I’m on a train between Seattle and Portland right now. Wi-Fi. An unexpected perk of Amtrak.

This blog is #1 to tell you that I’m reading at Powell’s Bookstore in Portland, Oregon tonight, at 7:30pm. It’s the Burnside location.  You should come. I’ll be wearing a dress covered with Iron Maiden lyrics, and various oddball slang and terminology from an Egyptian dictionary. Also, I’m reading from Queen Of Kings, which is the more important part of the equation. And signing. And, you know, depending on how many people come, I might also be drinking. You are the ones who’re in charge of how much I drink. Less than 4 people, I’ll be deep in my cups before the end of the night.

So, show up.

I have a skillion things to blog about, among them the Locus Awards and Sci Fi Hall of Fame ceremony – both of which were awesome. (And I want to blog about the event I did with Neil Gaiman a couple days ago, but there’s no way in hell I’m going to get that far on limited battery, so, two parts.)

The night before the Locus awards, I went to Clarion West’s opening party, where I dueled a little with Gardner Dozois for access to the bar (manned by one very wasted bartender, it seemed) and then hung out for most of the evening with the magnificent writer duo of Kelley Eskridge and Nicola Griffith. I’m so excited about Nicola’s new historical novel (I’ve read only the first 118 manuscript pages, so sadly, it’ll be a while before it’s out in the world) I can’t even speak.  Total genius. I read it, underlining, oh, every line. Incredibly specific description of the natural world, and a fiery child heroine, growing up into a world of deep wonder and catastrophe. (She gets older. But in the pages I read, she’s a child.) You will love it.  All of you. And Kelley is  currently posting fab writing, daily in support of Clarion West’s Write-A-Thon. Go check it out.

So, basically, Kelley, Nicola, Gary Wolfe and I closed the bar, talking gleefully about everything in the writing world, topics ranging from the underknown apocalypse classic EARTH ABIDES, to Nicola’s Hild, to Monsters, oh, many other things.

And then the next day, I zipped myself into my bright yellow, mermaid printed Hawaiian dress, and went to the Locus Awards Luncheon. The dress kills. It came from Ebay, 50’s pinup corset coolness with a sarong skirt. Begs to be worn to a luau. I mean, sure, I got some freaked out looks as I walked down the street in Seattle, where it was dark gray cloudy and roughly 60 degrees, but…

The Locus Awards have a mandatory Hawaiian theme, and I was not going to fail. I’ve never been to them before. It’s actually supposed to be a Hawaiian shirt, but I figured dress was fair.

There are photos, but not in my possession. Someone will post them, though. I know there are going to be plenty of images,  because I was sitting next to Neil Gaiman. Flashes. Went. Off. All. Day. Long.

I got to sit at a table with a slew of legends & rockstars: Neil Gaiman (I was Neil’s guest) Terry Bisson, Connie Willis, Gary K. Wolfe, Tim Minchin (actual rockstar, Australian, more on him later), and more, and I also got to accept China Miéville‘s Locus Award for Kraken, Best Fantasy Novel on his behalf.

It’s not even just that I like to drink with luminaries (Although, hell yes, I DO, and I love to drink with nonluminaries too) but that said luminaries are all incredibly brainy, funny, and nice people.  That, of course, makes it RIDICULOUSLY, STUPIDLY GLORIOUS.

Also, there is a Hawaiian Trivia show, and several Sci-Fi/Fantasy legends did the hula.  Here’s a photo of Neil, beside me,  watching the trivia unfold. He’s wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Sort of. It was black and printed with turtles. Which were mostly invisible.

And here is a crappy Maria’s cellphone photo of Neil very deservedly winning the Locus Awards for both Best Short Story  (The Thing About Cassandra) and Best Novelette (The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains).

Here, for interested parties, is China’s Kraken acceptance speech, minus my neurotic introduction having to do with terror of mispronunciation – you’ll see why – and China’s email to me saying that these were words to be delivered “in my voice” – a fearful thing, as I do the crappiest English accent ever.

My huge thanks to Mic Cheetham, Chris Schluep, Julie Crisp, all at Del Rey and Macmillan, Jesse Soodalter and Mark Bould, and all the readers who have supported this shaggy-god story. I’m very sorry I can’t be there, and I thank Maria Dahvana Headley for being me with vastly more aplomb than I would if I were, At this point in the rupturous and tentacular history of our ongoing apocalypse, it can no longer be a point of debate that cephalopods, those distributed alien intelligences, are the most important biological vehicles of semiotic freight ever thrown up by evolution. Nor that these end-times, however terrible, are not without humour. I’m humbled and enormously grateful, therefore, for the great honour that you grant this eschatological squid comedy. [Aside: Maria, please insert a pun of your choice on the words ‘calamity’ and ‘calamari’ in here.]
Thank you all very much.

