Monday night: I am parked on the bed, tip-tapping away, with both cats lounging beside me as Kelly writes in the next room. It was a cool and sometimes blustery day, but now the sky has cleared and the evening light is pleasantly mellow. Our birch trees are putting out teeny tiny leaves. I love the spotted crepe-y look of birch trunks; I missed them when we moved away from Northern Alberta when I was eleven or so. I associate the look of them, somehow, with contentment.
We were at Ad Astra all weekend, seeing people and talking books, so today I mostly worked through a logjam of teaching tasks, as well as figuring out out the plotty heart of one of the three novel concepts I’m incubating. I am calling these concepts the stork babies, since some species of stork hatch multiple offspring, who then duke it out in a rather grisly game of survivor, the stronger voting the weaker out of the nest, kersplat, until only one remains. If I ever wrote a book called Things I learned from David Attenborough, there would definitely be a bird chapter entitled “Nature’s Most Beautiful Assholes.”
The storks’ current working titles, in birth order, are Tom the Liar, Glory Days, and Magic Fairy Sparkle Princess. I expect all of these titles to change no matter who outwits, outlasts and outwrites.
I am also pleased because I’ve realized the Poldark series is finally available via my preferred media vendor. We’ve been waiting for this to happen for months! Now if only iTunes Canada would unlock Grantchester S2…
Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts is newly out from Laksa Media. Edited by Susan Forest and Lucas K. Law, it has stories by Kelley Armstrong, Suzanne Church, Gemma Files, James Alan Gardner, Bev Geddes, Erika Holt, Tyler Keevil, Rich Larson, Derwin Mak, Mahtab Narsimhan, Sherry Peters, Ursula Pflug, Robert Runte, Lorina Stephens, Amanda Sun, Hayden Trenholm, Edward Willet and A.C. Wise. The intro was written by Julie E. Czerneda.
The stories in the anthology seek to, as the editors put it, “explore the delicate balance between mental health and mental illness,” and a portion of the anthology’s net revenue is being donated to the Canadian Mental Health Association. (Laksa Media’s motto is “Read for a Cause, Write for a Cause, Help a Cause” and you can learn more about their philosophy here.)
My own story, “Tribes,” might be said to be about sweeping your problems under a rather large rug. I have only had my contributor’s copy in the house for a day, so I’ve barely dipped into the stories here. But it’s an exciting ToC, and a cool project, and I’m delighted to have been a part of it.
photo by Kelly Robson
The Ad Astra science fiction convention is happening this weekend, and there’s going to be a ton of great programming. Guests of Honor Include Tom Doherty, Jack Whyte, Sandra Kasturi, Brett Savory, and Catherine Asaro.
As for me, here’s when you can find me:
Saturday April 30
- 1:00 p.m. Modern Anxieties and Post-Apocalyptic Landscapes.
- 6:00 p.m. SF Reading with Derwin Mak, Madeline Ashby, and Kelly Robson.
- 7:00 p.m. Loving the Villain .
Sunday May 1st
- 1:00 p.m. Non-Fiction for the SF or Fantasy Writer .
I love meeting readers, writers, students and fans so do come on over, if you’re inclined, and say hello.
Writing the Fantastic, my July course offering at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, is now open for registration. You can find the full course description and syllabus here, but here are the highlights:
This course expands the study of science fiction and fantasy writing to include both short and novel-length fiction. Infusing a narrative with originality and fantastic literature’s much-discussed “Sense of Wonder”–while at the same time preserving its clarity and heart–is a juggling act that can test a writer’s skills to the utmost. Writing the Fantastic places emphasis on meeting this challenge by merging the otherworldly content of speculative fiction with humane, emotionally powerful storytelling. Through exercises and readings, students deepen their understanding of the speculative subgenres: alternate history, time-travel, horror, dark fantasy, sword and sorcery, urban fantasy, sociological science fiction, and hard science fiction.
UCLA has tons of great classes and instructors if you’ve already taken this one. The popular stuff fills up fast, so browse now, browse often. My classes, especially my summer offerings, are intended to work as alternatives to something like Clarion or Clarion West, in case this isn’t the year when you can take six weeks off work, or preparation for same. WTF, as I like to call it, is one of the classes that qualifies you to take the Advanced SF Workshop that I also run, periodically, through the program.
Toronto, Day 1074
. I am sitting on a bench in Nathan Phillips Square, a few weeks shy of our third anniversary of moving here. I’m looking at old City Hall and the new Toronto sign that was installed for the Pan-American games. This vast public square is a five minute walk from my door, and if the rooftop garden was open I would be sitting there instead.
Instead, I am watching a couple hundred people futz around in the early evening sun, waving selfie sticks, chasing pigeons, practicing synchronized dance moves, and climbing on the Henry Moore statue, The Archer, in front of the main entrance. There’s a young guy going from person to person asking them to take pictures of him making a “two thumbs up” gesture.
In another week or two, they’ll refill the fountain. Right now it has been cleared of its winter layer of skating ice, and is a bare concrete surface. People are taking advantage of the opportunity to get their loved ones inside the sign from a closer angle. There are kids and dogs and cyclists and seniors, single pedestrians, couples, families, tourists and packs of friends. It is Saturday night, and nobody’s in a hurry, and from this distance everyone seems to be at play, in a good mood.
The Square has two moods as far as I have seen. One is this – tourists and Torontonians chilling out. The other is thronging with some kind of organized activity, whether it is a farmers market, Nuit Blanche, a political rally, a big art show, or a formal parade. It’s not a park or in anyway green space, but it’s right next toOsgoode Hall, which has a law library, beautiful grounds and all the squirrels you could throw a nut at.
So there you have it: I love City Hall.