"Everyone had statues but him."
--opening line, Simon A.G. Spencer, Blood of Gods.
I was so buzzed by the sale that I put on my boots instead of my shoes and didn't realize it until I hit the T-dot. It's the day after a record-breaking warm spell with nary a cloud in the sky and my post-parking walk featured little in the way of rough terrain. I made my way through happy-people-filled Trinity Bellwoods Park and arrived first because, after driving to another city, it made sense to just go to the venue. The organizer was delayed because she parked and then realized that she'd locked her keys inside, along with Simon's books. Simon and the rest of the Spencer family arrived a short time later, took a moment to adjust their eyes to the darkness of the Queen West venue.
Still, a good day.
I walked up the stairs in darkness and artificial starlight. Images the colour of neon rotated above the bar. Projected windows opened onto an alien worldscape. The lounge has a Rancor head mounted on the wall. There's a display case of science-fictional weapons ranging from a TOS Star Trek phaser to a raygun zapped out of some rocket boy's fever dream in 1957. Someone asked me if I wanted to check over the setup in the lounge. I explained that, although I was there for the event, I was just early, not official. I sat at the bar, ordered a Clarified Galactic Sour, texted the actual organizer and some friends, and waited. People drifted in, some for Simon's book launch and others because it was Saturday night.
Eve texted to say she was en route. She's usually late, one reason or another.
I first encountered Simon A.G. Spencer when we both sold stories to the same anthology. I'd already read some of his father's SF, which tends towards humorous with a side of tech. In any case, Spencer the Younger, younger than (nearly) everyone else in that anthology, contributed one of the stronger stories. We've run into each other a handful of times since then. His new book, Blood of Gods, falls loosely into space opera and social science-fiction. He dedicated it to his dog. Since tonight it has jumped up my reading queue a bit.
Michael Bryant aka Kraken Not Stirred opened up with some upbeat and entertaining filk songs. Then Simon read, a bit nervously, but effectively about a meeting of minds. The other guys look like monsters to us. David Nickle, who M.C.d the event, asked some questions, and then the crowd asked a few. There followed drinking, eating, conversation, and book signings.
Eve arrived as the launch ended. Everything went her way, she said, until she hit gridlock at the Gardiner.
"It's Chinese New Year," I reminded her.
"Oh. Of course."
She missed most of the launch but we stayed for dinner, exchanged family stories. She had photos of a niece from Bali of whom she had been only dimly aware until she turned up in town.
I told her about "Concerto."
In the first couple weeks of the pandemic, I wrote two short stories. One, a literary piece called "The Garden and the Solitary Place," I thought one of the best I'd done in some time and was I certain it would sell. The other, "The Shade at Aseneith," was a parodic piece written for an anthology themed as "People of Color Destroy Lovecraft," work using Lovecraftian tropes to explore and explode the hugely inventive, hugely influential writer's less savoury leanings. I figured I'd have no chance. The anthology only required that the protagonists be non-White, but the preference was that the writers be, too.
"Aseneith" sold right away--I got to be a Token White Guy. It since has been reprinted. "Garden" spent the next couple years being rejected by every paying periodical in a dwindling literary market. Then it occurred to me that it might suit Vestal Review. The only problem is that it was 900 words, and they don't buy anything longer than 500. I reread the tale, took a knife and scalpel to it and, for good measure, changed the title. My wife had really liked the original. The new version made her cry. "This is the story," she said.
This morning, a little more than a week later, I received the contract.
If you write, keep at it.
The venue, for the curious, was the Offworld Bar on Queen Street West, Toronto. I recommend stopping by, at least once. It's pricey, but that's The Six. The city has lots of nerdy places to gather but, to my knowledge, only two actual Nerd Pubs. The other is an old house with more of a fantasy D&D theme. The same people own it.
Two questions did linger.
Why aren't there more caffeinated drink options?
Should a nerd bar be hosting a Super Bowl party?
The hostess wasn't sure about the first, but she had an answer to the second. "We have the screens," she said.