Friday, 19 August 2011


Hullo ma wee blog,

Last night was the first visit to the Edinburgh book Festival this year. As has become customary I took my brother-in-law, Tony, to see one of our favourite authors, the Scots writer of fiction and science fiction, Ian Banks, or Ian.M.Banks as he's known as in sci-fi circles. We've both seen Ian Banks at events several times over the years, usually here in Edinburgh. Tonight, Scotland’s first Minister, Alex Salmond, interviewed him. It's unusual to have such a well-known figure host the event and I hoped that it would make the evening even more special. Tony and I had arrived at the venue good time and managed to get seats in the front row only a few feet away from the action.

Alex started off his introduction to the session by admitting that he never fully read Ian's last sci-fi novel, but he also said that if anyone was going to ask questions on a topic he knew nothing about and hadn't thoroughly researched, then a politician was probably the best person to do it, given that this is what they do for a living, and with his vast experience he hoped he would be able to muddle through. He also admitted that due to an administrator error, both Ian and himself had actually been arranged and had attended the night before by mistake. Luckily, both he and Ian were available for tonight as well, although he had cancelled his attendance at the big football match in the city tonight. "Not," he said, "that this was a problem, as I am delighted to attend the book Festival event instead, despite my well-known support for the Edinburgh team playing tonight." He continued, "and I have assured the director of the festival that the unfortunate error will have no implications on the funding for next year's book Festival!"

His handling of the event over the next hour continued to be confident and affable as you would expect from a polished political performer, but it was obvious that he knew very little about Ian Banks, particularly his science-fiction writing. This did impact the flow somewhat but he did well to keep things moving on at a pace and to keep the tone light-hearted and focused on the author rather than himself. The evening usually follows a set agenda; an initial interview with the author, usually about his current or latest book, followed by an open mike question-and-answer session between the author and the audience.

As usual Ian Banks was highly animated, engaging and thoroughly entertaining. Throughout the questioning he wasn't averse to turning a question into an opportunity to explain his own left-wing political views and use these to have a good natured poke at Alex Salmond or the Scottish political scene. As Ian doesn't have a book launching currently it was a good opportunity, well taken by Alex Salmond, to have a much longer question and answer session which allowed the audience to take a full part in the evenings proceedings as well as cover-up his lack of background knowledge. This allowed many of the sci-fi fans in the audience to ask technical, or more detailed questions about various facets of his sci-fi writing (You know how some sci-fi readers can be right geeky so and so's) which seemed to go down well with the audience.

As is usual in these events the hour passed very quickly and soon we left the main hall and stepped out into one of those rainy Edinburgh evenings so typical of any Festival event. It was a grand way to spend an hour in the company of my brother-in-law and one of our favourite authors and left me looking forward to the next event, which is again something that's become customary – an evening with Ian Rankin, the well-known Scots crime writer, another cracking raconteur. Before then, tonight in fact, the Lovely G and I will be walking up to Edinburgh Castle and the spectacle that is the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, something we've been to once before but many years ago. It's probably the number one tourist event in Scotland and runs to packed audiences every night during the International Festival.

I'm hoping for a clear night but I better look out the wet weather gear for us just in case!
I'll let you know how it goes.

See you later.

Listening to:


Antares Cryptos said...

H.O.M.G. I'll be back to read this post, because Banks!!!!!!

Alistair said...

Ha - Geek!!!

Antares Cryptos said...


Excession remains one of my favorite scifi books.

Hoping I can find the interview online.

Ahem, a little jealous and living vicariously through your experience.

Alistair said...

Och, you needn't be jealous about that,

But I know where he lives and where he often goes for a drink of an evening......

{quiet chuckle}

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