Pemmi-Con – Day 1

I am in Canada, by the skin of my teeth. I am getting too old for travel nightmares.

When I booked this trip I was due to have a Noon flight from Heathrow on Tuesday, spend Wednesday morning with clients, and be on a 6:00pm flight to Winnipeg. That so did not happen.

On Monday morning I got a text from Air Canada saying that my flight from Heathrow was cancelled and they were trying to find me an alternative flight. I was due to see Roz Kaveney who is in hospital recovering from a hip operation, so I put the flight to the back of my mind and went on with my day. But while I was in the hospital I got another text saying that no alternative flights were available and promising a refund. Of course that would only be a refund from the London-Toronto, not the Toronto-Winnipeg. Plus no convention.

Once I’d handed over visitor duties to Roz’s partner, I went on to my hotel at Heathrow (which I had already paid for) and set about trying to fix things. I had been in the queue to speak to Air Canada for about 5 minutes when a new text came through. They had found me a flight to Toronto. It was leaving at around the same time, but from Zurich. So would I please get myself to Heathrow in time to catch the 6:00am Swiss Air flight to get me out there. That meant getting up at 2:30am. It is a good job that I had an airport hotel.

Anyway, I made it, and I got to see Zurich, if only from the air. I got to my Toronto airport hotel around 5:00pm local and went to bed at around 8:00pm as I needed to be up at 5:00am to get to my client’s offices. Somehow I managed to deliver a training course without falling asleep.

Some weeks back the 6:00pm Winnipeg flight had been changed to 6:30pm, which was fine. I was just leaving the client’s offices when a new text came in. The Winnipeg flight would be 7:45pm. We had two gate changes between my arriving at Pearson and the flight starting to board. Boarding began at around 7:40pm, but by 8:00pm we were all on board. And then we sat there, for over an hour. Waiting for I know not what. The pilot blamed it on the ground crew being slow loading the baggage, but it shouldn’t take over an hour to get that done. It was almost midnight by the time I got to bed.

Goodness only knows what will happen on the trip home. I expect to be stranded in Toronto on Monday night.

But before then I have a convention. Today I have watched online talks at the universities of Bristol and Glasgow, which were much more interesting than the programing here. Then I did a panel on diversity in SF&F in past times. I was looking forward to that because I’ve met no end of 20-something fans who are convinced that there were no PoC or queer folks in SF&F before about 2010. But, as it turned out, I’m actually in the younger half of attendees here. Many of the audience were older than me, and they knew a lot about old books, stories and writers. Anyway, I got to rant about Heinlein. My thanks to Nisi Shawl and Sandra Bond for being great co-panelists.

Tomorrow I am giving a talk on the Pre-History of Robotics. I can’t tell you where, but it probably won’t be in York 3 as advertised because that room has no screen or projector.

I get the impression that the concom here are doing sterling work with far too little money and ever fewer volunteers.

However, it has all been worth it because I got to see the First Nations woman perform at openening ceremonies. It was just her voice and a tympanum-like drum, but she was amazing. The wolf song was particularly impressive, you could really feel the drama of the pack chasing down its prey.

Hello from Uppsala

I’m here, and the convention is underway. The travel was very smooth, despite the train line being closed for repair. The bus was fine. If you are coming through Arlanda tomorrow, buy a ticket from the info desk, or one of the newsagents (it is 99 kr) and then follow the signs to the bus stops. You want stop 1 which is at the far end as you exit the terminal buildings. I have done my first panel, which I thought went very well. So far, so good.

Also Uppsala looks like a lovely town. There are plenty of places to eat, a lovely river, a splendid cathedral, and of course the university where the convention is being held and which dates back to around 1600.

In other news, yesterday’s experiment worked well with Mastdon, but not with Farcebook because apparently you can only cross-post to a Farcebook page, not to your main account. It is not called Farcebook for nothing.

Alternative Canada

This morning Kevin and I visited the McCord Museum. We chose it, of all the various cultural destiations in Montréal, because it has an exhibit devoted to the local indigenous people. There are, we were told, 11 different cultural groups native to the region we know as Quebec. They range from the Huron or Wendat people, who are related to other Iroquoian-speaking peoples from around the Great Lakes region, to the Inuit.

