I had a good, if occasionally surreal, con–but then isn’t that the way they always work?
I normally commute back and forth to CONvergence (it’s only an hour away) but I’m co-literary-GOH with Pat Rothfuss next year, and Laura and I thought we should go for a more immersive experience in preparation. We stayed at the Sofitel, which is the hotel next door to the con and a lovely hotel in the European mode. Next year we’ll be in the con hotel, but I suspect that we’ll go back to the Sofitel the year after (unless we’re in Scotland for the summer, keep your fingers crossed on that one).
We spent most of Friday hanging out with archivist extraordinaire Lynne Thomas and her charming husband Michael who is another of the writer clan. Lynne and I were on two panels together that evening and we all had a lovely dinner between the two with Lars Pearson and Christa Dickson of Mad Norwegian Press. As an aside, Lynne archives my papers at NIU along with those of Jack McDevitt, E. E. Knight, Sarah Monette, Elizabeth Bear, Kage Baker, Caroline Stevermer, and Tobias Buckell, among others. She is on a mission to save the archives of as many f&sf authors as humanly possible, a mission I very much support.
The first of those panels was Care and Feeding of Your Home Library (Paula Fleming, Jenni Klumpp, Kelly McCullough, Juanita Nesbitt, Lynne Thomas) which was a great deal of fun, and at which I learned several new things about the storing of books. New to me was the idea of transporting and storing boxed books spine down so that the pages are pressed into the glue for however long they’re stored. More familiar was the discussion of avoiding big temperature swings, extreme temperatures, too much moisture, etc. I talked up Delicious Library as a wonderful cataloging tool, and Jenni had good things to say about Librarything.com. Lynne tried to convince us all that it was okay to throw away books in bad condition. She’s right, but I don’t think she had much success on that front.
After the panel a bunch of the audience headed for the front of the room–which I am quite used to–and a bunch of them were carrying my books–which I am not so used to. It was my first ever fan swarm and very cool if somewhat disconcerting.
Followed by the Dr. Who season 4 panel (Michael Lee, Steven Manfred, Kelly McCullough, Lynne Thomas, Michael Zecca). I did not say much but had a good time. The original panel description suggested that there would be more discussion of seasons 1-3 then we ended up with, and since I live beyond the edges of cable land and don’t bit torrent I was not as up to date as I really needed to be. Also, I am discovering that I am not great on fan panels. I am a fan, a third generation fan, no less, but I don’t keep the necessary information at my fingertips in the same way that my fellow panelists seem to. The sole exception being LOTR stuff which is written into my bones.
Afterward we went on for general hanging out and social with a variety of folks.
Started off the day by hopping in the car and driving around till we found a nice little hole-in-the-wall kind of cafe where we had a lovely breakfast. I should say that Laura drove, as it was morning and Laura prefers not to have me operate any kind of heavy machinery much before 10:00 since I wake up very slowly. I had a big old omelet–I find that when I am at conventions I crave mass quantities of protein in a way that I do not in normal life. When we got back we noodled around for a bit and then I went off to do a panel while Laura cross-stitched in the atrium.
The panel was Writing Business: Cover letters, manuscripts, and rejections (Roy C. Booth, Kelly McCullough, Michael Merriam, Adam Stemple, Anna Waltz) and it was held at Krushenko’s, the literary venue that Eric Heideman (editor of TOTU, SMOF, and all around good guy, has been running for years). The panel had a good mix of folks Anna and Michael are much more up to date on the short markets these days then I am. Roy has published a jillion plays and does comic and movie work, though he can only talk about the latter in a general way because of NDAs. Adam, in addition to being an actively publishing novelist, is Jane Yolen’s son and probably has absorbed more publishing knowledge through simple osmosis than most of us do in actively working in the business.
