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.
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.
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.
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…
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.