Without any doubts, for me, this summer has been one of the best for years. The 72nd Worldcon, Loncon3, was held in London between 14 to 18th of August and the 2014 Hugo Award and John W. Campbell Award winners were announced. I was there, as a panellist and in the Artist Showcase, sharing time and the experience with Carlos Argiles, who was nominated the Ignotus Award in Spain as Best Artist in the creation of the cover of my steampunk novel ‘El Dirigible’. It was an intense test because we were next to renowned international artists, and we didn't know what to expect, despite the undoubted quality of the drawings.
Definitely a crucial moment was the evaluation on Friday with the artists from Tor.com´s Art director Irene Gallo and her inseparable friend Greg Manchess. My invitation as a panellist was an amazing experience, first at the forum on "Science Fiction in South and Central America and the Caribbean" and later in the conference "Beyond Blighty: world steampunk" - talking about industrialisation and imperialism in the 19th century. Who is writing Steampunk, as both a literary genre and as an aesthetic, outside the Anglosphere, and what does it look like? What are the quirks and tropes of world steampunk?
More informal than academic, I was pleasantly surprised on both occasions by the warm atmosphere of an audience that didn´t know me and from fellow partner panellists who I didn't know either. I found myself giving autographs to Russian kids, found acquaintances of my old Sci-Fi University group, talked to Germans, and shared ideas with French and Japanese people. Also, I have a very special memory of sharing time at dinner with my brand new Brazilian friend Fabio Fernandes. The whole experience can be consolidated in the end with one word: friendship.
The hard work done, the talent, the place, the moment, and the contacts, nothing would have been the same without the fraternal bonds of friendship. I hadn’t met Carlos before, he had only been in the city briefly once before, but after this event, we are not just friends and colleagues, but also brothers for the rest of our lives, whatever happens.
How to explain how many precious moments we shared? Moving pictures from one side of London to the next, using only the Tube; dealing with a bizarre electrician from Kansas; battled with Trekkies who administered passes; talking to countless curious that went to the art show (asking, “what the heck is steampunk?”); we also did much more, drank pints inside an old Victorian brothel (now a renowned hotel); immersed ourselves in hot springs on the banks of the Thames; took the last boat to cross the city by the river. We smoked cigars at midnight drinking tequila shots; shared burgers Miami Vice style in Byron; ate Nando´s hot chicken; we got fed Brazilian beef and fried cassava sticks at Rodizio Preto; took arepas and huevos rancheros as breakfast and ate real Chinese food in Chinatown. It was not just a culinary tour but also an introspection of our own life.
Of course, we barely slept, and when I had to give my last speech on Monday, I was in a state similar to those addicted to drugs after a week of rumba and Carlos was a zombie. A week later I'm still recovering using a diet based of tea and digestive cookies.
The point is that, as in all the important things in life, literature and art are not only here to stay but also to keep the spirit of brotherhood alive.
"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers" Shakespeare says in Henry V, and as always, he was right.