Looking Forward; Looking Back

28 Apr

Yesterday was my birthday.  I had a great time, thanks very much. It wasn’t a particularly important one.  Didn’t end in a zero or even a five.  No major life transitions occurred.  Still, a few things happened that made it special and offered the opportunity to look back on important events and look forward to an interesting year.

I suppose my journey down memory lane started the night before when I went out for cake to celebrate the 35th birthday of my friend and fellow East Block Irregular member, Marie Bilodeau.  (Interestingly, another member of EBI also has a birthday on the same day as me.  Given we only have 8 members, that seems like a lot.)

On my 35th birthday, I was living in Yellowknife.  I had recently started acting in community theatre and had written my first play, “Hemingway Crosses the Mackenzie.”  It had been produced at the Northern Arts and Culture Centre and then went on to represent the NWT in the Canada Theatre Festival in Regina.  Although I enjoyed being a Cabinet policy analyst, I had even begun to think that creative writing was what I wanted to do for a living.  I had joked all year long that at 35, I would be ‘half way home,’ but, in truth, it was no joking matter.  Three score and ten did seem like a likely age for my demise, given my family history (a roughly even mix of people who die young and who live to be really old) so 35 did represent the mid-point of my life – what better time for a mid-life crisis?  A year and a half later I was living in Calgary, following my dream (or nightmare, depending on your perspective).

The party, by the way, was kickass with a mix of friends from government and the local arts community – including Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie, who had been in town performing at NACC and dropped by after the show.  Yesterday’s birthday was almost as much fun, though the crowd was smaller (and older) and if anyone had shown up after a show they would have found me in bed and asleep.

Nonetheless, my 58th birthday had all kinds of artistic elements.  I spent the morning reading a submitted novel from one potential Bundoran author and negotiating a contract with another, before guests arrived for lunch (lamb chops in chimichurri sauce, with yam fries and a pear and pecan herb salad, followed by hazelnut chocolate mousse cake – with lots of wine).  That same day, the Aurora Award nominations were announced.  I’d known for a few days that I had been nominated as the editor of Blood and Water but the timing of the official announcement was fortuitous.  I was equally pleased that Neil Godbout’s Dissolve had gotten a nod in the best YA novel category, which means both of Bundoran Press’s 2012 publications were getting recognition.

This was not my first Aurora nomination. I’ve received five for short fiction (winning two) and three for my novels.  Yet, it felt quite different.  As an editor, my name is on the cover and my contribution runs through the book – from selection of the stories, through editing and even the choice of order of presentation – but, without the writers whose stories make up the book, it is like an empty stage.  All books are collaborative efforts, between writer, editor, artist and designer, but an anthology ‘feels’ more collaborative.  It reminded me of the great pleasure I always took in directing plays (whereas acting was a wonderful frisson between joy and terror).  We’re up against some formidable competition – but I’m always optimistic.

I also learned that my first novel, A Circle of Birds, published in 1992 by Anvil Press, might get some new life in a translated edition.  All still tentative, of course, but it’s nice to know that, after twenty years, my words still fire someone’s imagination.

So much for reminiscences.  The coming few years are what hold my attention now.

A few weeks ago, I went to my first SF convention as a publisher.  I went to my first Con in 1979 in Halifax.  I was merely a fan in those days – an avid reader and watcher of SF with no thought of actually writing it myself.  Over the years, I attended a few regional cons and, from time to time, went to a WorldCon: Baltimore in 83, Boston in 89 and Winnipeg in 94.  By then, I was writing SF, part of the Imaginative Fiction Writers Association in Calgary, and was on the Con committee for ConVersion.  I had already established myself locally as a playwright, mostly at Lunchbox Theatre, but my first SF was published in 1996 and I began to attend Cons not only as a fan but as a writer.

Ad Astra was different.  For one thing, I spent over half of my time in the dealers’ room, selling books.  I did a few panels, mostly about publishing, and spent a fair amount of time promoting other writers.  I hosted a party as a publisher – where it wasn’t, for once, all about me but about the group of writers who publish with Bundoran Press, notably Matthew Johnson, whose e-novelette we were launching.  Matthew, who comes across as a quiet, reserved guy, showed an entirely different side, wowing people with his readings and proving to be quite a salesman for his own and other Bundoran books.

Over the next six months, I’ll be appearing at a number of other Cons.  Next month, I’ll be at KeyCon in Winnipeg.  KeyCon holds special memories for me – I won my first Aurora there – and I’m really looking forward to seeing a lot of old friends and selling a few books.  In August, I’ll be at When Words Collide in Calgary, where Bundoran Press will be launching two books – Neil Godbout’s Resolve, the third and final book in his YA series, and Edward Willett’s new space opera, Right to Know.  We’ll have a table at Fan Expo in Toronto later in August and then I’ll be Editor Guest of Honour at Can-Con in Ottawa in October (along with old friend, Robert J. Sawyer as Author GOH).  That’s where the Aurora Awards will be given out this year – so it could be one hell of a weekend.  If all goes well, I’ll also be launching a book there – but that is still to be determined.

After that, I don’t know though I’m still contemplating going to SFContario and, maybe a big American Con over the winter months.  I do know I will be at various conventions throughout 2014, launching the five books Bundoran will publish next year and I’ll be at WorldCon in London – a nice kickoff to a planned European vacation.

Speaking of books for next year – submissions are open (and will stay open until September 30th) for Strange Bedfellows.  I’ve already received 40 stories in a little more than 3 weeks, so it looks like I have quite a lot of work ahead of me.  Enough to keep me going for many birthdays to come.

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