Currently Browsing: Life

So, that was 2014

2014 was a mixed year, for me. The year started well, work-wise, but after a short while, background issues at one of Angry Robot’s sister companies caused the investment company who owned the Group to re-evaluate its presence in publishing, and although Angry Robot was a profitable imprint, the owners decided to act like complete arseholes and thus a period of several months of anguish began. It’s worth noting that Osprey (the most senior of AR’s sister companies) behaved professionally, throughout, with the exception of one senior member of staff, who had been thrust into a situation beyond his ability to manage (the Peter Principle in full effect, here), and so he – along with the investors he reported to – made a number of very bizarre calls. That was a very bleak few months, as we were largely kept in the dark as to the overall plans for the group, and what little we were told, we were prevented from relaying to our authors and their agents. I’ve moved away from Angry Robot, but I still keep an eye on them, and I’m delighted by the fact that they were bought out by someone who actually has a love of publishing, and not a quorum of bankers looking for a quick buck, with no regard for the actual people involved. Long may Angry Robot sail the publishing oceans!

In May, Tor.com announced a new novella programme, and announced they were looking for a team to run it, including a Senior Editor. The job looked like it had been plucked directly from my subconscious, and so, despite the fact that they wanted someone based in New York, I decided to apply for it. Weeks of interviews commenced, and in early July I was offered the role. At one heartbreaking meeting with my friend and mentor, Marc Gascoigne, I handed in my notice at Angry Robot (the only company in my working life I have ever been sad to leave). It was a very difficult decision, but I couldn’t pass up what may well be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to found a new imprint with the best major genre publisher in the world! Naturally, the timing was unfortunate (Angry Robot was working through its issues at the time), and naturally, a bunch of people added 2 and 2 and reached 7.6, but the move was the right one for me, at this stage in my career.

I joined Tor.com in August, the day before the World Science Fiction Convention descended on London. It was a good WorldCon (see my report, here). What made it extra-special for me this year (apart from the exciting new gig) was my Hugo nomination. In 2014 I became the first ever British editor to be nominated for a Hugo. Which was kinda cool. From the instant I heard about the other nominees, I pegged Ginja Buchanan as the winner, and win she did. That I was convinced she would win took all of the stress away from the event, and I was able to enjoy the ceremony without any of those frustrating “what if I were to win?” concerns. I do hope that another Brit is nominated next year – there are so many that are way more deserving than I (though I won’t decline if I’m nominated, again). Odd to think that I’m still eligible for Best Editor (Long Form) this year and next, due to books I’ve already worked on, and next year I’ll move into the eligibility for the Short Form category, where the competition is just as scarily tough!

In September I Chaired my first convention – FantasyCon in York. There were a number of behind-the-scenes problems that were stressful, but dealt with (largely by the brilliant front-of-house Redcloak team). A significant number of people told me it was their favourite convention to date (or favourite FantasyCon), so that helped.

The only other major event of 2014 happened in December, when my Dad died. I won’t write of it, here, as I blogged about it, already.

So, what about 2015?

Well, I want to lose some weight (2 stone would be good – that’s about 12 kilos), and get fitter (I ran a lot in the second half of 2014, but it dropped off a bit). I’m also going to be at my first Guest of Honour gig at CONvergence in July (the single best convention I have ever attended, and easily my favourite).

And, of course, the first novellas I have acquired (with my brilliant assistant, Carl Engle-Laird) will come out (this coming summer).

It’s going to be an exciting 2015, folks!

 

 

Bye, Dad

Yesterday we cremated my father. My older daughter (Verity) and I travelled down to Cardiff by train, and rented a car at the station – it cost a little more than driving, but saved time and stress.

The service was pretty moving (the vicar looked to be about 12 years old – maybe working toward his Scout vicarring badge) and there were a lot of people there, including some family I’d not seen in 30 years, and some I’d never met.

I said a few words. These are those words:

___

Let’s face it – he was a stubborn old bugger.

But that’s not what I want to talk about.

We know he loved his kids, and he adored his grandchildren and great grandchildren.

But that’s not what I want to talk about, either.

He wasn’t much of a traveller. The journey from the living room window to the kitchen was a major expedition, and the last time he left South Wales was when he visited me in York, to see Verity just after she was born, and that was ten years ago.

But that’s not what I’m here to say.

When he was well enough to be out and about he had lots of friends – Doreen Jones, who he loved, Idris Morgan, his best friend in the world, and even my mum, who never stopped being concerned for him, even after they divorced.

