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September 10th, 2010


Sorry this is so late.  What with one thing and another, I haven't got around to posting for far too long.  Now we're ensconced in a lovely B&B in the Kauri forests of North Island, New Zealand, I can get caught up on many things:  sleep, posts, laundry, and my poor, neglected, half-finished story.  

First, here is a post I wrote September 3, on the plane from Sydney to Melbourne.  It seems like 9 years ago, not 9 days, but I've noticed that time seems to move differently when we're on the road.  Yesterday, for instance, lasted about a week.

Be that as it may.

Our last day in Syndey was the usual rush of sorting, packing, and last-minute sightseeing.  We divided forces, Ellen going to the Mint and the Library (where there was a big exhibition on the legendary Governor Macquarie) and me to the Australian Maritime Museum to see the replica of Captain Cook's The Endeavor.  In the event, I saw the Library exhibit, too, and it was fascinating--the early history of the colony all in documents, letters between Macquarie and his wife Elizabeth, Macquarie and the big-wigs back home, broadsheets, official reports, journals, and lists.  He was only here 12 years, but he got an immense amount done in the time, despite constant intestinal complaints and a no-good son who seemed born to bread his parents' hearts.  And so did Elizabeth, whose frail health didn't keep her from traveling all over the east coast of Australia and northern Tasmania with her husband.

Plus, she had pretty citrine earrings.

But first, I saw the Endeavor. 

I'll say this for Captain Cook and his officers:  they were a hardy lot, even by the standards of any early explorer facing the limitless sea in a cockleshell.  The Endeavor was a converted coal ship, which meant it had an open hold to make loading coal easier.  In order to carry a full crew, a deck was laid over the joists, creating a between-decks section I had to bend almost double to negotiate.  Now, I'm tall, but I'm not a giant.  I had visions of the officers and gentlemen shuffling along at a semi-crouch, unable to stand up fully even anywhere below decks except in Cook's Great Cabin.  Which was great only comparison to the other cabins, which were about the width of a modern Queen-sized bed, and maybe twice as long.  It's all beautifully done up, though, and you can sail on it, either as a genuine rigging-climbing, sail-reefing sailor or as a gentleman in (I hope) one of the lower-deck modern cabins with normal headroom.

The Maritime Museum also boasts a destroyer and a submarine, but I skipped those in favor of the museum itself.  It had excellent exhibitions on immigration, with models of convict hulks and folding furniture from first-class passenger cabins later in the century and actual immigrant's sea-trunks and  belongings, which reminded me of the room at Ellis Island in New York where immigrants' donated pots and embroidered pillowcases and shoes and curling irons and suspenders are exhibited.  And then Ellen texted me that the Macquarie exhibit was excellent and I should walk over to the library, so I did that.  And then we walked over to Galaxy Bookshop to say hello and for Ellen to sign stock, and then we poked our noses into a fancy jewelry store that sold opals and learned a great deal and did not buy a small but firey rectangular white opal, but came close.  And then we staggered back to the flat, stopping on the way for sushi, and packed and packed and packed.  And then we flew to Melbourne, and it was a WorldCon, and another story.

Melbourne WorldCon

This was from September 4, when I was in mid-con.  I could go back and change all the tenses and update, but what would be the fun in that?  I'd rather write a new post about New Zealand and get back up to date.  So, here's a glimpse into the past, written on the second day of the con, when I knew nothing of Cthulu (except what I'd read), lasers, or the Australian Health System.

As always happens when we're at a con, events have overtaken my ability to keep up with them.  Also, internet access is inordinately expensive here, 50 cents a minute or $25 a day, per computer.  Clearly, we can't be having with that.  We weren't going to sign on at all, but then we learned about the earthquake in Christchurch yesterday morning, which means that we are going to have to re-think the next part of our trip, since flying into a disaster area with no electricity, broken sewer lines, and a compromised water supply seems criminally thoughtless on several levels, even if we just went through the airport and drove off the same day.  So we're skipping the South Island and heading straight for somewhere quiet near Aukland, where we can observe Rosh Hashana in quiet if not in schul, and Ellen can get over her con-cold in peace.

