Time levels all of us.
At 66, soon to be 67, I am fortunate to be in relatively good health. No prescription drugs needed. No mobility aids. Glasses suffice to keep me seeing.
A few years ago, I made the decision to stop driving if it was dark and raining. I realized that oncoming headlights on a wet windshield were bothering me a lot more than they used to. So, if rain is predicted and I’m the driver, I do my best to be home before sundown. Am I ever caught out in the dark and the rain? Well, this is Washington State. So the rain isn’t always predictable, but I do my best to be sensible about it.
When the arthritis in my hands began to be painful even before I’d done any work for the day, I knew I had to cut back on my typing. And with regrets, I’ve done that as well.
And now another unfortunate deadline has reached me.
In 2018, I traveled quite a bit. Much of it was overseas. I went to France (twice!) Portugal, Italy and Poland. Meeting readers at the conventions was very enjoyable as it always has been. But I noticed pain in one foot while walking. That turned out to be a fractured bone in my foot, which has now led to arthritis in my foot. And I noticed that it was markedly harder for me to get through an average signing session. My right hand was in full rebellion, and my left was sulking about holding books open.
As most writers do when invited to conventions, I was flown in economy class. Years ago, that would not have bothered me. But even when I specially requested and broke the flights on the east coast of the US so I could get out and stretch, my back and neck hurt when I arrived. All I wanted to do was get to a hotel, take a hot shower and sleep. But hotel schedules (Sorry, but your room won’t be available for 5 hours.) or convention needs (But these two interviewers can only see you today, and it’s important!) don’t always allow anyone to retreat like that.
I have sincerely tried not to be the grumpy writer at events. But it was hard!
So I’ve made a difficult decision. It is unlikely that I will attend any more conventions outside of the US.
And when I’m at a US convention, such as Emerald City Comic Con, I will ask you to understand if I say, “Today I’m doing signature only. No dedications.” My limiting my handwork to that familiar signature, I’ll be able to sign many more books than if I’m writing, “To Mary Sue, with best wishes, Robin Hobb”. And I’m afraid that I will not be shaking hands anymore. I know that a firm handshake is seen as good manners, but for me, that squeeze is painful. (If you noticed a chilly handshake from me, it might have been due to the icepack in my jacket pocket! I may adopt Tim Power’s habit of carrying chilled Coca-Cola cans in his pockets.)
So my 2019 travel schedule is very limited. In March, I will be at Emerald City Comic Con, in Seattle, to celebrate the launch of Unfettered III, the anthology from Grim Oak Press that has a Megan Lindholm story in it.
In August, I’m daring myself to commit to the Worldcon in Dublin, Ireland. One last long flight and a chance to say farewell to people I only see when I’m in the UK. Will I make it? That’s still undecided.
And in late October, I’ll be back at Jet City Comic Show in Tacoma. Because it’s so close to home and so much fun, I can’t resist it.
And yes, I know, there are many writers and actors and artists, much older than I am, who are still traveling and signing and partying until two in the morning. I still regard Stan Lee’s stamina toward the end of his life with utter awe.
I wish that were me. But it’s not. So I will stay home more, play on my farm more, watch grand kids grow up more, and see most of you only via a screen.
To all the many readers who I’ve met at conventions all over the world, thank you so much for coming to see me. It was wonderful to meet all of you!