All change

Hindsight offers considerable perspective, and I’m very fortunate that my recent trip to London for the group signing of the Cursed anthology at Forbidden Planet happened just before the reality of the spread of the COVID-19 virus sunk in. The situation was evolving even as I travelled, and I was already implementing vigorous hand washing by the time I arrived.

Our gallant crew of editors Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane, as well as writers James Brogden, Catriona Ward, Jen Williams and I signed a lot of books, including a strong allotment of pre-orders. Thanks to the Forbidden Planet team for being so supportive and kind!

After the signing the UK chapter of the HWA (of which I am a member) had one of their regular meetings, and it was such a joy to spend time with dear friends, laugh, and enjoy a few drinks. By the time I flew back everything had changed: the world was shrinking. I decided to self-isolate once I returned. So far I’ve avoided catching the virus (or so it seems, it’s hard to know until blood tests are available since so many are asymptomatic), and my period of self-isolation has rolled into a prolonged period of being housebound.

Another timely excursion during my stay in England was a day trip to Oxford to visit my editors in Rebellion Publishing.

This outstanding sculpture greeted me upon my arrival – do look at the bottle and the plug for perspective, this creation is over two meters high!

It was cool to visit Tharg HQ, and chat and discuss future projects with my editors. I hope to reveal more anon…

Speaking of hopes… I planned to announce my attendance at Cymera, the Scottish Festival of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror writing, which had been in development for a while, but alas the festival has cancelled for this year. As has Stokercon, and the Enniskillen Comic Fest. It’s been a series of blows. It’s been particularly hard to see Stokercon go, an event I had looked forward to for over a year. Many of these will reconvene, but not soon.

Since I’ve run events and I understand how much work is involved, I truly sympathise with the organisers for the uncertainly and heartbreak this must be causing.

Other events further in the calendar also seem in jeopardy. At this rate I don’t really expect to attend anything until the autumn… and that is not guaranteed. When 2020 started I had regular travel booked for the year, but in the space of a week my calendar emptied and even leaving the house to shop is rare.

Yet, I am hugely grateful to all the people who are working the front lines while we are shut up in our homes: the health workers doing incredible work under tough conditions, as well as people stocking shelves in shops, truckers hauling goods, and the postal workers delivering the mail!

I appreciate having fibre broadband and a warm home. I can connect to friends and loved ones from my couch. Many people have died from this virus, and I’m sure their family fervently wish they could speak to them one last time, even via a video chat or phone call. Staying at home is my part to keep others well. In the long run this will seem an inconvenience, and as I’ve experienced before, strange and fortuitous outcomes can arise from the most calamitous events.

Now is the time for calm, acceptance and working on neglected projects. I re-designed my web site over the weekend. I find this kind of detailed work usefully distracting. For a long time I’ve strictly rationed my social media use, but the speedy and urgency of recent events overtook me, and for a while I lost myself refilling alarming infinity pools.

I’m returning to a more balanced approach… slowly. After all, there’s work to be done.

The Hermit from the Modern Witch Tarot by Lisa Sterle.
The Hermit from the Modern Witch Tarot by Lisa Sterle.
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