Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Master of Ceremonies - Tim Lebbon

For those who might be interested but who were, like me, sadly unable to attend Fantasycon in the UK last week, here's the appreciation I wrote about the weekend's master of ceremonies, Tim Lebbon. (Though "appreciation" might be the wrong word.) YOUR MASTER OF CEREMONIES… TIM LEBBON This is going to be difficult for you, my friends, but the truth must be told—Tim Lebbon only pretends to like you. Oh, he’s everyone’s chum when BFS events roll around, particularly Fantasycon. First with a joke or a knowing smile, first to give you a hearty “well done” after a reading or to console you when you’ve lost that award he’d been the loudest to insist you deserved. I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you, but it’s all bullshit. Really, Tim Lebbon hates you. Hard to imagine, you say? Perhaps even now, as you read this, you’re going back over all of your Lebbon-interactions and examining them for some evidence of my claim. Perhaps you’re finding only instances that refute this assertion. Tim Lebbon, you may say, is not only a supremely talented writer but the kindest, humblest among us. The most supportive and enthusiastic. The most generous. The most handsome. Well, no, all right…you’re probably not saying that last one. Still, despite your insistent denials, you must be forced to see the truth, to accept that the Tim you know is but a mask to cover the rictus sneer of soul-crushing envy. Yes, he envies you, my friends…every last one of you. He envies the soft skin, coquettish eyes, and lovely figure of Mark Morris. He envies the sophisticated vocabulary, poise, and mannered self-control of Sarah Pinborough. The wardrobe of Kim Newman. The diction of Ramsey Campbell. The special gleam of Stephen Volk’s dome. The quiet reserve of Rio Youers. Adam Nevill’s eyelashes. Pete Crowther’s mustache. Graham Joyce’s buttocks. Tim Lebbon is a seething ball of envy. It isn’t just the writers he envies, either. Stephen Jones, Jo Fletcher, Simon Taylor and so many others will be able, if they but think for a moment, to recognize in Lebbon the editor’s greatest fear—the writer who knows better. Who wants your job, my friends, both because he believes he can do it better than you can but also because he wants to wield the gauntlet of editorial might, to strike down other writers with the dagger-sharp clarity of his narrative instincts. Writers. Editors. Artists. Even you people with far more reliable occupations for which you are regularly and more significantly paid…he envies you all. Cunning as the devil, he cozies up to you in order to glean whatever pearls of wisdom he might gather by simply being in your company. He offers a shoulder upon which you might cry, a joke or a wink or a pat on the back…but only if he believes it might lead to you buying a round at the bar later. In recent times he has crafted a new image for himself, that of an athlete—a marathon runner, of all things—an Iron Man. But I’m here to tell you that this is simply cover for the weight loss he has suffered due to the fact that he is so consumed with envy that he is often unable to eat. Do not be fooled, my friends. By now you must be wondering, who is Christopher Golden to make such outrageous accusations against one of the darlings of the BFS? Who, indeed, but he who has suffered so much at Tim Lebbon’s hands. He cannot write, you see. Not a word. Can barely read, except to recognize the work of his betters. And thanks to a youthful indiscretion on my part, I have been his manservant, his minion, and his ghost writer, lo, these past fifteen years and more, as far back as Mesmer. White, that novella so universally embraced as a modern classic, reprinted over and over again with Lebbon’s byline, optioned for film by the screenwriter Stephen Susco…mine. The Naming of Parts? Hush? Until She Sleeps? All mine. Desolation? Berserk? Dusk and Dawn and all of the other Noreela stories? Me. The Reach of Children? The Thief of Broken Toys? Yep. Even Tim’s most recent works, like Echo City, The Heretic Land, and Coldbrook…all were produced under duress and the threat of blackmail. Not The Nature of Balance, though. That crap was Tim’s. Yes, he’s won awards. Many, many awards, particularly from the BFS, the members of which apparently have a staggering inability to realize when someone is sucking up to them. Awards which should be mine. Over the years of my servitude, however, I have come to the realization that there may be just the tiniest sliver of humanity remaining in Tim Lebbon’s heart. Otherwise he would never have allowed me to share credit for Mind the Gap and the other Hidden Cities books, not to mention The Secret Journeys of Jack London. He took all of the money, though. Every last penny, like the Grinch plucking a crumb from the floor on Christmas Eve. Tim Lebbon… Oh, shit, I think he’s coming. I can hear his footsteps on the stairs. If he should discover my attempt to reveal the tralshgaouglda.