Like anyone who speaks in public, I choose when I’ll go with spontaneous (having thought ahead about what, at least) or full script. The latter is rare for me; I’m happier talking with, not at, my audience after all. At When Words Collide, I knew I’d share the stage with my fellow GoHs at WWC, namely Ian Hamilton, Marty Chan, Eve Silver, and Dr. Robert “Talks to Toasters” Runté, each guaranteed to be erudite, fun, and fascinating. Piece of cake. I could speak my fifteen minutes about me, crack a warm-feeling joke about being in Calgary, thank the con, and move on.
Two things made that the wrong choice this time. Already, I sensed WWC wasn’t like other conventions—more accurately, it was like all the best of them, rolled into one. The smart, engaged, excited folks in every room? Off the charts. The sort of con I’d first attended both as a reader and a wistful wannabe writer. I’d found others there like this—like me. People who became lifelong friends and colleagues.
One of those friends, who’d have LOVED this con, was dying. She’d been all the things this convention was about: from shy newbie to con organizer. From reader and wannabe writer to published author.
This once, I wasn’t going to ad lib. I was going to write what she’d be thinking were she here. You see, I knew her that well.
Script exactly as I wrote it:
[lean at audience] What a bunch of dreamers.
That’s what they say, isn’t? Those who’d never ever want to be here, at a celebration of words.
And worse. We enjoy the dreams of…other people.
It’s what we do. We enter the dreams—the innermost fantasies—of another mind each time we open a book and begin to read. Big dreams. Small ones. Scare-you-silly dreams and puzzle box dreams you can feel bending something behind your eyeballs. Dreams of this world. Its past ones. Future. Places we haven’t been—places we wouldn’t go—or long to, hearts pounding.
We sink into different personalities, assume different bodies, become…other. We’re a kick-ass accountant—we hear toasters—we quiver in our beds knowing a monster’s coming—we’re transported to a war and expected to win it.
We find ourselves on a road trod by dragons.
Reading is a super power.
Which we could do at home, thank you, so why be here?
Because we’re addicted to using that power. We can’t get enough. We want more to read. More familiar fancies. More we’ve yet to discover. Have you seen the Merchant’s Room?
Apparently we’re flying home. Those who drove here? Load the trunks!
The other thing about being here, fellow dreamers? We aren’t [look around then whisper]…alone. That person next to you?
They read too. Honest.
The entire front row—the rest of you reads?! It’s contagious! Madness!
I blame the concom. Getting us here. The conversations we’ll have—
And the panels. There are people here who will talk, out loud, about reading and books.
I kid you not.
Any kind at all. Just here, to talk with you and answer questions. You’re going to have problems being in more than one place at once. All Weekend Long.
I blame the concom for that too.
[lean] But there’s worse here than dreamers.
There are dreamweavers. Wordsmiths. Storytellers. Who, let me assure you, love readers to distraction.
While BEING readers.
It’d be illegal except that writing and reading aren’t the same thing. For starters, reading is comfy.
Writing? Paper cuts, people. Carpel tunnel. Sore behinds.
For another? Readers are like the Flash. They consume words so quickly writers get queasy watching.
While writers? We’re so grateful to get a thousand words in sensible order we pause to congratulate ourselves and try not to think about the remaining 99. Thousand. To Go.
You’re nodding. Why are you nodding?
Egad. [grimly] I knew it. You’re not just dreamers who read, are you. You’re writers too.
I blame the concom.
They created the perfect place for you. Laid out programming and events. Given you access to editors and publishers and…readers.
It’s diabolical. Next thing you know, they’ll offer live slush readings in front of a group of industry pros—
Right. Those are ongoing. And a mass autographing, I expect, where you can talk to dozens of other writers. DOZENS!
What were they thinking?
That putting us together matters. That what we do and care about matters. That you do.
To have books we need writers.
Writing takes perseverance. Determination. The willingness to contort your body and social life into painful cramp positions—suffice to say, it’s not for everyone.
The courage to be here, mystifying family and friends who’d like you to spend the weekend outdoors.
The courage to attend a full day workshop. Especially one that starts with a black-draped mound on a table.
Hardest of all? If you want your writing to be read, if you, [shudder], want to make a living from writing?
You have to let other people—like that guy there—pick up your dreams and innermost beliefs.
He’s going to take your words home. Put on soft music. Get comfy.
And READ them.
In less time than it takes to write a thousand of those words, odds are.
He’ll have an opinion, too.
He might come here and talk about what he read to other strangers.
Who put us in this terrifying position?
I blame the concom
In every good way.
Because if we spend this weekend together?
Dreams there will surely be.
My delivery wasn’t quite up to snuff, and I was seriously fighting the urge to sniffle by the end, but people assured me later they’d enjoyed it, which made me glad.
My friend died, you see, even as I gave the little speech she’d inspired. I got the message on my phone afterwards. Rather than sit in our hotel room, Roger and I did what she would have expected. We went out to be among our new con friends and old, to celebrate why we were there. To be together and talk about the good stuff. Dream.
For you, Ruth.
(This post includes my keynote address for When Worlds Collide, Aug. 11, 2016, Calgary.)
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The Clan Chronicles is set in a far future where a mutual Trade Pact encourages peaceful commerce among a multitude of alien and Human worlds. The alien Clan, humanoid in appearance, have been living in secrecy and wealth on Human worlds, relying on their innate ability to move through the M’hir and bypass normal space. The Clan bred to increase that power, only to learn its terrible price: females who can’t help but kill prospective mates. Sira di Sarc is the first female of her kind facing that reality. With the help of a Human starship captain, Jason Morgan, himself a talented telepath, Sira must find a morally acceptable solution before it’s too late. But with the Clan exposed, her time is running out. The Stratification trilogy follows Sira’s ancestor, Aryl Sarc, and shows how their power first came to be as well as how the Clan came to live in the Trade Pact. The Trade Pact trilogy is the story of Sira and Morgan, and the trouble facing the Clan. Reunification will conclude the series and answer, at last, #whoaretheclan.
And what will be the fate of all.
Since 1997, Canadian author/former biologist Julie E. Czerneda has shared her boundless curiosity about living things through her science fiction, published by DAW Books, NY. Recently, she began her first fantasy series: Night’s Edge with A Turn of Light, winner of the 2014 Aurora Award for Best English Novel. A Play of Shadow followed, winning the 2015 Aurora. While there’ll be more fantasy, Julie’s back in science fiction to complete her Clan Chronicles series. Reunification #1: This Gulf of Time and Stars, came out in 2015. #2: The Gate to Futures Past will be released this September. Volume #3: To Guard Against the Dark, follows October 2017. An award-winning editor as well, Julie’s latest project is editing the 2017 Nebula Awards Showcase, a singular honour. Meet Julie at Acadia’s Dark Sky Festival, Bar Harbor, Maine this September and at Hal-Con, Halifax, this November. For more, please visit www.czerneda.com.