But that’s not what I want to tell you.

So, maybe I should talk about what I want to talk about, rather than what I don’t.

Perhaps surprisingly, for a funeral, I’m not here to share specific memories of things he said, or things we did together. I want to tell you something that occurred to me, too late. Something that I only truly realized after I received the phone call to say he wasn’t here, any more.

We lived apart for a long time. Not just distance, but in our experience of the world.  The distance added to that, it’s true, but in recent years we found it harder and harder to really talk. He was housebound, and so his news was limited to what he saw on TV and what he could see through the living room curtains. I live hundreds of miles away, and so most of my news was about people he’d never met.

Sometimes the silence before finding the next thing to say was painful. But then one of my daughters would start telling him something about what they were learning about at school, or what they were looking forward to doing later in the day, and his eyes would light up.

I never rang him enough. But he was always, always happy when I did.

I never rang him enough. But you could hear the absolute delight in his voice when he spoke to the kids on the phone.

I never rang him enough. I was busy – there was always going to be next week

And then I got the call.

And then I realized that there wasn’t going to be a next week, that he would never again be happy to hear my voice, that the kids could never again delight him.

I want to tell my family – my brother Michael, my sister Sandra, my mother, my Aunty Pauline, my nieces and nephews and younger family members with titles too complicated to work out. I love you all. I don’t see you enough. I don’t speak with you enough. But know that I love you.

And when you leave here today, when you get home, think about someone who you haven’t spoken to enough recently, and give them a call. Let them know you love them. Don’t think: I’ll do it next week. Because I thought that, and I was wrong.

I’m going to try to pick up the phone a little more often, from now on. You should do the same. Don’t end up thinking, “I never rang him enough.”

So, thanks, Dad. I love you, and thanks for the lesson.

I’m sorry I learned it so late.

Choosing a school

I never thought I would get to be this old. No, scratch that – I never thought I would get to be this grown up. You see, for the last week or so, my wife and I have been accompanying our 10 year-old daughter on trips to various local secondary schools, to see which one we’d like for her when she moves up, next year.

Our first visit was to what we believed at the time was going to be our fall-back school. She would be guaranteed a place, but we weren’t sure about it due to its reputation (a reputation that it has worked hard to overcome these last few years – somewhat successfully). We were very pleasantly surprised – the teachers were warm, the school felt welcoming, and the kids’ grades were good (and improving). Our second visit was to a school that I thought would put me off completely, but which I found myself loving. But the third… oh, that was something else.

Last night we visited the third school (we have one more after this). I thought this would be our first choice. It’s a local Catholic school (but with no requirement for all the pupils to be in the faith), and academically it has a decent record. The tour we were given, however, was shambolic. The 11/12 yr-old pupil tasked with giving us the tour was pleasant, knowledgable and enthusiastic, but there were too many families, too little traffic control and too much repetition (after seeing the room they use for French lesson, for example, there was little need to spend the same amount of time in the room they use for German lessons – it was, to all intents and purposes, the same room, with different words on the wall). We were surprised by how cold the school felt, too – socially, not physically. The building was lovely, but there were too few signs of childhood creativity. It didn’t feel like a warm and nurturing environment, despite what the headteacher said during the speeches.

And oh, the speeches! This was the only time in all three school visits that I felt like leaving after a few minutes. The headteacher tried his best to enthuse, but it didn’t come across – and this is the part that was supposed to impress the families in the room, this was the part that was supposed to sell the school to us. The worst part, though, was yet to come. Four of the pupils stood to give their speeches, to give their impressions of the school – two of the youngest (and tiniest) as well as the head girl and head boy. They were all very presentable, and they all read their speeches with enthusiasm, and their speeches were full of praise for the school. So what went wrong? It was the speeches, themselves. Now, it is entirely possible that all four pupils (2 x 11 yr-olds, 2 x 17 yr-olds) just happen to write speeches in the style of the same middle-aged marketing copy writer, but I think it unlikely. If we had been treated to speeches they themselves had written, I would not be feeling quite so ill-disposed toward this school (which has a solid reputation). The fact that these children were acting, that they were presenting words given to them as if they were their own, rankled. I felt the school was trying to deceive me. And I don’t want my children to attend a school that sets out to mislead the parents into sending them there. It left a really bad taste in my mouth.

After the speeches it was time for part 2 of the tour. We declined the invitation and went home, instead.

Still, at least it makes our decision a bit easier – that’s one school we no longer have to consider…