It was a Saturday sometime in August and I was on Queen Street, schlepping home the sandwich we favor for weekend lunch. The weather was glorious, late-summer heat and all the sun you could wish for. Thanks to the particular perversity of the retail ecosystem, one of the clothing boutiques had a fall coat in the window.
Friends, humans, countrymen, this was an exceedingly awesome coat. I don’t remember what it looked like, because… well, I never remember what things look like. But I do remember knowing it would’ve looked flat-out smashing on me. I absolutely believe that if I’d had cute shoes and a dusting of snow in my hair, along with that coat, Dr. Who would have spontaneously a) become real; b) materialized in Toronto; c) offered me a gig as the TARDIS’s first Canadian Companion. Which all things considered wouldn’t have been 100% great. So much danger! All that yelling! Daleks! But I digress.
I didn’t use to have an eye for cute coats or charming frocks, or to be honest much interest. But there it was, adorable as fuck, siren-songing with wooly autumn vigor, in defiance of the heat and humidity, and because I tend to squirrel my spending money away, I could have walked in right then and there and claimed it for my own.
The internal chorus kicked in: Weren’t you kind of thinking about a tattoo?
Well, maybe. Yeah. No. Yeah. Like, okay, but for my next divisible-by-ten birthday?
Which is years off. Are you looking at that fucking coat? OMG, buy it, buy it!
But that artist I saw on Instagram…
On the one hand, she’s not likely to be available before you are. in fact, fifty. On the other, you can save up tattoo money again by 2018.
Such was the power of the coat that the yammering went back and forth for rawther a long while before a louder, deeper and utterly certain voice said: Hey! You are having an amazing year. Celebrate properly, mark the occasion with blood and pain and beauty and screw this BS about waiting for a mere birthday.
Oh! I thought. I am having an amazing year!
By the time I got home, I’d decided to have someone zorch poppies into the flesh of my arm. I was sure enough by then that I actually told Kelly about the coat, which was an act of staggering generosity and considerable risk to the laws of physics, as it would also have looked so mind-bogglingly incredible on my wife that everyone standing within fifty feet of her would probably have become invisible, possibly forever. Unbeknownst to us, the boutique was going broke at pretty much that exact moment… and so it was not to be. You can thank market forces for your continued existence on the visual spectrum.
Anyway. I’ve blogged about all the amazing travel experiences I had in 2016. Those experiences came with so many museums, meals, meetings with loved ones, and marvels! But there has even more this year. Embarrassments of riches. My fifth novel, The Nature of a Pirate–which also represents my first completed and published trilogy–will be out from Tor Books in December. Its predecessor, A Daughter of No Nation, won the Aurora Award. I had not one but three incredible teaching opportunities and hit them all out of the park. I gave a talk on terraforming, “How We Became LV426” at the Toronto SpecFic Colloquium this year, an event whose headliner was Margaret Atwood. I co-edited my first anthology, Heiresses of Russ 2016, with Steve Berman. There were so many great things, in fact, that I am probably forgetting four or ten or a dozen more.
Atop it all, I got to watch Kelly’s career blossom, with a spectacular list of stories published that turned into an equally spectacular list of award nominations, Year’s Best selections, translations, kudos, great reviews, and an Aurora Award in the short fiction category for Waters of Versailles.
So! A tattoo to celebrate, courtesy the remarkable Lorena Lorenzo of Blackline Studios on King Street. In the photo above, Chinchilla’s a little bored with the whole concept. I, on the other hand, am delighted with it. I’ll talk about the design, and why poppies, sometime in the not too distant. But as part of the fun I’m also going to interview some writers about their tattoos. The when, the why, the symbolism… well, really, whatever they want to tell you about their ink is up to them. You’ll see Inksplain interviews here at Planetalyx starting this Wednesday with an essay by Emmie Mears. I hope you enjoy them. And if you have any questions about the poppies, the artist, or my amazing 2016, just go ahead and let me know.
Today Kelly and I are taking our show on the road, to ChiSeries Guelph, where the two of us will be reading with Marian Thorpe at the Red Brick Cafe at 8 Douglas Street. Be there or… well, be somewhere else, with my best wishes, and we’ll catch you next time.
(Unless you want to be square, or trapezoidal. Then be that. Hey, I’m not the boss of you.)
As many of you may have already heard, Kelly’s “Waters of Versailles” is now on the World Fantasy Award ballot, along with having been nominated for an Aurora Award and a Nebula. That’s quite the luminous hat trick, and I am exceedingly proud and excited.
“Two Year Man,” meanwhile, is on the short list for the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, (more correctly, I believe she’s on the first ever short list for short fic for the Sunburst) and “The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill” is on the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award list. You can read all three stories at her site.
As for me, I am on the verge of wrapping up two glorious semesters as a creative writing professor at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus, and I have also landed one of those gigs that, due to Non-Disclosure Agreements, is officially one of those I can’t talk about it but it’s cool, so cool gigs. And there’s a fair prospect of knocking another thing off my writerly bucket list soon. If I pull that one off, I’ll be crowing very loudly indeed.
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.