This week’s episode of SF Crossing the Gulf focuses on one of my favourite books: TIll We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis. I discovered it late, less than a decade ago, and it is often overlooked when readers talk about his books. I strongly believe it should not be overlooked. If you have any leanings towards reworked myth, many-layered stories and strong, complex female protagonists, this is a book you should read. And when you have read it, check out my discussion with Karen Burnham.
My second panel was scheduled for Monday morning. I got to share the stage with two other authors: Emily St John Mandel and Charlotte Wood. We had not read each other’s works, but our chair Cath Kenneally had, and she wove it all together under the theme ‘All Stories are Love Stories’. We all used the term ‘love story’ broadly, and spent as much time talking about friends and family as we did about romantic relationships. I was the only speculative fiction writer, but Emily’s work sounds like an interesting crossover, literary but with a touch of noir that at times gets her categorised as a genre writer as well.
And speaking of reading other people’s works – so many books, so many cool authors, so little time! I began to feel a bit less smug about my minimalist luggage arrangements. There were books available to buy, authors present to sign them, and I had no space. Eventually, I made arrangements with Sean Williams to ship some books home (thank you Sean!) and happily went on a splurge.
I missed Justine’s second panel, but we both caught Scott’s reading, an excerpt about an alternate WWI which confirmed my desire to acquaint myself with the world of Leviathan. Then a group of us went off to have more good food (Japanese this time) and fun. That was my final day of Adelaide Writers’ Week events.
On Tuesday morning, I had a half-hour live interview with Richard Fidler, the last of the interviews set up by Tracey. I have to say, I was very impressed with the preparations for this interview. The pre-interview for this took place the previous Friday so that there was already a sense of what themes and topics would be interesting and relevant. We also had a brief chat before the actual interview and he put me completely at ease.
And that was Adelaide! I must say how grateful I am to the Writers’ Week staff for their excellent organisation and care. Laura Kroetsch, the Director, and Anna Hughes, the Coordinator, were present and accessible and amazing. Pan Macmillan publicist Tracey Cheetham and the Adelaide Festival National Publicist Prue Bassett were tireless, efficient and charming. There were many others, from staff to volunteers to friends, who were just lovely and made sure I had a great time in Adelaide. I hesitate to list names because I know I will forget someone, but some have been mentioned in previous posts.
My next grand journey will happen in summer, but that deserves a post of its own!
Good music, good food, good company, a black swan and some black ants, and other etceteras.
On Saturday, I again breakfasted with Justine and Scott, and had some laugh-out-loud moments because they’ve both got great comic timing. I was starting to feel better. Jet lag, especially jet lag after three flights, is no joke. It’s a fatigue so deep it feels like the marrow is draining out of your bones. Fortunately, Saturday was a relatively light day with two purely enjoyable items. The first was a coffee meeting with Dr Amy Matthews, who was to moderate my Sunday panel on Redemption in Indigo. She suggested we meet in advance and chat a bit about what to discuss. We ended up sitting on the grass down by the river in marvellous conversation for about three hours. There was a brief encounter with an oddly friendly, yet shy, black swan who approached us but when we merely stared warily and declined to offer it food, it sidled away with its head tucked into its back as if it was napping, or maybe just embarrassed. Swans are sizable birds. I do not mess with swans. Nor geese.
The Writers’ Week reception took place that evening. A group of us gathered in the hotel lobby to walk over to the venue. A cheerful, charming gentleman introduced himself to me as Tom Keneally. I was still insufficiently alert, so it was much later when I clued in to who he was and got him to sign my just-purchased copy of The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith.
The reception was most enjoyable in a way that can only be managed when a room full of writers and other literary types get together and have conversations. Several of us got hauled aside by the Guardian (UK) for some photos. After the reception, because the night was still young, I followed Tracey (the publicist) and a few others to the Barrio where there was a live band playing some excellent music. Eventually it dawned on me … wait a minute! That’s Soul II Soul! Pure nostalgia, great music – which alas, I could not fully enjoy because before they finished playing their set I realised that there was not much keeping me upright but sheer willpower. I chose to be sensible and went to bed.
