Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Perth Appearances

When we departed from Brisbane for Perth on the opposite side of the continent, our day was a comedy of errors, mainly my own errors. We arrived at the airport, only to discover that I had misread the time of our departure by an hour, so we got into line just in time to watch the plane take off. However, the airline -- Qantas -- easily rebooked us on another flight through Sydney to Perth without batting an eye. We took off again within less than an hour and were scheduled to arrive in Western Australia only a couple of hours later than expected. (So far our experiences with the Australian and New Zealand airlines and airports, including security measures, has been vastly superior to the clumsy and delay-prone US travel systems. Their check-in process is fast and efficient with enough workers to serve the customers, boarding takes about half as much time as boarding a US flight; once the plane takes off, the seatbelt light goes off within only a few minutes and electronic devices are allowed; after landing, luggage comes off the plane promptly -- Wow, we could certainly learn something here!)

During the stopover in the Sydney airport, we paused in one of the terminal bookshops, pleased that they had a very large display of METAL SWARM on the bestseller table, another display in the science fiction section with most of the "Seven Suns" backlist, as well as several copies of SANDWORMS OF DUNE. (This is completely reversed from the US, where I would normally see a lot of DUNE and maybe a couple of "Seven Suns" books.) I introduced myself to the bookshop manager, who was very pleased to have me sign their stacks of books. I did so, and then we had to rush off to catch our flight.

We landed in Perth with no problems, and I told the taxi to take us to the Rydges hotel, which I remembered as the place we were staying. The taxi driver first took us to the wrong hotel, then had to find his way to the Rydges through heavy rush-hour traffic. He let us off, we lugged our suitcases out and then into the hotel lobby, but the reception desk had no record of our reservation. We were tired and ready to change clothes, but we had no room. I dug into my briefcase to find the confirmation number for the hotel -- only to find that we weren't staying at the Rydges until a different city. Our actual hotel was the Hilton, several blocks away. Since it would take as long as half an hour to get another taxi in the traffic, Rebecca and I walked, pulling our four suitcases along. Fortunately, the Hilton had a nice upgraded room for us.

That evening we had dinner with Jonathan Strahan and Marianne Jablon, whom we had met through the science fiction magazine Locus. Marianne reminded us that we've known each other for 18 years now. We all talked about science fiction for the whole meal, and Jonathan recommended the pale ale from a local Perth brewery called Little Creatures.

The next day we met the publisher's representative Liz, who took us to several bookshops for us to sign stock, then out to the shore of the Indian Ocean, which we had never before seen. (Rebecca had to run down to the shore and dip her toes into the water.) That afternoon we both talked at Trinity College in Perth for a room full of 120 students, all boys ranging from 12-17 years old. They were a rowdy and enthusiastic bunch. Back to the hotel for a quick shower and enough time to check e-mail and edit two more pages in ASHES OF WORLDS, and then we were off to a signing at Forbidden Planet bookshop, then dinner and a chat with some of the fans at the pub across the street.

I was able to edit ASHES for a few hours the next morning until we met Stephen Dedman, another writer friend, who had arranged to show us around the area for the afternoon. On the way to the train station we stopped at a Borders store and a Dymocks store and signed about 150 books those two shops had on display. Then we boarded a commuter train to Freemantle, down on the coast, where we ate a seafood lunch on the wharf and then spent several hours in the famed Shipwreck Museum. I had been looking forward to this excursion to the coast, seeing the port, studying all the exhibits on shipwrecks -- all of which was part of the research and world-building for my TERRA INCOGNITA fantasy books. Returning to our room, I had another hour or so to edit ASHES, then Liz picked us up to take us to a library talk and book signing; the audience filled the room, and we stayed until nearly 9:00 PM signing books. We ate a late dinner with Liz and her coworker Sharon (whose own efforts were primarily responsible for getting us out to Western Australia), then back to the room to pack for the next morning's flight to Adelaide.

-- KJA


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