Mar 31, 2008
It's rained here for the first time in a couple of years--well, somewhat more recently for Kalbarri itself, but there's some locales on the drive up that hadn't seen anything in about that long. Dust storms swirled about the car, kicked up by the distant but felt presence of Pancho. We arrived in Kalbarri in time for rain and winds that bent the palm trees over. Two days later, the wind is still nasty, but we're planning some flights over Shark Bay and elsewhere, optimistic that things will calm down by the weekend.
I'm writing--working away on The Sunless Countries plus a surprise easter egg that Tor dropped in my lap on friday (hint: I'm not happy). Janice and Paige are seeing the sights and just generally kicking back.
Oh yeah, the spiders. Haven't seen one quite that big yet, but I'm assured they do exist. Huge golden orb spiders spin their webs in the evening and drop them down across porch awnings; places you were safe to walk an hour before suddenly have huge webs and bigger-than-thumb-sized spiders that go straight into your face. That's fine, though; it's the flies that are driving us all crazy.
Australian flies are small, but they're insane. They attack you in droves the instant you step outside and try to climb into your ears and nose. Many locals here wear beekeeper hats just to walk down the street (no, I'm not kidding). I'd be lying if I said you get used to them, but primal instincts come into play quite quickly, and you end up walking around waving your hand reflexively in front of your face. Nobody notices.
Other than that, it's paradise--about 30 C right now and gorgeous air.
One corner of Rainbow Jungle, where Janice and I were married in 2001.
Mar 28, 2008
Janice and I got married in this sleepy little seaside resort town seven years ago. It's only fitting that we should bring Paige there now to see what's changed, and visit the places from our wedding and honeymoon.
Kalbarri's about an hour up the coast from Geraldton, WA. It's surrounded on three sides by a conservation area, with the ocean on the other front. During the summer it can be intolerably hot here--45 C--but right now, in the fall, it's beautiful.
Being smack on the Indian Ocean, Kalbarri's got great vistas. Above is just one of a number of points along the coast, just south of town, where you can stand and look out over the sea from high overhead.
This is a view from the hotel we stayed at when we got married. Just down the street is the bay, with a long sandbar that stretches out across it; you can walk out onto this and watch the sunset, which (since it rarely rains this time of year) pretty much always looks like this:
The Dutch used to come roaring along this lattitude looking for Jakarta, and regularly smacked into the Australian coast without warning; hence the whole area is crowded with shipwrecks. Local museums (Geraldton has a fine one) are packed with shipwreck items, including chests and coins.
This is a view of the Zuytdorp Cliffs, named after one of those famous wrecks. The cliffs go on for at least a hundred miles, with nothing but a couple of tiny sheep stations backing them up. You can fly from Kalbarri along these cliffs, across the aptly named Shark Bay, and swim with the dolphins at a place called Monkey Mia.
Yeah... I'm having fun. And the news that I've just sold audio rights to the Virga books makes me feel like I'm working, too! (Actually, I am--I brought my laptop.)
That's all for now... more soon!
Everything happened at once, but I managed to get through it
Yesterday I was interviewed by Grant Stone, who does a nationally-syndicated radio show called Faster Than Light here in Australia. We talked about my work, what it's like for an SF writer having a Mennonite background, and my connection to Australia (we got married there). The interview was done over the phone, even as a local couple we hadn't seen for seven years was coming in the front door. Embarrassingly, I had to hide in the bedroom to do the interview while Janice and her mother and aunt took care of the social essentials.
It all worked out, and yesterday Janice and Paige went to meet seals and penguins while I stayed at the hotel to catch up on my writing. Today, we're in Geraldton and on our way to Kalbarri for a week. Yay! I'm really looking forward to that; Kalbarri is where we tied the knot, and it'll be great showing Paige all the places around there that we discovered together the first time.
Mar 23, 2008
Many photos taken--getting them off the camera is proving difficult
So I finally got to meet Sean Williams; he and I were on a couple of panels yesterday and today with Ken MacLeod, Robin Pen and Jonathon Strahan, talking about space opera (go figure!). Sean and I went for lunch together today (which is tomorrow for you reading this in North America) at a very nice Indian restaurant on the corner, and talked shop happily until my panel at 2:00 when I did a very interesting panel on "Painting the Future Green" with Zara Baxter, Margaret Dunlop, and Tiki, whose last name I didn't catch, a media analyst from the east coast.
I'd be uploading loads of photos to add to this post, except that my laptop has decided not to recognize SD cards, so I have to find a workaround to get them off my camera.
