Monday, June 29, 2015

An Explanation

I've been away from the blog for a few months now — longer than my usual occasional absences — despite having plenty in the SF world to talk about, so I figured I owe everyone a bit of an explanation:

First, there was work. Through the late winter and early spring I was working on a freelance contract that required a lot of time, attention, and frequently weird hours. Combined with a brutal chickens-coming-home-to-roost sudden onset of major sleep apnea (I've probably had it for a few years, but early this spring was the first time when I felt completely, consistently crushed by exhaustion — 8 or 9 hours of sleep felt like less than 2. Luckily, I'm on a machine now, and I feel great.), and I was totally worn-out, and not in the mood to do much writing. A month ago, I started a new, short-term contract that requires me to work out of an office, and the early wake up and commute has taken some getting used to.

I also had to go back east for a couple of weeks at the end of March/beginning of April for one of the worst Easters in memory — to say goodbye to one of my uncles. A life-long smoker, it was really no surprise that my Uncle Jim would get cancer someday, but when it slammed into him in February, it was brutal and overwhelming, and as he was only 63, I felt it came for him too soon (but then, when is it ever the right time for fucking cancer?). He should still be with us. My nephew and niece, and my cousins' kids, should have had a few more years to get to know him. At least I managed to get back in time to say goodbye before the end. You know, you learn different things from different people in life. From my Uncle Jim, I learned the art of the tall tale. When we were kids, he would talk about the evil troll that skulked around in the shadows of my grandparents' basement, which made us cautious — okay, scared — enough to avoid the room where he kept the gun locker with his hunting rifles. When my brother refused to eat his potatoes at supper, Jim would start in with his favourite old saw, which began with "When I was panning for gold in the Yukon, one winter we had nothing to eat but potatoes..." and then quickly spiralled out of control into silliness. That only got my brother to eat a bite or two of potato about half the time, but the stories were pretty entertaining none-the-less. And there were others. Listening to him, picking up how to start with an idea and just run with it, totally off the cuff, was invaluable. The rhythm, the inflection, the pacing, the choice of the right colloquialisms are all things I paid close attention to, and worked hard to make a part of my own oral storytelling. Because of his example, I can grab something at random and start laying out some wacky tale for my own nephew and niece. In fact, Jim's legacy was in the room at the visitation after he died: relatives, his friends, coworkers, and others were milling around, and my cousin's boy, who was the only kid in the room and looking like he felt a little bored, decided to come over to me and ask for a story. I don't know why he picked me; I'd only met him twice before that horrible week, and he was a baby on one of those occasions. But dammit, in Jim's memory, I was going to rise to the challenge. Forget about the sadness. Forget about the exhaustion of day after day of cleaning out my uncle's house (he was a wonderful man, but he was a hoarder, and he had a problem), there was a kid who wanted, maybe needed a story — a tall tale —and I was gonna make sure he got one. Or two. Or three. How many did he keep asking for that night? All the little tricks and skills that I'd seen my uncle use came alive in me for the next hour or more as I regaled him with tall tales, personal memories and family lore, and, best of all, stories that skirted the grey space somewhere in between them. The kid's eyes were lit up, and there was a big grin plastered across his face. Jim would have liked that. Thank you, Uncle. From me and that kid. I'll miss you.

And so, all of that together has conspired to keep me from writing as much as I'd normally like to, and I kind of feel like I've dropped the ball. But, as a friend recently reminded me, there are things in life more important than blogging.

Things have smoothed-out recently though. Life is back into a routine that leaves a little more time for this sorta stuff, which is good, because this (whatever it is) is something I really enjoy, and I hope you do too.

So, over the next few days there will be more posts — SF-related, I assure you — and eventually they'll shake down into something approaching a reliable schedule. I think that'll include a few more episodes of the Saturday Morning Cartoon Rewatch too. There's also a nice little surprise coming around the corner soon as well, but I won't spoil it now. And, in the mid-to-long term, I've got another notion that might be interesting; it's still early days yet, so I won't say anything else for now, but I think it'll be fun, and I can't wait to share it with you.