It was a great deal of fun as it was a good articulate crew with a sense of humor and we had a large audience to keep feeding us questions. I’ve been in writers groups with Anna and have known and been friends with her for about ten years. Michael and I have been on quite a few panels together as well as sharing a reading time a few years back and I enjoy his company. I’ve likewise done quite a few panels with Roy though I don’t know him as well. I’d never met Adam before, which is surprising because we both lived in the same city for years and for a lot of that moved in circles with a good deal of overlap–Ren Faires for me and Irish Music for Adam. I hope I get a chance to talk with him more at some later date.
After the panel I found Laura and we were going to wander around looking for something to do but got preempted by bumping into our old and very dear friend Tesla (yes that’s her real name) who we hadn’t managed to actually get together with for about six years–there are definite disadvantages to living out on the edge of nowhere. We hung out with Tesla for several hours, accumulating and spinning off other folks at a pretty steady clip, some mutual friends, some that knew us or Tesla but not the other. One of those latter made for a great introduction moment. An obvious con-runner (con-com perhaps?) showed up, gave Tesla a big hug and joined the conversation as so often happens in these situations. After a bit, Tesla pauses and says, “I don’t know if you’ve all been introduced. Ishmael, this is Laura McCullough and her husband Kelly.” At which point both Ishamael and I did giant double takes. He because I’m one of next year’s GOHs for CONvergence. I because Ishmael is one of those people I’ve been hearing about for years from multiple sources but had never actually met (he’s another TC area SMOF). Handshakes and grins were exchanged and then we all got back to a lovely chat.
At some point Tesla had to go do music things and Laura and I needed food. That happened and Laura and I eventually ended up back at the atrium where we worked on a puzzle and hung out a series of folks including writer/editor Catherine Lundoff, a friend of many years standing, and poet/editor Rebecca Marjesdatter. If you’re getting the impression that a lot of hanging out in halls and corners was happening you’re perfectly right. Laura and I found out years ago that not only do we have more fun that way at conventions of both the sf and physics variety, but we both get more work done at hallway meeting than almost anywhere else.
Somewhere in there we also wandered back to our car to pick up an old manuscript of mine and a folder full of readings and talks, all of which we then delivered to my archivist Lynne Thomas–have I mentioned that I love how my writing clutter turns into her buried treasure? One moment it’s a mess, the next: “Presto-chango,” and it’s potentially valuable historical documents. I love my job.
More hanging out and then I went off to my next panel: Urban Fantasy (Kenneth Hite, Kelly McCullough, Michael Merriam, Juanita Nesbitt, Adam Stemple, Jody Wurl) This one was 11:00-11:59 p.m. and way past my bedtime, but too much fun to give up. This was another good group. Jody and I have been friends for something like 25 years and Kenneth Hite was one of this year’s thundering herd of GOHs and both fun and funny. Juanita I’d met at my library panel the previous day and she’s very sweet. A good time was had by all and my books got a great unsolicited plug from an audience member who had all three to be signed for a friend. Best of all, neither of the standard Urban Fantasy flame wars got started. One of those is the one that tries to draw an arbitrary line between the urban fantasy that gets marketed as fantasy and the urban fantasy that gets marketed as paranormal romance. The other is the one that pretends urban fantasy hasn’t exploded as a genre by ignoring everything published in the field in the last ten years. So, yay panel!
We even all agreed that the current round (last twenty years or so) was kicked off in 1987, the year which saw the publishing of Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks and Eleanor Arnason’s Daughter of the Bear King–both fantasies set in the Twin Cities. I wanted to put Tim Powers’ Last Call closer to that time then it was. I was thinking only a year or two behind in ’88 or ’89 but Kenneth Hite didn’t think so and he was right. Last Call was ’92.
After the panel and the inevitable post-panel chat, Laura and I went face down for the night. I should also mention that I picked up a copy of Michael Merriam’s self-published short story collection at that point and that if you get the opportunity you should too. They’re all stories that have been previously published in various professional venues. Michael got tired of answering the question “Where can I find your stories?” with a laundry list of publications that might or might not be currently available–the eternal problem of short fiction. I’m quite looking forward to reading it as I really enjoy Michael’s work.
Sunday was a much briefer day for us. Checked out. Had Breakfast. Did a reading (good attendance). Said some goodbyes. Headed for home.