This is an extract from Tim Jones' report on his 1994 FFANZ trip, "Australian Crawl".

The full report is available for US, NZ, Australian and Canadian $5, UK 3 pounds, or an equivalent amount in other currencies from:

Tim Jones
87 Ellice St.
Mt Victoria, Wellington 6001
Aotearoa/New Zealand
Make cheques payable to FFANZ.

A couple of notes about this extract: the section in brackets beginning "K:" was contributed by Tim's partner, Kay Gubbins, who makes frequent Guest Appearances in the full report; the Con referred to is Constantinople, the 1994 Australian National Media & Literary SF Convention, held in Melbourne that Easter.

Thursday 31 March: My Dinner with William Gibson

Have you seen the Robert Altman film The Player? In it, Tim Robbins (Erik the Viking, Bob Roberts) plays a Hollywood producer who kills a writer - first in career terms, and then literally - and gets away with it. Having seen that film is probably the only thing that has saved me from being in Hollywood right now, churning out film treatments for $500,000 a throw and losing my soul and the mucous membranes of my nose in the process.

Well, I doubt that William Gibson really needs the money - he's reported to have sold his new novel, Idoru, for something in the area of US $900,000 - but nevertheless, he has not escaped the glamour of the Holy Wood (as Terry Pratchett would have it). He came to the Con direct from the filming of his story "Johnny Mnemonic", and had the baseball cap to prove it. Apart from attending the Con, his other main aim was to promote his most recently published novel,Virtual Light, and to that end he did several signings and a number of press interviews. The signings were well-attended, and it seemed that every TV, radio, and print journalist in Australia wanted to have him on their show or in their paper.

Note that I say 'have him on their show', rather than 'interview him'. For William Gibson has become an icon, a symbol of all that is hip, post-modern, intellectually fashionable. It was evident from watching his TV interviews that most interviewers, and the researchers who briefed them, hadn't bothered to think of any sensible questions to ask him, and didn't really care - all they wanted was the cachet of having had William Gibson, the cyberpunk guy, appear on their programmes. It is, perhaps, a shame for them that Gibson is tall, shambling, and slowly and courteously spoken rather than the wise-cracking, leather-jacketed, mirror-shaded Philip Marlowe of the '90s which the books might lead literal-minded producers to expect; but then, the contrast between his novels and himself is one of the nicest things about the man.

All of which is rather too much prelude to the fact that convention Guests of Honour, in whose company Kay and I were privileged to be included, were invited out to dinner on this Thursday evening. We collected "Gibbo", as he'd be known if he played rugby league, from his last book-signing of the day (the queue was a weird mixture of pasty-faced hackers and ashen-faced druggies - or maybe it was the other way round) and headed for Pasta Veloce in Lygon St. The party consisted of Kay and myself, Gibbo, Fan GoH Bruce Gillespie and his partner Elaine Cochrane, Alan Stewart - renaissance fan and 1991 FFANZ winner - and Karen Pender-Gunn and Ian Gunn.

This was only the second time I had met Bruce Gillespie, but he has been important in my fannish career. When I discovered fanzines, Bruce Gillespie's infrequent but weighty volumes were among those that most inspired me. I was impressed by the high standard he strove to maintain, and by the mixture of personal comment and literary criticism in his work. And he was kind to me at Aussiecon II, when I knew next to no-one. He is in person much as he is in print: large, gentle, intelligent, a little hesitant. His partner Elaine I had seen less often in print, but I got to know her better as the evening progressed, gently humorous, observant but good-natured.

I ordered garlic bread, minestrone soup, and Gnocchi alla Ragana, and was too full to finish the main, which was a great pity as it was delicious. The conversation swirled around, largely missing W. G., on whom jet-lag was taking its toll. But he wasn't allowed to rest for long; he had a live-to-air interview with Phillip Adams scheduled for 10.15pm, and during the dinner some nonentity from a TV company turned up demanding to talk with him. (K: Actually doing one of those American restaurant scenes of sending his card to Bill via the waiter, with a cryptic message scrawled on the back; peering out towards the restaurant window, a bespectacled face could be seen peering anxiously inwards as the window slowly steamed up.) Karen fobbed him off as fiercely as she was able, but eventually William relented and talked with the man for ten minutes, setting up yet another interview. Having taken the tram to get to the restaurant, we walked back into the centre of town, as the lights shone from the tall towers and the rain began to fall.