Science fiction writer Kevin J. Anderson spent a few days in Christchurch with his wife Rebecca Moesta in September 2007 prior to a book-signing tour of Australia. Although they were in Christchurch mainly to catch up with friends, we were fortunate that they took the time for Kevin to give a brief talk and to sign books at Scorpio Books.
|KJA with his wife Rebecca and bodyguard.|
Darth Vader and the Stormtroopers milled about with the rest of the (rather small) crowd before Kevin's talk began. It was particularly funny watching how the little kids reacted to their presence. One little tyke went up to a Stormtrooper and said, "It's me! Michael!"
The funniest scene was watching Darth Vader politely shake hands with a couple of the lads. I wasn't fast enough on the draw to get a photo, but I did get this a few moments later:
Since there weren't many people present, I was lucky enough to be able to chat to Kevin for a few minutes before the talk. Knowing that he was a keen hiker, I asked him if he had managed to find time to do any hiking in New Zealand. He said that he'd been for a couple of walks, and found he really liked New Zealand, but found the lack of time frustrating. "It's like being allowed to eat only one crisp out of a whole bag."
The staff at Scorpio Books had cleared out the "Gardening" section, replacing all the books with Kevin's, and making a space for him to talk and sign.
|The "Gardening" Section.|
Once the talk itself started, Kevin started off by saying that this was his first signing in the southern hemisphere. He thanked the Outpost 42 troopers for turning up, and told us that they were there to make sure we all bought books. "If you don't buy books, the Stormtroopers will shoot you with their blasters. But that's OK - if you've seen the films you'll realise that they'll probably miss."
Originally there had been no stop planned in Christchurch, but he and his wife have friends in Christchurch, and so they arranged a stop-over for a few days. But when the publishers heard about this, they quickly imposed another signing and three interviews on him while he was here. But at least that meant that the Christchurch part of the tour was a little less jam-packed than the rest, and he and his wife had managed to spend a bit of time at Arthur's Pass and Hanmer Springs, and they were hoping to get to Akaroa the next day before flying out. Once again he mentioned how much he liked New Zealand ("Your country leaves a nice first impression - just from flying over it the plane you can tell it's very beautiful.")
He also mentioned that copies of his book Sandworms of Dune were available. In theory the book was not supposed to be available for another two weeks, but the publisher decided it would be crazy not to have copies available for his talk. "So you can buy an illicit copy two weeks ahead of the rest of the world. You can buy it now, but you're not allowed to read it for two weeks. And in the end, you'll find out whether Harry Potter lives or dies."
A question from the audience let to an interesting story about how he came to be writing Dune books with the original author Frank Herbert's son. He said that he'd loved the original books himself, and had been frustrated that the last book Herbert wrote ended on a cliff-hanger, with Herbert not living to finish the tale. So, about ten years after Herbert's death he approached Herbert's son about the possibility of collaborating to finish the series.
Rather than jumping right in with the resolution of the cliff-hanger, the two men decided to try a series of prequels first. The prequels were so successful that the sales of Herbert's original books tripled on the back of their publication.
The decision to write the prequels first had an unexpected benefit: while they are being written, a safe-deposit box owned by Frank Herbert came to light, and inside was an outline of how the rest of the Dune story was supposed to play out. Sandworms of Dune is the last book of the story arc thus outlined.
The owners of Scorpio Books have a dog who spends a lot of its life in the store. Usually it's very well behaved. Just after Kevin had finished talking about his Dune books, the dog started barking and growling. I glanced over my shoulder, but couldn't see what was bothering it. Kevin started to talk again and again the dog growled and barked. Kevin looked towards the front of the store and said, after a moment, "Well, the dog should bark if Tusken Raiders have just come into the shop." Sure enough, some Tusken Raiders had arrived, and a Jawa for good measure.
Kevin then said that he would sign books, and wondered out loud over how to organise the queue. He said that he had been at a book signing in Germany once, part of an X-Files convention (since he has written X-Files tie-in books as well). He expected the German fans to self-organise into a disciplined queue, but they didn't - everyone just came forward and mobbed him. But since it was an X-Files convention, there were lots of people dressed as FBI agents, so he co-opted a couple of them and asked them to use their menacing presence to organise the fans into a queue!
No such lengths were needed in our case, as there were only a small number of people wanting autographs. The funniest bit came when one of the Stormtroopers asked Kevin to sign some of his Star Wars books.
"Who should I make these out to?" asked Kevin.
"'TK 753' thanks."
|TK 753 getting books signed.|
Have you ever wanted to know what Stormtroopers do when off-duty? Well now you know:
Kevin came across as a very pleasant and likeable chap, I enjoyed his talk a lot, and I hope he and his wife enjoyed their time in Christchurch.