This weekend: wear comfortable shoes
"Writing Young Adult Fantasy" @ Sci Fi London, 2 May

China Mieville @ Forbidden Planet, 30 April


The book: The City & The City

The star: China Mieville was phenomenal. He made sure that everyone had a chance to ask questions, and spent several minutes with everyone in line. Miéville is famously articulate, and this was no exception. He's honest, open and funny - happy to talk about gaming, authorial intent, writing method.

The crowd: Busy. A few hardcore fans showed up a couple hours early and there was a line of thirty people by 6.00. There was still a line at 7.30. There was some impressive signing etiquette as well - a few collectors with stacks of books waited patiently until the queue dissipated before approaching the author.

The setting: Forbidden Planet did 98% of the effort in making the reading/signing perfect. Clearing some bookshelves and game tables out of the way created an open space for Miéville to talk, but without anyplace to sit, the crowd had no choice but to stand around awkwardly. To his credit, Miéville stood too. The author was also randomly interrupted by an unrelated staff page on the PA system, which was embarrassing. A good selection of his books was on display, and FP did a good job rewarding early attendees with assigned places in line.

The signature: Miéville normally includes a quote with his signature, relevant to the book in question. He was happy to personalize or simply to sign. 

Suggestions: The semi-oppressive heat wasn't great, but that's not something anyone could control. However, the lack of chairs (even a token row) dampened the fun of the reading and the Q&A session. There was much awkwardness and shuffling of feet. And without the defined space, other, non-Miéville-interested customers felt free to carry on noisy conversations within earshot.