Anyway.  WorldCon. 

What's amazing to me is how many Australians I already know.  There's a whole clutch of wonderful women I've met at Wiscon over the years who I keep running into in the Green Room and the halls.  We hug, exclaim, then pick up our conversations as if we'd seen each other last month instead of 5-10 years ago.  They--inevitably--have friends, who are friendly and delightful and fun to have dinner with and talk about writing and feminism and religion with at the bar.  There are fellow-panelists, encountered in the Green Room or after a panel, who turn out to be soul-mates.  And there are old friends from America and Israel and England, giddy with having snorkled on the Great Barrier Reef or bushwalked through the rainforest or drove through the desert. These conversations, pursued standing by the escalator or sitting outside the Dealers' Room or in the Green Room, are the panels I tend to go to at WorldCon, the panels that feed my writer's soul and keep me feeling connected to the whole big world of lovely, interesting, smart people who read and write specfic.

And then there are the panels I'm on.  I've done two, so far, plus a signing and a reading.  The first one was on Foundlings and Orphans in fantasy, and was chaired by the indomitable Gillian Polack, who guided Sara Parker, Mary Victoria, Mur Lafferty and me through a lively discussion of Victorian vs. High Fantasy foundlings, gendered narratives, alienated teenagers, adoption, and society.  Faye Ringel, who did not come to Australia because she broke her elbow (sorrow!) was much missed--particularly by me, since she knows everything there is to know about Victorian waifs and strays and has a much better memory for titles and character names than I do.

The second panel was the academic panel on Feminism and Fantasy.  I was the chair, which basically meant that I got to ask questions that interested me and listen while Cat Valente, Gail Carriger, Alaya Johnson, Glenda Larke, and Tansy Roberts said really interesting and insightful things about female friendship and sexual freedom and feminism freeing men as well as women from gender-based social expectations.  The audience seemed at least as interested as I was, to judge from their intent silence and the way they were leaning forward and nodding.   I left the room with that unique high you get from moderating a pane full of articulate and intelligent panelists.

One panel to go for me--on Collaboration, with Ellen, this afternoon--and then (once we've straightened out our travel plans), we're free to see something of Melbourne.  All we've seen so far is Fitzroy Gardens, where we saw Captain Cook's Cottage and the miniature Tudor village--easily the strangest thing I've seen for a while:  a fenced lawn dotted with little plaster cottages like oversized cakes iced with half-timbering and roses over the doors.  Beside the Village is the Fairy Tree, a blasted tree carved in the 30's by Ola Cohy, best known for writing and illustrating children's books about elves and sprites.  It's covered with little fairies in green coats and pointy red hats cavorting with (or at least in close proximity to) native Australian animals, none of them to any scale known to man).  I was particularly struck by a blonde girl elf with a generous figure posed in the traditional pin-up va-va-voom pose of one hand on her hip, the other on her hair, apparently being adored by two red-capped elves and a koala twice her size. 

[Update:  The Collaboration panel was lots of fun.  Ellen, Garth Nix, and I talked about compromise, communication, and respect, Rocky Wood talked about control and contracts, so most of the bases got covered.  Two young women who have been talking about collaborating for yonks without quite daring to take the plunge apparently went home and talked through the book they'd been thinking about working on and were very excited, so we must have been ok.  17catherines, who had taken us to Fitzroy Gardens, baked a proper Pavlova and brought it to my kaffeklatch, which turned into a rather hilarious, sugar-and-caffine-fueled event about which I remember little except we all talked very fast and pretty much all at once.  And that was it for Melbourne, really.  I went shopping with Lucy Sussex on Tuesday, got a very cozy sweater and stretchy pants at little young designer boutiques--on sale!  We were going to do the whole Culture Thing on Wednesday (plus, wallabies), but ended up at the doctor's instead.]

Clearly, we're going to have to come back to Melbourne when there isn't a WorldCon.]

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