Woke up this morning to find out that Sylvie Denis’ translation of A Natural History of Dragons is a finalist for the Prix Imaginales, an award given out at the Imaginales festival in Épinal, France. I’m rubbing shoulders with Sofia Samatar again; as you may recall, her novel A Stranger in Olondria won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel the year ANHoD was nominated, and now Une histoire naturelle des dragons is up against Un étranger en Olondre. Congratulations also to Cat Valente, whose first Fairyland book is listed in the Youth category!
I can’t remember whether I’ve mentioned this here or not, but: I’ll be at Imaginales this year, over what would be Memorial Day weekend in the U.S. and is just the last weekend in May for everybody else. Furthermore, since I’ll be going to all the trouble of crossing the continental U.S. and then the Atlantic Ocean, I’ll also be doing a signing at Forbidden Planet in London on June 2nd. In between those two things, it looks like I’ll have a couple of days to kill in Basel/Basle/Bâle, so if you know of interesting things to do there, do pass them along! It’ll be my very first time in Switzerland.
I came home from my trip with a broken toe and then promptly went down with a cold, so things have not been very exciting around here. Also I have page proofs to deal with. Page proofing while one’s head is filled with glue is fun times, lemme tell ya.
I have this vague ambition to post about all the ports of call on my trip, maybe with pictures. We’ll see if it happens. There’s no way on god’s green earth I’m going to get all my pictures edited in time for that to happen (I averaged 308 per day of sightseeing, which after an initial cull drops to a mere 191. Of which more will get deleted, I’m sure. But still); on the other hand, I might be able to pick out a couple of representative pics to clean up and post. None of that is happening while my head remains filled with glue, though. I mostly just want to nap. And stare vacantly at the TV. It’s very nearly all I’m good for right now.
Exciting news is en route, though. The sort of exciting news where I don’t quite know what it’ll be when I announce it, because right now multiple possibilities are up in the air. It makes my life complicated, but it’s a good kind of complication to have.
Normally I remember to mention this more than 24 hours before I depart, but: I’m going on vacation. :-D
My husband and I are going to Venice for a few days, followed by a cruise to Barcelona, stopping in Dubrovnik (home of many locations you might recognize from Game of Thrones — I’m looking forward to taking photos), Kotor, Corfu, Naples (saw Pompeii last time, so we’re gonna go to Herculaneum, eeeeee), Rome (bring on the Etruscan necropolis!), Florence, Monte Carlo, and St. Tropez. Three weeks door-to-door, and most of it the lovely laid-back relaxing kind of vacation you get when you’re on a cruise ship.
I will not have internet access for most of that time, so if you send me an email, don’t expect a very rapid reply. :-) When I get back, I hope to have some exciting publishing-related news to share with you all . . . .
So yesterday I’m on my way to Borderlands Books for the last reading/signing event with Mary (the tour isn’t quite over, as I have BayCon yet to go, but I’m almost there), and I see that somebody has mentioned me on Twitter.
That someone is Victoria Ying, an artist at Sony Pictures Animation, who has worked on a couple of films you might have heard of: Tangled, Wreck It Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6 (OH MY GOD HOW MUCH DID I LOVE THAT MOVIE). She has apparently read A Natural History of Dragons . . . and this is the result.
. . . it’s wee!Isabella. With a jar of vinegar. And Greenie pickling away in it.
<melts on account of adorableness>
Seeing that, and then reading to a packed crowd at Borderlands (it’s always a good sign when they run out of chairs), and then meeting this lady, who showed up with a dragon on her shoulder:
It’s a good way to (almost) end the tour.
Because Mary Robinette Kowal is a mad genius, one of the stops on our book tour was the Oregon Regency Society’s Topsails and Tea event. And of course, if you’re going to go on a tall ship . . . you’re going to do it in costume, right? (Here’s another shot that shows more of the ship.)
In fact, I got to go on board twice. After our reading and signing on Saturday afternoon, we partook of the Evening Sail, during which I may have pretended I was Lady Trent on my way to see dragons. >_> And then before we left for Portland on Sunday, we decided to go back for the Battle Sail.
And, well. I had this other costume sitting around my closet, left over from a one-shot LARP, that I’d thought I would never have an excuse to wear again . . . .
