt and we girls piled into a cab back to Chez Tree & Ghost.

It's Tuesday, I'm still utterly exhausted and I don't expect to recover from the excitement and sleep deprivation any time soon.

Neil is just the single-most delightful famous person on the face of this earth. I'm eternally grateful to him for being SO generous with his time. He's witty, charming, smart and just an all round nice guy. I really hope, despite his hands dropping off with alarming regularity, that we continue to be lucky enough to spend time in his world.

The Continuum committee did a splendid job overall, although I suspect they may not have realised the bubble effect Neil has. Scheduling a one hour signing for the man? What colour is the sky in their world? But it was fun. Even the venue was good, despite them charging me for two rooms for two days (and the fuckers STILL haven't credited me for the overcharging).

All in all, it was a splendid three days. I consider myself enormously fortunate to have been a part of it all. And thingies are just the bestest people in the world.

ladymisstree • 09:28 PM

Good Lord, even *I* need a change of knickers.

You are having WAY too much fun, Missy. I am green with envy!!

(I love Neil!!!!)

FemmeDeLaCreme told me at 03:54 AM on 20|07|05

Between the 'pointy headed git' and 'vote whore' remarks, I think you've guaranteed that Neil will see this post. ;)

Let's see, you left out the bit of the press kit that was a total lie. One day I'll actually *remember* to bring books to signings. The author's name is Sean McMullen (and his daughter's name is, I believe, Katherine). And as for burning in hell...

To quote Cassie and Scott from the pun-page of the thingie quotes:

"Cassie: You're going to hell from that. And not the one with the Styx-side property. We're talking a BAD hell.

"Scott: Air Supply instead of Styx?"

Abso-fucking-lutely. You are an evil evil woman.

squeaks told me at 08:00 AM on 20|07|05

Tree, you have a gorgeous writing style. Comparable to Neil's ;)
Anywho, it was a lot of fun, and thingies rock!

Matt told me at 11:51 AM on 20|07|05

I am usually not one for envy. It's a waste of time and emotion which I could better spend being happy for my friends.

But right now I'm feeling such envy that I'm as green as... a very green thing... that still manages to be stunningly sexy despite being quite green.

I can't even manage to say a proper "Hello" to the man, and here you are chatting on your mobile with him.


It sounds absolutely lovely, and I so wish I could've joined you all.

Kali Nichta told me at 03:30 AM on 21|07|05

You are my hero! Sounds like everyone had a blast - good on you all :)

Rebecca told me at 11:08 AM on 21|07|05

I must confess that the impromptu reading of chapter six of "The Black Crusade" was one of the highlights of the weekend for me. I'd never seen you blush before.

And because no-one else has said so, I ould like to thank you on behalf of all the Thingies for actually making things happen.

None of us, Neil included I suspect, would have had nearly as good a time without your organisational skills.

Reg told me at 09:18 PM on 24|07|05

Lovely review if the Con. Though sadly I scurried away too quickly after taking photos I look forward to getting to know you better.

Are you considering Continuum 4 (despite it's lack of black-clad English authors)?

Baralier told me at 11:22 PM on 24|07|05

I'm joining the rest of the green crew above. Bah who needs fun with fiction and friends anyway! Chili x

Chili told me at 05:51 AM on 25|07|05

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