Okay, so an hour or so in a bookstore is hardly Live at the Apollo, but ‘An Evening with Robert Llewellyn’ at Waterstone’s, Orchard Square, Sheffield, last night was a very enjoyable hour or so, as Robert read from and talked about his new book, News From Gardenia.
I only heard about the event last thursday, via Robert, on Twitter, and immediately got very excited, only worrying that I might have to try and get to Meadowhall, as I’d not seen anything about the event instore at the Sheffield City Centre branch of Waterstone’s in Orchard Square on any of my regular visits (I tend to pop in once a week or so. I don’t buy anything, but I have a jolly good look round). Luckily, it was at Orchard Square, so MeadowHell was right out.
I arrived suitably early – I’d ordered a copy of Robert’s book online, and had arranged to have it delivered to the store (This was because of a mistake I made last week when I was trying to buy a ticket for the event via the Waterstones website, which I then realised you couldn’t actually do, and had to phone to book a ticket etc. Too boring to go into here. I sure I must have Tweeted about it, go and look if you’re that interested.), so got there early enough to go and collect my book, and work out what the plan for the actual event was, as the staff began to arrange some chairs in a section of the store near the back.
A few more people began to arrive, and we began taking seats 5:40pm-ish. I bagsied myself one of the comfy seats at the front (and, my God, they were comfy), and Robert was finally introduced to the audience at around 6:05pm.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet Robert a couple of times at Red Dwarf Dimension Jump conventions (I’ve only managed to get to two), but it has to be said that Robert Llewellyn is one of the nicest people – famous or not – you could ever hope to meet. Very witty, very intelligent, and very, very nice.
He thanked us for coming, gave us an idea of what the book was about, where the thinking behind the story came from, ‘tsk!’-ed at a few latecomers (telling us how nice Sheffield was, and how much it had changed since he appeared in a play at the Crucible in 1987), then read an extract from the book – the beginning of Chapter 10, to be specific – reading from his iPad, because it was easier for him to make the words big and readable.
I had considered recording the entire event on my phone, in audio form, but decided against it – a bit awkward, and a bit cheeky, to be honest. However, as he read, I decided to make a short recording. So I recorded the reading, some interesting and funny details during and afterwards, and his introduction to the Q&A session.
I’m not going to quote the whole thing here- you should have been there! – but here’s an interesting and amusing section…
“Nothing in the book, that I’ve suggested, is impossible or fantasy, it’s all based on science, and technology, and engineering we already understand. […] I mean, I love the ‘Wibbly Gun’ that we’ve used on Red Dwarf, the Atomic Destabiliser which allows you to drop through floors, but I didn’t want to use ‘Wibbly Guns’, I wanted to use technology that is plausible.
“The criticism that I got most commonly from people who’ve read the book is the ending, which I thought was one of the most brilliant, crisp, tight endings that I’ve ever written, and everybody moaned and complained about it, and said, ‘What happens next? You can’t just leave it like that!’ And so, I can tell you today that we’re soon to launch a new book called News From The Squares, which is the follow-on. I’ve now decided it’s going to be a trilogy, there’ll be the ‘News From… Trilogy’, which I hope, one day, will be a paperback book that’s like [holds thumb and forefinger about 6 inches apart] that thick, with gold lettering on the spine, that’s really what I want. And I think I might have a scantily-clad warrior maiden on the front, with a massive…all in black, and Goth, really goth, heavy-duty Goth book. I might spell ‘Llewellyn’ in a really weird, gothy way. (Male Audience member: “In black.”) In black, yes, gotta be black. And I might put studs actually in the cover… (Female Audience member: “In Comic Sans.”) In Comic Sans! [laughs] Maybe not Comic…well, maybe…”
(I made another recording later on, during the Q&A, but I haven’t transcribed that yet, and it lasts about 19 minutes, so I’ll leave that for now. Rest assured, if there’s anything I really want to share, I’ll post a quote or two. Although it involved a very long, meandering question from someone in the audience who told Robert he was writing a novel of his own, and practically described the entire plot to us all, before offering Robert his card…I fancy that’ll take up a good chunk of the recording.)
About 45 minutes later, after answering plenty of questions, and regaling us with some very funny stories, including his brilliant ‘Red Bull acrobatic aeroplane’ anecdote, Robert decided to wrap up the chat, to get ready for the signing session. He thought it best to leave a fair bit of time for the signing, especially as people, he said, tended to want their pictures taken with this ‘old twat’, which he couldn’t quite understand.
So I took my place in the signing queue, grabbing my copy of the Red Dwarf X blu-ray out of my bag to also thrust in Robert’s direction. I figured it would be fairly reasonable to ask Robert to sign one other item as well as my copy of News From Gardenia, so I settled on the RDX sleeve. I had shoved a few Robert Llewellyn-related items in my bag – a battered copy of The Man in the Rubber Mask, a not-so-battered copy of Thin He Was And Filthy Haired, plus a copy of the Spitting Image video, Having It Off – The Bonker’s Guide, in which Robert appears…in all his glory. I’d been Tweeting all week, joking about taking it to be signed, but chickened out, not wanting to waste too much of Robert’s time, so decided on the blu-ray sleeve.
So my ‘turn’ came, I got my book signed, and asked him if he minded signing the blu-ray sleeve. We had a little chat about the wrong audio file he’d uploaded to his Man in the Rubber Mask AudioBook update a couple of days ago, then I told him about my fulfilling a life’s ambition by attending the Red Dwarf X recording back in January. I don’t think I acted like a complete slobbering fanboy, though I did forget to ask him, during the Q&A, about either …Rubber Mask or A Brief History of Time Travel, which he’ll be involved with soon.
Anyway, the important thing is, it was a nice, cosy, intimate couple of hours with a great writer, and a thoroughly nice bloke.
And here, for your viewing pleasure, are a few photographs I managed to take during the course of the evening…