Yeah, I hauled a naval lieutenant’s uniform — bicorn and all — to Oregon, just so I could wear it on board a tall ship while there were guns firing. :-D
There’s another twist to this story, too. I didn’t realize, before I got to Oregon, that the ships involved in the Topsails and Tea event were from the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority: the Hawaiian Chieftain and the Lady Washington. Many of you may know the Lady as the Interceptor from Pirates of the Caribbean; some of you may have heard me rave about their “Two Weeks Before the Mast” program, where for a remarkably small fee and a fortnight of your life, you can volunteer on board and learn to sail. I’m intending to do that next year, as research for the book I’ll be writing after the Memoirs of Lady Trent are done, so this was a little foretaste of what’s to come. Between that and the fact that I was in uniform, I really felt like I ought to be doing more than standing around . . . .
Yep, they’ll let you pull on a line or two if you ask nicely. ^_^ But really, this is what I’m looking forward to:
Next year, my friends. Next year.
On the way home from World Fantasy tonight, I had the entire row to myself, all three seats, with my husband in the aisle seat across from me. I took advantage of this space not only to sprawl out and read a sizable chunk of Wolf Hall, but also to get some work done: 1500 words on a proposal for a Sekrit Projekt, and another 2300 on “The Unquiet Grave,” whose title has been hacked down to “Unquiet” for the time being. The only reason I didn’t finish was because my computer was almost out of battery and we were about to land anyway; after I got home and ate dinner, I parked my jet-lagged butt in the chair and knocked out the last 200 words.
So that’s a draft! Not necessarily a good one, but it’s easier to fix a story that exists than one that doesn’t. And it’s nice to write something for which I don’t have to do any research whatsoever: things like that are pretty rare for me these days. I’ll let it sit for a bit and then have some friends pull it to pieces, and then — wonder of wonders — I’ll have something new to send out!
Probably couldn’t have done it without those empty seats, though. It’s amazing, what a difference some elbow room makes.
Made a haphazard stab at sightseeing in D.C. today. I had only about five hours to spend on it; getting myself to the hotel and then out to the National Mall ate the morning, and at this time of year both the museums and the sun close up shop pretty early. The Mall itself wasn’t putting its best foot forward anyway: this being the off-season, they’re doing returfing projects, there were temporary fences everywhere along with some tents (related to Election Day yesterday? or something else entirely?), the Capitol dome is wrapped in scaffolding, etc. Plus the weather was rather grey. From a photography standpoint, it wasn’t ideal, though I did get some pretty good shots of the Korean War memorial — the trees there had turned red, which harmonized nicely with the metal statues and the dark green ground cover.
But photography was one of only several things I’d come there to do. My top priority was actually research for Chains and Memory. There’s a scene that takes place at the western end of the Mall, so I wandered around Constitution Gardens and the Lincoln Memorial and the bank of the Potomac to fix in my head just how far apart everything is. (Answer: quite.) Then I needed food, and somebody had told me the cafe in the Museum of the American Indian was really good, so I walked more or less the entire bloody length of the Mall just to get a very late lunch — which, to be fair, was worth it. Bison skirt steak with huckleberry reduction, cucumber and some other things I forget in fireweed honey, a truly excellent salad of wild rice with pine nuts and watercress and cranberries and other stuff I couldn’t identify in a apple cider vinaigrette, and then some fry bread to top it off, because how can you not have fry bread?
Wound up spending the rest of my afternoon in that museum, because a) I was there and b) I like anthropological stuff. It’s not at all the kind of museum I expected it to be: I subconsciously assumed there would be galleries devoted to the various geo-cultural areas, i.e. Great Plains and Southwest and so forth, but it’s organized much more around themes. One gallery had to do with the cosmologies of seven different tribes; another was about treaties between the nations and the U.S.; a third discussed how contemporary Native Americans express their identity in the modern world. I don’t think I did the museum justice, but my feet were hurting and I was a little brain-dead; I will have to settle for the value I did get out of it.
