Transmissions from a Point in Space

The only sure things in life are death and gatekeeping.

As a point of interest — and under the theory that if you're reading this, you like to read things I have written — I have an essay in the latest issue of Uncanny Magazine. it's about the boundaries and meanings of genre labels like "science fiction" and "fantasy" and who defines them, and who gets to ignore those definitions.

It's a little interesting to me to note that at the time this was pitched to me about a year ago, there was a kerfluffle going around about the subject. And around the time I actually did most of the writing there was another, different yet almost identical conversation happening. And now that it's come out... I mean, basically right before it went live, one of the hoary old Giants of the Genre that most people haven't heard of had an editorial in Asimov's (a name more people have heard of) about how Chinese people don't have any word for "atomo ray" and that's why they'll lose the space race, or something. I don't know. I'm going to be honest... it wasn't interesting enough to finish, least of all because I'm tired of the conversation.

But I'm proud of this piece, and it almost didn't happen. 

The bulk of the writing on it was done during a trip to Florida back in May. I wrote this essay walking around the halls and backyard of my parents' house in Florida, while my mother was asleep. I actually wrote about three different, closely-related essays' worth of material in the pursuit of this essay, because it took me a few tries to really narrow down what it was about. 

This trip was the last time I saw my mother.

When I think back on it, it feels like there was a longer gap between that trip and her death, even though it was less than a month later. In between them was WisCon and my birthday and a whole lot of... just life, I guess. I My dad needed to travel for business, and business paid for her oxygen and medicine and doctor visits, but leaving her alone... my mother had a routine in which she could be largely self-sufficient, but I know from a lifetime of experience how costly it can be to do things for yourself that you can technically do.

So after having been there in April, I volunteered to come down more often, for as much as one week out of every month. I had figured out how to make my workspace so portable I could leave the laptop at home, because everything I needed could fit in my pockets and I'd have the same work environment anywhere. 

My dad and I worked out a schedule for four months, the longest he felt comfortable planning for the future. The may trip was the first of the four, and having written so much during it left me feeling like I could do it, I could commute between Florida and Maryland for as long as my parents needed me. I was in it for the long haul.

But there was no long haul.

That was it. 

As the deadline for the second pass on my essay got closer, I put on a game face and told Michi that I was looking forward to the distraction... but then I sat down and I just couldn't do it. It didn't even need much work, just enough to definitely need it, but the essay I had written in my mother's house, while she slept in another room... the association was just too strong. I couldn't face it. We talked about it and agreed to circle back to it later, to see if I felt up to picking it up again.

She did ping me in the fall and I did make the necessary improvements, and as I said, I'm proud of it.

But I'm not sure I'm ever going to read it.

To anyone else, it’s an essay that could — unfortunately — be timeless, because its subject matter has been timely every month for several years and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.

For me, though, it belongs entirely to a particular time and a particular place in my life, such that I can’t read it or even really think much of it and I’m back there again, ready to relive it all over.

Thank you for reading.

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