I have returned from my whirlwind trip to the Netherlands. The midwinter fair was kind of crazy. Takes place in an archeological park where prehistoric and medieval buildings have been recreated. Lots of folks dressed in medieval garb. And I mean lots. More than half the people have made some effort in that direction, I’d say. Some have made a LOT. Shops selling mystical knick-knacks, mead, and foam-rubber swords. Goth bands and more faithful medieval instrumentation mingle upon the air. Very well attended, though, and a hugely friendly feel.
But the literary aspect is very much a sideline. Professor Roland Rotherham packs ’em in for barnstormingly entertaining lectures on mysticism and related subjects (and brilliant performances they are too), with maybe 100 attendees a go. I will confess my own gripping talk on Expectations in Epic Fantasy plus brief reading from Best Served Cold was marginally less well attended. Two members of the public on the Saturday. By Sunday, word of my awesome crowd-pleasing abilities had evidently spread, because I had doubled my attendance to four. Although I’m reasonably sure one of those had only come in because it was warm, and his eyelids were very definitely drifting down at times. Still, the Dutch writers who were in attendance all pitched in, and we made an intimate chair circle and it was actually a lot of fun. And a couple of people still made the effort to come all the way specifically to see me, which moved me deeply (in so far as it’s possible to strike sparks of warmth from my flint of a heart). So my deep thanks to Erik and Tamara for making the effort on the Saturday, and to Wilfred for driving up there on the Sunday. Wilfred, if you read this, send me an email to the address on the contact page, and in due course I will send you something back to say thanks.
Great thanks also to the Dutch authors who made every effort to make me feel loved. Particularly to Wim Stolk/WJ Maryson (for they are the same man), who not only went to the trouble of organising the event, but also took on the driving duties, and is, it would appear, a very nice fella to boot (aside from an occasionally troubling fire behind the eyes…)
Then it was off to Amsterdam where I got put up in a hotel much too good for me, and on the following was day placed in a small room with two chairs while a variety of interviewers were brought through one at a time, each hour, on the hour. Talking about myself for four hours straight. You can imagine how much I hated that experience. Then straight into a cab, off to the airport, and back here. Shame I couldn’t stay longer, because Amsterdam really is very beautiful. Oh, one other weird occurence which some of you may find amusing. I was sitting having breakfast, looking across Herengracht, one of the major canals, and a van drove past with Sony Ericsson written on the side. So what, right? It’s not like it’s even spelled the same way as fantasy author Steve Erikson.
It was directly followed by a lorry with BAKKER written on it in huge letters.
Strange, isn’t it? Most people would just have seen a van then a lorry drive past, nothing to remark upon. I was laughing for about ten minutes.
12 comments so far
When you coming to the States? Or atlest DC for a signing or book reading or two!!!
Now Joe, you make it sound like the attendees had an aweful time. But it was brilliant! Definitly one of the best days this year for us 😀
The chapter Joe read from BSC was amazing. Its about Shivers' arrival in Styria. Turns out to be not what he expected… Twas very funny, the way he read it 🙂
But above all, Joe is a great guy. It was very nice to meet him, and I hope it will not have been the last time. It was acually very nice that there were so few ppl; we got to chat for a bit. And his talk on Expectations in Fantasy turned more into a discussion then a lecture. (and I saw the scar on his head, and it's definitly there, about an inch!)
I hope the Dutch People haven't let you down. I guess that 99.999% are just not ACE enough for you!
I suppose just as soon as someone invites me…and pays to get me there, of course.
I wish I could deny it, but it’s all true. About the brilliance, of the talk, the greatness of me as a guy, and so on. The only thing you’ve got wrong is the scar, it’s WELL much bigger and more impressive than an inch. A foot long, at the least.
And Dutch people let me down in no way. They simply have not had the chance to fully appreciate my Aceness. Give them time, Erik, give them time…
Hah! You say that now, mister Ace perfect dude!
But, dear people who read this blog, I know the truth! Joe is just as insecure as all the rest of us, he was nervous before starting! Jumping around like a little schoolgirl, he was!
Joe is just as insecure as all the rest of us, he was nervous before starting! Jumping around like a little schoolgirl, he was!
Hey, Erik, don’t mistake Joe’s ‘kata’ (martial art choreographed patterns of movements) for schoolgirl nerves!
The names Ericsson and Bakker come up frequently in my universe as well. Whenever I think about reading another fantasy book I ask myself: “Should I try this Bakker guy some people speak so highly of, or should I read yet another doorstopper by Ericsson?”
Glad you had a good trip; I spent a year in the Netherlands as a child and still feel residual nationalism regarding that glorious orange nation. I’ve been in a dozen countries on three continents and der Nederlanders are hands down the most uniformly friendly folk I’ve encountered. Sorry to prattle on but a weekend-long field trip to that very Archeon park in Alphen aan den Rijn was a very formative experience for me and this is the first time I’ve heard it mentioned by a non-Dutch individual, hence the threadjacking and blogorrhea. We had to carve our own spoons, which was, as I’m sure you can imagine, a fantastic journey into the past. At least, it was when I was 11.
Very little with my reply so perhaps it will be unread. Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this pieces. I’m from the Netherlands ( Calibandar on the Westeros forum) and I’ve visited the Midiwnter Fair for the last 5 years in a row. This year I gave it a miss because there are a couple of such festivals in the Netherlands now, it is getting ever more popular and the Midwinter Fair, while cosy, is very small scale. JOe, if you’re invited to the Elf Fantasy Fair in April you should not imagine it’s much the same. Yes, people will be dressed up, much more so than on the Midwinter Fair, but it is on a much bigger scale, with some 20,000 people visiting over 2 days. Setting is a beautiful castle and the surrounding park.
I really had to laugh at your cynism over attendees though. Rotherham is always very enjoyable but he’s been a crowd favorite for many years now and people know what to expect. Scott Lynch was at the Elf Fantasy Fair two years ago and there were only about 10 people for his reading there as well. Same with David Durham, I was at his reading and there were 5 of us.
I can imagine that this is little fun for the author but you have to realize that teh publisher is bringing in authors that the Dutch people have hardly had a chance to read, what with your first book for instance only just being translated and the rest yet to follow.
Anyway, loved reading these musings on your trip.
I tremble with suppressed power, not with nervousness.
No spoons on this occasion, unfortunately.
Hope I don’t give the impression of being bitter about attendees. I’m more amused by it, and hope others are too. I’m grateful for any audience, and the trip was still a great laugh and served the purpose as far as the publisher are concerned, since the main aim was the interviews following, and indeed, to demonstrate internally that they’re taking a book seriously. Rotherham is deservedly well-attended because he’s a great performer and, as you say, has worked hard to build up a following. Can’t expect crowds like that on a first outing…
No, you didn’t seem bitter. I just thought I’d explain why so few people show up and that it happens with other young authors as well.
I can’t bring myself to dress up though. It’s fun to see other people do it but the geek factor is just a bit too high for me. I’m sure you’d have no such inhibitions though 😉
I have no need to dress up. My everyday appearance is indistinguishable from that of a medieval peasant.