I certainly did not do justice to the Mall itself, because I lacked the time and the energy, and the weather was on the dreary side. In tracking how long it took me to get from the north end of the pond in Constitution Gardens to the Lincoln Memorial, I managed to miss the Vietnam Memorial entirely. And I meant to stop at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on my way to food, but thanks to my calorie-deprived state I went right past the place where I should have turned to find it, and by the time I realized that it was much too late to backtrack. But given how many other things I missed in the area — e.g. every museum save the one — it isn’t like I can check “see the National Mall” off my bucket list anyway. I’ll be back some day, and then I’ll see at least a portion of the things I missed this time.
And now, World Fantasy!
This is less coherent than I wanted it to be; I blame the narcotics.
I went to Okinawa! As many of you know. The main purpose was a karate and kobudo (weapons) seminar; there was also time built in for sightseeing, which is relevant because Shihan’s planning to do another seminar in three years, but that one is intended to be all training, all the time. It is also possibly intended for a different time of year, because yare yare, the heat and humidity. I said I was going to be training in an un-airconditioned budokan; this turned out to be mostly not true, as Shihan got them to turn on the A/C for most of our scheduled training. But we also had one unscheduled afternoon block — about which more later — with nothing but a couple of very inadequate fans, so I got to experience something more like the full misery for at least a couple of hours. More than enough to be grateful it wasn’t the entire time, I can tell you that! (Though even with A/C, it was quite warm. Japan, unlike my home state of Texas, does not feel obliged to chill every indoor space to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.)
The prefectural budokan is an odd place: concrete walls studded with random bits of stained glass, highly functional but with lovely hardwood floors in most places, and then the exterior looks a bit like a stylized samurai helm. Our first day we shared the place with a swarm of children there for a tournament; we also saw a number of kendo groups come and go. It clearly gets plenty of use, and has three separate training halls as well as a weight room and a konbini and so forth. As for the training, it was both very intense and not. Each block was two hours long, usually without a break, and sometimes I was doing things like learning kusanku that drove me into the ground. But periodically Shihan would stop everybody to expound upon some point of technique or history, so you did at least get breathers. I suspect the experience was a bit more valuable for the people from Germany and Denmark and Spain and so on; people from our dojo get advice from Shihan on a regular basis, and are taught by people who are still being trained by him directly. The other RBKD dojo are a bit further removed, and so get that kind of guidance much more rarely. But it was very nifty to see them all, and to realize we truly are part of an international organization for the promotion of shorin-ryu karate.
Where sightseeing is concerned . . . I realized a while ago that I kept saying I was going to Okinawa, not to Japan. The difference matters. Those islands were only added to Japan in the relatively recent past, and culturally speaking, they have a lot of influences from Taiwan and China that make them distinct from the home islands (not to mention, of course, the indigenous Ryukyuan culture). We went to Shuri-jou, to Naminoue-guu, to Fukushuu-en, to the Churaumi Aquarium to see the whale sharks. We went to a small island called Kourijima, and that wound up not really working at all: I don’t know what happened, but we had nowhere near enough space for everybody who came. Shihan told us monks sleep on only one tatami mat; well, the American contingent had fourteen people in an eight-mat room, with no futon or even pillows. (Half the group ended up sleeping on the wooden porch; one of them got bit badly enough that he ended up going to the hospital to have the water blisters lanced.) So Kourijima got cut a day short, which is why we were back in Naha for an extra afternoon of training. But we were there long enough to have “beach training,” which Shihan ought to have called “ocean training” instead: he literally marched us into the water and made us do kata there. (It turns out that you can do the upper-body half of naifanchi shodan quite well while treading water.)
As instructed by my sister, I ate spam fried rice. I ate chanpuru (though not with goya). I ate Okinawan soba; I could not have avoided it if I tried, because it got served as a side dish with practically every meal I ordered. We got to see traditional Okinawan dancing at the welcome dinner; Shihan’s wife Tomoko-sensei is to Okinawan dancing what he is to karate, basically, though health issues mean she doesn’t practice regularly anymore. We bought CDs of traditional Okinawan music and also heard the same group sing “Let It Go” in Japanese. All in all, an excellent trip . . . except for the Kourijima part.
And oh yes, there are pictures. Expect to see many of those in the days to come.
