In London, I finish a letter begun 2 months ago in Paris explaining why you've not heard from me in awhile. With the usual indispensable footnotes.
My very dear ones,
How are you? Are you OK? I hope you’re getting things you need this difficult summer, be it a glass full of ice, or just the right book to read (or both).
It is too long since I have written you. February, in fact. But I have reasons. Along with Daily Life - which always takes more time than you think it does - I spent the end of winter working hard on two big projects:
Finishing the good draft of Part I of City Year for my agent
Planning the 4 1/2 month trip to EU/UK that Delia & I are currently on.
So, lots of catching up to do!
Where to begin?
The entire story will make more sense if you know that both my partner Delia Sherman & I spent portions of our youth in France, and have often returned.
In 2017 we decided to go for broke and spend a year living in Paris. Much annoying bureaucracy later, we had our one-year visa for the E.U. in hand, stamped by all the French Authorities. From Fall 2017 - 2018, we lived in an apartment in the 5th Arrondissement,at 13 boulevard St Germain, a short walk from the Seine. The year was an absolute dream in every way. Our French got better, our cooking got better, our writing got better; we renewed and deepened friendships with French writers and made friends with all sorts of people.
As our year in Paris came to a close, Delia and I sat across a cafe table from each other, and asked seriously, Should we move here?
We decided to keep our home base in NYC. But, so as not to lose our burgeoning life in Paris, we would spend 3 months/year there.
Our first opportunity came in the fall of 2019. Through trusty SabbaticalHomes.com, we found an apartment in the 5th again: up near the Pantheon this time, with the Luxembourg Gardens down one side and our old neighborhood down the other. My parents came and stayed with us for a couple of weeks, on what would turn out to be their last possible trip to Paris, a city they taught me to love.On their last day there, I bought them ice cream sodas in the Luxembourg.
By pure coincidence, our Fall 2019 stay coincided with the publication of a new French edition of my novel Swordspoint. This glam version from Editions ActuSF includes not only stories that had never before been translated,but I wrote some Extra Material for the volume to make it truly unique, so that existing French fans of A La Pointe de l’Epee would have to buy the new volume.
Since I was already in Paris, my new publisher had the resources to send me on a French Book Tour, co-sponsored by the remarkable Madame Stephanie Nicot, who is a Force for Good in the world.To support the tour, Stephanie got a grant for outreach to gay community centers. And so I visited local bookstores, signed books, and then spoke at the Centers in Rennes, Bordeaux, Lyon, Nancy . . .
The cool thing about book tours in France is that all major cities are connected to Paris by high speed rail. So rather than living out of a suitcase for however-many weeks, you leave Paris in the morning, arrive in the afternoon, do the gig, and can be home in your bed by midnight!
Delia & I got back to New York in early December, highly satisfied, and looking forward to our newly-chosen Lifestyle. Three months later, the world went into lockdown.
Remember that moment in March 2020, when you realized that every single plan you’d made for the near future was now not going to happen?
We’ve missed France like crazy. If you’ve got the bug, you’ll know what I mean - if you don’t, I don’t want to embarrass myself by gushing poetically. A friend just wrote me: “I do miss [Paris], even unto the distinctive scent of the stone and cobbles in the morning there.”
In autumn 2021, Delia & I began to hope that vaccines would make the world safe to travel again, and started thinking about a trip in 2022. I then got a letter from my French publisher, wondering if we would be in France in May, in time for the big French Fantasy con Les Imaginales, where they were bringing out the brand new translation of The Privilege of the Sword?
Why yes, we replied blithely; we will!
And here we are.
And it is as good as we remember, and better. I will not tax you with the details of our plans; I’ll save that for the next letter, which will be very soon. Let it be said only that they are Baroque, and include conferences in Glasgow & Asturias in July, and Bordeaux and Le Mans in September. We return to the U.S. on October 3rd, dv. [I know ALL about where to get Covid tests in France, now. Ask me anything.]
And that’s as far as I got with the letter I began in Paris
The trip has been hectic. So hectic that I never managed to finish this simple note until now - and only now, I must admit, just because we’re taking an extra week in London to quarantine and recover from the Inevitable Covid. Gotten here on Plague Island, as the local inhabitants are want to call it these days: Despite the fact that no one in Europe wears a mask anymore (except us. Religiously.), we sailed through France, the Netherlands, Scotland, Spain, and their many airports and train stations, unscathed.
I’ll take it as a chance to to catch you up on Life and Publishing (and some amazing Theater, as well!), writing a little more frequently than is my wont. I hope you don't mind. There’s lots to tell!
And that’s a good place to stop.
Your peregrinating pal,
City Year is the working title for my work-in-progress (WIP), a sequel to Swordspoint & The Privilege of the Sword. It concerns Alec’s bastard daughter, the Angriest Teenager in the World.
The 5eme is also known as the Latin Quarter, being the place where the Universities were, and still are, though back in the day you needed Latin to understand what your teachers were saying. It’s one of the oldest parts of Paris.
My folks are still mobile, but between age and pandemic, their Atlantic-crossing days are probably over.
I am very fortunate to have as my translator Patrick Marcel - or, as he’s known these days over there, Patrick “The Game of Thrones” Marcel: he’s also GRRM’s translator - and E.R. Eddison’s, too, come to that (see previous posts). His sense of nuance and language is exquisite - and at this point, he knows my world almost better than I do!
There are a few of them.
I wrote “The Octavia St Vier Letters,” between Richard’s mother and her friends and family, to connect the stories to each other, and Patrick translated them. They haven’t been published in English, and I don't think they can be, as they don't really tell a standalone, coherent story. I’ll have to offer them as Bonus Material somewhere, won’t I?
Stephanie has for many years run the exciting, progressive programming at the annual French fantasy con/book fair Les Imaginales. It’s sponsored by the town of Epinal in the Vosges, and area not known for its progressiveness. I had a truly great time there in May. But in a nasty power play, Stephanie was just booted out of her position. The significant French SFF community is up in arms. Robin Hobb, a frequent guest at Les Imaginales, has made a strong public statement on Twitter. saying she will not be returning - a statement I have co-signed. Happily, I hear that other French cons are already racing to become “the next Imaginales.”
[I’m probably getting that wrong, but I’d have to look it up, and I don't want this to be any later than it already is ]
This is what my friend Victor Dixen is doing right now, in fact. He’s already super-popular with French readers, and I’m glad to say that his Vampyria series is coming out in English next year, starting with Court of Shadows: “An alternate history series in which a whip-smart heroine faces off against the oppressive rule of Vampire Sun King Louis XIV and his immortal Versailles Court.” There’s also a really cool Tarot deck to go with it, designed by the author (who gave me a really useful reading with it at WorldCon in DC this year!)
Thank you for sharing your translations' covers. Reading a story by an author whose work I enjoy sounds like an excellent entrée to closer acquaintance with the language.