Back in the early 1980s, when I was a new writer and my generational peers (Pat Cadigan, Bill Gibson, Bruce Sterling, etc., etc.) were blasting holes in science fiction as it was then and building up strange new structures to the empty spaces, I got an invitation from a science fiction club in Dublin to speak there. They couldn't afford to fly me in from America, they said, but if I was ever in Europe they could cover my travel expenses.
As luck would have it, not long after, Marianne and I decided to go to Ireland, rent a car, and see as much as two human beings possibly could in two weeks. So I wrote back to say I'd be in Dublin on such and so specific dates and would be happy to talk to and with the club at no expense to them.
In the months leading up to the trip, I wrote a few more letters, with the same lack of response. The last one gave the telephone number of our landlady on Clontarf Road and said they could leave a message for me with her.
Standing on the quad of Trinity University, Marianne asked, a little mournfully, "Why can't you get the cool speaking invitations that others writers do?" I could only shrug.
Two weeks later, we were home again. Two days after that, I received another message from the same science fiction club. Their secretary had quit, taking with him or her all their correspondence, it said. But if I was ever in Europe, they'd love to have me come for a talk.
I was put in mind of this story because recently I received an invitation to a part of the world I love and had to turn it down . . . because I'll be in China at the scheduled time.
I'm sure your heart bleeds for me.
Above: My thanks to Shamil Idiatullin for alerting me to the cover of the Russian edition of The Iron Dragon's Daughter and The Dragons of Babel. It looks great, doesn't it? The artist is Sergey Shikin.