Cor, you do get to go to some amazing places when you write books, and meet some amazing people there. Here I am on a panel with TV's Charlie Higson in Dubai. (He looks a bit bored actually - I hope I didn't bang on too much).
I never used to have the nerve to go abroad for festivals and events when I was a lonesome solo author (or get invited to many, to be honest) but now that I'm one half of Reeve & McIntyre Productions that's all changed, so I was very happy to be asked to attend the renowned Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature last week.
McIntyre has already blogged about our adventures, and there's not really much that I can add to her account, except my own small thank you to Emirates Airlines for flying us out there in such style, and to the lovely and hard-working festival team for making it all such a pleasant experience. Here's Sarah's picture of them, taken at the closing ceremony.
I originally decided to go because I thought I ought to see the desert. And I did! Here it is, look; your actual desert! It's got a dead bush sticking out of it and everything...
And here I am, wandering about in it, thinking IMPORTANT AUTHOR-Y THOUGHTS (all right, looking for a place to wee)...
What I hadn't been prepared for was the sheer wondrousness of Dubai itself, a bizarre city of humming expressways and immense skyscrapers sprouting from land which was mostly desert itself until a few decades ago. One of the people Sarah met during the festival (and I sadly didn't get a chance to talk to) was local science fiction writer Noura Noman. 'How odd,' said someone in the green room, when Sarah mentioned her later. 'You don't expect to find science fiction writers here.' But if you live in a city like this, I don't see how you could possibly write anything else. The water comes from desalination plants, the population comes from all over the world, it's like a colony on another planet. And look at it!
|Roof of world's biggest mall as seen from top of world's tallest building...|
All of these photos were taken from the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building - and tallest man-made structure - IN THE WORLD. Here's its shadow, slicing across the facade of a tiddly little ordinary-sized skyscraper...
That little gold spindle-shaped thing on the right is a metro station (Dubai has the coolest railway stations I've ever seen).
|Photo: Dubai metro.|
All this sci-fi bling comes as a bit of a shock to European sensibilities. I heard some of my fellow authors sniggering (a little defensively) at what they saw as the tackiness of the city's malls and megastructures, and I was told several times that I really ought to see the 'real' Dubai, the older districts along the creek, where the gold souk and the spice souk are. Well, I did get a glimpse of that Dubai, and very evocative and interesting it was too. But the new city is something else entirely; crowded, diverse, oppressive, beautiful. And it doesn't really matter whether we like it or not - fifty years from now, all cities will be like Dubai. I'm hugely grateful to the Festival organisers for letting me have this glimpse of the future!