John Rhys-Davies was warm and talkative with everyone in line. A real class act!
We had planned on asking him something, and promptly forgot when he noticed Jen was pregnant. He asked if it was our first, and said we were in for a treat. He said his only regret was not having more children. It was hard to concentrate, we were so mesmerized by his voice.
He loved the TARDIS and was impressed that Jen had designed the pattern herself. He told us about one of his first roles in theatre. The director saw him reading a book between rehersals, and got really huffy. Apparently this director thought reading was overly intellectual, and did not like intellectuals. (*eyeroll*) Mr. Rhys-Davies asked one of the actresses to teach him how to crochet, and during that run, he crocheted his son’s first baby blanket!
It was so fantastic to talk with this amazing man!
Just a short break between episodes of Gladiators in SPACE!
I have officially been a father for ten days. So much and so little has happened since she was born. In an attempt to avoid rambling too much I’ll separate this into parts.
A theme this past ten days has been, “I thought I understood what was going to happen, but I didn’t.”
The birth and labour was much longer than I expected and very different. I won’t go into details but despite all our preparation we had no clue.
When I saw the little wriggling baby for the first time I didn’t experience what a lot of people had described. I didn’t instantly fall in love, I didn’t just know, etc. I just saw an adorable baby that vaguely looked like her mother. I instinctively wanted to protect her, but I get that with all babies. There was nothing spiritual or magical.
All the love and the urge to make everything better for her came slowly over time. It started when we first learned she existed and continued to grow. It’s still growing now.
I think even if she weren’t my child, I’d find her adorable. She makes these little snuffling noises, squeaks, and mini-roars that sound just like what I’d imagine a little Dragon would sound like.
In case you don’t know what Impostor Syndrome is, it’s “an inability to internalize […] accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’.”
It’s most common in artistic people from what I’ve seen. I sometimes wonder how long it’ll take people to realize that it was mistake to publish me. By the way, check out A Study in Aether and leave reviews on Goodreads or Amazon. Ahem…
I’ve found the same sort of feeling with Keladry. One moment I’ll be changing her diapers and the next I’ll wonder when her real parents are coming to take her home. It’s like my brain is unable to fully comprehend that we’ve created a human and are now responsible for her. It’s terrifying.
There’s a disconnect between understanding the principles of making and having children and truly internalizing the information.
I’m told that the Parental Impostor Syndrome goes away eventually. Hopefully the other one will as well, but it’ll probably take longer.
Sleep and Doing stuff
Everyone warned me that once the baby would be around, there would be no time for sleep or anything else. So far we’ve been lucky; she’s sleeping 2-4 hours in a row between feedings. I can’t imagine doing this and going to my full time job, but I’ve been able to do a few little things here and there on projects.
The first few days I felt utterly lost and a little panicked but we’ve been introducing elements of routine into our days and that’s making me feel better.
As she grows older, we’ll try to instill a nice routine into her life as well and we can hope that will prevent us all from going crazier than we already are.
Friends and Family
I’m a shameless optimist when it comes to the human race and the innate goodness in each of us. That being said, I’m extremely insecure and have as a default assumption that everyone dislikes me. (It’s unfounded and silly but my brain is a jerk.)
Our friends and family have been absolutely amazing. Any and all support we need is there and we greatly appreciate it. You are all amazing!
We thought long and hard about who and what we wanted for our little Dragon’s Godparents.
We narrowed down the criteria to someone who:
was spiritual or had a good academic knowledge of world religions;
could teach her things she won’t learn in school;
was a good person and role model;
who would take the job seriously; and
who could be friend and confidant that wouldn’t have an issue telling us if we were being unfair.
In the end we chose her Aunt Lindsay, who’s one of the most good and genuine people I know, and S.M. Carrière, who’s a wonderful person with a lot to share with Dragon. I know both will be there for her and make sure she grows up to be an awesome person.
Jasmine Murray-Bergquist is a costume designer, bookworm, amateur archer and all-around geek. Her body lives in Ottawa while her mind is consistently elsewhere. Her website can be found here, and you can follow her on Twitter!
My sisters and I have always been big dreamers. I wouldn’t say any of our dreams are too big, but as we have more dreams than are possible to fulfil in one lifetime, some of our childhood plans and ambitions got shelved indefinitely at a young age.
