One of the reasons I am driven to write fiction is so I can try to capture, in words, the essence of those rare, truly profound experiences that life occasionally hands out. The things that are, by their very nature, difficult to capture truthfully without being trite. It’s hard to talk about bliss and heartbreak and transformation, about love, birth, marriage, or loss, without sounding like a greeting card. My students run up against this all the time; trying to put sincere human emotion on the page and beating their fists bloody against the wall of words.
At some point this past Nebula Awards weekend I realized I was not only in the midst of something that intense–the opposite of crisis, yet every bit as all-consuming–and that part of why it was dialled up to nine was tied to an earlier trip Kelly and I made to Chicago, in 1997, on our way to our second Worldcon in San Antonio. Out of that trip came, among other things, the seed of my Asimovs story, “A Slow Day at the Gallery.” I won’t go on, because a) I need to process; b) what I just said, above; and c) I mean to make art out of it all. But it was a seriously big deal. And a thoroughgoing source of joy.
The con also offered many delights that weren’t quite so all-consuming, including:
- People: I go to cons hoping to develop deeper friendships with people in my social media orbit. This weekend I had several long, thrilling conversations, with individuals who I’ve Liked, many times, and wanted to know. I feel very blessed every time this comes together.
- Dancing: When SFWA releases the official video of Emperor Stardust and the Eunuchs of the Forbidden City, I will post it. We were, dare I say it, awesome.
- Brain food: I wasn’t alone in noticing that the quality of programming, the exchange of knowledge and ideas at the con, was extremely high.
- Body food: Chicago lived up to its delicious reputation. The breakfast joint we settled upon, The Goddess and the Baker, was especially good.
It feels significant, in this context, that Kelly and I have been in Toronto three years as of this very day. On the plane home to our little apartment, our beloved cats, our wonderful neighborhood, with two suitcase heaving with books and someone’s ginger liqueur (you know who you are!) my luminous Nebula-nominated wife, of whom I am so justifiably proud, was aglow. “I couldn’t possibly be happier,” she said.
Know what? Yeah. Me too. Things are just that stunningly good right now.
A Daughter of No Nation
The delightful Angela Slatter interviewed me on her blog last week, in a wide-ranging conversation covering topics from my childhood reading to my currently-up-for-an-Aurora Award novel, A Daughter of No Nation.
In other news, and as many of you probably already know, I am off to Chicago this week to attend the Nebula Awards Banquet, and to cheer for Kelly, who is nominated for her novella Waters of Versailles. As with all Dua trips of late, there will be dance videos, coffee shops, art museums, and pilgrimages in search of baked goods worthy of the name. I also expect to see and celebrate with so many lovely friends.
We will be home just in time to mark the third anniversary of our move to Toronto, and the kittens'(well, not really kittens anymore) second birthday. I have mostly stopped telling people we are new to Toronto. I haven’t stopped telling people I love it.
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.
San francisco mural
Since getting home from the book tour I have been doing many things: preparing to talk at the Toronto Spec Fic Colloquium, for example, and thinking about novels I might want to write in the near, and grading lots and lots and lots of student stories. I have reread Tana French’s Broken Harbor and attended an undergraduate English Conference at UTSC–chaired one fiction panel there, actually–and finished a 12,000 word draft of a novelette that is the third attempt at a story that has died twice, previously, on the table. I am so relieved to have the narrative stapled together this time, even if I do eventually have to hack the midsection to bits.
I’ve been figuring out what I’m going to read at ChiSeries next week and and assembling the small piles of paper that will eventually be my income tax records and posting photographs and attempting to Navigate University Bureaucracies.
With Kelly I’ve watched two seasons–all there is!–of a BBC show called Twenty Ten, which is the prequel to W1A. The latter popped up on Canadian Flix of Net, and we fell absolutely in love with it, launching a rewatch almost as soon as we’d closed out the last episode. From that (though we have occasionally been catching up with Agent Carter and Brooklyn 99), we fell into Last Tango in Halifax, which I have to shamefacedly admit became far more interesting to me when I realized it was also BBC product and not (cough cough) local product.
And in between all that I have been squeeing with delight over Kelly’s Nebula Nomination for “Waters of Versailles.” All her dreams are coming true and it’s the best thing ever, and you should share the joy with her because it’s infectious.
Finally, I’m dreaming of London, because we are going there. Soon! To eat crumpets and look at paintings and walk along the Thames and ride the Tube and be giddy glittering tourists on the loose in the springtime.
What have you been doing?