Guest post by Moira Jorgensen.
There wasn’t one clear image in my head of what my first book launch would look like. Maybe sophisticated and posh, with champagne flowing freely. Like a cocktail party, except instead of arguments over politics there would be debates on the merits of the title “genre fiction” versus “science fiction.”
Or maybe it would take place in a small, overflowing bookshop, with folding chairs propped up higgledy-piggledy throughout the room. There would be a constant hum of noise, except when the author began speaking; then the room would go dead silent.
Perhaps it would be something akin to a college lecture hall; everyone sitting orderly, blinking at the speakers in a dazed but politely disinterested way.
In reality, the Edge of Heaven book launch was nothing like any of my expectations. Taking place in Belfast, a crowd of people excitedly filled the auditorium Crescent Arts Centre at half past six last Friday. Hugs were given; wine was poured. And the author Rachael (R.B.) Kelly stood near the stage, clutching a copy of the star of evening: the over 400-page science fiction novel Edge of Heaven.
Edge of Heaven is as suspenseful and page-turning as it is long; I should know, as I read it in two days (and dreamed about for many days after). And the small section Rachael read, the very first chapter where we’re introduced both to the city of Creo and to our protagonist, Danae, was no exception. Dark and a little eerie, but with a quality dose of humor (and well-measured smattering of profanity), the first chapter had the audience at the edge of their seats, knowing something in this world Rachael created and laid out for us is going to go wrong.
Prior to Rachael’s reading, we heard some words from Liberties Press publisher Seán O’Keeffe and widely acclaimed Belfast science-fiction writer Ian Mcdonald (author of Desolation Road and River of Gods). Both spoke on the effect of having powerhouse woman writer published in science fiction (which, inexplicably is an often male-driven genre), as well as the effect a new cyberpunk novel (also known as the “high tech, low life” sub-genre) will have on the genre of science fiction as a whole.
Rachael herself spoke on how the process it took to get Edge of Heaven created and published. Started twenty-two years ago, Edge of Heaven has gone through multiple, multiple drafts and changed with each technological advancement. But despite the fact that the novel was first thought up before the widespread use of cell phones or the internet, Rachael assured the audience that the premise of the novel—the idea that what makes us human can and will adapt to any new environment we’re thrown into—changed very little. A heartfelt thank you to everyone, from her fiancé, to her siblings, to her fellow Crescent Art Centre employees, were effusively thanked in Rachael’s speech.
After the speeches, more wine was poured and more hugs were given; Rachael signed the copies of Edge of Heaven that were being bought in droves (including the nine copies purchased by her proud mother!). Not a cocktail party, a bookshop or a lecture, the Edge of Heaven book launch was a friendly affair featuring a book I read and loved. And with that, I would say my first attended book launch was a success.