I have survived training! Most of it, anyway; maybe all. It’s unclear whether there will be more training on Kouri Island, which is where we’re going for the next couple of days. The schedule originally said yes, but the final version said no, and we’ve been told not to bring bo or sai or even gi. So if we are going to do more karate, it’ll be in swimsuits on the beach. Which would not be a bad thing . . .
Apart from the fact that I ended up learning kusanku yesterday (a kata I’m not supposed to know for another year or so, which involves dropping to a one-legged crouch three times and is absolute murder on your right quadricep and glutes), I think I’m in pretty good shape. Ankle isn’t bothering me much, though it was a bit bad on the first day — I think I blame the plane flight. Okinawa is hot and humid, but so far not as bad as it could have been. I’ve experimented with continuous shooting for stuff that’s moving (traditional Okinawan dancers; adorable ducklings), and therefore have vast quantities of photos to wade through and cull. I would try to make a more interesting post out of this, but my brain appears to have been chopped up for chanpuru.
I should eat breakfast. And pack for Kourijima. Yeah.
Five updates make a post . . . .
1) The Chains and Memory Kickstarter is a bit over halfway to the first stretch goal. The pace of progress has (unsurprisingly) slowed down; I welcome any signal boosting, and/or suggestions for other things I could do to spread the word.
2) While Mary and I were on tour earlier this month, Tor sent a camera crew to film our Portland event and interview us afterward. It was a fascinating experience; this wasn’t the “sit and have a conversation in front of the camera” kind of thing, but rather raw material for the following video:
If you’d like a sense of what our events were like, check it out!
4) My SF Novelists post for this month was “Pleaser Don’t Doed Thising”, in which I take aim at Bad Fantasy Latin, Bad Fantasy Japanese, and other such linguistic sins.
5) WisCon! I went. It was a thing.
Sorry, that’s just the tiredness talking. Going to WisCon was a good idea; going right after being on tour, less so. I feel like I didn’t take full advantage of the experience, partly because I was going easy on myself, partly because I’m new to the con’s culture and therefore didn’t know in advance about things like the Floomp. It was fun, though: lots of interesting people, some good panels (and some I really wish had dug further into their topics), some &@#$! awesome GoH speeches, etc. The good news is, now I know what to expect and can get more out of it in future years. Will I be back in 2015? Dunno; I’ll have to look at my schedule. But I do intend to be back eventually.
Design Your Own Dragon ends tomorrow night! Get your entry in while the getting is good . . . .
Me, I’m home from tour. The fact that I am exceedingly glad to be back has more to do with the wear and tear of shifting from hotel to airport to cab to store than to do with the tour events themselves, which were splendid. Mary Robinette Kowal and I drew some pretty good crowds together, and it turns out we make for compatible traveling companions — which was by no means a guarantee! We’d met a couple of times before, at conventions and such, and of course our books make a good pairing with each other . . . but that didn’t necessarily mean we’d get along on the road. Despite Mary having her own hashtag for travel woes, I quite liked traveling with her. It turns out we see eye-to-eye on a number of fronts, ranging from fiction to how early we should get to the airport, and that’s valuable when you’re spending a week and a half together and suffering the aforementioned wear and tear.
Plus! There were costumes! And dragon bones!
I foolishly did not get anyone to take photos on my own phone, so rather than stealing other people’s pictures, I will link you to them. This report at A Truant Disposition shows the whole thing pretty well, from my dress and Mary’s to our respective song-and-dance bit (a mini puppet show on her part, a mini naturalist lecture on mine). Geeky Library has some more, and I quite like this photo from @ghostwritingcow on Twitter. The “dragon bones” are the thing I alluded to before the tour: Mary suggested I obtain replica dinosaur fossils from Skulls Unlimited, and use them as dragon substitutes. For the curious, the skull and the smaller claw are from a velociraptor, while the tooth is from a T-Rex and the larger claw is from a megaraptor. (The tiny skull, which I don’t think got photographed, is actually supposed to be a “dragon skull;” Mary picked it up at a natural history museum in Utah.)
Touring is a lot more fun in company, I have to say. Not only does it jazz up the event itself, by giving you somebody to riff off of, it does a lot to mitigate the “oh god I’m in another airport” drudgery of the travel itself. So props to Tor for putting us together, and I hope for a chance to do something like this again in the future.
