I spent the first part of the week visiting friends near Whitby. This included the obligatory Whitby ‘Dracula’ tour, seeing the Abbey (gothic), the graveyard with Lucy’s seat just above the 199 steps, a pottery, a place where kippers are smoked and a statue of Captain James Cook.
The graveyard where Lucy’s seat is located is on top of the cliff and has a few polite notices warning people to respect hallowed ground. My friend suggested that this was for the goths who visit Whitby in droves and who apparently have a tendency to drape themselves over gravestones.
After this we ambled down the 199 steps, past a group of schoolchildren who seemed unphased by the climb, arriving at the harbour where the Demeter is wrecked in the novel. My friend informed me that this fictional incident was based on a genuine wreck of the Dimitri.
The next day we visited Ravenscar to see the grey seal colony, which I’d seen on my last visit in 2016. The sea was rougher than on that occasion, but R took me further along the cliff and we found them sunbathing amongst rocks. It’s a real privilege to be so close to wild animals.
Talking of privileges....
I’m writing this in a relatively hungover state on Saturday morning, after an eventful day. Arrived in Harrogate and Follycon without incident, and was immediately caught up in the convention whirl.
Fortunately, after registering ran into some old friends and was able to get a little grounded. This was followed by a long and mostly futile wait for some expensive and very small sandwiches.
Having survived the food, ran into some fellow Milford people, T and V, who were on their way to the opening ceremony. This led to the first panel on The Future of Cities, including some high profile panellists: Renee Sieber, a geographer, Matthew De Abaitua (academic and author), Paul McAuley (SF writer) and one of the guests of honour, Kim Stanley Robinson.
Regular readers of this blog will know that Kim Stanley Robinson, or ‘Stan,’ is one of my all time writing idols and his work has had a very significant influence on my life and thought. Turns out that both T and V know him, because they were at a Clarion writer’s workshop he taught. I mentioned that I’d rather like a meeting, but had to pop off to a panel on Transgressive sexuality.
T did say that Stan would be giving a lecture later on that evening....
I’d agreed to do three panels at Eastercon, including one on Transgressive sexuality in science fiction. This was a lot of fun, although I’m always a little self-conscious about this sort of topic, not because I’m embarrassed about talking about sex in public but because of possibly offending someone.
The discussion was okay, revolving around the inclusion of various LGBTT + identities in fiction, which seemed a little tame. I’d re-read some of the works of William Burroughs for this panel, which deals with wild sex, drugs and mental disintegration.
This work seems a million miles from rather sanitised discussions about sexual politics and identities. Sex isn’t often ‘rational’ and ‘reasonable’ and I’d have like to have talked about that a bit more but still, the discussion was fun as far as it went.
Eight O’Clock came around, and thanks to T was able to have a brief discussion with Stan before his Muir talk. This was a bit awe inspiring and as usual in these sorts of situations had to watch the self-consciousness. Like many people, I’m prone to make an idiot of myself in these situations, but it was okay if a little surreal.
The talk, on the man partly responsible for the founding of Yosemite National Park was excellent and Stan had plenty of photos of the High Sierras from various hikes. I visited California in the 1990s, and the images made me ache to return. Muir’s story is also intriguing and I’m going to seek out his works.
Afterwards, we retired to the bar and it was again awe inspiring to be able to chat with Stan in a small group.
However, it seemed so unlikely and unexpected a situation that it didn’t seem quite real.
Rounded off the evening with a chat to another Milford alumni, and we reflected somewhat unsoberly on the difficulties of actually getting work published. I think we both found it comforting that these problems are shared by pretty much all aspirant writers....