That changed this spring. When my sister Karin was invited to present a paper she wrote at an academic conference in Kirkwall, Orkney, we jumped at the chance to make one of those long lost ideas a reality. As voracious readers and lovers of a good road trip, we decided that after the conference we would rent a car and tour around England, making pilgrimages to the homes of some of our most beloved authors. With the expert help of Jen, before I knew it, everything was booked and we were ready to go.
Even after talking about doing a trip like this for years, the reality far surpassed anything I’d ever imagined.
I arrived in Edinburgh on a cool, rainy, April morning. With 13 hours to kill before Karin arrived (and three days before my luggage arrived, but that’s a different story!), I went exploring. My destination was a place that is truly somewhat of a holy site for me. A place that would be the perfect spot to start the Author Tour. A place where a young single mother unknowingly created the foundation of my childhood, changing my life forever.
The Elephant House is an unassuming place tucked neatly into a historic street front in Edinburgh’s Old Town. Many authors have frequented the cafe over the years including Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith, but it’s best known for being the place where J. K. Rowling sat and wrote Harry Potter. I got goosebumps as I walked in, although that could’ve been the chill of the Scottish fog sinking through to my bones. With a pot of Earl Grey tea and an elephant shaped shortbread cookie, I settled into an empty seat by the front window. The cafe was crowded with people trying to find relief from the rain and wind. The hubbub of conversation, the clinking of teacups in saucers, the tinkle of the bell above the door as people came and went, all the sounds, smells, and sights wound their way into my consciousness, and it was a few minutes before I was even aware that I was writing.
I sat for a minute, staring down at my notebook and the paragraphs I’d just written, and suddenly I understood why Edinburgh is known for being a city for writers and artists. It immediately gets inside you, filling you with inspiration. It forces you to create. There is magic lurking under every cobblestone, stories whispering at you from every doorway. It doesn’t just give you the desire to write, it gives you the need.
The next morning Karin and I started our journey north by train. The next few days were very focused on the conference, although we did find a couple of author moments amidst all the learning. In Inverness, we found a plaque commemorating William Topaz McGonagall. If you haven’t read the poem “The Tay Bridge Disaster”…well, just go read it, and it will become very clear why McGonagall is known as the worst poet ever. Luckily for him he was rich, and able to pay people to put up with his readings. When we reached beautiful, mystical, magical Orkney, we discovered the world of George Mackay Brown. A famed poet, novelist, and dramatist, he also wrote many short stories and essays. His work is everywhere, especially in Stromness, his hometown.
From Orkney, we took the train back south to Glasgow, where we picked up the car and hit the open road. Karin was a fantastic co-pilot (her Chewbacca impression is second to none) and navigated us perfectly out of Edinburgh and along the winding country roads to the small western Scottish town of Ayr. That was where we stayed that night, but our goal in Ayrshire was the nearby village of Alloway, birthplace of poet, lyricist, whiskey advocate, and great seducer – the Bard of Ayrshire, Robert Burns.
If you ever have the chance, the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum is so very much worth the visit. It’s fantastically laid out and a veritable wealth of information on the life and times of Burns and his family. Interactive and educational, there was so much to do and so many ways to immerse yourself in the times and ways of late 1800s Scotland. The panels are all peppered with Scots words (the language Burns wrote in and fought to keep alive), which is a really fun way of learning the language along with the details of Burns’ life.
Outside the museum there is a path that winds through a field marked by metal artwork depicting the story of Tam O’Shanter, one of Burns’ most famous poems, as well as a giant mouse (a nod to Burns’ To A Mouse). The path takes you to the small cottage where Burns was born, kept as it was when he was a child there. As you walk back to the museum, if you take the road instead of the path, you pass by the Alloway kirk (church), which is where poor unfortunate Tam sees all manner of horrible supernatural creatures whooping it up as he tries to get home from the pub one night. Even it broad daylight, our skin prickled imaging the witches, goblins, and tortured ghosts as we peeked into the ruins.
