As I’ve mentioned on Twitter, I’m heading to WorldCon’76. It’s not a far drive, and I didn’t want to miss an opportunity. So I browsed through the offerings, and lo and behold, they had a writer’s workshop portion. Now, if there’s anything I’m a sucker for, it’s a critique. I pretty much always put my work out there to receive feedback. ALWAYS. I’ve had my queries and first pages read on podcasts hosted by agents. I’ve sent my work in The Writer’s Voice. I’ve entered every feedback granting contest I had a manuscript to enter in.
All of that is good and as it should be. Peers, sometimes published, sometimes not yet published, sometimes feedback from agents, sometimes interns, you get the idea. Considering all this experience receiving critiques, it seems like I should be happy to be adding to my tool kit, right? Right?
Well, it’s in person. IN PERSON. As in, I have to sit in the same room as the people giving out critique. And presumably not melt. Oh, and I have to sit with them. In a room where anyone could show up and watch (because it’s useful to watch someone else receive critique).
When I signed up, I thought, welp, there’s no way I’ll have gotten my work turned in fast enough to get a spot. Then I got an email. And yes, I have a spot. Deep breaths.
So I’m pretty insecure about that.
I bought my ticket and booked a hotel room on Friday morning. On Friday afternoon, a fire broke out. Then another fire broke out.
Through the afternoon, it became clear these fires were growing. After an hour or two, they had grown to over 1000 acres. Firefighters commented on their frustration that these small fires could have been knocked down if they’d only had the resources (The Carr fire was claiming its first victims on Friday). And of course, the fire was headed straight for my parents house. I don’t know how many of you have been in the teeth of a wild fire before, so I’ll go ahead and describe it.
The smoke: It smells like that campfire from when you go camping, but it’s everywhere. Everywhere smells like a fire. The grocery store. The gas station. The house. The car. After you’ve been up close, you smell like the fire. And when you’re up close, you can’t see through it. All the pictures make it seem like a giant monster looming over the horizon, squatting and waiting, but it’s much more dynamic in person.
The smoke moves. It heaves. It breathes with the wind, pushing and pulling like sea weed caught in the tide. The closer you are to the fire, the more it moves. When it’s hot, the column of smoke rises off the land in billowing clouds of ash racing for the sky.
The flames: This is something no one every prepares you for: You can see the flames—or you can’t. When you can see them, they are towering monster chewing on the land, but when you can’t see them, you know they’re there because you can hear them. They hiss like a million snakes as they eat up the leaves. They pop. Trees sometimes explode. They just explode. Some trees go up like your campfire, but some go up like they’re drenched in oil (because ostensibly, they are, evergreens burn scary hot).
And the flames and the smoke are heading towards your house. It is terrifying. And you work as quickly as you can. If it’s a slow fire, you get to talk to the sheriff’s deputy. If it’s a fast fire, you’ll be lucky to have heard about it in time to escape.
We got to speak to the sheriff’s deputy this time. Three days later, my parents got to move back, but the monster is still burning. Still eating away at the land.
Last night, another fire broke out (quite a bit further from my family, thankfully), but we’re prepping to set up another shelter.
So I’m going to WorldCon’76, unless I’m working the shelters. Either way, I’m pretty terrified.
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