Live from Chicago…This Saturday

When I was young, I didn’t know that science fiction conventions or fandom existed. A gathering place where people dressed up in costumes, met with “actual authors,” and talked about the stories they loved would have seemed as fantastic as some of the stories themselves. Reading was a solitary activity, and I didn’t know a lot of other kids (or later adults) who loved sci-fi or fantasy.

I attended my first convention in 2012, when the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) was held in Chicago (and called Chicon), and it opened up a new world to me. It was a joy to share that world with the kids in 2018 when we brought them to Worldcon in San Jose. 

If you’ve never been to a Worldcon, then you probably have never heard of “Stroll With the Stars.” Every morning at Worldcon for the last decade, fans have been invited to join guests to “Stroll With the Stars.” The activity was Stu Segal’s idea after he was challenged by artist Frank Wu to find a way to introduce fitness into fan activities. Stu came up with “Stroll with the Stars” to lure fans out for “some gentle exercise in the fresh air by strolling along with Hugo and Nebula winners and nominees, Grandmasters, artists and celebrities.” The strolls have been going strong ever since. 

This year’s Worldcon (which was supposed to be in New Zealand) is going virtual because of the pandemic, and it was suggested that during the lockdown, we have “virtual strolls.” To make sure the strolls are accessible to the fans in the Americas, UK, Australia, New Zealand, et al, they selected 4PM CT (10PM London, 9AM Auckland, 7AM Sydney, 2PM San Francisco), as the best time when most folks are awake.

Every day last week, an author, artist, or editor has done a Facebook Live Video on the “Stroll With the Stars: Home Edition Spring 2020” Facebook Group. Some have done a tour of their home or work space, others have taken us along on a walk in their neighborhood or garden. It’s been entertaining to hear how they are keeping safe and busy during these strange times. Guests have included: Ellen Datlow, Scott Edelman, Lawrence Schoen, Joe and Gay Haldeman, and others; and over the next month or two will include Ellen Kushner, Derek Kunsken, Steven Silver, Kate Baker, and many more. (Stu keeps updating the list on the Facebook group page.)

Nighttime calm after a long day.

Stephen and I will take our turn hosting a stroll this Saturday, May 2, 4pm CT. I’m not sure exactly what you’ll see, but we’ll be live on Facebook for 15 minutes or so, to give you a little peek into our quarantine lives. You can also chat with us in the chat window. Here’s the link to the group page, and we’ll post about it again on Facebook as we get closer. 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/258166815210814/

You can join the “Stroll With the Stars: Home Edition Spring 2020” Facebook group if you want, or can tune onto Stephen or my Facebook page next Saturday when we’re live. The video will also be saved and available for watching afterward (we’ve watched a few of them in the evening after work hours). In the meantime, you can access previous strolls from the Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/258166815210814/videos/

I’m not much of a television (or YouTube) watcher. There’s just not a lot of time left over after work, kids, house, checking in on friends and family, and writing. Most of what we watch, we watch with the kids. Much of it is stuff they choose to share with us, or things we find to share with them.

I was never one to enjoy the reality shows of the past few decades; however, I have found recent joy in some of the programming the kids have shared with us during this quarantine time. From the Bon Appétit chefs cooking in their home kitchens to John Oliver broadcasting in his basement to the cast of Hamilton coming together via Zoom, I have enjoyed these honest glimpses into people’s homes and lives.

I appreciate the candor and generosity of people sharing some of the things that challenge them and inspire them right now. It highlights a shared humanness that I don’t think we often get to see. I hope that we can share the same with you this weekend. 

 

Deepwater Horizon

Description from NASA (source): "NASA's Terra Satellites Sees Spill on May 24 Sunlight illuminated the lingering oil slick off the Mississippi Delta on May 24, 2010. The Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image the same day.

Ten years ago today, the semi-submersible offshore drilling rig the Deepwater Horizon sank, following an explosion that left the oil well gushing and caused the largest marine oil spill in history. 

This poem was inspired by that tragedy. It first appeared in Mythic Delirium in 2014:

Deepwater

April 22, 2010

Oil gushes like a wound, carrying with it the death of more creatures
than my Gulf has accepted for millennia, but this is massacre not sacrifice
offered up to unnamed gods of chaos who live in primordial seas.