So, I left the awards with China’s Locus in my purse. Later, said Locus was joined by Neil’s laptop. I know. It’s ridiculous, and more the sort of thing that might happen in a dream than in actuality. But, well, I’ve got awesome friends. This was the first event I’d ever been to, in my brand-new genre. Queen of Kings was such a departure from The Year of Yes (which is emphatically not sci-fi – though it is, perhaps, a science experiment…) that this is literally an entirely new group of writer colleagues. And to enter into their midst  as I did this weekend was, um, VERY UNSUCKY.  Almost every day I find myself amazed by the spectacularity of the people I know.  Here I am, in some crazy starry company. All I can say is…

Well, I don’t even know what to say. I had a fabulous day. Thank you’s are due to both Neil, who invited me to go with him, and to China, who invited me to accept for him.

Photo by Shellie Rae Clift

Maybe one day I’ll have a Locus of mine own, but for now? It was pretty glorious to hang out with such a great group of people. And their awards.

Later, I went with Neil and Tim to the EMP/SCI FI Museum, where we sprinted through the Avatar Exhibit, discussing the Uncanny Valley phenomenon, and then we went to the Sci Fi Hall of Fame induction ceremony, where Gardner Dozois, Vincent Di Fate (sci-fi and fantasy artist, Moebius (Jean Giraud) (French comic artist and amazing production designer), and Harlan Ellison were inducted.   The speeches, both introductions and acceptances were fabulous.  Neil accepted on behalf of Harlan, and read a short story involving card tricks, tons of references to Harlan’s stories, and 1920’s Paris, which will no doubt appear soon on his blog.

And a little later, I drove Neil, Gary Wolfe, and Locus Editor-In-Chief Liza Trombi to the Tim Minchin show at the Neptune. Tim’s a friend of Neil’s, and I’ve never listened to him before, but what a gift to attend. More thanks to Neil, who has great taste in humans. Tim’s show was a completely killing experience. His live show, much more than the things available on Youtube, is a tightly crafted crazy masterwork of a cabaret performance, mixing ferocious satire with deeply hilarious goofy comedy – one of his songs, for example, deals with heavy social issues, interspersed with a chorus about the joy of boobs – and he did one, called Cont, which unfolds from a wildly transgressive song of loathings into something else entirely more badass – and the whole fucking thing had me literally bent over in my seat laughing so hard I was chewing my kneecaps. At the end, he broke the room open by singing two more serious songs, White Wine in the Sun, and then a cover of Cohen’s Hallelujah, and a room that’d been essentially a revival show dealing with atheism, transgression, hippocracy, personal twistedness, and the implausibility of sacred objects, became a room singing along to Cohen’s unhymn. Tim’s version of it, by the way, re-enchanted me with the song. Since its appearance in Watchmen, I’ve been a bit pukey toward it, and this is sad, because it’s a crazy great song.

Neil, Tim, Tim’s tour manager Grizzly and I then went out to dinner.  Neil threw down a stressful challenge in a city like Seattle – let’s eat something delicious. We were starving, having never had dinner.  It was 11:15pm. Seattle closes at…BLOODY EARLY.

But I had an idea which turned out to be one of the better ideas I’ve ever had. Elemental. It’s a Seattle restaurant which is a)close to impossible to find b) has no menu, and c) is incredibly tiny. It seats til Midnight on Sat. Here’s a sample menu, but it changes every week, and it’s completely at the whim of one of the most amazing chefs anywhere.Wine with every course. Lots of wine. And don’t be scared. It looks incredibly expensive. It’s not.  Fixed price. Wine included. Amazing owners. Restaurant is currently surrounded by construction, and so people are having difficulty fiinding it. It’s open! If you’re in Seattle and have an occasion, or don’t, you should go. It might change you.  This restaurant, I’m telling you, is annexed to heaven.

For me, I just kept throwing my head back and crooning. Nothing is more wonderful than incredible company paired with incredible food.

Also, the place is called Elemental, and you know. It could not have been more appropriate.

By the end of the meal – hell, by the beginning, our entire table was groaning with joy. And then we ate cheese. And dessert. And in the car, as I took him back to his hotel, Neil named it one of his ten best nights ever.

It was one of mine too.

Just a couple more things today.  Maki Yamane, author of the webcomic Tiny Concorde read Queen of Kings and made something awesome. A webcomic, dealing with Cleopatraian parenting, and with using Queen of Kings as a parenting guide…

Ha! Definitely click the link.

“Today, we take a parenting inspiration from Cleopatra in the book Queen Of Kings : Growing Up Polyglot

See you in Portland! (Or, you know, at least send your Portland friends to me.)