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The cough is under control, my nose has stopped running and my mobile phone turned up at Sydney airport. As my ability to form coherent sentences returns, my thoughts turn to the whirling vortex of fractured images that seems to represent the last week or more properly, the 68th World Science Fiction Convention.

For those who aren't already aware, I programmed the horror panel stream as well as designing and directing the Nightmare Ball, that being the official Australian Horror Writers Association event at said con. Many people have been kind enough to say I made a good job of both. And the Ball on Friday night, did look good from where I standing. Of course, this is where I was standing:

It was wonderful to see so many people there, even if I couldn't recognise some of you underneath your fantastic masks. As those blank, bejewelled or else eeriely-expressive faces passed through the alternating shadow and crimson light, from Mozart to the Sisters of Mercy, all merging into the grotesque shapes of the tableaux, my most grandiose visions were realised. I am currently assembling the official photo gallery and this will be accessible in various forms. But I fear it will not capture the moment later in the evening when DJ chuckmck1  followed the opening of Alice Cooper's Black Widow with John Denver's Thank God I'm A Country Boy. There were screams. But the sight of lavishly costumed fey and skeletons commencing to barn-dance was unforgettable.

Speaking of unforgettable, I saw something I know very few other members of the convention did. The loading bay and service corridors of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre! You thought the public areas were vast: I tell you, there are aircraft hangers down there! Entire automated assembly lines for some purpose possibly tied to catering but possibly to advanced robotics. There was a truck lift. That's a lift you can drive a truck into if you need to unload it on the first or second floor. I swear I passed a room labelled Quarantine Cold Storage and that I was pushing a trolley bearing a coffin at the time. 

The actual panels are harder for me to comment on. The fact is, although I organised many, I saw very few, what with racing around frantically coordinating deliveries and locating anjou pears. I was late for the Macabre launch, and Angela had scheduled my reading first specifically because I was going to have to race away again: I am so grateful she let me read last.

This picture fails to convey the sheer grandeur of the book. It is slightly over 4.5 cm thick. It glistens in the light. It is incredible, beautiful and contains my novella "Erina Hearn and the Gods of Death." I am exceedingly proud to be part of it. Buy it now.

In addition, my sincerest thanks to Shane, Angela and Marty for all chipping in to help set up when my volunteers didn't arrive. They blew up many, many balloons, which Chuck popped the next morning with fiendish glee. And then I spent about eighteen hours passed out in my hotel room, during which I had exceedingly peculiar dreams and woke with a full-blown lurgy that made the rest of the convention a somewhat hallucinatory experience.

I do seem to remember the following things being said by possibly the following people:

"But it has to be loud so we can summon the Devil!"
- Talie Helene to the man who interrupted Heavy Metal Monsters with a complaint that the music was too loud and the speakers in the next room couldn't hear themselves over Anthrax and Metallica. I should add that he responded, "Oh, then I'm staying!"

"Steampunk is what happens when Goths discover brown."
- I got this second hand: I'm told it was originally said by Howard Taylor during Humour in Science Fiction. After spending way too much time drooling over the Dark Nouveau stall, I can only agree.

"I was initially asked to review The Necronomicon in the new Penguin Classics edition... "
- the inimitable Chuck McKenzie during In Search of the Necronomicon. Hopefully his subsequent travails will one day be published. 

"Give a man an octopus and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to catch an octopus and he will eat for a lifetime. Teach an octopus to use the numchaks and no man will eat octopus again."
- this was jack_ryder over dinner. He may disclaim responsibility if he wishes. He and murasaki_1966  looked after me supremely well.

"So Nick, has anyone ever called you too pretty?"
- hang on, that was me during The Artist's Paradox, for which I was a ring-in moderator. For your information, the exceedingly handsome Nick Stathopolous has been called many things.

"I look out over this auditorium and I can't see any vampires. But this is the last day of the con and there are a lot of people out there who look a lot like zombies..."
- Scott Edelman during The Vampire vs Zombie Smackdown.

"Just because you can't see the vampires doesn't mean they aren't there."
- George R. R. Martin in response. Practically every exchange in this session was quotable. I kind of hope it was filmed.

"Horror is made up of a whole lot of other genres and kinds of story, all with varying degrees of euw."
- Kirstyn McDermott during Australian Gothic.

And that's pretty much it. I didn't network, I didn't talk much (especially after the cough set in) and I failed to attend either the Ditmars or the AHWA AGM. I missed the panel on writing your first novel, the one on writing your second novel and Thinking In Trilogies.  I even missed the panel which for my money had the best double entendre in the program - Where Do Elves Come From? Not one of mine: I called mine sensible things like The Eternal Border and But This Is Real! Still, it was great to work with you all and yes, it was a truly excellent Ball. No, I am not running one next year, may the numchak-wielding octopus take you!

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Oh thank God, you got the phone back!

Sadly, my throat is still worn completely raw...

Thank you for your kind words. We only were doing what good friends do: keep you alive until the Hugos were over.

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