LibertyCon: Find Your Tribe

LibertyCon has come and gone. I leave my tribe after a long weekend.

It’s a science fiction and fantasy convention that has the honor of producing more lifelong friends than any other event in my entire life. It’s my tribe– a thing you should find, and keep, and have and celebrate. It’s books and games and characters, and in the halls are people who I’ve admired for forty years– and then they’re in front of me, and I get to chat with them about the books that are, in some way, the soundtrack of my life.

This year was a bit different, and by that I mean even better. I’m writing for a truly excellent person, Chris Kennedy, in a genre that I’ve loved since I was a kid– Military SciFi. Being involved with Seventh Seal Press is sort of like joining a winning team on the first day. Chris takes care of the details, big and little, and it shows. I carry this coin proudly.

For three days, I was on panels, at parties, buying books, talking about books, science, films, and anything else associated with a fandom that has given me limitless joy since I was a kid. I was exhausted but invigorated, a curious blend of wanting to do more on less sleep, and finally convincing myself I could sleep on Tuesday, because there was too much good stuff to see and do.

After leaving friends for the trip home, my thoughts return to my family and how much I’ve missed them. It’s a good drive– mountains, sun, summer heat– and I look forward to that strange sensation of coming home to people you love more than anything, even after being among people you love. It’s an embarrassment of riches, and it never gets old.

On the way. I stopped to eat in a small town, Monteagle, Tennessee. There’s an iconic place– The Smokehouse– and I went in having not set foot there since 1977. Fond memories of being a kid with my family, seeing snow for the first time, a wooden toy my grandfather bought me, soon to be scattered across the cavernous back seat of our 1972 Cadillac. Joyous thoughts, then a conclusion as I realize that of seven people at that table, only two remain, and we’re not kids anymore.

Travel is like that for me. It gives and takes. It fills up my tank, and not all of it is pure, because I’m aware of the passage of time. I eat the food slowly, processing the past three days while thinking of the next ten.

I return home to teach, write, edit. Things that are all part of my third life, the one that has bloomed unexpectedly out of a childhood love of things that didn’t exist anywhere except the books I loved– dragons, distant galaxies, starships made of light. This is the best of my three lives, and LibertyCon is the fuel.

To repeat: find your tribe.

Terry

The Power of Pie

Today is National Pie Day, or Pi Day if you insist on the use of math. As a history professor, I naturally avoid any numbers that are more complex than, say, single digits.

It’s for our own good. Trust me.

However, 3.14 is a number even I can remember, and thus, we celebrate the majesty of pie, a food group that is so lush and varied it deserves its own channel in our collective cultural awareness.

I’ve written (at length) about being the grandson of bakers, who founded Ted N Peg’s Pie Stand in Rome, New York. For me, pie is breakfast. It is a snack for the grim hours between one and three in the morning, as I stand impatiently waiting for my dogs to re-inspect every square inch of¬†the very yard they left two hours earlier, because in that time there could be mummies or zombies or, heaven forfend. . . .a possum.

We can’t have that.

Regardless, it’s a chance for me to stand at the sink, glaring into the stygian blackness of our backyard while eating pie and waiting for the herd to come home, so to speak. In those moments, I will once again marvel at the wonder of pie, and how my simmering anger dissipates with each bite as one by one, the dogs come in and lay down to begin their gusty snoring, dreaming the things only dogs can know in their sleep.

Yesterday, I was reheating pizza for my son, who is currently eating as if he as just released from a prison camp. Before I nuked his two slices of (cheese) pizza, I took a bite– an editorial sample, if you will– it was a piece that was only bread and sauce, free of cheese and oddly naked.

In that moment, I was transported thirty-five years into the past, when family friends took my family to a market in Rome, New York. There, they bought me a slice of tomato pieРa heretical twist on pizza that had little cheese, was fluffy, and served cool. The first sharp tang of summery tomato and  oregano was like the essence of pizza, stripped down for my consideration. It was. . .new. Amazing. A symbol of a new life, in a distant state. It was different, but familiar and good.

 

And yesterday, there I stood in my own kitchen, thinking of old friends and sweeping changes for a skinny thirteen year old who didn’t understand why he had to leave his grandparents a thousand miles away, in the sunshine of his life. His home. I still don’t understand.

Pie is food and food is memory. If I ever forget that again, I know it only takes one bite to be reminded.