Thursday, April 23. 2009
There's now an open thread on my LiveJournal account for questions about the Celtic and Gaelic speaking peoples in the early middle ages.Â
There is a new interview with me up on The Falcata Times. It's here:
Many thanks to them for inviting me.
I've been putting off writing about Eastercon because I don't really know how to write about it. I've been to a lot of Eastercons, but this was my first one as a professional novelist, and it was.... strange, as if I was in a familiar place but it had been tilted through 40 degrees and repainted and the floors were prone to shift. I'm used to the cons where I work in Green Room and chat to friends and attend programme items and even appear on a couple of same. And I did that, I was at that event. It was good. The site worked very wellÂ (the Cedar Court Hotel, Bradford) from a logistical point-of-view, although it suffered from having only limited bed space. Phil and I were lucky enough to be in the main hotel. Friends in overflows reported that these were pleasant, but none of them were inÂ particularly convenient locations and there were transport problems (mostly due to road closures, which are not the con-committee's fault). The bar staff were wonderful: no other word will do. Green Room stands or falls by the helpfulness of the hotel bar staff and these guys were total stars. They stayed charming, friendly, efficient and pleasant throughout, despite long shifts and their price is above rubies.
I was on three programme items, one on history and its uses and abuses in sf and fantasy, one on getting published, and one interactive story-telling one themed around Baron Munchausen. The first one tended to get derailed into historiography, which wasn't quite the brief and was partly my fault -- I was not only moderator, but it was my idea. We were perhaps a little under-prepared (also my fault) but my co-participants were terrific and the audience seemed engaged. The publishing one was interesting though I was definitely superfluous: the rest of the panel were agents and editors and it turned into a 'how do I get you to buy me?' Q & A session, to which I had little to add. Baron Munchausen rocked. A group of us dressed up and told tall tales of the Baron's exploits, with additions and suggestions from the audience. I had huge fun and want to do this again. (Possibly in a cooler room. Steel-boned corsets and 18th c. paniered skirts are inimical to overheated rooms.)
But... People I know well and people I know less well talked to me about Living With Ghosts. They liked it. I am bad at dealing with compliments. They asked me to sign copies. (To date, I have remembered to sign 'Sperring' and not my real surname, but all the same...) I was talked to by professionals with whom I haven't interacted much in the past. I was talked to by editors.... This is not normal, this is not me.I don't know how to do this and I'm not good at it. (The case in point being when the lovely Juliet McKenna introduced me to a marketing lady with the rider 'This is Kari. She's right at the wrong end of the shameless self-promotion skills.'Â [My fault, as I started by apologising for bothering said marketing lady.]) Either I need lessons or I need a stunt double, as it feels deeply odd trying to sell myself. I am going to Worldcon in Montreal this year and I need to do better there. Any suggestions?
Wednesday, April 8. 2009
Tomorrow Phil and I are off to LX 2009, the British annual Easter science fiction convention, which this year is in Bradford. (Website is here: http://lx2009.com/) I'm on a couple of programme items (one on history and alternate history, one on writing) but otherwise will be doing my usual stint as a volunteer in the convention Green Room and otherwise catching up with people.
Maybe see some of you there?
Thursday, April 2. 2009
It's hard to pick just one book by Rumer Godden. She has been a touchstone of excellence in writing for me as long as I can remember and I have been reading her books for as long as I've been able to read. The sheer beauty of her prose -- its limpidity, its clarity, its economy -- continues to leave me breathless even though I have been reading it all my life. There are so many of her books that I love, that have meant a lot to me -- The Peacock Spring, a bittersweet companion to teenage fears; A Candle for St Jude, with all its meditations on creativity and compromise, love and loss and the unfairness of those with power; Coromandel Sea Change; The Greengage Summer; Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy; and the soft and deadly magic of Black Narcissus.
I've been collecting her books for years and years, and finding one I don't have -- there are still a few -- is a special thrill.
Miss Happiness and Miss Flower was the first of her books I ever read, ever owned. It was given to me as a Christmas present when I was 5 or 6: I can no longer remember reading it for the first time. I read it so often I can quote it. It was a Young PuffinÂ -- a range of books for children aged 5 - 7 from Penguin Books in the 1960s and 1970sÂ -- all short, all illustrated. The story is deceptively simple: Nona has been sent home to England from India where she was born to live with English relatives, who alarm and confuse her. She's shy, small, silent: her cousins are loud and energetic. Then she and her cousin Belinda are sent a package, two exquisite Japanese dolls -- the Miss Happiness and Miss Flower of the title. The story is how, though making a home for the dolls, who she sees as being as displaced as she is, Nona makes a home for herself also. The end of the book is devoted to instructions on how to make a Japanese-style dolls' house. Godden-style, the book is told simply and yet indirectly, through Nona's eyes and those of the dolls. It is all about feeling lost and alone and abandoned and having to begin again. I was shy, too: I felt close to Nona. I would have liked to have been friends with her, had that been possible: she was a reading sort of girl, like me. And I wanted to make the dolls' house, but somehow that never quite happened. Godden did not write that much for children and much of what she wrote was about dolls and their experiences. That is the key phrase that has sat with me from Miss Happiness, all these years. Dolls are not asked what they want, not asked before they are packed off and sent away to strange places. 'Children are not asked, either.'
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Photo credit: Phil Nanson
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