Warning: spoiler alert if you haven’t already read A Time and a Place and plan to…
This past Thursday I had the honour of attending the Harbord House Science Fiction Book Club as their guest author. They’d selected my debut novel A Time and a Place as their book selection of the month. Or more precisely, member Dana Silnicki had selected it.
It’s my understanding that at about forty members the Harbord House SF Book Club is one of (if not the) largest SF book clubs in the nation. I’m still flabbergasted that they chose my book; doubly so that they asked me to attend so that they could discuss the book with me.
This was the second time I’d been invited to discuss A Time and a Place at a book club. The first time was quite a pleasant experience so I was quite looking forward to this one. I felt like I’d made a bit of a mistake at the first book club, though. I’d been so excited to talk about my book, and there had been so many questions, that once primed I had difficulty NOT talking about it. Afterward I felt like I’d talked too much. I definitely didn’t want to make the same mistake this time.
My friend Fergus and his partner Donna happen to be members of the club. They graciously allowed me to crash at their place that night, so we attended together. As we stood talking in the early moments, Fergus happened to mention that he belonged to another book club. I forget what he called it exactly, but it was something like “The Horribly Awful” or “Embarrassingly Bad” science fiction book club. Briefly, I wondered if perhaps I’d misunderstood and had actually been invited to that one. Fergus assured me that wasn’t the case.
We sat upstairs at Harbord House, a lovely environment in which to drink, dine, and discuss books (the club advertises itself as “a drinking club with a book problem”). Dana introduced my book and me and invited me to say a few words. Because she had stood while talking, I did as well and thanked everyone for the invitation and murmured some other inanities. The group started asking questions. Protocol was such that you were only allowed to speak if you held the ceremonial conch shell. Someone passed it to me and I did my best to answer the questions. Unsure whether to remain standing or sit down, I remained standing for the first couple of answers until someone kindly suggested that I could sit down if I wanted to. Sheepishly, I sat down, wondering if anyone was starting to clue in that I may resemble in more ways than one the slightly bewildered protagonist of A Time and a Place.
Speaking of which, much initial discussion centred around the now familiar question of Wildebear’s like-ability (or lack thereof). Some in the group seemed to like his down-to-earth nature while others just wanted to give him a smack. I confessed that I did not know that I had written an anti-hero, someone potentially unlikable. I was just trying to make him real. I listened as Fergus described Wildebear as “bewildered” and saw the light go on in his eyes as he made the connection between the name Barnabus Wildebear and the word bewildered. I had to confess (for the second time) that it was not deliberate (the group advised me to take credit anyway, but I cannot tell a lie). I suppose it’s possible that my subconscious had something to do with it… yeah, let’s go with that. 🙂
The question of the immutability of time came up. That is, the notion that in the universe of the book you cannot change the past. Twice now it’s been suggested to me (online and in person) that in A Time and a Place I create a universe in which neither Wildebear nor anyone else can change the past only to negate that concept later in the book. I tell you now that is not the case. I think the misunderstanding may arise from the number of times Wildebear visits the past. But each time he does so he changes nothing. He is incapable of changing anything because the past (in the book, at least) is immutable. I humbly suggest that if the reader thinks otherwise, they are misunderstanding the events in the book (I fully accept responsibility for perhaps not making this sufficiently clear in the book itself).
That being said, it was clear to me that the book club members had not only read the book but read it carefully. What a treat for any author, particularly one just starting out, like me. It makes all the effort of having written the novel so worthwhile. If only I could go back in time and tell the version of myself that was writing A Time and a Place that one day I would enjoy a night surrounded by people who had read my book and were there for the express purpose of discussing it. I suspect I would make that version of myself tear up.
Heartfelt thanks to Dana for selecting my book, and for the members of the Harbord House Science Fiction Book Club for their warm welcome and friendly camaraderie.