Apropos of my previous post: any recommendations as to ways for me to get exercise on a trip that will involve a new city almost every single day? I know that if step one is “leave your room and go to the hotel gym,” I won’t manage it. But stuff I can do in my room, without equipment — that might happen. I’ll need to do PT for my ankle regardless, so I’m going to have to set aside time for activity; it should be possible to tack other things on, if people have suggestions.
Quick reminder to folks living in Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Salem, Houston, Salt Lake City, San Diego, or San Franscisco, near enough to such places for this to be relevant: I’m going on tour! With the ever-awesome Mary Robinette Kowal! You can find us in the following places at the following times:
Thursday, May 1, 6:00 p.m.
Friday, May 2, 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, May 3, 2:00 p.m.
Powell’s Books at Cedar Hill Crossing
Sunday, May 4, 3:00 p.m.
Tuesday, May 6, 6:30 p.m.
Murder by the Book
Thursday, May 8, 6:00 p.m.
Weller Book Works
Salt Lake City, UT
Saturday, May 10, 2:00 p.m.
Mysterious Galaxy (Part of the Mysterious Galaxy 21st Birthday Bash!)
San Diego, CA
Sunday, May 11, 3:00 p.m.
San Francisco, CA
I hope to see some of you there!
I originally posted this as a reply to John Scalzi here, but it occurred to me that it was something that might be of interest to my local audience — especially since I’m posting all these photos from trips I’ve taken.
In discussing his own feelings about travel, Scalzi said:
The fact of the matter is I’m not hugely motivated by travel. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy it when I do it, nor that there are not places I would like to visit, but the fact of the matter is that for me, given the choice between visiting places and visiting people, I tend to want to visit people — a fact that means that my destinations are less about the locale than the company. I’d rather go to Spokane than Venice, in other words, if Spokane has people I like in it, and all Venice has is a bunch of buildings which are cool but which I will be able to see better in pictures.
To which I said:
I like seeing people, sure — but the second half of the comment is boggling to me, because it’s so radically different from my own view, in two respects.
First of all, seeing is only part of the experience. Looking at a picture is flat, whereas being there is a full-body surround-sound sensory experience. There’s sound, smell, the feeling of space or lack thereof, the process of walking through. Highgate Cemetery was more than its headstones; it was the blustery autumn day with the wind rushing through the trees raining leaves down on us and the tip of my nose going cold. Point Lobos is more than the cypresses; it’s the smell of the cypresses and the feel of the dirt under my feet and the distant barking of the sea lions. Furthermore, pictures will never show me even everything from the visual channel: they may show me the nave of the church, but usually not the ceiling, nor the floor with its worn grave slabs. They will show me the garden, but not the autumn leaf caught in the spider web between two trees. I would have to look at hundreds of pictures from Malbork Castle to capture what I saw there. (Heck, I took hundreds of pictures there!)
Second, the most memorable part to me is usually the bit I wouldn’t have thought to go looking for if I weren’t there. The first time I went to Japan, my sister and I went to see the famous temple of Ginkakuji, which I loved — but I loved even better the tiny shrine off to the left outside Ginkakuji, whose name I still don’t know. Or when I was in Winchester, and she and I walked to St. Cross outside of town; we went for the porter’s dole (old medieval tradition: even now — or at least in 1998 — if you walk up to the gate and ask for the dole, they will give you bread and water), but stayed for the courtyard with the enormous tree and the most amazingly plush grass I have ever flung myself full-length in. I can look at pictures of famous buildings in Venice, but I’m unlikely to see pictures of the stuff I wouldn’t think to look for.
I write all of this in the full awareness that I have been extremely fortunate in my travel opportunities. My father’s work has often taken him abroad, so he has a giant pile of frequent flyer miles, and both in childhood and now I’ve been able to afford trips to other countries: British Virgin Islands, Costa Rica, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Israel, Japan, India, Poland, Greece, Italy, Turkey, France, the Bahamas. It’s created a positive feedback loop: these trips have led me to really enjoy travel and the different experiences I have when I go places, so as a result I arrange more trips when I can. As a replacement, pictures don’t even begin to cut it.
