(NB: All Hungarian names are family name second, the opposite of local custom.)
The annual Hungarian SF (and Warhammer and Cosplay, et cetera) Hungarocon kindly invited me as their GoH for the start of Oct 2022, so it was back to Pest for Inquisitor Ian after a number of years, together with Cristina.
Pest is the low-lying side of Budapest, where once there were swamps and pestilence, and where today the gothic Parliament is golden within and without. Buda is the high castle side of the Danube, opposite.
Does someone wish to drive strong toy cars very fast and noisily around the boulevards of Budapest? Just email these guys:
That’s a gorgeous Parliament. No psychotic saints lurk in niches, but rather people from every walk of life are the statuary; here’s an actor playing Hamlet.
If Parliament is posh and polished, here’s one street where a crumbling noble building, still with bullet or shrapnel marks although nicely double-glazed, adjoins a fully saved and replastered one:
My Warhammer 40K novels feature the Imperial Fists chapter of Space Marines whose progenitor and geneseed provider was the mighty primarch Rogal Dorn. Can it be a coincidence that Hungary treasures as an authentic relic in its cathedral the mummified browny yellow fist of Rogan Dorn himself? I refer to the fist of Szent István (King St Stephen) who brought about the dawn of the nation of Hungary in the year One Thousand A.D. The chain of ownership of this Fist is fully autheticated all the way from when it was recovered from a thief-priest named Mercurius only 50 years after Dorn’s death, I mean after István’s death. The fist is known as the Dexter or Right Hand Jobb in Hungarian.
The late 19th century cathedral of Saint Stephen strives vastly to impress. Aesthetically in vain. Its grand dome collapsed soon after completion, but instead of being thrown into the Danube the architect was retained to find out the reason why (imbalance on the pillars), and he engineered a re-erection. This was good for us isitors because, as well as revering the fist of Rogal Dorn, we ascended to the dome by lift then went outside for a wonderful 360 degree walk-around panorama of Budapest city.
(picture borrowed from https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/holy-right-hand-st-stephen)
On the way to the convention, Peter drove us to a small but exquisite Botanic Garden — the oldest in Hungary; oh those big outdoor Bonsai! — where a steel pathway keeps open the way through a microforest of fast-growing powerful bamboos. Guest of Honour of the 2016 Barcelona Eurocon, Péter Michaleczki has a strong story in that Eurocon’s best-ever Souvenir Book and organised our visit.
At the Con itself I was surprised and moved by the number of middle-aged persons (and younger readers too!) who brought along Warhammer 40K books by me in Hungarian to be signed and who thanked me for changing their lives with my texts when they were teenagers. Truly so!
Those must be good translations! Done by the then publisher Zsolt Szántai along with Zsolt Kornya, endpapers in the omnibus by Jim Burns. Zsolt Szántai endeared himself to me back then with his arms tattooed in Tibetan. He belonged to a club of 100 or so Hungarians who insist that the Magyar people migrated from Tibet and who met once a month to chat in Tibetan. Alas, I was only able to carry home 2 copies of the beautiful Teljes Warhammer 40,000 Univerzuma (Complete 40K Omnibus) because it was so huge and heavy.
Here, the omnibus is being signed:
Apparently I spent two and a half hours signing, sustained only by a can of Staropramen and a hot dog. This session became long because I chose to vary and personalise what I wrote on the title pages of often-much-read volumes after chatting with the signature seekers. These people deserved time, not a scribble. One of these seekers told me he learned English decades ago specifically to read my 40K in the original, as well as in translation. BritGov should reward me. Since Hungarocon included awards for Cosplay, in honour of the immortal paralysed 40K Emperor maintaining cosmic overwatch from his vast prosthetic potty throne, I dressed the part of an emperor. The queue perpetually renewed itself and I became hypnotised, unaware of the hour.
This particular pic was taken by Magdi Kasza who also did the evocative cover art for my story “In Golden Armour” translated by Mátyás Hidy, published as a pamphlet for everyone at the con. This special future spatial infantry story nowhere uses sacred trademarked expressions such as “Space Marines.”.I do like how the golden lava flows through my golden laurel wreath to energise me for more signing.
(photo also by Magdi Kasza)
Mighty were the forces gathered at Hungarocon:
The Gamers also have their own huge two-storey clubhouse, the HammerTime Café, its walls adorned with safety-chained medieval fantasy weapons, at Üllői út 111 (út being ‘street’, a wide and long one). Cast an eye down that café’s many pages of menu if only to admire the art: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-wJunsUhSP3zRDVU2VEzEr83FofDgm72/view
Who can neglect its alco Potions and Jars especially when each costs just a Euro or two? Closed on Mondays; otherwise 2pm till 10.00pm. Very happy to be visited by strangers. Nice hot dogs. It’s close to the Botanic Garden.
Here’s ace lawyer Szimonetta with the beautiful menu next to hers and Peter’s ultra-intelligent and active son Mátyás, whose level of English is amazing, keeping his girlfriend begging him to translate ever more to and fro.
Here we were earlier at the Con:
A raffle for funds for the organisation brought Mátyás many prizes since his father may have bought many tickets. Donated prizes included some signed Firsts by me and two of Cristina’s home-crafted grimdark boxes with Cthulhu tentacles made from polymer clay baked in an oven much smaller than any microwave. Commissions accepted; payment goes to a group at CERN to aid Ukrainian refugees at border crossings which the big glam-name agencies ignore.
Sunday: On our way to an enormous subterranean high tech sports pub in Dóhany Street to watch the F1 Singapore Grand Prix, we went into the Big Synagogue, named due to being the biggest in Europe, and I rested my legs. Let us recall that one quarter of the victims of the Nazis at Auschwitz were Hungarian.
After F1 finished, Peter drove us to a meal organised by Jun Miyazaki, an old chum who used to organise SF conventions but who then switched to politics. He’s now hardworking Deputy Mayor of the district with an impressive City Hall. Discretely he makes his dinner reservations using pseudonyms.
During that evening’s meal veteran holograph maker and mathematician and SF fan József Gál gifted us one of the first ever Hungarian holograms from decades past, which we’ll be framing for sure for the wall. Translator Mátyás Hidy got engaged to his delightful and patient girlfriend.
Monday: Snapped within Budapest Zoo, here’s me with lively multitalented (including being an actress) Eva Vancso and partner Sándor Szélesi, veterans of our 2016 Barcelona Eurocon where Eva gave a talk in the Spanish track about “Literatura y cine de género en Hungría y Europa Oriental”. Earlier in the past, in the arty riverside town of Szentendre while we were drinking red wine of a sudden author scriptwriter and editor Sándor rushed from the café to a bookshop then gifted me with a beautiful cinemascope panorama photobook, Hungary 3600 (2005) for which he wrote the texts.
Zoo. Oh all right, here are lots of Pelicans to prove it:
We lunched in the Robinson Restaurant on the lake:
…which was actually quite high-level gourmet, though not steep in price. For me this was the most delicious meal of the whole visit. Mangalika (the native pig with curly wool like a sheep) along with veg ragout (poor folks’ “letcho”) and barley groats washed down companionably with 2 bottles of jolly nice Hungarian dry red wine from Villány region, recommended by sybarite Sándor who was quite interested in my recipe for curried soft-boiled quails’ eggs. Birds flew low by us (on the other side of glass) as we ate. A perfect place to return to, just near Heroes Square where dramatic statues of giant Magyar chieftains arrive from Tibet on horses with horns and tusks (or so it seems to me).
This Inquisitor will return again.
(all photos are by Cristina Macía except where credited otherwise)