As the oil consumes scales, wings, skins, and blood, it sinks like a horrible prayer.
I rise to the surface and step with feet the color of moss onto beaches covered with corpses.
Where my tears fall, spring up the tiniest flowers made from the bones of murdered fish.
When the winds blow through their delicate petals, they chime with the sound of tiny hurricanes.

I cradle dead dolphins and scream. Beneath black waters, white threads of light swirl
as they ascend, growing brighter until they explode into pure fury
formed into a flying beast of teeth, shell shards, and coral. The old god lands beside me.
Our footsteps thunder like war drums as we hunt to drain the waters of those responsible
and seal their shriveled souls into shells cast down to the bottom for fodder.

I have slept with monsters older than ice; those who swim through rock and fire,
creatures of mouth and ash. They will welcome my offering
and maybe get a taste for the world above. Perhaps they will rise to swallow cities
before returning to their volcanic dreams.

* * *

Related, my friend Eric Cox of the band The Belle Weather wrote the song “Dive” in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. They just released a new video and new recording of “Dive” for the 10th anniversary of the tragic event. It’s heartbreakingly beautiful. <3

“I woke up the following morning and watched the underwater camera detail the billowing plume of oil gushing from the well. I also came across a photograph of an incredible Louisiana Brown Pelican standing tall in the surf, drenched in oil. She peered back into the lens of the camera as if to say, “You have to do better than this for us.” I wrote ‘Dive’ as a love song from that pelican to an ocean who is no longer the lover she used to be.”

-Eric Cox// The Belle Weather

 

 

Art in the Time of Quarantine

Time. Time is one of the threads that everyone seems to touch on these days in their tweets and posts. We have long been guided by schedules of work and school and other constructs, and then this virus hit and everything changed, slowed down, stopped, went out of sync. 

Each of us is going through this surreal shared moment in time, viewing the world through our own lenses, with our unique combinations of challenges and privileges, maybe sharing that view with the people we are living with or talking to. My experience is enmeshed with that of the kids. Most of the day we’re all doing our “work,” but then we have a lot of dinner-table conversations, and I cherish those, a chance to check in with one another after the day of work and school work—a time to ask about “How Things Are Going.” 

Some days the answer is: not great, frustrated, scared, lonely, restless, angry. Some days the answer is better, ok, not bad, better. So much depends on who we have (or have not)  interacted with, and how we have related with them during that day. So much depends on what we’ve heard of the news. So much depends on how the kids are doing.

When trauma typically happens at schools (and the current generation of elementary and high school students have had too much experience with this), we call in counselors. We have talking circles and support groups. We make allowances for ordinary responsibilities to allow some room for processing and healing. We try to help the kids because most of them don’t have the tools they need. Right now, those systems are not really in place to help them—even with teachers and parents trying the best they can. 

The kids have been doing the best they can, and I’m of the philosophy that we need to temper our expectations right now. If many of us, the adults, are not ok, how can we expect the kids to be? 

So they do their homework and they miss their friends; they try to connect online and on the phone, watch movies and read, and have their own creative ways of dealing with it all. 

My son, Liam, is a musician and composer, and he decided when the shelter-in-place started that he would write a new song approximately every other day. 

I’m reminded of a quote from Neil Gaiman’s keynote address for the May 17, 2012 commencement ceremony at The University of the Arts. He said: 

“Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do.

“Make good art.”

This is something I often quote to my kids. Creativity is a tool we have when we need it, when we can use it. It’s not always possible. Sometimes we have to wait for life to give us a window. Sometimes we have to make that window. Sometimes we make good art.

Liam has made some good art. His EP was released today and is available on Spotify, YouTube, Soundcloud, iTunes, and Amazon music. I’m really proud of him. His piano compositions are like soundtracks to our life right nowthey are complex and sad with surprising moments of joy. I’ve been working while listening to them in the background, and I’m excited to share them with you right now. 

His professional name is Hyrix, and the EP is titled Insomnia. I think you’ll be moved by its beauty.  

You can listen to the EP on Spotify:

Or on Soundcloud:

Everyone is wondering when things will go back to “normal.” Will they ever?

I don’t think we can know what normal is going to look like. I do believe that this time will irrevocably transform our children and what they do to shape their future in ways that we cannot even imagine. I feel like Liam’s music and the other things people are doing right now to express themselves, to connect creatively with one another, to be as present for one another as possible—these will be the touchstones we have to remind us of this time and why we reshaped the future accordingly, hopefully for the the better.