We spent far, far too much time there, but it was so wonderful. From Ayr we turned south, driving down the ruggedly stunning west coast of Scotland, before turning east and working out way into the Lakes District. This stunning region was the inspiration for one of my father’s favourite books from childhood, “Swallows and Amazons” by Arthur Ransome. My dad read it to my sisters and I when I was probably 8 or so and we immediately fell in love with it. Written and set in the 30s, it’s the story of the four Walker children who spend their summers sailing their borrowed boat the Swallow around an unnamed lake in the Lakes District, where they meet the two Blackett children, who have a boat of their own – the Amazon – and are pirates. We used to sail all around the lake where my grandparents live when we were kids, so both the sailing and the imaginations of the kids utterly captivated us.
While the lake in the books is never explicitly named, people believe that it’s based on Coniston Water, so that was where we went after a beautiful night in the nearby town of Grasmere (where we took a quick wander around the grounds of Dove Cottage, where the Wordsworths lived and wrote). Coniston Water is the third largest lake in England, at five miles long but only a half mile wide. A kiosk down by the shore rents out all manner of boats, and soon we were zipping down the lake in our very own Swallow. The feeling was glorious. The boat hummed as we skipped along under the watchful eye of the Old Man of Coniston, the mountain that looms large over the water. The energy of the experience and the powerful beauty of our surroundings soon put us in a creative mood again, and we sailed for miles while developing a very complex story (which I’m very grateful to Karin for writing down the details of in the car as we drove after). In theory we had the boat for two hours, in reality, we ended up staying out there for more like three and a half. The thing about a skinny lake is as easy as it is to sail down, when you have to tack short tacks back and forth all the way back, it takes a hell of a lot longer!
The common theme we had through the trip was getting so caught up in what we were doing that we took too long at our stops, meaning we arrived later at our final destinations. Especially on our way out of Cumbria, we had to stop to see Hill Top, which is where Beatrix Potter lived and wrote. But despite the detours and the late hour, driving through Yorkshire at sunset was nothing short of breathtaking. It was like driving through a James Herriot story: the farmers in their tweed caps, the sheep wandering unsupervised beside the country road, the moon hanging low in the purple twilight as the lights of the village in the valley come on, it was too perfect for words.
That night, we arrived in Haworth. I could feel my heart rate quickening as soon as we arrived. Our hostel was a Gothic mansion on a hill outside the village and it was the perfect setting to get us in the mood for the part of the trip that we were possibly the most excited for.
I knew the wolves were bioengineered since wolves don’t normally have horns on either side of their heads and these ere two metres tall.
They didn’t look happy; on the contrary they looked hungry. I did the only sane thing and ran towards them. It worked and the wolves scattered. It must have been a funny scene because the crowd started laughing.
Sol gives me a lot of guidance and a lot of information but he’s pretty skimpy when it comes to solutions. I knew I needed to survive and save my new Martian friends. They would be important to Sol’s plan, I think.
Lifting my hands above my head I projected my voice, “Friends, Romans, Spectators; tell me what you want! Should I kill these mindless and innocent beasts?” The crowd roared, my heart palpitated at the sound of that many people cheering. When they quieted down I asked, “Or would you rather watch me be devoured?” There was a pause. The crowd wasn’t sure how to react. The wolves, however, howled.
Turning to the wolves, I shook my head dramatically and shushed them saying, “We know what you want.” Again the crowd laughed. I had them right where I wanted them. “My friends. I am not a fighter. I am a prophet abandoned by his church. But the church isn’t the God and I don’t like killing.” I put special emphasis on the “I”. These games were being recorded and could be watched as vids across the system. If I could piss off the church a little I’d be more than happy.
Wolves are not patient animals and the leader of their pack, or the least patient one, what do I know, charged at me. As his great bulk and sharp teeth came towards me, I could only admire the quality of its teeth. Its friends started moving cautiously towards me.
“Stop!” I commanded mentally. When Sol choses a Sun-Speaker, he always chooses someone with telepathic talent, it’s the only way that he can communicate with them. Humanity has limited telepathic abilities and they’ve only been appearing for a few thousand years. I’m convinced that’s why the first Sun-Speaker was chosen two thousand years ago and not earlier.