&(&#$$ald## Ahem. I first met Tim Lebbon on a moonlit hotel balcony at a New York City horror convention. It was very romantic. Music played nearby. Jack Ketchum attempted to woo a sequence of beautiful damsels. Tim and I, sadly, were immune to that atmosphere of romance and instead spoke about, of all things, art and commerce. We found, I think, an immediate kinship having to do with our attitudes about family, writing, and business. Instantly, a friendship was formed…and the dread began. BFS members will be intimately familiar with this dread. You see, though I was vaguely aware of Tim’s growing reputation as a “writer to watch,” I’d never read a word he’d written. We swapped books the next day and I prayed to the elder gods that he wouldn’t SUCK. You know how the story ends, I suspect. Tim Lebbon is one of the finest writers of horror and dark fantasy working today. As the author of White and Other Tales of Ruin, Face, The Nature of Balance, The Everlasting, and Berserk (among others), he’s proven himself a master of modern horror. Though he began in horror, over the years he’s also proven himself a radically original and refreshing voice in fantasy. He’s won all sorts of awards that I’m sure he’ll be happy to tell you all about if you bring him a beer. A slut for beer is Lebbon. After that first meeting, I asked Tim to write a Hellboy short story for an anthology I was editing, which led to me commissioning two Hellboy novels from him, as well as to our writing seven novels and a screenplay together, with more hopefully on the way. Truthfully, though, if you’ve ever read Tim’s work, you don’t need me to tell you how talented he is, how alive his characters seem, or how vivid the worlds he creates become with the turn of every page. Instead, let me tell you about my friend, Tim Lebbon. I grew up surrounded by women. My father wasn’t in the picture much and that left my mother and my sister, and all of my sister’s girlfriends, to raise my brother and me. All of my life I have gotten along better with women than with men. Of course there are exceptions, but the swaggering, chest-beating, dick-waving nonsense so common to my gender is incredibly off-putting to me. Few things distress me more than attending a gathering where the men are expected to bunch up in one room and talk about sports and beer and home improvement projects while the women sit around a table, gossiping and discussing their latest book club meeting or the achievements of their children. I love talking football, but there’s a limit, you know? At these gatherings, you’re much more likely to find me at the table with the women—at least they change the subject every few minutes. Really, though, I want the group to come together, the conversations to merge. Among writers, the clusters are less clearly defined, but often one group will be dedicated to the art of literature and the other to the commerce of publishing. Just as with those insufferable dinner parties, I fall right in the middle of those two groups, making a living in that place where art and commerce meet. What does any of this have to do with Tim Lebbon? Surely you must have guessed by now. He’s secretly a woman. No, no. Poor taste. The truth is, Tim is my brother. From the moment we first met I felt that we understood each other, that he had about him none of the artifice or ego that so often interfere with the process of establishing real connections between people. Our ambitions mirrored each other, not only professionally but personally as well. Tim is a writer—it’s what he was born to do, just as much a part of him as his name or the color of his eyes. But he is a father first. A husband first. His love for his family supersedes all other concerns. Yes, he is boisterous and quick with a joke. Yes, he is an athlete and he loves his beer. Those are things that contribute to making Tim excellent company. Some of my favorite memories of the past few years include vacationing with the Lebbons on Cape Cod, and a day spent book-shopping with Tim in Hay-on-Wye. But there is a deeper current running beneath that boisterousness and camaraderie, a seriousness of thought and feeling that make Tim also an excellent friend. To many of you who are reading this, it will come as no surprise. That, I truly believe, is our shared good fortune. Right, then. That part dispensed with, let me regale you with a list of his awards and read a selection of laudatory remarks that…ah, never mind. All right, Golden. You can come back to the keyboard, now. Forget that first bit. Just print up the part I wrote and sign your name. Twat. --Christopher Golden Bradford, Massachusetts 11th May, 2012


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