…and none of it was cancer-related. Well, not directly.
What’s going on? Glad you asked.
The last weekend in May, I made my first-ever visit to Copenhagen, as a guest at Fantasticon along with writer Ian Watson. Fantasticon is not an enormous convention––about 150 or so people attended. It was my first trip outside the UK since September 2014, and the first since I was diagnosed. The convention wasn’t too demanding, the people were wonderful, and it was a pleasure to hang around with old friends like Ian and new friends like Lars Ahn Pedersen and Ian Watson’s wife Cristina Macia––who turned out to be an old friend, sorta.
It turned out I had met Cristina back in 1990, at the worldcon in The Hague. We were on a panel about translating, moderated by the late John Brunner. I was on the panel by mistake––I’d never translated anything but I only had one other program item and I decided that I could talk about being translated. John Brunner was rather impatient about it when we met in the Green Room but he smoothed out as the panel progressed. But that’s not the important part. I was sitting next to Cristina and what she said about the challenges of translating made me look at my work in an entirely different way. She was responsible for a sea change in my perspective on who I was writing for and my approach to language. I ddn’t remember her name and I never thought I’d ever have a chance to tell this lovely woman how she had affected me.
Then I saw her at Fantasticon and I remembered her face. This is remarkable in itself because I have a slight problem with prospagnosia, or “face-blndness.” But I just knew it was her––she had barely changed. After she participated in a panel discussion about translating (I wasn’t on that one) and she talked about her experiences, I asked her if she had been in The Hague. She had, and she remembered the panel. It had been her first-ever panel and, she said, she was so nervous she was shaking. I remembered that, too, her being young and nervous, but she had made herself understood, especially to me. It was such a pleasure to tell her that listening to her all those years ago had made me think more carefully about my language.
Anyway, that was a pleasant surprise, and it led to another invitation, to a conference in Spain in July. But more about that in another post.
I made it home in one piece from Denmark, caught my breath and then, yesterday (6 June), I had the pleasure of sharing GOH duties with Brian Aldiss at the British Science Fiction Association/Science Fiction Foundation annual general meeting.
The day began with a panel discussion, moderated by Graham Sleight, about my (ahem) Hugo-Award winning story, “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out For Sushi.” Yes, my ego and my head are now so big and fluffy that they barely fit in the living room. And I got to say a few things about the story, too.
This was followed by the Brian Aldiss interview. I strongly, strongly, strongly suggest that we get some kind of project going where we record videos with the older members of our field––Brian, Ursula Le Guin, Kate Wilhelm, Bob Silverberg, Michael Moorcock, others––and just let them talk, about their experiences, about the people they’ve known. We have reference books and histories galore but we need the anecdotes, the personal views, all those things you get in oral history.
After lunch, Tanya Brown interviewed me. I love Tanya. She first interviewed me in 1993, for a magazine, when I was a GOH at MexiCon, which was not in Tijuana but Scarborough. I nattered on, about cancer, about writing, about writing with cancer and the story I’d written deliberately drawing on my diagnosis. My husband Chris assured me I wasn’t incoherent but I think I did get a little ADHD, trying to get everything in. But Tanya was lovely, the audience held still for it.
After that, there was a fascinating discussion about growing up with Brian Aldiss––i.e., people who had grown up reading Brian Aldiss’s books, how they viewed his work on first meeting it and now. It was fascinating.
Then Chris and I piled into a taxi and went home, exhausted. But happy. I can’t thank the BSFA/SFF enough for thinking of me. Because, like last weekend at Fantasticon in Copenhagen, the days weren’t all about cancer. It wasn’t that I didn’t mention cancer––I talked about it a lot and I was wearing my Secretly Hoping Chemo Will Give Me Superpowers t-shirt. But it wasn’t about having cancer, being a cancer patient, being ill. It was about still being who I’ve always been, doing what I’ve always done, and looking forward.
A couple of weeks ago, they gave me a CT-scan to see how well the chemo worked. I see my oncologist the day after tomorrow to get the results. If the chemo has worked as well during the second half of the treatment as it did during the first half, the news will be very good. But there are no guarantees, no sure things––I’ve always known that. And I can deal. I’ve always known that, too.
Regardless of what I hear on Tuesday, I’m definitely going to schedule some time to ride roller coasters this summer. It’s a thing with me. My whole life, I was too scared to ride roller coasters. Then I finally got on one and discovered I’m not afraid of anything.