Because a Super Relaxed Reality Club just wouldn’t work
I was apprehensive about attending because I have a tendency to be tense. Would I be allowed in? And if I was, would there be enforced massage from a large troll of indeterminate gender wearing too much make-up and a Minion onesie? Or is that just, I dunno, fantasy?
I need not have worried. In its third venue after the vast but disputed territories of the Royal Festival Hall foyer and the less vast but weirdly blue-lit aerie of a hotel in King’s Cross, SRFC is now very comfortably ensconced in the downstairs level of the new Tottenham Court Road Waterstones.
This venue is seriously sexy. The architecture is brutalist concrete and exposed pipework, as if someone has taken a location from ‘Blade Runner’, given it a good spring clean, installed some decent lighting and then put a load of books in for some unknowably alien reason.
Plus there’s a bar. That’s right. A bar. And books. And people who instinctively get esoteric references to ‘The Wheel of Time’. I found I chilled out immediately.
The events are pretty informal; it’s mainly about getting together and talking some serious book, mainly fantasy of course but one of the few good things about the twenty first century is what a broad range of literature the genre now includes. There are also readings, tonight introduced by Den Patrick, who along with Jen Williams started SRFC three years ago.
Den makes a great MC, partly because as the guy who wrote ‘The Gentleman Geek About Town’ he is actually funny but also because he is tall. I don’t know why that matters particularly but it just does and did lead to some unintentional comedy when second reader Zen Cho, who is not remotely tall, took to the stage to find the mic suspended far above her like some sort of ghastly gym equipment.
The first reading was by Ed Cox, from his novel ‘The Watcher of Dead Time’, part three of his epic trilogy that began with ‘The Relic Guild’ and was followed by ‘The Cathedral of Known Things’. The chapter read concerned a ghoulish reanimation sequence, which Ed, a rather cuddly, soft-spoken man narrated with unexpected relish, like a quietly possessed teddy bear.
Zen Cho was fresh from winning the British Fantasy Society’s 2016 Best Newcomer Award for her novel ‘Sorcerer to the Crown’, the story of Regency England’s first court-appointed black magician. Zen, who narrated a sequence in which the hero, Zacharias, engages with his female nemesis over the course of a carriage journey, the only author at this evening’s SRFC whose work I have not yet read. After tonight I will address that deficiently promptly.
That SRFC is in its third year in its third venue suggests some kind of well-thought-out but mysterious spell. If so, it’s working.