A few milestones, unrealized in the moment, from the Before Times:

12/21/19: The last time Prairie and I went out to a performance (Handel’s Messiah, in downtown Seattle).

Prairie and I at Handel's Messiah

12/28/19: The last time Prairie and I traveled to the Portland area to visit family (my mom, her mom, her dad). Neither of us have seen any of our parents in person since this visit.

My mom and I at dinner

2/15/20: The last time I went out to the Mercury. I believe this would also be the last time I hugged anyone other than Prairie.

Me at the Mercury nightclub

2/16-17/20: The last time Prairie and I traveled, for a weekend on Whidbey Island.

Prairie and I at Fort Casey Historical State Park

2/22/20: The last time Prairie and I were in a big crowd, at an Elizabeth Warren rally.

Prairie and I at the Elizabeth Warren rally

3/7/20: The last truly out-of-the-house social activity I did before going into pandemic lockdown was the March 2020 Norwescon ConCom meeting, and I didn’t even think to get a selfie or other picture. Also the last time I had any non-medical physical contact with anyone other than Prairie — a couple “elbow bumps” with friends. My own pandemic Day Zero.

Since then, Prairie and I have been in near-total lockdown. For a while we tried going on walks on trails in the area, until it became clear that too many people refused to wear masks while out on trails and we stopped. We did careful grocery runs for a while, but since November (driven by the expected holiday infection spike) we’ve moved all of our grocery shopping to ordering from Amazon Fresh and Instacart. When we get food from local restaurants, we order through Door Dash or use businesses with drive-through windows. In the past year, we’ve had three socially distanced visits with family in Olympia (twice sitting in their driveway at least six feet away from each other, once meeting to walk the trails at Flaming Geyser State Park), and one equally distanced visit from a friend here at our place. When we need other goods, we order as much as possible from Amazon (or, if books, from Powell’s or Bookshop to support independent booksellers); on the few instances we’ve needed to source something locally, we’ve done everything we can to go during the safest times possible (early mornings during the week rather than weekends or evenings, etc.).

Meanwhile, infection and casualty numbers continued to rise, because too many people wouldn’t follow similar guidelines. We absolutely understand that in many ways we are privileged in how we can afford (both financially and personally) to move so much of our lives online and in that we can both work from home. But there are so many people that could have been doing more than they have been to get this situation under control.

And it is especially frustrating when we see so many people we know, acquaintances and friends alike, who are traveling, visiting family and friends, eating and drinking in bars and restaurants instead of getting take-out, and so on. We watch the cars go by the road outside our windows, for all we can tell at pre-pandemic levels, and wonder how many of them are actually doing necessary errands, and how many are just living life as if it was normal.

We’ve spent so much of this year sad, frustrated, angry, isolated, and all too often, despairing that this will ever actually improve. I try to tell myself that things are getting better, that vaccines are (all too slowly) becoming more widely available, and that we’ll be vaccinated eventually (though we’re not likely to be eligible before general availability) — but some days, it’s really, really difficult to keep that in mind.

Happy plagueiversary.

📚 12/2021: The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ #PKDickAward nominee 5/6

What started as fairly standard post-apocalyptic setting (small pseudo-medieval communities relying on poorly understood surviving tech) went in more interesting directions than I expected.

A few weeks ago, I spoke to a student reporter from UW about Norwescon, reading habits, and how my own reading habits have changed as I aged and as the pandemic hit. While the conversation was a lot longer than the one quote that made it in, at least I wasn’t cut completely, and got a mention of Norwescon in front of UW students — so mission accomplished, I say!

Escaping through the pages:

Science fiction, dystopia’s similar but more optimistic counterpart, is also seeing an increase in popularity during the pandemic, much to the excitement of seasoned fans everywhere. 

Every year, Seattle hosts the Pacific Northwest’s regional science fiction and fantasy convention Norwescon. Michael Hanscom, longtime convention attendee, volunteer, and secretary of this year’s virtual event, has been turning to the familiar, curiosity-driven world of “Star Trek” since the beginning of quarantine in order to cope with reality.

“This is not always quality sci-fi; this is absolutely escapism,” Hanscom said, gesturing to his bookshelves filled with “Star Trek” paraphernalia during our Zoom interview. “I think 80% of my reading last year was ‘Star Trek’ novels because I couldn’t concentrate on anything more weighty than that. With everything going on and being locked down at home, I needed that escapism. I needed to get away.”

📚 11/2011: Dance on Saturday by Elwin Cotman ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ #PKDickAward nominee 4/6

A really strong collection of short stories and one novella. I really enjoyed the way these slipped between the real and the fantastic, and between mundanity and surreal horror and humor.

📚 10/2021: Road Out of Winter by Alison Stine ⭐️⭐️⭐️ #PKDickAward nominee 3/6

Another apocalyptic trudge through wastelands (Appalachia during the long winter of an ecological collapse), finding other travelers, & trying to avoid predatory groups. Well written; not my thing.