KWLS – day 2

The Germans in the B&B have gone, replaced by Japanese. Across the road a hen and her brood of chickens wanders down the sidewalk. Apparently free roaming chickens are protected here. The rooster who’s been crowing since day one is still hard at it.

The Key West Literary Seminar is held annually at the San Carlos Institute, a large solid establishment on Duval street that looks like a relic from the motherland transplanted. The stage is fringed with red velvet curtains, the curve of a white balcony above my head. Walls proudly displaying glossy photo banners featuring sentimental sepia-tinged images of the motherland: Oriente, Camaguey, Las Villas, La Habana.  Enough spotlights to stage a rock show. Set design I’d describe as steampunk packing crate.  I overheard three women discussing their last trip to Cuba. “I’m not going back until he dies,” said one. I presume she meant Castro, not her husband.

Last night an elegant reception was held in the grounds of Audobon House. An abundance of fancy food and wine served amidst leafy tropical splendour. I’d been expecting at least a partly SF crowd but I may well be the only hardcore SF geek here as well as the lone Australian. KWLS veteran Doreen explained how regulars turn up most years regardless of the topic. By complete chance I managed to run into two fellow workshop participants, Kelly and… oh crap, I’ve already forgotten the other woman’s name.  Talk about professional… There’s at least one more Atwood workshopper here somewhere but it’s very difficult to keep track of people in a crowd of 500.

Encouraged by Doreen, I nudged my way into a conversation with Bill Gibson so I could tell him a story: back in 1994 he was a guest at an Aussie SF convention in Melbourne where he awarded me first prize in the art show for an enormous collage inspired by his work. I still have it in my cupboard at home. It’s really awful. A lovely man but goodness, so terribly tall!

The crowd here is mostly white and mostly older, but there’s plenty of young folks too. Not sure what that makes me.  I have more to say but if I don’t hurry back to revolutionary HQ, I’ll miss hearing Jennifer Egan speak!



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