This weekend I am headed with Kelly to CanCon, where I will be on a number of panels in my (decreasingly) secret identity as L. X. Beckett, author of the solarpunk thriller Gamechanger. The two of us have grown to love Ottawa; and it is always a treat to go. We will see so many friends, and I expect to come back charged with creative energy and inspiration.
If you are only just hearing about Lex, here’s a link to my webpage, newsletter, Twitter, and Gamechanger buy links. A lot of my online activity has been focused there lately, so if you’ve been wondering why it’s been quiet here, and what I’m up to at any given moment, check there. It’s also where I’ll post my scheduled panels for the con!
Folks have also been asking about the Creative Writing MFA I am doing at UBC. The story so far: classes are done, and I am in the thesis phase, working on a screenplay for a full length horror movie entitled Jackpot. I hope to wrap up my degree soon, and maybe even graduate in 2020.
One knock-on effect of the MFA was that I wrote a bunch of poems and I’m happy to unhumbly brag I have now sold one, an exciting achievement badge that allows me to refer to myself as a Poet. I’ll post more details about that when I have them.
The school year is about to start again, but before summer wafts out the door, I wanted to look back at my vacation-packed summer and give it a long kiss goodbye.
In July I went to New York for a few days of whirlwind-I saw my agent Caitlin Blasdell and my editor at Tor, Christopher Morgan, as well as friends galore and art galleries even more galore. Galore-er? I also went to shows: the whole trip was initially instigated by kick-ass multi-genre superauthor Jeffe Kennedy, and her decision to see Hamilton while she was in town for RWA. I added Beetlejuice to the mix a day later. I went alone, but by the grace of Twitter I realized Matthew Kressel was seated fifteen feet away from my seat.
This has been the year of some wonderfully fancy shows, because just a few weeks after that, Kelly and I went to London, where we went to see Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe! London was our prelude to the Dublin Worldcon-a few days of walking, seeing art, drinking in the history. We saw the desk where Charles Dickens wrote multiple books and the prison in Reading where Oscar Wilde was banged up for homosexuality. And then we went to the MERL, home of many a fascinating farm implement (no, really, I’m not joking!) and one of the best voices on museum Twitter.
In Dublin the pace changed to convention time: we saw writer friends, talked shop, appeared on many panels, attended the Hugo Awards ceremony, where Kelly’s Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach was a nominee and committed a bit more tourism. I was especially excited to see Dublin Castle, where many of my favorite Tana French mysteries are set. Dublin is a beautiful city and I’m glad to have seen it.
This year has also taken me to LA twice, Ottawa a bunch of times, and there will be a dash to Vancouver in the near future. It’s been a lot of hours on the road, and with a lot of wonders seen. I feel extremely fortunate and blessed, and more than a little boggled at how jet-setty it has all been!
The last couple of days have been perfectly warm and yet not humid, not hot. It has felt as though Toronto had been lunging between rain and attempts at heat. And maybe that pattern will reassert– we can’t know anything about what the weather will do now – but I feel as if summer did have cat days, this will be them. Long, perfect for napping, lazy but not fully languorous.
Besides that, our cats are filled with wonder and delight because their favorite reality show, Adolescent Squirrels Leave Home! (season two) is currently playing in our front yard.
Sadly, they don’t have access to Raccoons invade local record Shop, playing just down the road at Kop’s Records on Queen Street.
With the classes for my MFA behind me (I’m embarking on my thesis any second now), I have been taking a little time to listen to podcasts and to read. I’ve been catching up with The Anthropocene Reviewed, which will surprise nobody who knows me. I particularly recommend Tetris and the Seed Potatoes of Leningrad, if you want a good historical story and possibly a bit of a feels explosion. I listened to a This Is Love about Peggy Guggenheim, and went from there to reading a Francine Prose bio: Peggy Guggenheim: The Shock of the Modern.
Because I am interested in and writing about things like rationing, food security and small scale economies, I’ve also been watching a bunch of UK quasi-reality shows called Wartime Farm, Edwardian Farm, Tudor Monastery Farm … well, you get the idea. It’s a shared universe proposition, featuring a trio of archaeologists and historians who don period clothes and go work historical farms within Britain, using the technologies and techniques of the era suggested by the show’s title.
The Farm shows are a bit of a drift from our usual fare, which leans heavily to British murder mystery and period drama interspersed with things like the latest incarnation of The Tick and Fleabag, but Kelly and I have found them wildly compelling. I think I could watch people build improvise and tend kilns, making bricks out in the middle of nowhere, every day for the rest of my life.
Another appeal of the farm shows, besides soft research, is they underline very strongly how much wood a person had to have access to, and burn, to achieve any measure of comfortable living. Making charcoal for kilns, then burning the charcoal. Boiling salt to refine it. Smelting, blacksmithing, keeping water hot… I get that trees can be big and weigh a lot, but it’s a sobering look at resource use, a reminder that we still use all that fire and more besides—we just don’t see where it comes from.
I am just kickin’ the jetlag after a week in Los Angeles, where I went to an Amanda Palmer concert, hit the usual-for-me handful of museums (LACMA, Getty, Getty Villa, Broad, MOCA). I packed bags of books for and then gleefully attended SFWA’s biggest Nebula Awards weekend to date, and finally–for a big change of gears–went to a young family member’s university convocation. It was a fun-filled and action-packed week, and I am very glad to be home making the final push on a big project.
Here’s Tina Connolly, Jenn Reese and me at the Nebs banquet.
What’s next for me this summer? Short answer: lots of things! In particular, though, I haven’t been telling you about new courses much lately because I’ve been teaching one very big, very intense, very rewarding novel-writing master class for some nine months. Now, as that goes on hiatus for the summer, I am happy to announce that on June 15th in Toronto I will be running a free workshop on worldbuilding at the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation, and Fantasy, at the Toronto Public Library. Admission is free, but attendees must sign up in advance.
Here’s the Facebook event: https://m.facebook.com/events/335023953882880/
And here’s the Tweet with the Merril phone number and a huge picture of me looking smug. Clearly I’d built a really good world that day! It was probably Stormwrack.
This is a rare opportunity to do a little work with me without signing up for a full bore class or mentorship via UCLA Extension or the UTSC Creative Writing program. That said, it seems appropriate to mention that if anyone happen to enjoy the Merril workshop, I am also running a summer session of my online UCLA course, Creating Universes, Building Worlds, starting in early July.
For those of you who are local and fancy a little face to face deity-playing, come ponder vampire dietary regimes, the effects of adjusting a planet’s gravity, not to mention all the other details that can lay a solid foundation under your stories and novels.