Holiday Letter 2017

2017 was a dark year. We shed many tears and hurt our hearts in anger over the state of the nation, and it’s effect on the world. We actively engaged in more therapy and escapism than we have in the past and continued to create and live amid all of the suffering of our fellow Americans. This note is going to focus mainly on the joys of our year but everything below needs to be prefaced by saying we believe all people are equal, kindness is important, love wins, black lives matter, immigrants and refugees are welcome, disabilities are respected, women are in charge of their bodies, people and planet are valued over profit, and diversity is celebrated.

This year held a lot of interwoven travel, starting with Venetia heading to the East Coast for Arisia in Boston while Lee headed south down the West Coast for a skeptics convention, LogiCal-LA. Venetia joined forces with Lotus in rampaging through the city having all the fun. She got to speak on a panel about one of her favorite writers, Chuck Tingle, and hang out with all our dear Arisia friends.

Lee so enjoyed spending time with Celestia at the show, vending Small Gods, and meeting so many wonderful new people. After the show, Lee stayed with Bino, hung out with Shreya, was visited by Priscilla and Marcy. Before he left, he updated a sacred pamphlet solemnly passed on to him some 35 years ago while he was dressed as a clown (a long story) to share at the convention. As well as that New Yorker cartoon he’d always wanted to draw. Venetia’s earnest “Have you heard the good news about God?… Zilla?” as she passed out pamphlets might have worried people scarred by previous encounters with religious fanatics.

The Portland Women’s March was a huge success and we were glad to add our bodies to the mass of protestors. It was raining but everyone was in good spirits and we ended up walking almost all the way home because the buses were so full after the rally.

We had the good fortune to share our house briefly with the talented Jay Edidin as he moved from Portland to New York. We have long been fans of his work; despite having little interest in comics, Venetia adores the podcast Jay and Miles X-Plain the X-Men and her Cyclops “Resist” pin has been a great comfort to her since Jay gifted it to her.

Jay’s fiancee Tea sent us the most amazing set of postcards that kept us occupied for hours: until the very last moment in fact that Jay climbed into the car to leave for the airport and Venetia had to run after him to ask for a clue to solve the message.

March brought some interesting mass sales to Portland. First, the Grimm Liquidation Event. Grimm had been filmed in Portland for many years and was finally ending so there was a weekend long sale held in a giant warehouse in NW Portland. The first day was rainy and we got there a few hours early… but apparently not early enough. The line wrapped around the entire block and then meandered down another block. About 30 min after the sale officially began, a very nice lady began the long trek down the line warning people that it might be another five hours or so before they got in, and that it was more likely that they would close the entire line down because only a certain amount of people were allowed in the warehouse at a time and they were at full capacity. We decided we were wet enough (it was pouring rain and even with umbrellas it was impossible to avoid getting damp and cold) that after a brief visit with Dan Garrison, we hit the road. When we returned again on Monday, the wait was a mere hour.

It turns out that they had so much stuff that there were new truckloads of items coming into the warehouse every day for the better part of a week – interesting props just kept coming. We got a styrofoam skull just because and Venetia found a whole stash of clothing that fits her, a handmade skirt and a set of colorful tank tops.

Then later in the month was the Ip Man Estate Sale. Venetia’s friend Phyro is a huge fan of Ip Man (who had trained the late great Bruce Lee), and so we went to see what kinds of gorgeous things were there. The shop was full of Asian men and women in business suits who looked like they knew exactly what they were doing. We were aimless dilettantes by contrast, especially when we saw some of the price tags or better yet, didn’t see a price tag and asked the floor manager for a price. He said he would get back to us and we gave him our contact info but as he never actually got back to us with a price, I’m guessing he thought it was out of our budget. He was probably right.

