Tag Archives: writing conventions

Scarborough, Slugs and Suicide

Scarborough, Fantasycon, writng, speculative writers, seaside resort

The short side of the Grand Hotel. To the right is the front facing the sea and going down several more stories.

I’ve been meaning to post pictures and tales from my trip to the UK last September. I traveled to the midlands, starting in Scarborough, a seaside town on the east coast. English seaside resorts were all the rage in the early 1900s. The Brits tell me that they’re falling into decline because everyone can now catch a cheap flight to a warm Mediterranean coastline. These places are happy to have some cheaper rates and conventions still help fill the towns. So it was that I went to Scarborough for the Fantasycon by the Sea, put on by the British Fantasy Society. I’ve been to the UK a few times but never to the midlands so I combined it with a vacation.

I went a day early with a Brit I met at the last con, Paul Woodward, one of many writers I’ve met on my writer journeys. We went to Whitby Abbey the day before the con, and a beautiful day it was too. I’ll post about that soon but the night before the convention there was a walk through the amusement called the Terror Towers, where supposedly part of Michael Jackson’s Killer was filmed. It’s one of those cheesy scare factories with creepy clowns and vampire girls and spooky animatronics. These things never even get me with a jump-scare and I think I creeped out the creepy clown at one point when I sneaked up behind him.

slugs, Scarborough, creepy things, slimy

Just a small sampling of the slimy congregation.

After we went through the amusement (these seaside towns are famous for arcades, candy cane, tacky souvenirs and other amusements, we wandered back to the Not So Grand Hotel. It’s a behemoth that was once a a grand dam in its heyday, stories tall and overlooks the ocean. Now it’s a bit shabby, with plastic plants, weird baby blue and pink painted walls and some weird rooms like jail cells (not all though). The side facing the water is about eight stories tall with probably 100 stairs up one side. We chose to take the ramp up around the other side to the top. There, we came across a very strange site, something like 50 slugs congregating on the sidewalk like the best lettuce was to be found. It was dark and we couldn’t see any reason for the massive oozerama, almost like a visitation from the dark side.

overpass, suicide, jumping, Scarborough

To the very left of the picture is where the girl was first standing. To the right, you can see the road far below.

Then, as we moved up toward the hotel there is a pedestrian walkway that goes about a hundred feet over the road by the sea. We passed a teenage girl on the other side of the mint colored, cast-iron railing. It was waist-high and I said, wow she’s going to have trouble getting over to the other side. I thought she was trying to climb over and that she’d come up from the incline below. But something just didn’t feel right. I looked back, then stopped and looked back again. I realized this girl was not trying to get over to the right side, but was gradually working her way out over the bridge. I walked over to her and asked what she was doing, not quite believing what I suspected.

She pulled up her hood kept working her way out over the bridge. At this point I started to realize she was serious and tried grabbing her hand. She kept pushing me off and I turned to Paul and said call the police. Things like this tend to slow down time. It felt like long minutes, a half hour but it may have been no more than ten. Two older men walked over the ramp and I called out, asking can you help or call the police. She’s trying to jump. They pretty much said, let her jump and kept walking. I was so stunned at this and told them that I hoped nobody stops for them some day when they need help.

writing convention, British Fantasycon, teenage suicide

Yes, the drop off of this picturesque bridge would have killed the girl. Taken from the ramp, where the slugs were.

I finally clamped my hands around the girl’s wrist and put my back to the railing trying to hold her on. A young guy and his littledaughter came by and I got him to call the police and then another guy who had just finished working also came by and he came over to help me hold her on. Eventually a couple came by and they helped, with the woman spelling me off. The whole time this girl never said a word.

Scarborough, bridge, overpass, design

The ornate bridge from below.

Four police officers arrived and handcuffed her to the railing. Since several were women, none had the height to lift her over the railing. Four more arrived right away and they pulled her over. At that point, our job was done. We saw a couple of women walk over and I presume they were social workers. I hope that girl got the help she needed and that her life will get better.

grand-hotel

Inside the Grand Hotel, not looking as shabby as it does in real life.

All I can say is that I’ve never stood by when I saw something bad going down. I would not have been able to live with myself had I walked away and then heard the girl had killed herself. As the saying goes, the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing, or in this case, for bad to happen is to stand by and not be involved. I got involved and at least saved someone’s life.

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World Fantasy Convention: Part 2

World Fantasy, because it is made up of editors, publishers and authors, tends to have good panels on the professional aspects of writing. Very enlightening from various viewpoints. I can’t remember how many tracks there are at once, but it’s not as many as the larger fan conventions.

WFC holds about 600 people and maybe three or four tracks at a time. I never tend to make it to too many panels. When I went to New Orleans, like everyone else, I went to the French Quarter and shopped. In the evenings it was going for dinner or going to the parties to schmooze and get free booze and snacks. So I tend to only get to a couple of panels at most.

When I attended WFC in Montreal, it was at the end of October (as it always is) just after September 11, 2001. I’m sure it was one of the few WFCs that did not cover its costs. Many publishers and attendees pulled out because of the rampant fear at that time. This made it quite a small convention. Surprisingly, Montreal had no snow but it was a bit crisp at night.

Rhea and I arrived about 11 on a Thursday night and my friend Melanie was already there in jammies. When we got up to the room I said, “I don’t know what you guys are going to do but I’m going down to have a drink at the lounge.” The three of us went down and I noticed San Francisco bookstore owner Allan Bates (sp?) who I’d met before at a convention.

The lounge closed an hour or so later and Allensaid they were going down to a pub so we joined them. There were about seven of us and it turns out Montreal pubs have a soft closing. We were there till four or five in the morning. And that set the flavour for the whole convention. There wasn’t a night I went to bed earlier and I recall on the last night a group of us wandering about and sneaking glasses of booze out of some pub when they closed down.

It was at one party where of course the booze flowed that we were standing around talking and I think I splashed UK writer Graham Joyce, with a bit of wine, accidentally. Then I was drinking some water and fellow Canuck writer Brett Savory (it’s his fault, really) said I should pour my water on Graham, so I did. It established a friendship for the convention, or at least a camaraderie with the Brit writers. I also met agent Chris Lotts there and still chat with him time to time but book agents are very busy. I met Tina Jens, one of the Twilight Tales founders at one convention too. It’s a great benefit meeting similar thinking minds and establishing friendships that span countries.

There have been conventions that have been nothing but calm as well. It can vary a lot. But you always meet new people and I like the smallness of WFC for that intimacy of getting to know people. It was at one WFC autograph signing that I had my arms signed and freaked out Harlan Ellison. The World Fantasy awards are given the Sunday of the convention. This year it is in Calgary and I’l be going. 2004 was the last one I attended so it’s been a while.

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