While we're waiting on that little technical glitch, here's a couple of previously uploaded shots: the entrance to King's Park, in downtown Perth, and a glorious sunrise taken in the countryside northeast of Geraldton.
Meanwhile, back in Canada, there's been heavy blogging activity around SciBarCamp. The buzz is building that we might do another, and people who were mildly interested before are now keenly curious. This was exactly the outcome we were hoping for.
Mar 21, 2008
One of the strangest landscapes on Earth, a short drive from our hotel
Ken MacLeod and I were talking about places to see in Western Australia. There's plenty I haven't seen here; I've never been to the Margaret River caves, for instance. I have seen the Pinnacles, however; and I'd recommend it to anyone with an interest in the bizarre and exotic.
The Dutch sailors who first spotted this area from the ocean thought it must be the ruins of a city. Up close, it's even stranger: miles of sandy desert dotted with grotesque standing stones, like thousands of druidic henges; so many that you can wander out among them and easily become lost.
The Pinnacles average about two meters in height, which adds to the strangeness; you're in a forest of stone statues your own height. They've been worn by the wind and sand, some into almost-human shapes. It must be fantastic to be out here at night, especially during a full moon.
You can take a tour bus from downtown Perth, visit the Pinnacles, and be back by supper. Very civilized--but luckily Perth itself is remote. What I mean is that I hope the Pinnacles doesn't become too easy to get to. There are many such places in Western Australia that are only now being opened up to tourism. Right now, you can practically have them to yourself. It's sad to think that this might change, because I'd hate to have to experience wondrous regions such as the Pinnacles from behind a fence, as you now have to do at Stonehenge.
After having kids, 30 hours without sleep doesn't faze you
The first time we went to Perth, seven years ago, we took a packed 747 and the flight was hellish. By the end the toilets were backed up, I was crawling under the seats to try to sleep, we'd run out of food and there was nothing to do. This time, the plane was a brand-new 777 with little movie screens in the seat-backs, we were fed at perfectly strategic times, the toilets were clean, and Paige was very well behaved. I wasn't even sore when we finally arrived in Perth.
This was good, because I was supposed to be in front of people, doing panels with Ken MacLeod and others, less than 24 hours after we'd arrived. Despite the 13-hour time difference between Toronto and Perth, this has turned out not to be a problem.
Swancon's being held at the All Seasons Hotel, not the one we're staying at, but about a mile distant. I sauntered over from our hotel about an hour before my first panel, through neighbourhoods that seem to have been utterly transformed since 2001. Downtown Perth's quite familiar to us, but last time parts of it had a rough look to them. These parts seem to have been bulldozed and replaced by new and upscale establishments; downtown is being gentrified.
The Good Friday morning was bright and warm (19 C overnight, warming up to 33 by the afternoon), with just a few people about; I passed through a gorgeous little park with gigantic, sprawling tropical trees and a dance troupe warming up on the lawn; past late-night clubs with their doors open to air out in the morning light; past 100-year-old stone buildings with wrap-around balconies, reminiscent of New Orleans.
Then it was time to talk about the Singularity with Ken MacLeod and Dirk Flintheart, and then the obsolescence of the "brain is computer" paradigm with Ken and David Cake. I sort of breezed through these despite being addled from lack of sleep; the real challenge was talking, without notes, for an hour by myself on the subject of foresight studies vs. traditional futurism. This talk was scheduled for 4:00 p.m., which is 3:00 a.m. Toronto time. I had a really great time and chatting with the attentive and interested audience for an hour was easy.
Tomorrow should be interesting. Either it all catches up to me and I collapse into a drooling mass of inappropriately cold-weather-oriented clothing; or I'll be fully adjusted to the time change and raring to go. I'll let you know.
Mar 17, 2008
We'll be there for a month. Yes, the pets have a house-sitter
Our itinerary takes us first to Perth for the convention, then up to Kalbarri for a week and then outside Geraldton. If you'd like, you can check out some of these locations in Google Earth. I will be posting pix as I can, though for some of the time I will be off the grid entirely.
This is an important point: you may not be able to get in touch with me. Use email, certainly, but don't be surprised if even that doesn't work, or is delayed. The people who're staying at our house will be monitoring the phone, and we'll be giving our Aussie contact info to close friends and family; so if it's urgent you can find me. If even email doesn't work, try posting a reply to this message. I'll be checking the site whenever I can.
And yes, I'm taking the laptop, and working on The Sunless Countries while we're there.