The wolves all stopped at my order, except for the one charging at me. I needed to stop him quickly to prove to the others that I was the one they should follow. I concentrated in the same way as I had with the Barsoonian, only this time I didn’t go easy. I fully powered my fusion blast and looked at the crowd, “You want death? Fine, have death!” I made sure it was a short blast, no use blowing a hole in the ship, and it disintegrated the wolf, leaving a pile of ash.
The crowd took a collective gasp, the wolves bent their heads and whimpered, and I fought back tears. The poor animal was just doing what it had been bred to do. Telepathically talking to the wolves I said, “Its ok. Food is coming.”
One of the wolves moved towards me; I waited and let it sniff my hand. It licked my hand and nuzzled me. Not an easy feat with its horns. The crowd went wild.
A loud siren told to crowd to be quiet and my new owner, who was apparently the governor of the ship, said, “You are a nuisance but I expected something like this. Send in the pirates.”
Three men walked out of the gladiator gates. They were the space pirate brothers Adam, Aaron, and Alvin. I’d infiltrated their crew once to save a friend. It hadn’t ended will for the brothers. I guess it still wasn’t going well.
They looked pissed and smug, “We meet again Hal. Now you’ll finally get what you deserve.” They weren’t the brightest pirates in the solar system. I’ll spare you the details of the rest of the fight, it wasn’t pretty. Let’s just say the crowd got its violence and the wolves got their meal.
The showing off had taken a lot out of me. I managed to fake being ok until I got back to my cell. Once alone I threw up and passed out, thankfully in that order.
The fights continued along the same vein with me showing off and trying to kill as little as possible. The real work was getting Henrick and the other gladiators to trust me. The ludum wasn’t like jail, you don’t fight anyone unless you have too and no one expects you to be tough outside the arena. It’s a sort of unwritten rule that we’re all going to die in there either way.
If you like this story, why not read the rest of the stories in the Sun Speaker Universe ?
At Can-Con over the weekend of September 9-11, 2016, we had to opportunity the meet some incredible people. Melissa Yi (Twitter, website) is one of those. She is an M.D. and author, and incredibly amazing to talk to! You can meet her at the Mega-Multi-Author Launch happening Oct 29, 2016.
Not too long ago I went to my own funeral. I didn’t die but I was supposed to. My death was supposed to instigate a solar system wide revolution. Venus would fall and come back stronger as a democratic planet. The first United-Sol council would be formed and the solar system would be united and ready for what was coming.
My friends didn’t let me die and that made the Venusian Revolution burn too hot and too fast. What was going to happen wasn’t pretty but at least I was alive to try and fix it.
Since I died, every time I fall asleep I see the horrors coming for us. It’s not very restful but it makes wakening up a lot easier. I woke up in the hospital, more like medical bay, with a confused doctor and angry owner.
“What the hells’ your game Hal? How did you survive that?” My new owner was a fat Jupiterese man, whose old fashioned suit was bright orange with a green dress shirt and bright pink tie. Even in an angry whisper he was louder than his clothes.
“One of the gifts bestowed on me by Sol was the ability to heal,” I lied. The ability was given to me by my ship’s doctor who swore she’d used the last of the miracle formula on me. In a normal person it gave the eternal appearance of being eighteen. In me it let me heal faster and counteracted the slow painful death of channeling Sol’s power.
“Bullshit. We all know the Church disowned you.”
“The Church did but Sol didn’t.” Disowned was an understatement, they’d faked a funeral to get to me Venus and put me on trial for treason before trying kill me. The Church didn’t have all the blame; the major government authorities had helped.
“What do I do with a Gladiator who can’t fight and looked like he died?” He asked himself or maybe he was trying to speak to Alpha Century, hard to tell with his volume. “I know. I’ll spin it as a curse.” He turned to me and said, “This won’t work twice. Every gladiator will know to finish the job from now on.”
“I have one question; can I get something to eat?”
They took me back to my cell. It was an eight by eight cube with metal bars. There weren’t any pillows or beds, just the cell. They brought me food that was surprisingly good. It was better than I normally ate. As I enjoyed the dessert of fresh watermelon in cubes I felt a mild ache in my head and knew a vision was coming.
Visions aren’t fun. They hurt, they’re vague, and they always give me too much information. This one was no different and before I could pass out or meditate to process the information, a guard came to get me.
