Readercon XXV

Sorry with the Roman numerals. Still have Chicago XXXVI on the brain. (Shut up!)

So Readercon 25 happened!  And for once, I’m not going to wait months to blog about it.  Just gonna dump it all out of my head in one burst.  (It’s actually part of a bigger plan to not overthink my blog posts so I put out more of them.)

Anywho….

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Last year, I complained about the hotel renovations and how they hampered people from just running into each other and chatting.  But I didn’t realize how much I missed that until this year when I really got it all back!  And so my con was filled with old friends, people I met again for the first time (yes, you read that right), and new people I’d never met before!
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I liked the lobby/restaurant renovation with the expanded seating that ensured I never had to wait to get a table for breakfast.  The jacked-up prices of the appetizer menu?  Not so much.  I could almost live with what they charged for calamari, but the $12 cheeseburger was not a $12 cheeseburger.  Plus, how does any bar in the Boston area stop serving Smithwick’s?  I’ll say this for the service, though: my experience is that it wasn’t one scintilla worse than previous years.

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The program highlight for me was the workshop “From Page to Stage: Adapting Your Work for an Audience” by C.S.E. Cooney, Amal El-Mohtar, and Caitlyn Paxson. As wonderful as Readercon programming has been over the five years I’ve attended, there are a select few things that have stuck with me–this is the newest.  After some exercises, we were invited to read a paragraph or so of something we brought.  I brought the story I’d already recorded for Lakeside Circus, “Life After Wartime”.  I wish I’d waited until after this workshop.  I surprised myself with how differently I read! It’s been suggested that I record it again, but I don’t want to be one of those people who goes back and retcons their own work. You know the type.

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But the con highlight for me was getting a few minutes alone at a table with Mary Rickert and Ellen Datlow, who gave me advice as to the shelf life of mentioning my old McSweeney’s Internet Tendency piece. (Apparently, the answer is forever… and that I should lead with it!). Close second: Dancing in a circle of the best and brightest in today’s award-winning fantasy and sci-fi literature as a bad DJ spun ’80s tunes (from the ’90s).

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The lack of physical space of my home, not to mention my reading backlog, forces me to make choices about what books I get at cons. This year’s purchases/gifts/swag…
So who’s gonna be at WFC next year?  At Readercon next year?  At WFC 2015 (which is going to be near-ish to me)?

@SF Signal’s Mind Meld

…I answer a question of mythic proportions!
I could’ve gone a lot of places with my answer, starting with my extensive knowledge of Norse mythology in third grade, starting with Marvel Comics’ The Mighty Thor, through my extensive cross-referencing with The Encyclopedia Brittanica and poring through the footnotes of every mythology book I could get from my grade-school library.  But, that would’ve just been geeking out instead of answering the question.  And when the big kids at SF Signal offer you a seat at their table and ask you a question, you best answer it!

“And as you stay for the play Fantasy has in store for you, glowing light will see you through…”

My brain has finally recharged after my first World Fantasy Convention evar! I met so many people, renewed some old acquaintances, and once again was shown just how much Barcon and Con-Suite-Hallway-Con and people’s individual readings are slowly starting to matter more to me than panel programming. Unless I’m on a panel, of course, which I was!

Here’s what else I learned…

  1. You can’t carry enough business cards at WFC.
  2. Like an air traffic controller from a ’70s disaster movie, I just failed to realize just how much James L. Sutter was on my radar until I met him face to face.
  3. I’ve heard of shitty hotel con bars before, but the bar this year was just, overall, the worst bar ever.
  4. When kids nowadays say, “This is this shit!” they’re talking about Michael J. DeLuca’s chocolate pepper stout home brew.
  5. Speaking of DeLuca, a 7″ tablet full of panel notes is simply no match for his MacBook Pro’s worth of notes.
  6. Speaking of panels, I found that I felt less like a redshirt on the Bibliofantasies panel and more like Chekhov in his first few episodes of ST:TOS.
  7. If there really is such a thing as an “Asian YA Mafia,” I SO want in. Just tell me who I have to whack. Hell, I’ll even start writing YA (maybe).
  8. I really need to write and submit something to Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
  9. After 2 or 3 cons, I finally learned that, yes, I could have a brief conversation with Ted Chiang without my face melting off like I’d just poked the Arc of the Covenant.
  10. If I’m at a con where Cheeky Frawg has a party, I’m so there!
  11. ChiZine throws a mean party, too!
  12. Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders from io9 are every bit as cool as I’d imagined!
  13. The most innovative drunken-snacking invention ever–taco fixings in a Dorito bag! Thanks, Ad Astra!
  14. It’s odd how I could not see someone from my town the whole con, yet it seemed every time I turned around, there was Peter Straub. Kinda like how I barely saw my Dragon*Con roomies two years ago, yet Sylvester McCoy was just everywhere!
  15. Next time, how about saying something when a legendary 40-year veteran of SF/F editing comes into your party room and NOT just sit on the couch, slack-jawed as he walks in, heads for the swag, grabs a book, and walks out?  Gotta say, though, the Dagan Books meetup was still a blast!
  16. “And now it’s time for a breakdown,” as the song goes: Carrie, Wes, Mike, Scott, James, Simon, Eugene, Carol, Michele, AmyTina, Helen (and her sister), and the 4 or 5 others (at least) I know I’m forgetting (Sorry!!), you made my con!

