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The Tenth National Irish Science Fiction Convention

OCTOCON X

Guest of Honour

Robert Rankin

Co-Chair Pádraig Ó Méalóid introduces our
Guest of Honour, Robert Rankin

I first met Robert Rankin on a Friday in April 1992. The occasion was an art exhibition organised by the Irish Science Fiction Association, which was being held in Bewley's Cafe in Dublin. Now, at this point, I was, to my certain knowledge, the only member of the association who had ever read anything by him. I was not the only one who had heard of him, as I was constantly urging anyone who started extolling the writings of a certain Terence P. Ratchett that they should try Robert's books.

On that first meeting, which, as far as I recall, began by Robert saying "So you're the one who's heard of me," Robert and I began a friendship which is still going strong.

The feeling of belonging which I had found to pervade Robert's books, the familiarity of the characters, the sense that, above all, he was a storyteller, were also obvious in the man himself.

Robert has been described, among other things, as England's Flann O'Brien and anyone who has read both can see the similarities. Robert is an admirer of Flann alright, but in my opinion, the real connection between them is their sheer joy at telling stories. If Robert were not a full-time writer and part-time sculptor and tour-guide, he could have made a go of stand-up comedy. His talks at various gatherings are often ideas he has for future books, and he has the opportunity to try out things on a live audience, which is something writers doesn't normally get to do.

Over the years, Robert has amassed a large and fanatic fan club, Sproutlore, which I inadvertently started. That, however, is a story which will be told in all it's gory detail in the programme book.

More importantly, Robert has an enormous amount of friends. Not one for "I am a famous author" type nonsense, he is always genuinely delighted to meet his readers, and anyone who has met him on more than a few occasions will be recognised and greeted, sometimes by their own name.

On one occasion an talented young Irish writer was about to publish his first novel. He wrote to Robert asking if he would be willing to provide him with a few words for the back of the book, and received by return of post a page and a half of quotable quotes, and a reminder to send a copy of the book so he could actually read it.

A kind generous, intelligent and funny man, I'm proud to call him my friend. Come and see for yourself.

For more information about Robert Rankin, including biography and bibliography, visit the pages of Sproutlore, The Now Official Robert Rankin Fan Club.

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