Summer Vacation: Asheville

I spent a week in Asheville, and it was far too short a time. The next time I go there, I’m going with a car, hiking gear, and a friend who likes a bit of adventure, especially when it comes to the outdoors.

I still managed to pack in a lot. I met up with Jeff VanderMeer and Nathan Ballingrud for tapas and wine (mmm, so good), and then visited Asheville’s champagne bookstore. It is as it says, a bookstore that serves champagne and provides comfortable seating in cosy niches so that both champagne and literature can be properly appreciated.

I caught up on sleep and reading at a B&B which provided glorious three-course breakfasts. I met cool people and had interesting conversations and learned proper cartwheel technique from a pre-teen who had taken gymnastics (she, her sister and her mother are avid readers and we had a great time bonding).

I visited the River Arts District with Ann and Jeff VanderMeer near the end of my stay. It was like Albuquerque all over again, with all kinds of temptations from painters, potters and pastry cooks.

On the final day, we walked through downtown streets filled with people for the Bele Chere festival, and joined Nathan, Jeremy Jones, Robert Redick and Will Hindmarch at Malaprops for a multi-author event. Jeremy (director of Shared Worlds) did the intros and everyone else did a reading.

Special mention must go to Nathan, who read from his recently-published collection North American Lake Monsters, and that small excerpt from ‘The Good Husband’ left us speechless, chilled, and utterly in awe. Robert and I, who were scheduled to read after him, looked at each other in horror. How the hell do you follow that? Robert rose to the occasion with some brief and sincere words of appreciation for Nathan’s reading, and then held his own with a fascinating pair of excerpts from The Chathrand Voyage Quartet. Needless to say, I ended up buying both Nathan’s book and the first book of Robert’s quartet.

After the reading, we left for Spartanburg, and that, of course, is another post!

Summer Vacation: Albuquerque and Houston

This post will not be long. It’s hardly even a summary … more of a précis … but I’m not going to give you every detail of my trip, because I am selfish and secretive with my sweetest memories.

My main reason for visiting Albuquerque was the chance to meet Dvorah Simon face to face after years of virtual interaction. If you’ve read my second book, you know Dvorah. She wrote the poem that the Faerie Queen recites to Dllenahkh and Delarua, and she’s also on the dedication page. In addition to being a poet, she’s a full-time psychologist and part-time muse, an excellent hostess and a great friend. She has exquisite taste in art, music and food, and as she took me to her favourite haunts I was amazed to discover that Albuquerque is very much a city of artists and artisans. Such artistry does indeed include food, and food includes chocolate! I was confronted with massive amounts of really really good chocolate!

Albuquerque felt like blessed earth, and I hope to return there very soon.

Houston was fabulous. Karen Burnham is pretty much one of my favourite people ever, and her family (husband, toddler-son and dog) is lovely. She took me to her workplace. She works at NASA. NASA! I tried to play it cool, but by the end when I’d finished the tour and seen the films and touched the moon rock and all, I was moved beyond all possibility of playing it cool. There may have been tears.

I also had a highly enjoyable meetup with Gretchen (who is also on the dedication page of The Best of All Possible Worlds), visited Galveston, found even more chocolate, and met John DeNardo of SF Signal (the site that hosts SF Crossing the Gulf and does other amazing things, like win Hugos). John is cool! He’s down-to-earth and funny and makes you feel like you’ve known him for a long time.

None of this is in precise order. Don’t expect pictures. I did snap a few with my phone, but in general I find that the pressure to document and verify gets in the way of enjoyment. I don’t want the writer brain on when I’m having fun. I don’t want a camera between my eyes and the view.

I left Houston happy and tired and ready to crash, and fortunately I had scheduled a break in Asheville, NC for that very purpose. More on that in my next post!

What I did on my summer ‘vacation’

Rather a lot, as it turns out!

I joined Samuel Montgomery-Blinn for a radio interview with the folks at WUNC 91.5, North Carolina Public Radio.

About a week later, I had another interview/discussion with Sam and the hosts of Carolina Book Beat.

I posted in advance about the readings at various libraries and bookstores and my week as Amazon Writer-in-Residence at Shared Worlds, but I have yet to post about how they went. Short version – brilliantly! Long version … that will take time and separate posts. I’m still winding down from all the travel, and I have to ransack my overstuffed memory to come up with a coherent and chronological account.