“Keep on talking all you want. Well you don’t waste a minute of time…”

Next weekend, I’ll be at the 2012 World Fantasy Convention in Toronto.  Won’t get there until late Thursday, though.  If you aren’t able to find me at the bar, or with the Dagan Books crew, you’ll be able to catch me at Vaughn East at 3:00 pm Friday at my first panel ever…

You’re probably thinking, “There goes the neighborh…” “How did a yahoo like you get on a WFC panel?”  Probably because of the book I co-edited, Bibliotheca Fantastica.

So yes, I am ostensibly relevant to the panel’s interests.  But still, I look at that lineup of my fellow panelists, and all I can think of is…

I switched the lyric from Steve Winwood’s “Freedom Overspill” that I was going to use as the title of this post.  It was originally a line from the bridge…

You got no right going around
Talking ’bout the things that you do

But screw all that because, hey, ZOMGI’mgonnabeonaPANELatWFC!!!ZOMG!!!  So, here I am–rather, there I’ll be–hopefully caffeinated, fighting off my imposter syndrome, and talking about books!

A One-Sentence Story

I woke up yesterday morning and found myself @-bombed on Twitter as I slept.  Once I had my coffee and figured out what it was all about, I saw that I was dared to come up with a one-sentence story (the longer, the better) before Wednesday.  I was going to wait until Tuesday night since I’m not the biggest taker of writing-challenges.  But then the idea struck, so I figured why not take my brain-dump now. ๐Ÿ™‚

Thing was, I jumped the gun a little too fast and wrote a story that was just, IMO, too much the same as someone else’s.  Kinda really ticked myself off actually, but in the end, I did (despite how often I told myself not to) the only thing I could do.

So, Anatoly, Alex, Ken, Jake, Carrie, Damien, Tom, Amanda, and whoever else I might have forgotten — you have no one to blame for this but yourselves… ๐Ÿ™‚

Mr. Fix-It
(With apologies to Mr. Carver)

After my wife (now my ex) and I took the Wisdom of Solomon to its logical conclusion, having fought hand to hand over custody of our child and managed to walk away with an arm, a leg, and half a torso each, I ran out the door over the smashed-up furniture of our broken home, which allowed us both to move on to new and separate lives with new spouses followed by new, relatively whole children, and it all pretty much went more or less as well as could be expected until our halves of our child decided they wanted to be knitted back together, which pretty much ended up being more or less as arduous a task as expected to the extent that the ex and I were forced to interact, what with all the parent/teacher conferences, therapists’ offices, and dates in family court which, I swear, the ex reveled in, not out of spite for me necessarily, but because having taken the first step to make all these things happen, she gave herself the enviable position of being the martyr on the cross up on the moral high ground at the tip top of her own personal Golgotha, which let her be the conduit for our child’s healing and allowed her in her mind to say to me during today’s latest go ’round in the family therapist’s office, “Here you are, dragging your feet,” harping, as always, that my problem was that I’m “too wrapped up in your own stuff to be fully present,” and “didn’t you learn anything from what happened to get us — and him — into all this trouble in the first place?” but what she doesn’t know is that I did, and that I came prepared with all the tubes of Krazy Glue my cargo pants pockets could hold, and if I could somehow distract her and time it just right (unlike all those years ago), I can grab both halves of the kid, do what I have to, and finally fucking be done with it all.

(350 words)

@Inkpunks

From a cool t-shirt.

Galen, from the Inkpunks crew, invited me to do a guest post for them.  I did a little Sally Fields “You like me! You really like me!!” dance in my head.  Little did she know how hard I was banging said head into my desk trying to come up with a worthy post, before she mentioned, “Oh yeah, a bunch of folks are doing posts about workshops.”  The big ones.  The ones all of us genre writers want to go to–Clarion, Odyssey, Viable Paradise, Uncle Orson’s, &c. The ones that a lot of us can’t take six weeks away from life to attend.

At least, not directly…

Check out “Autodidactic Asphyxiation” at the Inkpunks blog.

Rod Serling Conference 2011

Sorry for the unimaginative title, but it was taking me too long to come up with something other than “Submitted For Your Approval.”  Tell me that’s not the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name Rod Serling.  But aside from being lame, my presentation at the 2011 Rod Serling Conference last month** wasn’t about The Twilight Zone, but about Rod Serling’s Night Gallery.  Specifically, H.P. Lovecraft Adapted for Rod Serling’s Night Gallery.

