Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Author Comes Home, and displays many photographs of his travels

I went to XinjiangProvince in Western China to continue researching my Monkey/China book. This is the photo I took of a scenic building that, I discovered when the men came out to arrest us, turned out to be a police station. If you're in Kashgar do not take pictures of this building. Trust me on this.

This is what I was researching and working on. (As seen in a little town square, on the way to Yarkand):

Xinjiang Province is going to be hard to write about. It's like walking into the Arabian Nights in some ways, and like going back in time in others. It was especially like going back in time on this trip, as, following the Uighur riots in Urumqi in July, the Chinese Government turned off the Internet, text messaging and all international phone calls in or out of the region. I had a great guide who was terrified I'd talk politics, and I rapidly discovered that everything except conversations about the spice-sellers in the market...

... or discussion of the pomegranate crop, counted as politics. It made my journey even stranger than it might have been already.

While I was there my camera started misbehaving: I hadn't even realised it had a motor in it, but the motor started vibrating gently, producing some very beautiful shots that weren't really what I wanted...
Like this shot of a lady in Yarkand market selling peppers and tomatoes that seem to have turned into jewels.

After a great deal of reflection I decided not to buy a camel in the market in Kashgar. Here are two camels I didn't buy.

In the Russian market in Urumqi I bought a new camera I don't like anywhere nearly as much as my old, sporadically-vibrating one.

I went from there to Jinan, Wuqiao and Beijing.

This photo, taken in Beijing was one of the highlights of my trip -- and was one the main reasons I went back to China. I wanted to talk to Liu Xiao Ling Tong (the stage name for Mr Zhang Jinlai), who played Monkey in the Chinese television version of Journey to the West. (Here's his blog.)

Then I went to Chengdu. I don't have photos on my camera of the Galaxy Award ceremony, or the speech I gave at Sechuan University, or the visit to the Earthquake Zone and the talk I gave to the kids there. (Science Fiction World and I are starting a library for them.) (If I can get some photos I'll put them up.)

And I was not able to take photos of the encounter with the fourth holiest Buddhist in China, because he is not to be photographed.

So instead here's a photo of Amanda Palmer, who joined me for my last few days in China, on the side of a mountain having been recognised by some happy Chinese tourists...

More photos of China and Singapore in my next post, I hope. In summary: Singapore was wonderful, but the visit was much much too short: we were there for about 50 hours altogether. Once again, the food was amazing and the people delightful.


Let's see. A quick handful of links...

A theatrical production of Neverwhere in Chicago next year is producing a fascinating visit-to-London blog over at

I'll be at the Arts Festival in New Zealand in March. Here's the Town Hall event -, and it looks like I'll be doing some other events while there. It may sell out fast, so if you're interested, get tickets early. (And do not miss Margo Lanagan, who will also be there, for she is an Incredibly Good Thing.)

Through most of this summer I was playing with a Lomography Camera. The kind with film in, where you have no idea what you took until it's developed. (The one I used was an LC-A+.) I'm starting to love the results, especially when everything comes in slightly oversaturated. They look like pictures of dreams.

(Middle photo of the amazing bubble by Miss Holly Gaiman. Who is fundraising.)

(And you can, of course, click to embiggen the pictures.)

And finally, people sometimes write in and point out that, when I return home, I post pictures of my dog, rapturously dashing somewhere or dancing or stick-wielding to welcome me home. "Why do you not ever post pictures of cats?" they ask.

Good point. Here is Coconut welcoming me rapturously home:

Here is Princess, doing her version of a rapturous welcome, glad that I have not forgotten the trick that she taught me to do, during my time away. The trick involves turning on the tap in the guest bathroom and letting her alternately drink and attack the water with her sharp teeth, until she gets bored:

I'm sad to say that while I was away, Hermione died. She was the surviving member of the two mad cat sisters who live in the basement library and Do Not Mingle, and she was almost eighteen. You can see her in this Photosynth of my library downstairs (needs Silverlight). It feels strangely unbalanced to be in a house without Pod and Hermione in it.

There. Goodnight.

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