Monday, 23 November 2015

Sledge-Lit, Derby, 21st November 2015

This year saw the first Sledge-Lit event in Derby, which was billed as the “Edge-Lit Christmas vacation!” and held in the same venue.  Since I had such a great time at Edge-Lit 4 (see my report here) and like the Derby Quad, I thought it’d made a nice bridge between the brilliance of FantasyCon (which I reported about here) and next years Crusty Exterior meet-up.
In the Quad bar - Sue Moorcroft, me, James Everington, Steve Harris, Simon Bestwick, Peter Mark May, Dean M. Drinkel
Saturday morning was bright, clear and cold.  I picked Sue up from her house and, as she got in, she took one look at my fleece, smiled and said, “Haven’t you got a coat?”  “No, I’ll be fine with this,” I assured her, “we’ll be indoors.”  “Okay,” she said, “but I don’t want you moaning about being cold!”  I feigned moral outrage - I mean, as if I would ever moan about anything?  We set off and made good time up the M1, chatted all the way and found the Assembly Rooms car park with only the slightest detour required - we were deep in conversation and I missed the turn…  ahem.
Pete, me, Steve, in the bar
As we signed in, Steve Harris appeared, followed closely by James Everington, so we moved into the bar and sat with Peter Mark May and Dean M. Drinkel, who’d arrived on the same train.  There was a lot of chat - it’s less than a month since FCon but it always feels too long ago - and we decided to have lunch in the bar, since Sue recommended it and none of us fancied wandering out into the cold (the place we found at Edge-Lit was lovely but we had to eat outside).  Over the morning, the group around our table ebbed and flowed and we were joined by Simon Bestwick (full of his new-agent-news), Theresa Derwin, Steven Chapman, Simon Marshall-Jones and Tony Cowin.  I later spotted Pixie Puddin in the foyer and went to give her a hug (and bought her a cup of tea too, it was cold out there) then chatted with Cate Gardner, Priya Sharma and Gary Couzens as I made my way back to our table - good to see them all.  Our lunch turned up just before the crowd appeared from the last panel and I was glad we’d pre-ordered, as the bar quickly filled up.  I had a chicken & bacon ciabatta sandwich and it was bloody lovely.

As there was a gap in the programme, I led a small deputation to the Eagle Books stall, in the Eagle market, that Johnny Mains introduced me to in 2014.  As we went through the foyer I bumped into John Llewellyn Probert, Thana Niveau and Cate.  Had a chat with John - we worked out that we hadn’t seen one another since WFC in Brighton in 2013 so it was good to catch up and we talked about how staring mortality in the face (John had a major health scare a few years back) makes you re-assess things.  It was nice to say hello to Thana too.  I met Sue & Pete outside, saw Fiona Ní Éalaighthe and got a hug from her, waited for Steven and Steve, then we set off through the Market Hall and out to the Eagle market.  As it turned out, it was indeed bloody cold outside, though I was determined not to say anything in front of Sue (I think I might have mentioned it several times to Steve and Pete though).  Eagle Books was still there and still fantastic, everyone got something and we kept calling each over to share finds.  There was a tray of Richard Laymon books which prompted a discussion of his work - all of us, it seemed, were fans at various points but, as we explained to Sue, our attention wandered as the books got thicker and more misogynistic.  On the way through, I’d spotted a sign in the Market Hall for a retro-toyshop and we stood outside for a while, gazing into the windows (there was a ‘back in 30 minutes’ sign on the door), before giving up and heading back to the Quad.  I spotted Charlotte Bond in the foyer, had a quick hug and she showed me a copy of “Drive” that Chris Teague had given her for making the muffins at “The Lost Film” book launch.

