In Lieu of Regularly Scheduled Programming

“Chalk it up to a Covid casualty,” I was told when the television option for The Alchemists’ Council was not renewed in 2021. I had already read (and adored) the pilot screenplay. Then, in that instant, my dream was vanquished, the manuscript of the screenplay presumably shelved among myriad others of its ilk, like a neglected alchemical manuscript housed in a distant corner of Council dimension’s North Library. Perhaps a curious Initiate will unearth it someday. Or perhaps an Azoth has alchemically rendered it shred.

In the realm of more agreeable 2021 book-related events, the most intriguing to me was the purchase of Macedonian language rights, as announced in August on Facebook by the Livia Stoia Literary Agency. Equally extraordinary, via my eons-before-Covid conference connections, I know a Californian professor of Russian (among other Slavic literatures and languages) who can read Macedonian. I await the day (even if distant at this point) that we can sit together while she reads aloud Book One’s translated opening lines.

This year’s book news also included two presentations. The first, a reading at University of Saskatchewan’s 2021 Vision Conference, focused on The Alchemical Tree and The Alchemical Hermaphrodite — the latter concept still attracting daily readers to its 2018 blog post. The second, a reading for Nanaimo’s own Wordstorm, comprised a few favourite passages from Books Two and Three. Both events, though immensely enjoyable, were virtual — as has been much of my life since March 2020.

Since the early days of Covid, the hours I would have otherwise spent writing fiction or blog entries have been absorbed in the task of creating online classes. The summer of 2021 passed in a haze of video-lesson production for my fall 2021 courses, including ENGL 394 (Television Narrative) on Black Mirror. Yes, that Black Mirror: I taught an online television studies course via Zoom featuring a series grounded in future tech and avatars. The students produced a farewell video on Bandersnatch as the final exam. Their efforts, and brilliant results, teemed with metanarrative — all of us, traversing our current existence in a world of screens and imposed choices.

Here I am today, December 29, 2021, isolated due not only to the century’s plague but the season’s snow, not having written a blog entry for a year, not having written fiction for two, not certain whether I’ll have time or vitality to begin my next novel in 2022. What then, can I do with these already-written books of mine in the meantime? You are welcome to read them (via whichever library or bookstore, online or otherwise, you frequent — Audible included). But what am I to do with my words, currently resting, bound in three volumes, on an office shelf amidst other scribal endeavours of my past?

For now, in lieu of writing, I’ve opted to read. In the early mornings, with coffee, I have been reading a novel gifted to me during the 2021 holidays: Lauren Groff’s Matrix. I marvel at the brilliance of Groff’s prose and her ability to draw me into a haunting and intricately woven world. As to reading my own books, I will begin at the beginning, reading the words aloud to myself. If you want to listen in, here is the first installment — one take, no edits, my voice and myself as I am today, stumbling towards 2022.

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