There are things I can’t quite recall. For example, there was a stunning fireworks display down by the river which we (Justine, Scott and I) witnessed up close (very close!) from the terrace at the back of the hotel. Was that Friday night or Sunday night? I can’t remember! And I forgot that I did in fact go out to dinner Friday after the opening night performance with Sean Williams and his wife, Scott and Justine, and Isobelle Carmody (one of those delightful people who only have to speak twice to make you want to rush out and buy their books).
One of the reasons it became so hard to keep track of the days was that I was taking (whenever I could) a long nap during the day and having a short sleep at night. There’s a 14.5 hour difference between Barbados and Adelaide, almost a direct day-to-night flip.
On Sunday, I went down to the Writers’ Week venue in the morning well in advance of my afternoon panel so I could do a radio interview on-site. It was Kids’ Day, and there were little ones running about in costume. It was a great family atmosphere, everything outdoors and the weather hot, dry and clear. And ants. I was sitting under the trees listening to a panel when I looked to my right and saw that the gentleman sitting next to me was covered in black ants. They were crawling up the plastic chairs from a broad trail on a nearby tree. I alerted him and helped brush him off; he changed chairs and moved away from the tree. I was twitchily viewing my own chair for ants for a while and just when I managed to calm my paranoia I looked to the row ahead and there was a woman crawling with ants.
The panel before mine featured Justine Larbalestier, and Isobelle Carmody. It was enjoyable and relaxing (no, I did not nod off) and put all thought of black ants out of my mind. Most if not all of the panels were being recorded for television, which meant that later during my panel when I actually was stung by an ant, I had to make it look very casual, as if I was merely brushing my shoulder rather than slapping the life out of the little miscreant.
Sean Williams fortified me with a chocolate freckle before my panel, and rewarded me with a dark chocolate covered macadamia afterwards. Walking around with chocolate treats is apparently his ‘thing’. I’m not complaining.
The panel went really well, thanks in no small part to our preparation the previous day. I got an absolutely brilliant question, weighty with knowledge and perception, from a woman in the audience who, when I queried her, admitted to having been in Barbados just the year before. I’m happy the panel was televised, but especially for that question which gave me a new insight into the approach I chose for Paama’s brand of heroism.
Here I am, looking like I know what I’m talking about:
After the panel, I had a fun time at the signing table, then went back to catch the second half of Sean interviewing Scott about Leviathan. That was fascinating, and I wish I could have heard the entire session, but it was enough to tempt me to buy the book (and Behemoth and Goliath). Well played, Mr Westerfeld.
Before I forget, I should mention that I also found out from Amy that Redemption in Indigo is on the reading list of an undergrad course at the University of Adelaide, so there were students at my panel and in my signing line – yay!
At the end of the day, we went and had dinner at a restaurant with a secret room hidden behind a cunning sliding bookcase. (Oh dear, I’ve said too much. Well, I won’t tell you the name of the restaurant at least.)
That’s what I can remember of the weekend! Strictly speaking, that was Day One and Day Two of the Writers’ Week but Days Two and Three of the Adelaide Festival … but nevermind. I’m numbering these Days according to the time I was spending there, not by their calendar.
Next, Day Four!
And this is where I’m spending part of my summer:
Shared Worlds, a non-profit science fiction/fantasy teen writing summer camp hosted by Wofford College, has received a third consecutive supporting grant from Amazon.com and has named author Karen Lord as its Amazon.com Writer in Residence for 2013.
I’m really looking forward to this!
A new episode of SF Crossing the Gulf is up! We talked about Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
I haven’t the time to tell you everything, so here are the highlights:
The Truly Marvellous VanderMeers
Heartiest congratulations to Ann and Jeff for winning the Best Anthology World Fantasy Award with The Weird. I cannot recommend this book too highly. It is a gift to both genre and mainstream readers. A lot of hard work and love went into this anthology, and it shows.
