Teahouse on the Tracks (Alastair Reynolds)
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Wednesday, 16 April 2008
House of Suns, Minneapolis trip
Now Playing: Husker Du

Although it's a day away from its official release day, copies of HOS were on sale in Forbidden Planet last week, and Amazon.co.uk have already started delivering pre-orders. I don't live near a large bookstore myself, but I'd assume that copies will be available in the next few days, if they aren't already on the shelves. I did a signing last week, a few interviews over the last month or so, and I'll be signing at a few places in Sweden at the end of the month - but that's it, basically: the book is done, the hard work is at least a quarter of a year behind me, and my thoughts are now largely dominated by the next one. That's not to say that I'm emotionally disengaged from HOS - far from it - but the fact is, by the time the book begins to be read by more than a handful of close associates, I am, of necessity, directing my energies elsewhere, and it tends to feel like finished business.

As a writer, the one thing I've never been excited about is seeing my name on a bookshelf. I've met aspirant writers for whom that's the big (imagined) kick, but - if my experience is at all typical - it's not something you should hang your career on.  Writing is a long, slow, protracted business, but the upshot is that the best moments - the only really ecstatic ones, if I'm being honest - are those that happen during the act of creation, behind the keyboard or at the writing desk. It's when a problem resolves itself, when you write a sequence that you know you'll still be happy with a year or ten down the line, when you pull some insight out of nowhere and surprise yourself. It's when you write something so deliciously unexpected or logically satisfying that the only response is to grin like an idiot, do a little jig and play some bitchin' air guitar (or in my case, having just bought a Telecaster, real guitar).

Those moments don't happen very often (I count on maybe one or two per book, if I'm lucky) but they're the primary reason I do it, and maybe the only one. Rewriting stuff is enjoyable, finishing stuff is enjoyable, selling stuff is cool, good reviews and award nominations are nice, but nothing gives me quite the same jolt as writing something good in the middle of a long project. I mention this only because I suspect that the outside perception of a writer's existence is such that the publication of a book must surely be the emotional capstone of the creative process, but to me it's a step, a detail, almost an afterthought.

Moving on...

I had a great time in Minneapolis, courtesy of Minicon. I'd like to thank Keith Malgren and Andra St Arnauld for their hospitality and friendship during the entire time I was in town. Rachel Kronick did a fine job with the programming. I'm also grateful to Graham Weathers and his lovely wife Becca for their kindness, and to everyone else at the con who made it so thoroughly enjoyable. Quite apart from the free bar, I would rate this as an excellent convention, one that I'd be happy to attend again. Jetlag be damned.

It was a fun trip in other ways. I arrived in Chicago, partly because I'd have had to fly via Chicago anyway, but mainly because it gave me the chance to ride the Empire Builder up to Minneapolis. I've never made any secret of being a train fan (why hide something so harmless?) and this was a big tick for me. OK, it wasn't quite the train it used to be in the days of the old Great Northern, and I didn't ride it all the way through the Rockies to Washington state, but it was still a delightful experience.

This eight and a half hour train ride took me through three states, and was a blast - very comfortable, great scenery, excellent service and friendly fellow passengers. I was impressed with Amtrak's whole approach and would definitely consider doing something similar again.

I liked Chicago. I stayed in two hotels - one on the Lakeshore, a long  way from Downtown (my mistake - should have done my homework first) but within comfortable walking distance of the fabulous Museum of Science and Industry, where they have the original Burlington Zephyr. The other hotel was much more central, close to the John Hancock building and a ready supply of Starbucks concessions. I enjoyed visiting Sears Tower and strolling down the Magnificent Mile, gawping at the under-construction Trump tower and riding the elevated railway around the famous Loop. Weather and time conspired against me visiting any more museums, but I liked Chicago very much and hope to get back there one day.


Posted by voxish at 6:35 PM MEST

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