Not part of my comment to Scalzi, but I will add two further observations:
1) Clearly I do see value in pictures, though, or I wouldn’t take so damn many of them.
2) What it says about my sociability that I am liable to travel to places rather than to people is left as an exercise for the reader.
Ladies and gentlebeings, I will be doing a reprise of last year’s promotional book tour. Like all sequels, this one is Bigger! Better! with More
I will be touring in company with the inestimable Mary Robinette Kowal, to support the release of The Tropic of Serpents (on my part) and Valour and Vanity (on her part). There will be readings and Q&As. There will be period-appropriate clothing. There may be a dragon puppet. There will certainly be me desperately wishing I was as good of a performer as Mary is.
Here’s the schedule, as it stands right now:
- May 1, Thursday, Chicago, IL, DePaul University
- May 2, Friday, Seattle, WA, University Book Store
- May 3, Saturday, 2pm, Portland, OR, Powell’s
- May 4, Sunday, 3pm, Salem, OR, Book Bin
- May 6, Tuesday, 6:30 pm, Houston, TX, Murder by the Book
- May 8, Thursday, 6pm, Salt Lake City, UT, Weller Book Works
- May 10, Saturday, San Diego, CA, Mysterious Galaxy
- May 11, Sunday, 3pm, San Francisco, CA, Borderlands
I’m told that the San Diego event will be part of a larger birthday celebration for Mysterious Galaxy, where we’ll be joined by other authors. Other than that, I don’t know anything more than what you’ve got right there, but I’ll definitely keep you all posted as details firm up.
Bay Area locals take note: I will also be doing a separate event at Borderlands on March 8th, to mark the release of The Tropic of Serpents earlier that week. Again, more details as I have them.
Now if you’ll pardon me, I need to go arrange for a suitable costume . . . .
2) Not wearing the shoes I've been wearing every day for nearly a month.
3) Not wearing shoes at all for much of the day, if I do not choose to.
4) Sleeping in my own bed.
6) Going to the dojo and the gym. (There's some discomfort associated with this one, because I basically didn't stretch for a month and also walking = full exercise, but it's still good.)
7) Seeing Thor: The Dark World, to which I said "Needz moar Loki." My husband claims they actually filmed extra Loki scenes after the fact.
8) Seeing how my pictures from the trip turned out. (There are still too many of them.)
9) Working on the third Memoir. I sorted out some fun plot points on the trip, so now I get to make them happen.
10) Seriously, though. NO. SHOES.
No photos from Brighton, alas. Partly because I was busy at the con, but more because it rained a fair bit while I was there, and when it wasn't raining, the wind was trying to fling me into traffic. No, really: at one point a guy waiting at the intersection with me was leaning back into the wind at about a fifteen-degree angle, just letting it hold him up. It was kind of ridiculous. Since the weather also meant my glasses were constantly being coated in a thin layer of salt and grit, I decided not to expose my camera to such trials.
It might also have something to do with me being all OMG NO MORE PHOTOS, though. During this trip, I took nearly 3500 shots in total. A first pass of culling has dragged that number down to about 2400, which (by comparison) looks much more reasonable, but -- jeebus. If we exclude the major outliers, i.e. the days where I took less than forty pictures, I averaged almost 230 per day. When we went to Highgate Cemetery, I took 350 in two and a half hours.
Which is by way of saying that, while I'll definitely post more pictures later, it's going to take a while for me to go through them all and do the necessary editing, labeling, etc. Don't look for that to happen any time soon, I'm afraid. I had been all proud of myself and the work I'd done on my pre-existing catalogue of photos. All I had left to go through were my honeymoon and Poland, and I was thinking I could see the light at the end of the tunnel . . . but it turns out to have been the oncoming train of this trip. :-P
These are, for the record, totally unedited. I've tried to pick ones that look good already, but just think how much better they'll look once they've gone through Lightroom!
In other news, I have discovered how many days is too many to be continually on my feet sightseeing. If I ever plan a trip this long again, I need to build in more downtime -- or rather, find some way to silence the little voice that insists I should be out seeing stuff, being as how I went to all the effort of getting here.