Eastercon and other stories
April 13th 2015
Strange to say, but this year’s Eastercon (Dysprosium, at the Park hotel, Heathrow) seems to have marked something of a turning-point: if not that, at least a waymarker for the onward journey.
It’s been almost six months since my dad died, a bit longer since I headed south to help my mum care for him, and pretty much a year since we got a concrete diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. I went pretty much straight from visiting them before Easter 2014 to Eastercon in Glasgow, and everything I did from then on was viewed through the lens of ‘my dad is dying’. That, and Worldcon – my first ever, and in London to boot – was… not quite a disaster, but I was emotionally all over the shop. Sure, I can wear a stiff upper lip as well as the next Englishman, and I don’t think I made an idiot of myself at any point, but I probably made promises to do stuff that not only didn’t happen, but will never happen because I can’t remember.
The one professional decision that I made in that time was to finish Down Station, which was the ended in September. Because if I hadn’t, Gollancz would still be waiting for it, and they deserve better than that. There were other things I let slide – the one big regret I have now is not pushing for Arcanum to be submitted to the Arthur C Clarke awards – but spilt milk and all that.
I started writing again in January. Slowly, somewhat tentatively, but then more assuredly. The White City is over the 30k mark, and whether it’s too different in tone will be something I’ll have to discuss with my agent and editor. I also agreed to do a new ghost story for the Summer Phantoms at the Phil, after my somewhat impromptu appearance as a last-minute stand-in at Christmas.
So, to Eastercon. I can’t honestly say I ‘did’ much. I was on three panels, chatted to all sorts of folk, drank tea during the day, beer during the evening, went to a couple of readings and precisely one presentation (on the making of Robot Overlords, so nothing too highbrow). But I rediscovered that these were indeed my people. Throughout the weekend, I was attempting to do my least-favourite writing task, which is ‘summarise your book in a paragraph’. I got help with that too. I waved my geek flag high, played the appalling and reprehensible Cards Against Humanity, and survived on too little sleep and too much caffeine. I came away with a liberal dose of ConCrud, and feeling far more optimistic than I have done for ages.
What’s happened before inevitably shapes our present and our future. But there’s no reason for past events to control us. Time’s arrow only points forward. To quote Petrovitch, when told we’re all time-travellers, exploring the future one second at a time. “Some of us are moving much faster than that.”