What you hope for from such exhibitions is to to learn fascinating things about these indigienous cultures. What you get, most of the time, is shameful tales about how badly they have been treated by Europeans. You get stories of massacres, of populations decimated by Western diseases, of broken treaties, of stolen children, of horrendous suicide rates among indigenous youth. Quebec is no exception.

I will note that the exhibition in the McCord was less despressing that the equivalent one in the museum in Hobart, Tasmania. There we were greeted with sorry photographs of the last known members of the native communties, dating from decades ago. There are over 1.6 million indigenous people living in Canada. Some 800 of them participated in the creation of the exhibition in the McCord. Some of them are on video venting their frustration at how badly they are treated, still.

The final room of the exhibition encourages visitors to make a meaningful connection to indigenous people, and to start on the journey of becoming an ally. The way that they talked about listening to people, and being respectful of difference, was very similar to the things we say in the Diversity Trust training about becoming an ally to trans people. There’s a lesson in that, I suspect.

Settling In

As is the way of things with convention trips to other time zones, Kevin and I are now more or less used to Canadian time (in my case helped by their clocks going back on Sunday morning), but it is now time to start adjusting to our home time zones again.

We are settling in to Montréal in other ways too. We are eating very well, and have found the local farmers’ market so that we can sample the native cheeses. This one was rather good. We are a little hobbled due to the absence of the excellent Scott Edelman, but we shall do our best to channel his enthusiasm for fine dining and find some where spectacular to eat. We are in Montréal, that should’t be hard.

Another way in which we are getting acclimatised is that we are making like proper Canadians and going everywhere we can underground. This isn’t actually necessary. The weather has been fabulous — mostly in single digits but only very slightly negative overnght. But the underground routes are there for a reason and we are (re-)learning to use them. There’s no particular need for a coat.

I say “re-learning” because of course we learned all this in 2009 when we were here for Worldcon. This morning our route to breakfast took us past the convention center, and the fabulous Embassy Suites where Sissy Pantelis and I spent a happy week luxuriating in a superb hotel room. I want to stay in that hotel again.

However, all too soon it will be time to head home. We’ve done departure tests (though it looks like you don’t actually need one for the UK until after you have arrived, because the UK government is really keen on people spreading COVID as widely as possible). I shall have to find an excuse to come back.

Today on Ujima – A Nalo Special

I was back on the radio after two weeks off today, and I must admit that it is getting hard to find guests for the show. People are either run ragged or thoroughly depressed by the state of the world. Fortunately I had done those two interviews with Nalo for the One25 fundraiser, and I knew hardly anyone had watched them, so I was happy to run those on the show.

Before I did that, I spent some time reflecting on the current situation in the USA. My thanks to Lyda for sharing her experiences of Minneapolis after the first night of rioting. I figured that things would have got worse by the time the show aired. I don’t think I had quite expected 45 to declare war on his own people.

The show also has some new music from Labi Siffre and from Lianne La Havas. It also has two songs each from the fabulous Canadian women that Nalo introduced me to. Measha’s Brueggergosman’s version of “Both sides now” is a thing of beauty.

Oh, and I played a song for Bozo.

If you missed the show you can catch it via the Listen Again service.

Here’s the playlist:

  • Prince – When Doves Cry
  • Lizzo – Like a Girl
  • Bruce Springsteen – Streets of Fire
  • Bob Marley – Revolution
  • Gil Scott Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
  • Janelle Monáe – Americans
  • Andy Allo – When Angels Make Love
  • Jimi Hendrix – Angel
  • Measha Brueggergosman & Martin Short – Misty
  • Shakura S’Aida – Brown Sugar
  • Labbi Siffre – Why Isn’t Love Enough
  • Lianne la Havas – Bittersweet
  • Linda Ronstandt – Lies
  • Measha Brueggergosman – Both Sides Now
  • Shakura S’Aida – This is Not a Love Song

Here’s the song that I played for our abomination of a government. (The first one.)

If anyone has something they’d like to promote on next week’s show, please get in touch.

Nalo on Toronto #GiveItUp125

Author Nalo Hopkinson was born in the Caribbean but spent much of her life in Toronto. Weather-wise it was a huge shock, but she still loves Canada’s largest city. Here we talk about ethnnic diversity and tourism opportunities. I make a geographical error of such magnitude that I had to leave it in so you could all laugh at it.