"Rising From The Dead" panel selfie - me, Sue, Steve, Pete
Upstairs, Pete & I went into the small dealers room and I picked up a Black Static from Roy Gray and the last copy of “Fur Lined Ghetto #6” from Sophie Essex - always a pleasure to see her and Andrew Hook.  With Sue, we went into Cinema 2 for the “Rising From The Dead - Is Horror Ready for a New Golden Age?” panel, which I thought sounded very interesting.  Unfortunately, it left the path less than five minutes in and never found its way back (though Thana made some great comments) - a missed opportunity.  However, as we left, I saw Kevin Redfern & Hayley Orgill further up the auditorium and had a chat with them - we disagreed with the panel and talked about how we got introduced to horror (the outcome was that if kids want to find it, they will - twas ever thus).  Good to see them.

On the way to the market selfie
By the time I got out to the open area, Pete & Sue were fiddling with his glasses, which were pretty much falling apart.  I suggested we go into the market to find a jewellers stall and, as we set off, I decided to tell him the staircase was further away than it actually was.  He gave me a look and said, “I can bloody see them.”  Mischief averted.  The stall I’d spotted in the market was actually a watch-maker but the kindly lady fixed Pete’s glasses quickly and efficiently and since we were in there, we checked out the retro toyshop again but this time it was closed.  On our way back to the Quad (with me still not complaining about the cold, even though I couldn’t feel my fingertips) we had a quick look in Ask Italian, across the Market Square, as Sue and curries don’t mix particularly well.  The menu looked good so we decided we’d eat there later.

We went into the bar for a while before heading back upstairs were we met Cate and Priya on the stairs and Graeme Reynolds in the open area, chatting with them all.  James joined us and he, Pete and Graeme went into the “A Ghost Story Is Not Just For Christmas” panel, whilst Sue & I went to the Boo Books launch.  I had a chat with Andrew David Barker, whose excellent novella “Dead Leaves” (which I reviewed here) was being launched and it was good to see him - after first meeting at FCon - and his reading went well.  Carl Robinson also read from his “A Dip In The Jazz Age”, which was being launched as well and it was a good event, though sadly poorly attended.  Sue & I stayed behind to chat with Andrew and Alex (who, in addition to organising Sledge-Lit is also the publisher of Boo Books) and the conversation turned to FCon 2016, which promises to be great.
Graeme Reynolds, me, (a very distinguised looking - and with fixed glasses) Pete and Sue
Back in the bar, I got a round of drinks, chatting with Steven as we waited, before chatting with Dean and Pete.  They were both leaving at 6pm to catch the same train home and our conversation covered everything from writing to body parts to the awful news about Paris (Dean was there the week before the attacks).  At 5.30, we headed up for the raffle - hosted by Rob Shearman - joined by Jay Eales (unfortunately Selina had stayed at home) and Phil Irving.  Steve arrived late, sat on the row behind us and won the first two prizes!  We thought it was going to be another Andromeda-style whitewash but it wasn’t to be - I didn’t win anything, nor did Pete but Sue & James cleaned up on the PS Publishing prizes, with “A Cold Season” (hardback) and “Ellison Wonderland” (boxed hardback) respectively.  Gits.

And that was Sledge-Lit officially over.  I said goodbye to Pete, Steven and Graeme and we gathered up our dining party - Sue, Tony, James, Steve, Chris Teague and me - and went over to Ask Italian, who managed to seat us all.  The food was great, the conversation and company even more so and I don’t think there was a moment of silence for the entire meal.  We covered a lot of subjects too, including how to write erotica (Sue didn’t believe us about Dino-porn but did introduce us to the phrase ‘Antigua Kiss’, which we’re all going to include in our latest story), what we're currently working on and what we get out of Cons (James put his finger on it, saying how great it was to hang out with talented friends).  A great group of friends, it was the perfect end to the Sledge-Lit experience.  Afterwards, James was heading for the train station whilst Chris and Tony were going back to the Quad so we all hugged and said goodbye, then Sue, Steve & I went back to the Assembly Rooms car park and hugged goodbye in the stairwall.  After finding an ‘interesting’ route to get us back to the M1, Sue & I talked all the way back to Kettering.
At Ask Italian - James, Steve, Chris Teague, Sue, me, Tony Cowin
Great fun, great venue, well organised and full of friends, I’d say Sledge-Lit was a success.

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