by Chrissie Sanderson
Dr Gwyneth Evans is disarmingly charming as she greets me. I’m a bit breathless from the ferry trip over to Bainbridge Island, and the following drive took me down lots of winding roads. When I finally get to her cottage, she’s sitting on the front doorstep, vaping and reading a book.
She chose the cottage near Agate Point, she says, “because it reminded me of my granny’s house in Aberydyfi (that’s pronounced ‘aber-dovey’ and means, ‘mouth of the river dovey’ according to Dr Evans) from when I was small.”
Once we’re inside, she invites me to have a look around. My photographer is having a field day with all the first editions of classic science fiction and fantasy that grace the bookshelves, but I’m more interested in where it all came from.
She explains that the books were shipped over from the UK when she started her visiting professorship at the University of Washington three years ago. “Everything else I found at antique shops, well, except the artwork on the walls: that’s my hobby when I have free time.”
“So you’re a painter as well?” I examine the large framed work on the bare wall to my left.
“Not really. Some are altered photographs from an online game,” she admits. “I spend time playing dress-up online and making pictures.” She shrugs. “A couple of them are photographs that I digitised years ago, mostly from the time I spent playing LARPs when I was a kid.” She laughs. “Of course, at my age, everybody feels like a kid. I turned 60 this year; can you believe that? I can hardly believe it.”
“So a milestone year for you,” I say as I take a look at her cluttered desks. “What time will you be checking in to the Hyatt?”
She checks her watch. “Probably around four, I think; I need to get some rest time in before opening ceremonies.”
“How does it feel to be a Guest of Honor at a Worldcon?”
“It’s exciting. I’ve been attending Worldcons since….” she pauses to think. “I guess my first one was Glasgow in 2005? I would have been, what, nineteen?”
“Wow, every single Worldcon since 2005? That’s 41 years of World Science Fiction Conventions. You must have seen a lot of stuff.”
“Well, I missed a couple,” she admits. “I was in a terrible car accident when I was 21 and I lost a leg. Took a lot of work to get back in to the swing of my studies and my teaching after that. I was in a wheelchair for 15 years before they developed the technology to rebuild limbs. Now most people say they can’t even tell.” She lifts her skirt to show me the implant marks on her right knee. “Looks like a zipper, right?”
I laugh. “How many Hugos have you won?”
“Six,” she says without missing a beat.
By this time, we’re comfortably ensconced on her couch. “And you’re teaching creative writing and the history of science fiction and fantasy?”
“That’s right. When you’re as old as I am, you get to teach the good classes.”
“Which Hugo are you most proud of?”
“Well– it’s not really a Hugo, but I’m most proud of the Campbell Award.”
“That’s your latest one?”
She smiles. “Last year. After all these years writing criticism, I finally got a novel in my head, and I’m so proud that it was well-received.”
“I loved it,” I admit. “The Prince of Jasper Cove kept me on the edge of my seat, and I can’t wait to read the next instalment.”
She gestures back to one of the desks in the back of the living room. “It’s on its way, I promise. Teaching keeps me so busy, particularly with a new lot of excited creative writing MA candidates every term.”
We move to the bookshelves, where she proudly shows me some first editions she’s collected. “I come across these in all sorts of weird places,” she says. “Even though it’s getting harder and harder to find paper books these days.”
“You released The Prince of Jasper Cove as a paper book, didn’t you?” I say as I run my hand reverently across the covers of books I’ve loved for years. “How did it sell?”
“We sold out!” she says with some excitement. “Of course, the print run was only like, 500, but collectors snapped them up.”
“Tell me about this photograph,” I say, gesturing to the one on the back wall next to the drafting table.
She smiles, and a wistful look crosses her face. “That’s my LARP group, from back in the 2010s. That was the year I got to play the Faerie Queen. It was so much fun. I was crazy in love with that guy I’m standing next to, John. We were quite an item once.” Her eyes crinkle up when she smiles. “And that’s my best friend there, sitting on the log. She played a satyr. We’re still good friends today.”
“What about John?” I asked.
“He died,” she responds. “In the car accident. Along with everybody else in that photograph, except Chrissie.”
“Same name as me,” I say. “And I’m sorry.”
“It was a long time ago,” she says, quietly. “I like to imagine they’re all living somewhere, in some alternate universe, lives they love and want to live. I was lucky, so lucky, to live through that.”
“We’re lucky you did, too,” I reply.
Once again, Dr Evans looks a bit wistful. “It’s thinking of them, imagining what alternate lives they might have had, that inspired The Prince of Jasper Cove, and all the rest of the books I’ll write about that group of characters. So in a way, they’re all still alive.”
Her phone rings; it’s her World Con liaison, saying he’s about 5 minutes away by car. “Well then, that’s all the time we have,” Dr Evans says briskly. “I need to stuff a suitcase and pack my laptop. Marisol will be cross with me; I said I’d be ready in plenty of time.
“See you at the World Con!” I say.
“See you at the World Con!” she responds.
And that’s what it’s like to spend an hour with Dr Gwyneth Evans. I’ve attached her World Con schedule to the bottom of this article, so you know how to find her this weekend at the 104th World Science Fiction Convention in downtown Seattle.
by Chrissie Sanderson, for The Stranger, Seattle’s oldest online arts newspaper!
Body, Hands, Feet: SLink Physique
Skin: LAQ, Gun, tone 1, with Maitreya and SLink appliers* (new at the LAQ Main Store!)
Hair: Truth, Ami
Eyes: Poetic Colors, Summer Sky Eyes, Pool Blue
Clothes: Valentina E, Rebecca Lace Top and Maxi Skirt
Shoes: Ingenue, Pandora Sandals
Glasses: EarthStones, The Countess (Available at the Cool and Vintage Fair!)
Jewellery: EarthStones, Belly Crystal, Katya Bangles, Krishna Harmony Ball, Krishna Pendant, Tumbled Stones Earrings
* I have rarely been so excited about a new line of skins before, but Mallory Cowen of LAQ has created Gun, an aged skin, on the heels of an ageing tattoo that actually works and looks good and comes in various intensities! Well done, Mallory— this skin inspired a story of an alternate Gwyneth and an alternate world for her altogether. Thank you for making such cool stuff!
Spiffy photos taken with the indispensible aid of my LumiPro. I never leave home without it!