2020 is sucking my ability to multi-task, so I've been focusing on what I can control: the writing and the promotion. Through it all, these are going better than expected. The writing isn't on track to my original plan - I'm months behind, but I don't have a publisher's deadline this year - but it's flowing. Promotion has gone well. And conventions have been a mixed bag.
Here's a quick run down from the last couple of months:
- My book launch event at Scorpio Books in Christchurch went brilliantly. Scorpios did a beautiful window display, supplied tasty catering, and were all round champions. Big thanks to Kit, Tamsin, and the crew. It was lovely to meet new readers, and I looked particularly dapper that day. Scorpios have copies of No Man's Land available for purchase for local peeps and will post out around the country. Here's my speech from the night, hosted on the Christchurch Libraries blog.
- Spotted in other locales, No Man's Land is available at Arty Bees in Wellington. It's also available at Christchurch Libraries and a variety of libraries around the country. The Voyages of Cinrak the Dapper will also be available very soon through Christchurch Libraries. Thanks again to Donna at Turanga for being a champion for my books, and for Christchurch Libraries being an advocate for local authors.
- CoNZealand...happened. After a ten year expectation and a two year build up, Worldcon in New Zealand wasn't all we needed it to be for the local speculative fiction community, beyond the pandemic turning it into an online event.
Part of my silence in July/August was the stress and exhaustion associated with Worldcon, and I was only on the peripheral. Many people put a huge effort into pivoting the event online in a short time, and CoNZealand should be applauded for doing the best they could under the circumstances. However, things that went seriously awry were unrelated to the pivot, like the lack of inclusive programming, accessibility problems, lack of uplift of Aotearoa creators, lack of respect for tikanga Māori, and lack of respect for marginalized creators and Hugo nominees.
The Hugo ceremony became a tedious racist paean to bygone days, with GRRM mispronouncing names and generally being dismissive about the SFF of today. And bitterly disappointing for our local crew, the SJV ceremony was scheduled after the Retro Hugos and against another major event, given an out-of-primetime time slot. Big ups for the actual in person event, filmed earlier in the week - attendees said it was lovely event and there was a lot of joy in the room.
So many local creators were excited about the opportunity CoNZealand presented - our work on the international stage, the eyes of the SFF publishing industry on us. Many of us took the chance to guide our careers over the last 18 months to 2 years towards this goal, producing work and planning releases to coincide, hoping to hype the SJVs, and preparing brilliant ideas for panels.
Somehow, most of these panel and presentation ideas were dismissed, the first drafts of the program barely included any local content at all, and those creators included were put on panels that had little to no connection to their expertise. It took a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and swearing from others behind the scenes (not me) to get Aotearoa and marginalized creators back on the program and people into suitable roles. Even with last minute pushes with the Inclusion Initiative a lot of people missed out or were given very little to do.
Personally, I had expected to be doing a lot of work around LGBTQIA+ SFF, as I had proposed, but that didn't happen. I did one panel (NZ Authors on the International Stage), a reading (thanks to everyone who turned up!), and a book release (Year's Best Vol2). Did I want to do more? Absolutely, it was a chance I'd prepared for. I had been put on other panels, but they had nothing to do with my expertise, and once I stepped down from them I was offered no other opportunities. I've taken a long time considering whether to talk about this, because to some it would come across as ungrateful considering my privileges, especially since I wasn't involved with any planning or volunteering. This was for many reasons, including the amount of yelling into the wind I knew would happen, and certain early discussions (years ago) about major issues (security, safety for marginalized creators, careful use of local content) that made me worry. There were also Missing Stairs involved behind the scenes, which frankly is a big part of my security work at local cons; if they were in on the ground floor, where would my voice end up (nowhere, as I suspected).
The local content that DID happen was excellent, especially the SFF and Te Ao Māori panel. I also especially enjoyed the Indigenous Futurism panel which included local creators. Big thanks to the many volunteers who worked in the Zoom rooms and behind the scenes.
I wish CoNZealand could have been more.
- In upcoming local festival news, I am absolutely delighted to be a part of Word Christchurch programming this year. I have been a volunteer with Word for some years now, and it's an honour to be on the other side of the table with work I can share with our local literature community. I will be taking part in Heritage: Historical Writing, Tell It Slant (supporting Qtopia), and the New Regent Street Pop Up Festival.
- Even more local festival news: I'll be at Verb Wellington and Lit Crawl. The program will be announced very soon. Again, DELIGHTED.
- Year's Best Aotearoa New Zealand Science Fiction and Fantasy Volume 2 came out at CoNZealand. Big ups to Marie at Paper Road Press for pushing up the publishing time line so we could celebrate with a virtual release party at the con. The anthology includes my story Hearts Made Marble, Weapons Shaped From Bone.
- A couple of ephemeral things: I was featured in the Sunday Star Times lifestyle magazine's "Grill" on July 12. And I was on RNZ's Standing Room Only arts program. Kind of A Big Local Deal!
We've got a long way to go. Mask up, be kind, support Black Lives Matter, look out for your trans people, vote (NZ and US), keeping fighting fascism, and keep reading books of joy and hope.
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