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.
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.
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.
I am delighted to announce that Podcastle: the Fantasy Fiction Podcast will be producing an audio version of my story “Cooking Creole,” which first appeared in the Nalo Hopkinson anthology Mojo: Conjure Stories in 2003.
If you’re thinking it’s been a long long while since I announced or posted anything in this space… you’re absolutely right! This is because I have many irons in many fires–I’m writing busily on the Sekrit Project, am still going great guns on all my projects for the UBC MFA program in Creative Writing I’ve enrolled in–there are poems, a screenplay, a stage play and critiques of all the work by my various wonderful classmates. I am also, as always, teaching–right now it’s the UCLA Master Class in Novel Writing.
The upshot is that I’ve been a ghost just about everywhere but Twitter and Instagram, and expect for things to stay that way until just about April. Which is soon and getting sooner every day!
It’s story time once again! Today I’ve unearthed “The Spear Carrier,” another of my Slow Invasion stories, most of which were bought by Ellen Datlow back when she was at the helm of SciFiction.
“The Spear Carrier” is about Opal, an ambitious young diplomat in service on a planet called Arune, home to a people whom we earth types–behind their backs, anyway–like to call scarecrows. They’re big, they’re spindly, they’re haughty AF, and they love, love, love to duel to the death.
This is a quality that does not endear the scarecrows to humanity’s diplomatic core, but Opal sees it as a bug, not a feature. Nobody else is willing to take a chance on getting skewered, just to get promoted to Ambassador? Perhaps she’s got what it takes…
Over the course of the story Opal and Masao walk their way through a complicated Arune ritual, and–despite significant differences–they eventually come to an understanding. I’m very fond of this story, and I hope you all enjoy it!
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