I met Dave back in 2005 at the Interaction WorldCon in Glasgow. He was hanging around with what I will call — for lack of a better term — the ‘Chris Roberson’ gang and as we discussed several things over drinks he gave me a copy of As the Crow Flies, which I found was full of great stories.
Last year, I was quite chuffed when Ian Whates asked me to write an intro to Dave’s novella “The Push” (recently released via Newcon Press), but unfortunately the economics of sending signing sheets across the pond were prohibitive. So while Eric Brown took that honour, I’ll give a short appreciation of Dave here.
When I read As the Crow Flies and The Villages, I had the impression of Dave being a quintessential British writer, and I mean that in a very good way. British in the sense of observing something out of the ordinary, and instead of being appalled, rather being fascinated with it. Even if the extraordinary goes to extremes like “The Pavement Artist” or “The Trauma Jockey”.
Quite unlike the typical Dutch (and Australian) ‘tall puppy syndrome’, Dave displays, instead of a ‘sense of fear’, rather a ‘sense of wonder’ at the strange encounters crossing his path. It is British in the sense that he is not only very tolerant of the village eccentric, but also genuinly interested in that person.
That impression, that of Dave as the quintessential Brit, proved not to be totally accurate, as he sent me a very European story: while initially set in Gdansk, the story moves to Belgium, Italy and basically all of Europe. “Dalí’s Clocks” is, like “The Gender Plague”, about an engineered virus on a rampage. While the symptoms of this are very different than those in KD Wentworth’s story (and while both have their tongue firmly in cheek, a serious undercurrent runs through them, as well), the overall effect seems to be going in a similar direction…
I was living in Gdansk back then, in a newish block of flats overlooking the Warta just outside the Old Town. In the mornings I could sit on my balcony and eat breakfast while the fake pirate boats took tourists downriver to take photographs of the old fortifications at Westerplatte. Evenings, I could wander through Hanseatic splendour, take my pick of hundreds of remarkably fine restaurants, cross the river to the concert hall to attend a performance by the Baltic Philharmonic, visit art galleries, catch a film. Good times, and I took it all for granted.
These days, I don’t really live anywhere. Or rather, I seem to live everywhere. In every town I visit, every city, every one-horse hamlet, a welcome is waiting for me. Hotels throw their doors open to me, private citizens unroll the red carpet. I haven’t had to pay for a meal or a night’s lodging in almost eight years. The clothes I wear, the car I drive, the cigarettes I smoke and the beer I drink are all gifts, pressed on me by a populace either eager to curry favour or to express its gratitude. You’d think it would become wearying, but you’d be wrong; there is nothing in this world better than never having to pay for anything ever again. And trust me, having people hanging on your every word, your every opinion, never ever gets old.
On the other hand, I’m on the road all the time. I have no choice. If I didn’t go to them, they would come to me, and that would become wearying. Continue reading