Last night I did a reading in Leipzig, followed by a panel discussion about science fiction with university instructor Sebastian Herrmann and graphic artist Schwarwel (he uses only one name). The event was held in the Cafe Neubau, and unlike any American reading I have ever given, included music with a DJ and a full bar at a post-reading party held right amidst the recording equipment and discarded manuscripts. The audience asked some interesting questions, but not as provocative ones as raised at the dinner I went to beforehand.
This was with some of the science fiction fans I had met on an earlier visit to Leipzig. In 1998, my late husband Charles Sheffield was Guest of Honor at Elstercon, and I accompanied him. Ten years later, people I had met then gathered for dinner at the Ratskeller, a restaurant in the glorious and ridiculous pile of quasi-medieval stone that is the New Town Hall. Discussion was wide-ranging, including SF and changes in Leipzig, but the talk kept coming back to politics. For only the second time since I have been in the former East Germany, I heard a spirited defense of the GDR, including a well-reasoned attack on the excesses of capitalism. The resulting debate was enormous fun.
And the restaurant was fun, too, with good food and, upon request, a menu for me in English. (I didn't request this, being willing to take my chances with my usual point-and-guess method of ordering, but it was asked for on my behalf by a considerate friend.) The menu featured local delicacies ("smoked cellar ham from pig"), desserts ("Sweetly and Cheesy"), and an appetizer I wish I'd had room for ("Leipzig's Wurzfleish from chicken, gratinee with cheese from mountains, thereto toast and lemon"). I settled for an excellent rack of lamb, a defense of capitalism, and pleasure in the community of SF that seems to exist the world around.