And it was a vacation, at least partly. I got to hang out with old friends and newer friends, and I also made new friends, some of them in unexpected places. I encountered children who love to read (and I owe two of them a list of recommendations!) and discovered new books and new authors in a wide range of age levels. I saw four states and several cities/towns and a whole lotta interstate. I ate a lot of good food, and drank good wine, beer and smoothies (yes, smoothies. Karen Burnham makes the best breakfast smoothies). I encountered a ridiculous amount of chocolate but kept in control (sharing is key). I packed, unpacked and lifted so much luggage that my right arm is now noticeably more muscular than my left. I learned to do a proper cartwheel. I listened to authors – they made me laugh, they made me cry, they gave me chills.

In time, in time. There is much to do here, but I will post again soon.

Readings, Shared Worlds and more readings

I should have done this a long time ago, but I’m travelling and I’m distracted. Here is a schedule of what I’ll be doing over the next two weeks, starting tomorrow.

Malaprops Bookstore, Asheville, North Carolina

SCI-FI/FANTASY SHARED WORLDS Reading & Signing

28 Jul, 3 pm

Karen Lord, Robert V. S. Redick, Will Hindmarch, Nathan Ballingrud and Hugo Award winner Ann VanderMeer and World Fantasy Award winner Jeff VanderMeer.

Shared Worlds, Wofford College, Spartanburg, South Carolina

Amazon Writer-in-Residence, 29 Jul-3 Aug

Various locations, North Carolina

AUGUST 2013

3 (Saturday) 7 to 9 pm — Quail Ridge Books hosts the annual Bull Spec summer speculative fiction event. This year it is an absolutely fantastic lineup with Karen Lord, Nathan Ballingrud, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, Robert V.S. Redick, and Will Hindmarch all coming up from the Shared Worlds Teen Writing Camp at Wofford College, being joined locally by Durham author Mur Lafferty. We had a blast hosting Ann and Jeff back in 2011 and it’s sure to be another great evening. And! From 9 pm to late,The Raleigh Review is hosting an after-reading “meet the authors” reception (also free and open to the public) at their Writers’ Loft. And! See below for more info on additional events with Karen Lord while she is in the Triangle area. More info: http://bullspec.com/2013/03/29/announcement-the-third-annual-bull-spec-summer-speculative-fiction-event/

NEW: 4 (Sunday) 3 pm — The Orange County Library hosts Karen Lord for a meet the author event at its main branch in downtown Hillsborough. More info:
http://engagedpatrons.org/EventsExtended.cfm?SiteID=6923&EventID=177489

NEW: 5 (Monday) 4 pm — The newly renovated Chapel Hill Library hosts Karen Lord for a “meet the author tea” event. Refreshments served at 3:30 pm ahead of the event. More info: http://chapelhillpubliclibrary.org/txp/?s=News&id=896

NEW: 5 (Monday) 7 pm — Chapel Hill’s Flyleaf Books hosts Karen Lord for a reading and signing of her deep future anthropological sf novel, The Best of All Possible Worlds. More info: http://www.flyleafbooks.com/event/karen-lord-caribbean-speculative-fiction-bull-spec

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SF Crossing the Gulf, Episode 16a

We discussed the short fiction of Cordwainer Smith in our latest episode of SF Crossing the Gulf, and there was so much to say that we had to break it into two parts. So here is part a:

Episode 16a: The Rediscovery of Man, by Cordwainer Smith

We cover two short stories, ‘Scanners Live in Vain’ and ‘The Lady Who Sailed the Soul’. It was a very enjoyable discussion. Smith’s short fiction has lots of complexity and really lends itself to both literary and genre analysis. This is another example of an author whose work has aged well.

 

 

SF Crossing the Gulf, Episode 15

A new episode of SF Crossing the Gulf is now available at SF Signal:

Episode 15: Flatland by Edwin Abbott, and ‘The Shadow Postulates’ by Yoon Ha Lee

Not only is Flatland one of my favourite books, but it is the oldest book we have discussed on this podcast (publication year 1884). When we compare and contrast it to the social sci-fi and math-fi of Yoon Ha Lee, a brilliant contemporary writer, you will see that it has aged extremely well and deserves to be called a classic of the genre and of literature in general.

These works discuss perception, worldview, paradigms and scientific discovery – in effect how scientists and their work are influenced by culture and personal bias. Fascinating stuff. I highly recommend this podcast if you have an interest in the history and philosophy of science.