At the beginning of April, after a costume-filled Wondercon culminating in the biggest haul of pin-up dresses for the ladies, Venetia, Lee, Janelle, Hillarie and Priscilla all went across the street to Disneyland. Lee hadn’t been to this cluster of tourist trappings since the 1984 World Science Fiction Convention, and was astonished at Anaheim’s growth. It was even more surprising to see Portland poster artist Brian Linss at Disneyland as the day began! It was Venetia’s first visit to Disneyland (her first visit to Disneyworld was when she was 21) and she was enchanted. It was a beautiful sunny day and there was a special food festival going on with food carts of (extra delicious) themed foods. We got to see one of the rarer Disney princesses, Pocahontas. She was stoic when Lee suggested that the giddy ladies “say something naughty” as he took our picture.

We went on the Haunted Mansion ride first before the park became too busy. The fantastic Cars ride was way better than we expected. Ariel’s ride was adorable but unmemorable. Twirly high-up in the air ride. Roller coast was super intense and amazing. Didn’t get wet on the ride you get wet on. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was just as astonishingly bizarre and seemingly-un-Disney up as Lee promised. The Enchanted Tiki Room was much less palatable than either of us expected and – we hope – probably not long for this world considering the success of Moana, where Maui and company are treated with respect and at nearly 100% less colonial exoticism. And oh – the astonishing racial and ethnic slurs in the dancing mechanical birds section? Good heavens!

The park’s arrangement with the Dole company must be a fascinating one, and Venetia very much appreciated the Dole Whip. If the Enchanted Tiki Room does change, we’ll be fascinated to see the PR spin that Dole will put on it many decades of colonial rule…. Hillarie bought us all group pins and Lee wears his little mermaid pin everywhere.

Up the road in Simi Valley, we went out to dinner with Jason and Kemi and they introduced us to a wonderful concept: all you can eat sushi! There were three courses and Venetia was VERY disappointed not to be able to make it to the third course. She would be happy to try again any time. We spent a few days with Paul Komoda cleaning up his apartment and planning his website. We had fantastic IKEA adventures with him and even more fantastic adventures with Priscilla and the best gluten-free churros of Los Angeles. It turns out Weird Al also likes that particular taco stand and Priscilla got the best selfie with him.

We returned home to host our annual Bellydancer convention, this time two new ladies from Canada who had been recommended through the Winnipeg Bellydance community. Lee took them to our new favorite chocolate shop in town: Missionary Chocolates. You may have tasted their chocolate truffles if you’ve spent time with us this year. We worked with Melissa over the summer to start a newsletter and remodel the shop. Venetia got chai chocolate truffles for her birthday. Midway through the month, Venetia drove down to Eugene for the Western States Folklore Society which was being hosted by her graduate professor, Daniel Wojick. Venetia brought chocolate and got to catch up with old friends from graduate school and listen to some fascinating and interesting presentations. She hopes to crash the academic programming again in the future and next time wants to bring more science fiction peeps.

Lee was called in for jury duty this year and though not empaneled this time, the timing was a little stressful as he had been preparing for well over a year for an emotional presentation at the Mystery Box only to have jury duty scheduled on the same day across town. Happily, the folks at the courthouse were very kind, and Lee’s talk seemed to go over well with the assembled audience. One of Venetia’s goals this year was to participate in social and government programs more – and thus, jury service. Unfortunately for her, she had the shortest jury duty ever – about 10 min while a few names were called and then everyone else in the room was told to go home.

Another highlight of her birthday month was sharing it with birthday friend and all-around fabulous human Tempest Bradford. They went to the Japanese Garden together and had tea and it was absolutely lovely.

As the earth warmed up and the garden started growing in earnest we did some reworking of the back yard, we are slowly eliminating the grass and allowing the flowers and raspberries to spread. With the help of an expert gardener, Jackie, we formalized the growing patterns of the raspberries so that Venetia can walk between the rows to pick berries in the summer.

This year saw the final completion/publication of Starstruck: Old Proldiers Never Die. Elaine and Michael outdid themselves and the book shows their excellence on every page.

