Emirates Festival of Literature 2010

March 19th, 2010

Well this really was something entirely other.  


How’s that for the wraparound cover of a near-future cyberpunk thriller?  The lights of the distant spaceport blink through the haze in the background, the steel and glass palaces of the rich and powerful.  In the midground scaffolding crawls over a downed star freighter, wallowing on its magnetic launch rail.  Nearer at hand the rusted hulks of boats that long ago saw their last voyage, colonised now by those who scrape out an existence on the fringes of society, while the seabirds wheel above as they have for thousands of years, and always will…

In fact, of course, it’s Dubai at sunset, taken from the hotel a few evenings ago.

I’ve been to a few sci-fi and fantasy specific events before, of course, but this was . . . how shall we say . . . a rather different affair.  Authors were of all nationalities, genres, and types.  Literary (Martin Amis, Alexander McCall Smith, Yann Martell, Chris Cleave), Childrens (Polly Dunbar, Oliver Jeffers, Jacqueline Wilson), Crime (Jeffrey Deaver, Mark Billingham, RJ Ellory), Poetry (Roger McGough, whose poetry my Mum used to read my as a child and who I ended up having a couple of beers with on the thirty-sixth floor of the hotel), Journalism (Kate Adie, John Simpson), Fantasy and Horror (Darren Shan, Garth Nix . . . can’t think of anyone else important), and etc. etc.  What I hadn’t expected was how well all the authors (and their partners) got on.  How involving, welcoming, interested they all were.  If there is some great chasm of disrespect between genre and mainstream then I saw not the slightest evidence of it at this event.  Beautifully organised too, I didn’t notice a single hitch anywhere.  Plenty of books where they were supposed to be, mics and audio that all worked, translation services from english to arab and back available on demand. 

Much though I enjoyed the sfx weekender, I think it’s safe to say, without insulting anyone, that the level of hospitality was just a teensy weensy bit higher in Dubai.  I mean, I like Pontins as much as the next guy, but you can’t really knock business class flights there and back, plus six nights in the five star Intercontinental, full board, including 24 hour gym and a swimming pool with palm trees in it that projects, glass-bottomed and ended, into empty space at the edge of the building, plus a social programme that featured lunch at the top of the Dubai World Trade Center, tours of the city by foot, bus, and boat, and a trip by 4×4 into the desert, for falconry, camels, and dervishes.  Crazy hospitality.  Surreal hospitality.  My abject thanks to anyone involved in whatever mistake led to me being invited.  Will I just be spoiled now?  Will I stand in stations on my way to conventions and signings, frowning at my bag thinking, “when is someone going to pick that up for me?”  More than likely…

I did a one hour session where I talked a bit about expectations and cliches in fantasy, read from books old and new, and took a few questions.  Seemed to go pretty well, my thanks to anyone that turned up, or got a book signed afterwards.

Kind of a humbling experience, seeing the level of success some of these diverse folks have achieved.  Mark Billingham is exec producing the tv adaptation of his books with David Morrissey.  Chris Cleave was celebrating his second week at #1 in the NYT paperback chart.  Darren Shan had, I would say, about 500 people at his session.  There was a veritable stampede for signing when he finished at midday.  I came back to the same room at 3.30 to hear Roger McGough.  Darren Shan was still there signing, with a significant queue.  And these were just some of the people we ended up spending a lot of time with.  Well.  Gives one something to aim for, eh…?

Posted in appearances by Joe Abercrombie on March 19th, 2010.

13 comments so far

  • Matija says:

    I’m really happy for you, you deserve it. 🙂

    Also, I have a fresh copy of Best Served Cold sitting on my desk, ready for devouring. Can’t wait.

    Best wishes from Croatia.

  • Bryce says:

    When do you actually write?

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Not a high priority, Bryce.

  • Gianluca says:

    All of what you’ve seen has been built by slave labour…

  • Bryce says:


    In the same way our canals and railways were, the fast food you buy in many shops using illegal labour are or the sweat shop factories all over the world which produced the cheap products we buy. Trainers, jeans, t-shirts for a few pounds!!

    People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

    Damn my degree in social and economic history.

  • Pink Ink says:

    Hehe Sounds kinda like Dagoska (except the steel and glas)
    But seriously you should write!!!!
    Maybe we could originate some sort of foundation
    “Tie the writers to their chairs as long as they haven’t finished their novel” Inc.

    Can’t wait to meet the heroes!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Chris Upton says:

    Sounds more fun than Frome.
    Less inbreds as well!

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    I like Frome. Good lighting shop there.

  • Chris Upton says:

    Yes but inbreds!!! Had some scary experiences with the Frome Massive!

    Then there’s ‘The Nam’! (Chippenham) Less said about that the better.
    I miss the west country!

  • Ross Dunn says:

    Yes, flying Emirates Airlines business class is almost heaven. And I had a hell of a lot of fun at the talk, especially the reading for The Heroes!

    I think i can see my apartment building in that photo…. Oh, wait, that’s just the Burj Dubai. Close enough.

  • Phil says:

    Frome…’The Nam’….PAH I say PAH you should try Mere there are only 3 family names in the whole town!

    And mine’s not one of them before anyone ask’s.

  • @emirateslitfest says:

    This was the second Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and surpassed all of our expectations.

    This year we tweeted throughout the Festival, with live tweeting, and 1:1 interviews between authors and bloggers, which was an eye-opener for both!

    If any of the viewers here are tweeps may we suggest you do a search on hashtag #dxblit to read the activity, through which the freelance photographers work may also be found.

  • Rachel says:

    Now I just want to read a Joe Abercrombie cyberpunk novel. That would be awesome.

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