What I Did On My Summer Holiday (or, How to travel to Helsinki and end up on the radio in Bristol)

UPDATE: The Listen Again links at Ujima Radio have expired, but interviews are now going up at Cheryl Morgan’s Salon Futura podcast site. Here’s mine (apparently I also got to be an example in Cheryl’s podcasting class at BBC Bristol!).

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I haven’t done a Worldcon75 round-up; I was too busy in Helsinki and I’ve been too busy since I got back. I’m working on a revised draft of my new novel, following some candid and entirely apt feedback from my agent (bless you, professional readers who pull no punches. Bless you, bless you). I’m also one of the Lignum Vitae Awards judges this year; they’re for unpublished work by Jamaican authors. My beat is adult fiction or creative non-fiction, so I’ve got a scary number of novel-length manuscripts to finish reading in the next few weeks. I suppose I didn’t actually have enough time to take any off, but I’d been planning it for a year and I’m very glad I went. The con was great, and so was the city (I have to keep reminding myself that I was there during a gloriously sunny and warm week in August; it’s possible I might have enjoyed it less in oh, say, December. But I doubt it.) Helsinki is on the water, with bridges and bays everywhere you look; it’s compact, clean, easily walkable, good for cyclists (I’m not one) with excellent train, tram, bus and ferry service. The food is good, the people are lovely, the museums are excellent (and everyone speaks English).

No post-mortem as such, but I was asked if there was a particularly memorable con moment. There were actually two, starting with the panel I wasn’t scheduled to be on and the reading I hadn’t known I was going to do. The panel was Caribbean SF, and featured Worldcon Guest of Honour, fellow Jamaican Nalo Hopkinson; Barbadian writer, Worldcon Toastmistress and my good mate Karen Lord; and Brandon O’Brien from Trinidad & Tobago. As they made their way to the front of the room I was summoned from my front-row seat to join them on the platform. They’d already discussed kicking off with 2-minute readings from their own work, to give the audience a sense of how our region influences the way we write: in dialect, in imagery, in the cadences of our prose. I obviously hadn’t been part of that prep meeting, but as luck would have it I happened to have with me the newly rewritten opening chapters of the new book, which is influenced by Jamaican heritage and folklore to a far greater degree than any of my previous books. So I got to test it out via my own mini-reading (it went down very well), in addition to being part of a brilliant conversation with a brilliant group of people.

Memorable moment number two is actually online, so I can share it. The prominence of Caribbean women writers and women of colour at Worldcon this year (N.K. Jemisin won the Best Novel Hugo award for the second year running) prompted Cheryl Morgan to do a series of interviews for Ujima Radio‘s Woman’s Hour programme. Ujima is an award-winning community radio station in Bristol, with a strong Afro-Caribbean focus. The show went out last week, and Listen Again links are now up. I’m on first, followed by Karen Lord. That link is here. I talk about the rise of Caribbean speculative literature, the politics of diversity and importance of cultural narrative, and the joy of being surrounded by friendly Finns who look as though they’re cosplaying my characters. Karen takes us behind the scenes at Worldcon, is delightfully amazed to find herself doing the incredibly cool things she’s doing, and talks about her new gig writing seasonal fiction. (If you need any more reasons to listen, the playlist includes Prince, P-Funk and Hendrix.) The second hour kicks off with African-American writer K. Tempest Bradford, and wraps up with Nalo Hopkinson; here’s that link (and yes, the playlist is just as awesome).

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