We both flew out to Arizona for Phoenix Comic Con. While Venetia stuck close by the ladies of Badali Jewelry (with whom she worked the convention itself), Lee stayed with Emma and Murray – epic storytellers and dear friends from Ambercon. And despite a traumatic start to the convention with the arrest of a planned terrorist attack, we had a great time with friends and authors. Lee drove down to Tuscon to meet up with friends and meet the brilliant family of Kellner, who he’d worked with starting last year at M.I.T. and whose family compound proved a marvelously relaxing vacation destination. Kellner’s younger sister had been a long-time docent at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and knowing Lee’s history as a Docent at the Smithsonian, she was kind enough to give him a tour. Tuscon was as lovely as seemed Phoenix seemed… well, unpleasant and untenable. And after the convention, for Lee’s birthday, we drove with Emma and Murray up to Flagstaff by way of Sedona, and saw many stunning mountains.

In June we had our annual lunch with the brilliant artist and leading talent of the McMenamin’s properties, Lyle Hehn. It was great to catch up and talk about art and life and inspirations. June was the month of yard sales, both the Tiny Circus House and the Laurelhurst Yardsale were this month. Venetia made out like a bandit getting many of Marysia’s clothes, and while we didn’t need anything from Laurelhurst this year, we still had lots of fun wandering through the beloved neighborhood on a beautiful morning enjoying the architecture and the people.

July and August are mostly summarized in the tale of Our Baltic Adventure: after San Diego Comic Con we flew to Europe for the Writing Excuses Cruise around the Baltics, were awed by the Art Nouveau architecture in Riga, and had a fun and successful Worldcon in Helsinki (where Lee’s body of work won him a very nice Best in Show ribbon, and where he was interviewed for Finnish National Radio)and a glorious five hours in the Blue Lagoon before heading back to the states.

Venetia continued on to Gencon and then Dragoncon while Lee hosted many guests back home. Gencon was definitely Venetia’s favorite convention of the year: she saw the premiere of Lee’s new game Cursed Court and met Mercedes Lackey for the first time. Lee viewed the eclipse from our porch with neighbors and our dear friend Dan Cottle but Venetia had to make due with the reenactment of the earth traveling around the sun via the Southwest airlines crew, as well as a rendition of Total Eclipse of the Heart by a man and his dog.

In September our bellydancer super star Accalia came back to Portland from Winnipeg for another Rachel Brice workshop and a promise to return again. Although we didn’t attend Rose City Comic Con we had a great time meeting up with many people who did. Venetia has now introduced six people to the joy of float tanks (something she’d first encountered in Iceland) and hopes to bring even more people to that party in the coming year.

We headed down to California in October for Lee’s first Toastmaster appearance at Convolution (more Toasting to follow with Albuquerque’s Bubonicon in 2018). We stayed with fellow writer Chadwick and his wife Tanya from the Writing Excuses cruise and very much hope to have more travel adventures with them as they are delightful company.

San Francisco was a great adventure, a treasure hunt even – especially as Lee researches a novel he wants to write in the new year. We walked up and down the streets following the plaques for the Barbary Coast. Along the way we encountered a door stoop full of Heritage Auction catalogs (please ask us about them if you are at our house, we’ve got some really entertaining things to show you!). Though the Barbary Coast was once the “wickedest place in the West”, today the gentrification is so extreme that even this pure-profit Auction House was relocating, divesting itself of deluxe catalogues from auctions new on old.

Among work and travel, Lee still found time to join in for the Month of Fear. Each year, the Months of Love and Fear allow Lee to Art Direct himself, and do work that would otherwise not be done (or later used in collections like editor Stephen Jones’ The Art of Horror’. We very much enjoyed our visit with the Joneses in Helsinki).

Our sister-in-law Erin threw possibly the best party Venetia has ever attended: a birthday party for Lee’s mother Mary celebrated with a basket full of kittens. The woman is pure magic.

Lee’s Ambercon adventures are chronicled here. He also went to our local Orycon in November where he was absolutely enchanted to meet Sarah Clemens and her husband. We knew her work from years of convention-going, but had no idea about the stories she could tell. We had grand house full of people for Thanksgiving which is exactly how we love it. Janelle and Murray and Emma were all staying with us over Thanksgiving itself and went to a Melissa & Lee’s house for a stupendous Thanksgiving spread. Then Jaym and Dylan came down to throw us a second feast with the most tender delicious turkey we’ve ever had. And Murray put a wonderful end to the story he’s been telling at Ambercon for the last seven years.

