As soon as it was revealed that she was sick, people were asking me how I felt about the Queen. When she died, people were looking at me expectantly, waiting for some particular statement born of my nationality and whatever that might mean for my feelings towards a 96-year old woman I’d never met. It was a strange experience for a few days there, I have to say.
I don’t have any particularly strong feelings about the monarchy, I’m ashamed to say, beyond feeling as if it’s a ridiculous and outdated institution. That said, that could be said for more than half of what makes up British culture at any given moment, so that’s hardly the most damning criticism; I’m not someone to yell about how corrupt and evil the Royals are because of their connection to colonialism and slavery — and, as social media has shown over the last week or so, there’s certainly a lot who’ll talk about that at length — nor am I someone who romanticizes and makes excuses for the Royals and their behavior because they’re national institutions or whatever, either. They are just particularly expensive wallpaper to me, in a strange way — always there, only occasionally notable if nothing else is happening at the time.
The need others — all American-born, of course — had for me to have a take, an emotional reaction, to the Queen’s death reminded me of the response surrounding Brexit, or earlier, the Scottish Independence vote. This want for me to be at once entertainingly vitriolic and also help them understand what was happening, as if I had a verisimilitude due to where I was born that could help them navigate their own feelings. Alas, I failed them all.
I did think this, though: my parents met the Queen. It was two decades or so ago, and it was at an official event my dad got invited to through his work. There was a list of detailed instructions they received ahead of time, in terms of how to act and behave around Her Majesty, somewhat unsurprisingly, but my favorite was a rule that women’s hats were limited in size so that they wouldn’t overshadow whatever the Queen was wearing on her head that day.
There’s a level of petty there that I think is unintentionally hilarious. Let’s remember that about old Liz, and forget the rest.
“After New York Comic Con, we’ll have done a year’s worth of conventions in four months.”
I was on a call with my editor when he said this, and it’s stuck with me ever since. He’s right, as it turns out; the weird scheduling of comic shows this year — driven in part by late planning and a belief earlier in the year (and late last year, for that matter) that COVID might be a thing of the past by now — meant that a series of big events that would traditionally run from March through October have instead all been squashed into a tiny window between the end of June and the start of October… and I’ve done almost all of them.
(I signed up for my job too late to attend things like Star Wars Celebration or Florida Supercon, as it happens. Everyone else was there, though.)
It’s something that I’ve found particularly useful to keep in mind when I’m feeling tired or run down lately; as I write, there’s another convention happening — D23 Expo, in Anaheim, California — because, of course there is. The way things feel right now, there’s always another convention happening somewhere, and even if I’m not there, I’m working it somehow. I’m not at D23, but I’m part of the support team, writing stories and quick news hits from home connected to what’s being announced.
There’s actually another convention this weekend, right here in town, that I don’t have time to attend… because I’m working as support for the California one. There’s a strange point being made there, I feel, even if I don’t know what that point actually is.
Maybe the point is that I’m not imagining that things feel a little too non-stop right now. There’s a year being squashed into four months, and I’m squashed in there with it, trying to find space to do everything while keeping up with the outside world.
To go from being, essentially, a hermit for two and a half years because of COVID to traveling across the country repeatedly in a five week period was, I’m sure you’ll be able to imagine, a surreal and dizzying experience. Prior to taking on this new gig, I’d eaten a meal outside of my house literally once since everything got locked down; then, I was spending a week in Southern California, followed by ten days home, then a week in Illinois, then another ten days home, then a few days in Washington State. There were things that didn’t get unpacked. There were countless COVID tests being taken.
To make matters more strange, Portland had an impossibly hot summer this year — I suspect this’ll be something that happens every year from now on, sadly — and I live in a house where there’s no air conditioning except for a window unit on the first floor; for most of my time between conventions, everyone in the house was sleeping on couches in the living room because it was the only place in the house cool enough to actually sleep. I’m pretty sure that I spent maybe seven or eight days total in my own bed between the middle of June and last week or so, adding to the feeling that I didn’t really get a lot of home time this summer.
It sounds ridiculous, but I started to think about all the songs I’ve heard about how lonely and shitty touring life is during all of this, as well as imagining myself as a businessman who had to travel nonstop for their job; if there was an alternate reality where I could project myself into having to travel continuously for my job, I’d do so, feeling a mix of frustration and exhaustion that I imagined people in those jobs would feel. I spent the summer wanting to be home, and longing for the calm and stillness I imagined fall will bring. The cool weather, too.
I didn’t, I promise, intend to take more than a month off from this site; I didn’t intend to take any time off at all, but if there had been a break in mind, it would have been both shorter and announced in advance. What happened, quite simply, was my new job, and its demands on my time.
It took quite a while for me to find a way to negotiate my first full time staff writing gig in more than a decade in terms of how it fits into my everyday life. I didn’t expect that in advance, I’ll be honest; I had this idea in my head that it’d simply be like being a freelancer, except that I’d only be writing for one outlet instead of multiple. Moreover, in my imagined scenario, because I’d had an ongoing staff position, I’d have new amounts of free time because I wouldn’t be looking for new gigs all the time, nor invoicing at the end of the month. Oh, what an innocent I was…!
The reality includes daily timekeeping, eight-hour workdays (plus an additional hour lunch, meaning it’s nine hours total, necessitating an earlier start time each day than before), more meetings than I’d imagined, and no shortage of training and internal communication to keep track of. I spend probably a similar amount of time writing as before, but now I have all manner of additional duties. (And, not unimportantly, additional things to think about, too.)
Add to that the fact that, for the first six weeks of my official employment, I had three different comic conventions to attend across the country — San Diego Comic-Con, followed by C2E2 in Chicago two weeks later, then Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle two weeks after that — and the reasons for my accidental absence become clearer, I suspect. I was in motion, constantly, both literally and emotionally. Things kept happening.
I’m back now, or at least I intend to be. There’s one more convention I’ll be attending in person this year (New York Comic Con, next month), and another couple I’ll be working on from the comfort of my own home, so I’m sure I’ll feel busy and overwhelmed again at times. But this is somewhere I don’t want to leave for too long, I promise. I’m sorry I was silent here for as long as I was.