The past six weeks have been a whirlwind and I've just finally had a chance to sit down and take a deep breath. Some of my friends have talked about how much more free-time they have during the pandemic, because they aren't going out and they are working from home. Somehow, this hasn't happened to me at all, even though I'm not travelling.
My mother commented that she wasn't sure anymore what I was doing with whom and it seemed like a good chance to do an update because honestly, at this point not even I'm sure what all I am doing.
It's a bit embarrassing that this update goes all the way back to the end of July, as I still owe you my Estcon report. One thing I didn't mention was that an Estonian television show, Roaldi retked Eestis, came to Udu farm to find out what Estcon is all about. It was a bit nervewracking, because it wouldn't be hard for a series like this to make sci-fi fans at a con look very silly, but the first impression is good. I've attached a trailer from the show at the bottom of this post.
Estcon will also be covered in Locus magazine for the third year in a row. Locus is an industry magazine about science fiction and fantasy publishing and is primarily about the US, but they have been pushing for more international information and of course, I've been happy to oblige. The convention organisers translate the Stalker award winners, which involves translating the titles of the winning books and stories into English but only if the title doesn't already exist in English, because it is important to match the title of the English version if one exists. One thing I like about this is that not only are the Estonian writers and translators highlighted in the industry but it also highlights books from other countries that are translated into Estonian. So for example, the winner for best translated novel was 三体 and the winner for best translated short story was Чудовище (Three Body Problem and Monster, respectively). So it just feels to me like the Estcon posts aren't just "here we are" but a good reminder that there's a whole big SFF world out there outside of the anglosphere.
I'm not able to talk too much about this just yet but I was given a super-exciting opportunity to talk about a crash on a television series that I love. Originally, I was hoping for the opportunity to fly to Nepal for the interview, since there were other people at that location who were integral to the show. With travel at a near stand-still, the series went on hold but is now back in progress using a COVID-safe system which involved me going around the corner to the Radisson hotel.
We took over a conference room and I was connected with the producer via video-chat on a laptop. I spoke for three hours and a local camera crew filmed the whole thing, which will then be edited in Canada. I've done similar things before and I never know if I'll be in the show for three seconds or three minutes. It's a very interesting case, though, and I'm looking forward to seeing the final result.
Patrons have already seen the video of my presentation for Futuricon and now the attendees of the conference have as well. Futuricon took place over a long weekend with three tracks of programming covering a wide variety of subjects. They set up a Discord chat server which allowed the attendees to interact in different channels to try to approximate a virtual experience similar to attending a physical convention.
My talk seemed to go over well and after the talk, a few people took the time to let me know that they really enjoyed it. I was especially pleased that one of the attendees had seen me talk at a convention last summer and recognised my name when she saw the programming.
The History Listen
Somewhere in the middle of all this, I was contacted by a man from ABC Radio (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) about doing a radio interview on a subject that I'd previously written about for Fear of Landing. I said yes, because it is such a great subject! But it involved me doing a lot of research and can I say a big HURRAY to Trove, an online archive which gave me direct access to 1940s newspaper articles and virtual exhibits from Australian museums. It is a fantastic site and really helped me to flesh out the details. I also found that one of my Fear of Landing readers knew a lot about the pilot of the story and he sent me a lot of details that I wouldn't have found otherwise. It is lovely when things come together like that!
Again, it was done locally, this time at a sound studio. I was perched on a high stool with a microphone and a stand for music, while the sound studio staff were on the next room, watching me through the glass. The producer phoned in and was connected to me, so he could hear me talking into the microphone and I could hear him in my headset, but his voice wasn't recorded.
At one point, he said that he could hear something rustling. Forgetting that I had a large microphone in front of me rather than something pinned to my lapel, I thought it must be my scarf. I apologized and pulled it off. Perched on the chair about three feet too high for me to get on and off easily, I just dropped the scarf on the floor.
"A scarf shouldn't be a problem," he said. Then I heard the rustling too. I reached for my necklace and dropped it on the floor, a small pile of things slowly collecting around my feet.
The producer said no, he could still hear it. The sound engineer, who can hear both of us but can't speak to either, waved at me frantically through the window. He opened the door and explained that the rustling sound was coming from the phone call and although I could hear it and the producer could hear it, it wasn't actually being recorded. It occurred to me afterwards that he was probably frightened that I might strip to nothing on the spot if he didn't stop me.
I'm not sure when the show will come out but the producer confirmed that it will be online and available to listen to around the world, so I'll share a link when that comes out.
Routledge Handbook to Star Trek
The big project that I've been working on is a chapter on Age and Aging for the Routledge Handbook to Star Trek. It's an extremely interesting subject that obviously deals with ageism and media depictions of old age but also intersects with gender studies and our views of masculinity as men get older, a subject that has only been receiving serious academic attention in the last two decades.
Writing this has been a serious challenge for me as I try to condense everything I've learned into a single chapter and attempt to get a handle on academic writing (omg, citations are the devil). I suffered the same problem as I had with the Nature article, which is that I needed to get a lot of information in a limited amount of space. I've been very spoiled by online publications which allow me to use exactly the amount of space I think I need. This probably also encourages me to ramble on (like today!) so working within the constraints of print publishing is probably a good thing.
The Routledge Handbook is a Very Big Deal and I'm very proud to be a part of it.
I managed to hold out against the sourdough craze throughout the summer. But then one of my favorite bakeries held a Sunday morning course on making French sourdough from scratch and I couldn't resist. This was very hands-on and although I've made bread before, I learnt a lot from the three-hour session and was able to isolate two clear mistakes that I've made in the past, which has stopped my dough and my crust from being as nice as it should be. The course was cleverly done with pre-prepared dough in various stages which meant that we each got to make two loaves from start to finish. Best of all, we were given sourdough starter from the bakery to take home with us. So now I have a new pet named Jane Dough which I am feeding daily in preparation for making my own loaf at the weekend.
Yes, OK, there's no travel at the moment. Luckily Estonia continues to be enchanting.
I've tried very hard to keep making time to get out and do things before winter and/or lockdown means I am loathe to leave the house. Over the past few weeks, I've taken the opportunity to visit some of my favourite spots to see what they look like in the autumn. I'll add my favourite photographs from September to a separate gallery.
This week, my plan is to catch up on all the things I dropped over the last six weeks (including email, sorry if you are waiting for a response from me) and then to sleep for about three days. Next week I'll get back to work, including a new essay for patrons that has been sitting half-finished waiting for my attention and a collection of pumpkin recipes for people like me who don't like pumpkin pie. Spoiler: pumpkin curry is fantastic! I had no idea!