At the end of the month Venetia applied for and was hired as a Powell’s City of Books seasonal employee. She’s been working there all of December, first as a cashier but now as a bookseller in the Gold room (the best room in Powell’s as it is where all the sci-fi fantasy books are.) For what is traditionally his slow season, Lee has had plenty of work to keep him busy. And lots of interesting podcasts to listen to while he works (see below). We hung up Christmas lights on porch (Lee barely kept Venetia from putting them up before Halloween) but due to an unfortunate bout of the flu did not get a tiny Christmas tree this year. However as the snow comes down, we are warm, well-fed, and ready for all the work to be done in the new year.

General
Lots of games with Jonathan Liu, Claire Crafting Parties, Brunches with Alberto, Venetia learned she loves to caulk, many wonderful walks around our neighborhood, pumpkin picking party with Alia Hazen, many dinners at our current favorite Portland restuarant: Eleni’s Philoxenia

Visitors: Jay, Alaina, Elsa Henry, Kristina Carroll, Janelle, Dan Cottle, Accalia, Jaym, Eric Vargas, Jenn and Matt

Movies seen: Guardians of the Galaxy, Rogue One, Wonder Woman, Blade Runner 2049
Plays: Murder on the Nile, Cabaret, The Language Archive, The Starlings, multiple Mystery Box performances
TV Shows: Mr. Robot, The Good Place, West World
Podcasts: You Must Remember This, Code Switch, Pop Culture Happy Hour, 99% Invisible, The Allusionist

Author events:Jeff VanderMeer and Lidia Yuknavitch, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Monstress creators Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda, Kate Elliott and Malinda Lo, Max Gladstone, and the delightful Fran Wilde

2018 – Where to Find Us:

Venetia with Badali Jewelry:
Emerald City Comic Con – March 1-4
Wondercon – March 23-25
San Diego Comic Con – July 19-22
Gencon – August 2-5

Lee and Venetia:
Norwescon – March 29-April 1
Miscon – Artist Guest of Honor – May 25-28
Wondercon San Jose – August 23-26
Bubonicon – Toastmaster – August 23-26

We are also talking seriously about another Writing Excuses Cruise in September.

And finally, huge thank yous to Abie, the amazing and talented model for our Christmas card this year and Brittany who took the original reference photos at Jonathan Tweet‘s house.

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2 thoughts on “Holiday Letter 2017

  1. First of all I am amazed at how your list of friends compadres, cohorts etc grows and how you keep them all straight! Would not be possible with out the magic of the internet. I am pleased that somehow you find room for me in the morass and allow me to journey with you both even if just vicariously. I feel like I am getting to know Venetia more each year and what a fantastic pair you make as you each go your separate/same ways. I would love to have been at Magic Mary’s basketful of kittens birthday! I would have brought Millie and Molly to broaden their social skills. They are poster children for Black Lives Matter Meow Meow (When are you going to let is in, let us out, feed us, buy the expensive stuff so we don’t have to puke it up on the carpet right next to the easy to clean hardwood floor). Sounds like an exciting year ahead for you both. It will be a challenging one for me as I try to get the house ready to sell. Improperly installed roof allows bats to enter the house at will and it will be a complicated fix as we have corrugated rusty core ten steel panels. I love bats as much as the next guy but makes a house impossible to sell. Millie and Mollie will miss the challenge of leaping off the refrigerator to catch them as they make their circuit. There is a house ready for me next to Kari in Boise; Heath is one more door down. Laurie is 3 blocks away. I am not sure I am up for the challenge. Maybe its the other way around. The house is pre-midcentury modern…wallpaper, furniture and all. The neighbor died and we bought the house as is and Kari is renting it as is. Gives me pause….

    Thanks again for thinking of me and sorry so slow to respond…need new computer and new router and live-in geek. Stay healthy, I will stay in better touch with your Mom (then I can stay in touch with you.) Boise will be closer to Portland and who knows? Have a good year! Love, Lynn Now which icon should I click on? .

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