Talks and ducks and coots and swans

I writing several talks this week. I didn’t used to write talks: I used to simply deliver them. Because of the health issues I have, though, I can’t guarantee that, on the day I give a talk or when the talk is recorded for later delivery (this latter is what happens this evening) I will be able to think effectively and to speak cogently. Most of the time, now, then, I write things down. So many people want to read it as a written word, too, that I often have a small audience (this month through Patreon) that wants to see what I say.

I have two pieces for finish today. One is an academic paper. My academic self is quite different to my fictional self when it comes to talks. The academic self is more intense and only sometimes includes bad jokes. The paper is about where the history comes from in Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver and is for a conference in Melbourne on Monday. I need to complete the overheads today and to do that, I need to know what I’m going to say, so it’s wise to finish the whole paper.

I have written almost all of the paper (and it’s already in the hands of someone who won’t be at the conference on Monday, but who needs to see it). All I need to do today with it is finicky finishing and the Powerpoint presentation. Academic work always contains much finicky finishing.

To do these last bits, I read the written word aloud, over and over. Each time I read a sentence, I listen to discover it makes sense in its place and whether words need switching or the sentence needs moving or if the whole thing has to be crossed out and replaced with something more sensible.

This is why most of my academic papers relate closely to my current research. I used to deliver more entertaining papers, but then I realised that the closeness of the editing for a good paper advances my thought on the research. Often it’s subtle advancement, but it’s always useful. My papers are less fun, but way more useful.

After the conference, I’ll take the paper and compare it to the chapter it relates to and the chapter will suddenly make a lot more sense. Editing today, then, means editing next week and the week after. This is a good thing.

What about the talk? The talk is for Octocon, which is in Ireland over the weekend. On my Monday morning I will technically be in Ireland having delivered the talk and in Melbourne, delivering the paper, mere hours apart. This is why my talk is being pre-recorded. I will have pictures for the Octocon talk, and these I still have to find and put in order. Mostly, though, with the talk, I need to make it make sense for people who have not read the books I’m talking about (by Tolkien, by Australian writer Leife Shallcross, by Irish writer Peadar Ó Guilín, and by Naomi Novik), who haven’t studied the subject I’m talking about and who want a bit of lyricism or humour to entice them to keep listening. The subject is how space and boundaries are important to fantasy fiction. Right now there’s too much lyricism. It’s easy to wax lyrical about forests and rivers and borderlands. However, I don’t want the words to ripple and flow and to create an abstract design: I need them to make sense. I have 800 words to add, then the rest of this talk lies in the edits. More reading aloud. More making things make sense to people who don’t live in my brain.

At 10 pm tonight, I have a long meeting with someone in Montreal. She will walk me through the tech side of Octocon, sort out all the tech issues related to the talk, record the talk and… my day will finish early tomorrow. Tomorrow I have 2 meetings (one for work, one for fun) and need to finish the first draft of another talk. I have five conventions/conferences this month, only one face to face. I’m short on time because all this is as well as my research. It’s work I love, but it’s not paid, also, so other things have to happen to keep me in food and electricity. This fortnight those other things are my research (for which I have funding) and Patreon.

Also, if anyone thinks that chronic illness and disability disappear in weeks like this… they do not. This week is a very exciting juggling act. Furthermore, most of this work is not paid. It’s just part of the life of a writer. Each of us have different things we do. Because I’m partly an academic (mostly unemployed, but not entirely) and partly a writer, much of my life is spent explaining awesomely interesting subjects, but without the support of an academic salary. It’s not always terribly easy.

Welcome to the life of many writers. Some of us are ducks, some of us are coots, some of us are swans, but we all paddle madly just out of sight in order to stay afloat. Many of us (me, for example) battle significant everyday issues as well. Every book of ours you buy, every Patreon you support or Ko.Fi you buy, makes the paddling a little less frantic.

Books and business and a weekend in Ireland

I’m still in my impossibly-busy time. I wanted to write you a proper post, but I also need to sleep. I’ve spent all my spare money on books this week. Four I have already, and the rest are to come. What I might do until I have the book or can reclaim real time (whichever comes first) is introduce you to some of the new volumes in my library. Two each week, I think, so that you’re not overwhelmed.

I caught up with the authors of this week’s books in my first face-to-face science fiction convention since August 2019. One I saw briefly and she was wearing a t-shirt for the world science fiction in Glasgow in 2024, which made the world feel less big than it has recently. The other dropped in and we had a couple of hours to catch up. By ‘dropped in’ I mean he was willing to take a RAT to see me. We all have different names for the quick COVID tests and Australians call the RATs. This is, of course, because it opens up the potential for very silly jokes. Especially since at least two of my friends have pet rats. I will save you from the jokes and return you to the new books.

Jason Franks’ new volume is X-Dimensional Assassin Zai. Through the Folded Earth. Cross-dimensional assassination…

The other is Thoraiya Dyer’s Tides of the Titans. It’s been a long while since I read a new novel by Thoraiya – they simply have not come my way.

I’m looking forward to both these books so much. I have to wait before I can read them, however. Until the middle of November, my life is on fast forward. The northern hemisphere is in peak conference time and I’m in my silly season and handling health issues. This opens an opportunity. If any of you buy one of the books and wants to read and discuss it with me, you have time. Much time. We could have a discussion here, in the Treehouse. Or not. Maybe you’re as impossibly busy as I am.

If my life were quieter I could read them both next weekend, but next weekend I’m online in Ireland. In fact, I’m staying up late every night this week to get the most Irish day possible during the Australian night. I go to Irish conventions whenever I possibly can (which is about a fifth as often as I’d like to, which is the sad truth for me and most of the conferences and the conventions I love), but this year is special: I’m one of the guests of the Irish National Convention. I’m giving talks, am on panels, and giving a reading. I’m also spending as much time as I can chatting with people – Octocon attracts fascinating folks. It’s a lovely place to meet people and does the virtual side of things with much care and thought, which means even from the other side of the world (while ill – this is like dancing backwards in heels) Dublin is a good place to visit.

If you also join in the virtual side of Octocon, find me and we can chat about books, about writing, about overwork, about the odd shape of our current world…