Helen McCarthy loves conventions; this year she celebrates four decades of congoing since the first British Star Trek Convention in 1974. Her first American convention was Boskone in 1977, where she looked her most ladylike in long gloves and pearls at the Regency tea dance. Her first anime convention was ANIME DAY, the first British anime convention, in 1991, and her first U.S. anime conventions were Anime America and Anime Expo in 1994.
She first encountered Japanese popular culture in Europe in 1981. There was no book on anime in English, so she set out to write one. She’s now had ten non-fiction books published, with two more to come in 2014/5, and has lectured and led workshops on three of the seven continents. As her years advance she also makes mini-Long Walks to the Cursed Earth of Britain’s small towns, taking the Law of Anime and Manga to places most Americans have never heard of, like Scunthorpe.
Her convention presentations have been described as “a fire hose of information” – at a charity night for survivors of the 2011 Japanese earthquake she presented the entire history of manga in pechakucha format, 20 slides in 6 minutes and 40 seconds. This inspired her forthcoming book for Ilex Press, A Brief History of Manga, which is slightly longer but just as concentrated.
She and Jonathan Clements have just finished updating and revising their epic work The Anime Encyclopedia, reviled and ripped off in equal measure by Internet pundits around the globe. Her novel is still being read and she’s pitching short stories, most of which get pitched right back. She also makes embroidery and poetry, and is working on more of both for the 2014 World Science Fiction Convention, which takes place in London in August.
So if you spot someone small, loud and British around the convention, stop her and say hello. You will survive the experience, but you will never look at little old ladies in quite the same way again.