“You’re headed to the training yards, false prophet.” I didn’t want to argue with the guard but he wasn’t wrong. I had never believed that Sol was a God but his powers and ability to see the future let me help people. I have always respected Sol but I don’t think he created the universe. I think of him like a wise old man trying to help his grandkids.
The guard brought me straight to a muscled dark skinned man, most likely Mercurian or Venusian, and then left me and him in the large grassy area. The man was in his late sixties, but was well built and was obviously strong.
“So you’re Hal?”
“That’s me and you are?”
“Henrick,” he smiled and held out his hand. He said something as we grasped hands but my brain decided it was time to give me as much information as possible on Henrick. I teetered, tottered, and almost tumbled for good measure, but he kept me from falling.
“Henrick Al-Mer of the house of Mers. Royal instructor to the kings and queens of Mars. You’re supposed to be dead.”
He laughed and shook his head as he said, “Look who’s talking. That was who I was once but there are no more kings and queens of Mars.”
“About that… Do you need a job?” He wasn’t my mission but I had helped smuggle the infant king of Mars away from the Venusian royalty and he could use an instructor on Mars and its customs.
“You’re a strange one, my friend. Here there’s nothing but the arena and death. If we survive a hundred fights or twenty years we are set free, but few fighters survive that long. I don’t expect to see anything but this ship for the rest of my life. I’m here to instruct you, not encourage your wild imagination.”
Shrugging I said, “Ok. Let’s get this part over with. What are you supposed to teach me?”
“Do you have any experience in hand to hand combat?” He asked and I spent the next week grappling, punching, and everything in between.
My next fight came much too quickly and as I waited outside the arena in my waiting area I turned to Henrick and asked, “Why are you the only person I ever see? There are tens of thousands of fighters but I never interact with them. ”
“The owners believe you’re more trouble then you’re worth and have told everyone to kill you.” He paused took a deep breath and said sadly, “and the fighters think you’re cursed. No one wants to talk with you or fight you.”
They must have raised quite the fuss cause when I walked into the arena I was faced by a jeering crowd and six bioengineered wolves.
For the next few weeks, both Blush posts and Fandom Travel posts will be guest posts. Thank you to the contributors! If anyone else is interesting in writing for either of these topics (and it can easily be kept anonymous!) please send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we can discuss which topic you’d like to write about.
This week’s Blush guest post is written by Caroline Frechette, and you can follow them on Facebook here. Caroline is originally from Montreal, but has been living in the Ottawa/Gatineau region since 2004. They are a sequential artist and author. They have published several short stories, both sequential and traditional, as well as two graphic novels and six books. They were the editor and director for the French Canadian literary magazine Histoires à boire debout, and works at the Ottawa Public Library. They now are the editor and director for Renaissance Press. They have been teaching creative writing since 2005, and GMing various table-top RPGs for the past 19 years.
I’ve always known I was different. Not just a little different, but completely apart from others, something else entirely. When I was a child, I used to think I must be an alien. Another species. Because there was no one like me.
Sure, I wore my hair short, I wore trunks to swim, and I sometimes pretended to be a boy when I was with kids I just met. I identified with men as the heroes of my stories. Often, I wished with all my heart that I was a boy.
Except I didn’t not want to be a girl. Not all the time, anyway.
Some of the days, I hated the body I was born into. Pudgy, awkward, too tall and too short at the same time, and female. Especially female. But sometimes, very few times, but still sometimes, I did enjoy being a woman. I tried growing my hair long and braided it in fancy ways, and I hated it as often as I loved it but most of the time it was OK.
I’m thankful there was such a thing as tabletop role-playing games. They allowed me something I never had the courage to do in real life: go by a male name, be referred to as “he”, and all in the comfortable illusion of fantasy, which was just pretend and could be over at any time, and didn’t commit me to any revelation about myself. The happiness of being able to explore the male aspect of my personality, which is the dominating side, made me quickly addicted to these games. I started playing them with my cousins when I was only twelve, and by the age of 17, I was spending all my time – and I mean, all of it, outside of work and school, I spent 2 hours sleeping every night and every other waking moment I was doing this – on a chat software called MIRC, role-playing with a group of people from all over the world, as several characters (all male, of course). Sure, I got teased a lot for playing almost only male characters, but that didn’t matter to me (beyond reinforcing the idea that I could never tell anyone what was going through my head, of course).
