A Tale of Two Cities (or, I Think I’ll Wait Another Year)


The first city is Montreal, to which I’ll be returning next week: Concordia once more, this time to deliver a lecture entitled “The Best-Case Apocalypse: Why Reality Is Worse Than Fiction.” (I was going to call it “My Dinner With Daniel”, but I figured the reference might be too obscure.) It’s part of a longer program for summer students, but the events of August 10th— collectively billed as a “Workshop on Speculative Fictions and Methods”— is open to the public:


 Sarah Sharma, University of Toronto  “No Exit”
Ezekiel Dixon Roman, University of Pennsylvania, “Rethinking Quantification Toward the AutoPoietic Turn/Overturn”
Me, using a fair bit of casual profanity.


I’ll be recycling the pareidolia-origin-of-religion bit from my 2014 Privacy talk, but most of the other stuff is new. Drop by if you happen to be in the neighborhood.  The neighborhood is here.


“I’ll bring the smokes, you bring the beer,
I think I’ll wait another year.”
—Amanda Palmer


The second City is Lviv, in Ukraine, and holy shit did that implode suddenly.

Or rather, it imploded over time, and I just found out about it suddenly.

I mentioned back in April that I’d be attending the Lviv International Literary Festival this Fall, in commemoration of the Ukrainian publication  of Blindsight. Things seemed to be going along tickety-boo. I was corresponding with the translators— who seemed like really nice people— and helping them out with the fiddly bits. I was in intermittent touch with Sofia Cheliak, a program director at the festival. Just a few weeks back the translators passed on a message from the publisher, asking what airport I wanted to fly out of.

Except apparently they didn’t. Or rather, the publisher never sent that message. The translators  just— made it up or something.  In fact, the whole thing had been called off sometime before July 10, and no one had told me. First I heard of it was when Sofia showed up on Facebook and asked if I could maybe apply for a Canada Council grant to cover the trip. (I could not; I wouldn’t have found out whether said grant had been approved until a couple of months after the festival. Not a chance I was willing to take.)

Turns out the translators, well, never finished the translation. And then never told me that the trip had been canceled (which apparently they’d been told to do, although since they’d also apparently stopped responding to contact from the publisher, I’m not entirely certain how that instruction was delivered and/or confirmed.)  Apparently Sofia herself didn’t know what was going on until she stumbled onto Oleksy’s (my Ukrainian publisher’s) Facebook announcement.

I poked the translators myself from this end, got a fractured reply to the effect of we’re-sure-we-told-you-before-but-here-it-is-again. Family troubles. Blindsight untranslated. SNAFU.

To Sofia’s and Oleksy’s enormous credit, they’re willing to have me over this fall anyway (last I heard, Sofia was actually approaching the Canadian embassy in hope of some kind of financial support). Given that there won’t be any book in evidence, though, there’s not much I could do there except drink and look cute. At my age, I can only do one of those things with any proficiency, and I bet the average Ukrainian could beat me even at that.

Next year, though, I’m assured that Blindsight will be ready. And I’m also assured that the offer to be a festival guest stands. So I think we’re just gonna move the date on that sidebar forward by a year, and steady as she goes.

It’s been a shitshow, but it looks like we were all blindsided— me, the festival, the publisher. Sofia and Oleksy are to be commended for offering to make it work anyway— nay, even encouraging me to come this year, and promising me a great time even in the absence of anything to pimp. But clearly it would be better for everyone if we put this off.

I don’t know if any Lvivians are reading the ‘crawl right now; if so, know that I am truly bummed about this. But know also that I am still really looking forward to getting over there— and if it takes another year, it’ll just be that much sweeter when I arrive.

This entry was posted on Thursday, August 3rd, 2017 at 1:03 pm and is filed under On the Road, public interface, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

11 Responses to “A Tale of Two Cities (or, I Think I’ll Wait Another Year)”

  1. Johan Larson

    Will a recording or transcript of your Montreal talk be available? The title is hard to resist but Montreal is far away and I love complaining.

  2. Isaac Ross

    That’s a bastard of a situation with the translation.

    Johan Larson,
    I’m gonna echo Larson’s complaining from Australia too. That workshop sounds like a dream.

  3. ToadBird

    Not only Lviv, the whole of Ukraine is waiting for you!)

  4. Matt Borisenko

    Aw for fucks sake!

    That’s the style of management in Ukraine. As a Ukrainian I struggle with it every day. European country, my ass.

    I really want to read Blindisght in Ukrainian! To date I enjoyed it in English and hated it in Russian.
    Not to say anything bad about Russian language in general, but Ukrainian translations of movies and books usually do have more quality.

  5. Leszek Ciesielski

    Considering I was looking for a pretext to go sightseeing in Ukraine, your visit in Lviv is ideal 😉 And if there’s no English content at the Book Festival? Oh well, most conventions are best remembered based on meeting other fans, not by scripted events.

  6. Yaroslav

    Hello! Be sure – Ukrainian fans of Blindsight wait for your arrival (as well as Ukrainian publication of your book) impatiently! Hope to see you in 2018 at Lviv 🙂

  7. Max Tiseyko

    Ukrainian here. Don’t feel bad, these situations happen. We would be pleased to see you here anyways, but now I feel even more obligated to buy ukrainian Blindsight (despite already owning a copy in russian)! See you in a year!

  8. Andriy Kolodiy

    Ukraine is calling! Keep calm and arrive to Lviv.

  9. Michael Carradice

    Thanks for the hint at a great song (and artist). It truly matches the post. So, yes, next year be ready for even more European love.

    @Matt, not everything is bad. Countries where organization tends to be not the best beget people who can improvise and perform greatly under stress. See it as an advantage. If such a chaos survivor steps in, let us say, Germany or Norway, they may become like Sikh taxi drivers while everybody else dozes off at their steering wheels. Think Fremen or Sardaukar. Then, you can learn the rules or order, but they are easier to learn than those of chaos.

    The difficult thing is making a whole country learn the rules of order at once, but it eventually happens.

    Enjoy a little bit of chaos while it lasts. Your grandsons might live much more boring lives 😉

    Save for climate change. And maybe vampìres.

  10. Anonymous

    Matt Borisenko: I really want to read Blindisght in Ukrainian! To date I enjoyed it in English and hated it in Russian.
    Not to say anything bad about Russian language in general, but Ukrainian translations of movies and books usually do have more quality.

    Seems we have big ukrainian patriot here. Хе-хе:)

  11. Denis

    Hi Mr.Watts,
    I saw this post just now (slowpoke style). Cannot describe my feeling taking into account, that I have a mark to visit Lviv and meet you in my calendar since May. Shitty translators, shitty publisher.