I've dropped the Casual Fridays title, and frequency, because honestly there's no way I can keep a commitment going to blog on so regular a basis. My work now takes up too much time. I'm sorry, but at least now I'll be able to just pop in and let you know what's going on rather than save it all up for a Friday.
I'm back, though not yet in the right timezone, from a double convention jaunt, to CONvergence in Minneapolis, with Caroline, then on my own to San Diego Comic Con. It turned out to be an extraordinary combination, the love and warmth of CONvergence, the best convention in the world (as I've told told people ad nauseum), with 6000 diverse young people enjoying geekdom as part of a balanced diet, in an atmosphere more like that of a music festival, the convention that we put first on our list every year, followed by a (personally very successful) immersion in the wallow of late capitalism that is SDCC.
CONvergence, to their credit, took a look at their schedule when I told them about me signing up to Panel Parity, and found that just about all their panels had at least 50% female participation anyway, so I got to appear many times. In San Diego, for the same reason, I was on no panels at all.
We've made so many friends in Minnesota fandom that their presence in the bar or out on the town, gossiping and laughing, is the connective tissue that makes that experience so wonderful. So thank you Eryn (glad to be your wingman always), Thea, Windy, Mark, Lex, Alee, Jody, Cargill, Jerry, Joe, our very own Liz and all. (New friends included the awesome Bonnie Burton.) It was at CONvergence that I got to meet the artist of Saucer Country, Ryan Kelly, for the first time (and that evening we all went out for a memorable dinner with Bill Willingham). I went on my first panel as an urban fantasy writer. And I once again got to teach Americans to play cricket (they got into it as swiftly as always), and was joined doing so by Sophie Aldred, who, making a surprise appearance, bowled and batted like the experienced cricketer she is. Cartoonist John Kovalic made me this Munchkin game card in commemoration...
I also got to play a version of Just A Minute that, in the comedy clubs of Minneapolis, had mutated way beyond its origins.
One of the joys of CONvergence is Vilification Tennis, an outrageous/therapeutic game show in which comedians fire highly crafted insults at each other to the rules of said sport. And now you can join in, with the Vilification Tennis Home Game, accompanied in this Kickstarter pitch by an informative video.
And on the Sunday of the con, we went out with some friends on the road trip that takes one from Minneapolis to the home of Neil Gaiman. Caroline got to see the house (she wasn't with me last time), we had dinner, we talked writing, we got to help with the bee hives...
That's me and (naturalist and bee expert) Sharon Stitler, her husband Bill behind.
Caroline meets a bee (having immediately been stung by one on arrival in a bizarre 'worst case scenario comes true' incident).
And that's her with Neil (you'll have to take our word for it). A lovely time was had by all. And at the end of the day, Neil gave us the wonderful gift of a proof of his forthcoming book for 0-4 year olds, Chu's Day, which I look forward to reading to the little one.
I made the mistake of staying put alone in the venue after Caroline went home and the convention left. The second day of that was like something out of Solaris: bleakness, emptiness, echoing void, where once had been such larks. (The first day, me and the gang went for sushi and played Munchkin.) I thought I'd need some quiet time, but actually, I'd got used to all the people and the hugging, thanks.
And then to San Diego, where my first meeting was two hours after my plane landed. I kept myself busy, with an average of five meetings a day (both for business and as the only way you get to meet friends, such as the lovely meet-up between me, Lauren Beukes, Mike Carey and Michael Cassutt). I managed to grab dinner with DC's Bob Wayne, George R.R.Martin and Caroline and Warren Spector. I went out for seafood tacos with Patrick Nielsen Hayden of Tor Books. And almost all the rest of the meetings I can't mention because they're about future business. And believe me, if even a quarter of them bear fruit, there's going to be a lot of exciting stuff for me to talk about in the months ahead. I spent my time there waiting for the other shoe to drop. I roomed a mile out, with Lou Anders and John Picacio (our third year doing that, we really enjoy arriving home and being able to share our war stories), and walked in every morning along the bay front.
The only panel I saw was 25 Years Of Gays In Comics, which was very moving, featuring as it did news items from every year (demonstrating a positive increase in recognition and presence) and returning panelists from just about every year, including Steve Engelhart, Wendy Pini, Gail Simone... many others. Myself included. At the end they got us all up for a photocall.
It's an honour to be amongst that lot.
There is the person you meet randomly many times at SDCC (this year it was Kyle Higgins, by accident every day!), the person you're certain you'll run into and never do (Joe Scrimshaw and Bonnie Burton), and the person you meet only right at the end (Seanan McGuire at Bill Willingham's Empty Pen Party). And then there's Diana Rowland, who I've met without planning to at every SDCC I've ever been to, in just about the same place (outside Hall A, I think she lives there). The San Diego Comic Con is like a board game, with a play area that leads from the Hilton (where Chris Roberson of MonkeyBrain Comics stands on a balcony, where he can always be found), down to the Hyatt, across to the Omni, and out into the Gaslamp Quarter. Down the left of the board runs the Bay Front road where one can walk between every hotel and the con venue, which one only take one move, like with the stairs in Cluedo. One hops around the board, having meetings and breakfasts and lunches, collecting commissions and paying in fatigue points and calories (positive and negative). One starts to work out little byways, like how if you go between Sally's Seafood and Benny's Beach House, both points-scoring locations in themselves, and up the steps at the back of the Hyatt, then you're one downward escalator ride from where the comickers drink.
It was, in short, an incredible couple of weeks. I think it's probably safe to say that somewhere amongst all that my life got changed for the better. After my last meeting, I kind of fell over and went for a blissful seafood dinner with a bunch of friends, and then stumbled to Bill's party with my head on at the wrong angle and one eye bigger than the other, purely the product of exhaustion. I'm always amazed how professionals end up looking and acting at the end of an SDCC. For instance, here's an interview I did with SFX about halfway through. Bloody hell. But it's so worth it. Next year I may well do the whole CONvergence/SDCC, warm blanket/pit of spikes rollercoaster again. But one day I will be too old.
Several other things of note have happened. For a start, I'm delighted (along with such luminaries as Tanith Lee and Adam Roberts) to have a story in Solaris Rising 1.5, a collection of nine new SF short stories, designed to be a halfway house between the first two new Solaris Books anthologies, and thus only available as an ebook. It's out now.
The wonderfully talented Guerrier Brothers have made another short comedy film The Plotters, and I'm told that if enough people share it, mentioning the title on Twitter with the hashtag #ShortsLucky13 then it stands a chance of getting shown in cinemas.
If you click on the link on the right, you'll see there's a new edition of the SF Squeecast out, with special guest Karen Lord, in which I talk about Kim Stanley Robinson's 2312.
Brian Cronin did a splendid feature on how I used certain hidden joke sound effects (and Kate Bush references) in Dark X-Men.
And the always interesting Colin Smith (who's now become comics reviewer for Q magazine), writes with great erudition about the end of the first arc of Saucer Countryhere.
I'm about to enter what might be my busiest, most exciting time as a writer, and also to become a Dad for the first time. I don't know if I'll be able to update you as often as I once did, but I promise I'll keep in touch. I hope you'll be along for the ride. Cheerio!