It was my great pleasure to meet Karin Tidbeck and attend the book release party for her excellent short story collection Jagannath. I remember watching in delight as Jeff VanderMeer tossed a stuffed toy bunny (a stand-in for giveaways that were too fragile to be airborne) into the squealing crowd rather like a bride throwing a bouquet to desperate bridesmaids. Also launching were Ann VanderMeer’s anthology Steampunk Revolution (contributors enthralled the room with one-sentence readings from their stories) and At the Edge of Waking by Holly Phillips. The cakes were gorgeous … iced with the covers of the books. I had some of the Jagannath. Delicious.
Why Is the Rum Gone?
It went to a better place. Two better places in fact. I brought with me two bottles of Mount Gay Extra Old. One went to the gentlemen of the Coode Street Podcast, Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan. The other was handed over to the Cooke Agency, specifically my brilliant and hardworking agents Sally Harding and Ron Eckel. I have reason to believe that the rum was thoroughly enjoyed by those who were invited to partake. They shared generously; I saw a lot of bright eyes and dreamy smiles as people approached me later to thank me for rumrunning!
The Toastmaster’s Hashtag
Gary K. Wolfe delivered a top-quality speech at the awards, full of humour and edge and insight into the genre. When discussing the issue of spoilers in reviews, he demonstrated the skill of the ‘three syllable synopsis’. The Whale Wins. The Ring Melts. George Shoots Jay. Such sweet brevity should easily find a place on twitter under #3syllablesynopsis. Make it trend!
The Cool Kids
I know I’m inviting trouble by naming some names and not others, but I have to say that I was especially revved up and inspired by the conversations I had with E. Lily Yu, Ellen Klages, Daryl Gregory and Ted Chiang. Ted thinks I’m a little insane because I remarked that the WFC bookbag was so heavy I could drown someone with it. Ellen and Daryl know I’m insane and pretty much encourage me to ever greater heights of functional literary insanity. Lily is, I think, relieved to learn just how insane I am because together we can plot to take over the world. (I’m Pinky, she’s The Brain. Narf to you too.)
Talking to Derryl Murphy made me rush out and buy Napier’s Bones and bring it back the next day for signing. Hearing Amal El-Mohtar read from The Honey Month had the same effect, but when I ambushed Amal in the hotel corridor in hopes of getting a copy and a signature I learned that I was too late; they were all gone. Never mind. It goes to the top of my acquisitions list. Nene Ormes (compatriot and friend of Karin Tidbeck) was another person I wanted to read after only a few minutes of conversation, but I will have to wait on a translation or learn Swedish for that.
In conclusion, let me say congratulations again to all the nominees and winners. My sympathies to those who were unable to get to Toronto because of storm-related difficulties. Thank you to all who told me how much they enjoyed Redemption in Indigo or mentioned listening to SF Crossing the Gulf.
This post could be three pages long, but I can’t permit it. There are other things afoot, as those who follow my twitter will know. Stay tuned (by the end of this week perhaps, but definitely before the end of the next) for a post about me and the Adelaide Writers’ Week 2013, and a wrap-up and commentary on the first complete series of SF Crossing the Gulf.
The first shall be last and the last shall be first. Way back in August, Ron Eckel, my representative at Cooke International, sold audio rights for The Best of All Possible Worlds to Audible.
Today, I contributed to the Mind Meld at SF Signal on the topic of what SF texts should appear on a secondary school English Literature syllabus.
And finally, Episode 6 of SF Crossing the Gulf is up. Karen and I discuss The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, and we get fairly giddy with all the lovely, complex, layered literary goodness the book has to offer.
I LOVE the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts. Love it. I hate travelling to and from it, which is why I come to this blog post a little worn at the edges, possibly lacking in eloquence, but doggedly determined to let the world know that ICFA rocks.