I got a little bit more daring with chat groups; even during the times where we were, as we call it, OOC, or Out Of Character, I still pretended I was a boy – because doing it as a character in a fantasy game wasn’t enough anymore. I quickly got outed as “a girl” and I had a really hard time explaining to my friends why it was important to me that they see me as male, at least some of the time. In fact, I had a hard time explaining to anyone – even people in the queer support groups I visited as a teen – what was going on in my head, what I was going through with my gender identity. Non-binary identities weren’t that well-known in the early 90s, back when very few people even knew about the internet, let alone used it.
It was in high school that I first learned what transgender was and I kind of felt like it applied to me, because I did want to be a boy, but hesitated to use it to label myself, because I didn’t want to stop being a girl. Thinking about it, exploring it, I realized that I didn’t think I’d ever want surgery, because I wasn’t ready to lose my body, no matter how I felt about it. So even that didn’t fit me. I felt even more alone, because I thought I’d found something that defined who I was but it didn’t, really. Because I’d never fully transition. That much was always clear to me: I’d always have one foot left in womanhood. Being pregnant and having children made me even surer of this than I was before: no matter how triggering my period got, being a woman was wonderful at times.
My first inkling of my true gender identity came through a book, a science-fiction novel, actually (which seems very fitting, after thinking I must be a secret alien for so long). It was Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, a novel about a planet on which the inhabitants are not male or female, but rather exist as both and neither, in a state of neutrality most of the time except for a few days a month when they become fertile, and gain the physical attributes which most people associate with male or female, so they can reproduce. Not everyone gets the same sex every time; it can vary depending on the month, so that most people who have children are father to some, mother to others.
That book was a revelation. The concept of being one gender AND the other, depending on the day, was exactly what I had felt my whole life but couldn’t put words on. I still wasn’t able to put a word on it, and the irony that the characters were aliens was not lost on me, but still, it made me feel a little better, like there was someone else in the world that was thinking these things, since she was writing about them. I still felt like a freak, not one thing and not the other, but there was at least one other person in the world who had had these ideas.
I put it aside at the back of my head, and tried to move on with my life. I started writing more seriously, and as I started to examine what I was writing, I came to realize that most of my characters were male, so much so that some of my stories didn’t even pass the low bar of the Bechdel test. As a feminist, this bothered me a great deal, and I tried writing in more women, but I never felt as whole as I did when I wrote about male characters. They permitted me to express my stifled masculinity, to live through them the identity I wanted for myself.
It wasn’t until a good decade after that, when I started a relationship with my wife, that the last of the pieces of the puzzle that was my gender identity fell into place. Since she was a transgender woman just coming to terms with her identity and starting to transition, I started doing some research, and getting involved in online communities so I could support her to the best of my abilities. And this is how I found out about non-binary gender identities, and most important of all, the term “genderfluid.”
There are no words to describe the feeling of finding a word that fits exactly who you are, how you feel. At long last, you aren’t just a lonely freak, an alien, different from everyone else in the world; there are others like you, lots of others, enough of them that there is a widely-used word to define it. It’s suddenly belonging, finding your people, being understood. It’s your entire existence being validated; it’s such an emotional rush that defies description. There are those who sustain that “all these labels are divisive” or that they are “unnecessary”; but really, labels can be life-saving. They have the ability to unite you, make you feel part of a community; to make you feel like what you are going through is not only normal to some degree, but also that you are not alone.
I still write about men. Gay men, actually, a lot of the time, because this allows me to express my queerness (I’m also pansexual, which is a whole other thing to explain) as well as my masculinity, and I’m getting more and more comfortable with that; it’s a healthy way of exploring my masculine side in the safety of my own head, and it makes me feel balanced.
At Can-Con over the weekend of September 9-11, 2016, we had to opportunity to meet some incredible people. Derek Newman-Stille (Twitter) is one of those. On top of being a bad-ass secret monster, a PhD candidate, reviewer, editor, and artist, he runs the five-time Aurora Award winning website Speculating Canada!