I got there on a Tuesday evening in advance of the opening. I had a plan to pace myself: scheduled naps, cod liver oil capsules, B-Vitamin supplements and careful selection and timing of meals. I even slotted in two sessions of Zumba (thanks Karen Hellekson!) to compensate for the ridiculous amount of sitting I would be doing. It worked pretty well, I think, except that no-one is a match for the nonsense that is trying to make a connecting flight in Miami Airport. I arrived with a bruised knee; my departure resulted in sacroiliac pain.
Highlights of the conference included meals and conversations with … oh no, I can’t bring myself to list all the names. I’m going to forget someone, which isn’t fair and certainly will have more to do with the fried state of my brain at present than the importance of those conversations to me personally. But let me try …
Karen Burnham, Liza Groen Trombi and Francesca Myman of Locus Magazine. Karen gets a first-mention not only due to her name (ICFA was well-supplied with Karens, let me tell you), but because in addition to running the Locus Roundtable, she is my science and technology advisor for the sequel to The Best of All Possible Worlds, my sci-fi novel due in March 2013. Since Karen is an engineer at NASA as well as a book reviewer extraordinaire, I’m in good hands. Her husband Curtis Potterveld and their adorable baby Gavin are also excellent company! Also of Locus, and known for the Coode Street Podcast, is Gary K Wolfe. I had the pleasure of recording a podcast with him and co-caster Jonathan Strahan along with Nalo Hopkinson (always an honour!) and Ellen Klages. So much fun!
I met the VanderMeers at last! Jeff, I thought you’d be taller We had a great lunch and chat and they put me completely at ease. I still feel very much the newbie, and they have been so supportive and kind. Another kindness I shall never forget is Guest of Honour Kelly Link’s conversation with me at the opening reception. This ICFA was my first time meeting Kelly and her little daughter Ursula (not so little! That child is going to grow tall!). I’d already met Gavin Grant at the 2010 Brooklyn Book Festival. Together they are the amazing Small Beer Press, the first publishers of Redemption in Indigo and my portal into this magic world of spec fic community. Without being too luvvie about it, I must say I’m huge fans of Gavin and Kelly and all the work they do. But hey, it’s hard not to gush a little at ICFA; you feel this immense fondness for all those people who understand and love and work hard at the same things you do.
A Tiptree gathering meant that I got to meet Karen Joy Fowler (another of the Karens). It thrills me that as a Small Beer Press author I get to be listed with people like her and Delia Sherman and Ted Chiang and Nancy Kress. Oh, Nancy I am so sorry about the one-legged squat, honest! I know it wasn’t the best etiquette, but they dared me!
I enjoyed a long conversation with Andrea Hairston, this year’s Tiptree winner and last year’s winner of the Distinguished Scholarship Award at ICFA. We discovered much to our amazement that a friend and former student of hers is one of my former students from when I taught secondary school physics in Barbados! The serendipity did not end there. While in conversation with Farah Mendlesohn, we discovered that the friend who I’d promised to visit on my next trip to the UK is chaplain at Anglia Ruskin, where Farah will be taking on head of department duties very soon!
So many good conversations and pleasant encounters: Charles Vess, Rachel Swirsky, my Crawford cousins Daryl Gregory and the newly-minted Genevieve Valentine, Siobhan Carroll, Theodora Goss (shared a reading slot with her; her story, and her delivery of it, was amazing), Andy and Sydney Duncan, Stacie Hanes, Mari Ness, Peter Straub, China Mièville, the brilliant Brit Mandelo, Dennis Danvers, Nancy Hightower … and all those whose names I have forgotten, whose name-tags I failed to read properly, especially those who gave me rich conversations on literature and folklore and pure, beautiful, creative silliness.
This is the second promised podcast! I chatted with Nalo Hopkinson and Karen Burnham while in San Diego, and it was fantastic. I caught myself listening to it all over again in the wee hours of the night. Do go check it out. Nalo’s brilliant, in case you didn’t know.