I pulled the presentation off, despite massive tech fail (thanks to help from the conference’s tech crew), but here’s the play by play of the shindig…

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I feel I could’ve done better.  More rehearsal, certainly, but maybe not having fully recovered from a 4-day party + a 13 hour trip that should’ve taken 4 hours might’ve had something to do with my performance.

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So I’m going to do a quick run-through of my plans and back-up plans, which totally and utterly failed:

Plan A – Run the OpenOffice Presentation on Ubuntu from my netbook.  First of all, I don’t know what possessed me to deviate from my original plan of using my laptop.  I plugged the netbook into the room’s AV system, and it utterly failed, probably because of the video drivers.  The tech crew figured that Ubuntu just wouldn’t have the necessary drivers.

Plan B – Run the OpenOffice Presentation on WinXP from my netbook.  Yeah, I thought I was covered.  Wrong.  The tech crew figured it was the netbook’s processor which just wasn’t powerful enough.

Plan C – Borrow a computer on which to run my OpenOffice presentation.  Previous experiences with the Conference showed me that they did possess computers with OpenOffice on them, as well as the VLC video player.  And the conference tech crew indeed had a computer at the ready and they could’ve sworn OpenOffice was loaded onto it.  It wasn’t.

Plan D – I wasn’t entirely flustered at this point, because I had my portableapps USB drive with dated versions of OpenOffice and VLC on it.  But I guess their WinXP computer wasn’t that fast.  Now, I’m flustered because at this point, I’m out of backup plans.

Luckily, I was able to work Plan E which was to use the tech manager’s Mac, install OpenOffice onto it, and run my presentation and videos from there.  Not ideal since the iPod Touch is the only Mac product I knew my way around.  But, it worked.

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The keynote speaker, producer and screenwriter Bill D’Elia (Boston Legal, Ally McBeal, Judging Amy, &c.) didn’t give as flamboyant a speech as George Clayton Johnson’s from the last conference.  But it was no less fascinating.  He was a student of Serling’s at Ithaca College (that’s him in the picture on the screen in the striped jacket standing behind Serling).

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It turned out that my presentation wasn’t the only one I’d give at the conference.  I won a lottery where the winner got to present his or her favorite Twilight Zone episode at the mini-marathon that’s held at the end of every Serling Conference.  I was as excited to talk about “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” as I was about my formal presentation.  Heck, just watching the episode from the remastered Blu-Ray on an $80,000 projection system would’ve been worth its weight in gold.

I whipped out this speech in an hour, though I deviated from it quite a bit…

I could be constructing this memory, but this could be the very first Twilight Zone episode I’d ever seen.  I was 10 or 12 years old, which was actually a few years after I’d heard of The Twilight Zone.  It’d been out of syndication for a few years, at least where I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio.  And this was before you could get a videotape of it at Blockbuster, nevermind downloading from Hulu or Netflix.

This story had a huge impact on me as a writer, even though it’s not exactly the best Twilight Zone story.  It’s not “The Obsolete Man,” or “Death’s Head Revisited,” or “Time Enough at Last,” or “To Serve Man,” or “The Shelter,” or “Walking Distance,” or any of the other episodes considered the “greatest” and the topics for discussion at this conference.  It even makes the classic mistake of having an alien, who is able to pass himself off as human, but who still asks, “What’s… wet?”

But at age 12, it was magical.

Here’s the thing.  You know how Serling says “You’re entering another dimension?”  Well, I didn’t just enter it.  When I first saw this episode, Serling TOOK me on a 22-minute ride of suspicion, and suspense, and finally of being freaked out when the real Martian finally stood up.  And then to throw in another twist behind that one!

I didn’t know a writer could do that.  And that’s the sort of experience I’ve always looked for ever since, whether I’m reading a book or watching a good film or TV show.  More importantly, I want to be a writer who gives that experience to other people when I grow up.

So… Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?

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I know I should probably put my presentation slides up.  I still haven’t finished composing the formal paper for the conference proceedings.  I should get on that (assuming it isn’t already too late).

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And lastly, a few pics of some cool stuff, including local writer Nick Sagan (yes, Carl‘s boy) presenting the Conference’s screenwriting awards, and Serling’s 1961 Hugo Award which was on display.

**Yeah, I’ve given up on the notion of posting these in a timely manner, just as I’m sure most of you have given up expecting to see them in a timely manner.

Dragon*Con 2011

No, hell hasn’t frozen over. I’m still missing self-imposed blogging deadlines.  I’d intended to kill two birds with one stone and doing something for Speak Out With Your Geek Out.  And, what could possibly be more geeky than going to the 25th Dragon*Con?  So, rather than consider myself two weeks overdue, I can imagine I’m only two days. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Anyway… William Shatner, Martin Landau, Sylvester McCoy, Mark Sheppard, celebrity run-ins, awesome costumes, and Jefferson Starship–yes, I had an absolute total fucking blast!!

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Shout-outs to my roomies: Conni, Ben, and Dana, without whom there would’ve been any way on God’s green earth that I would’ve gotten there, to say nothing of being able to navigate through the con!

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Shout-outs tot: Regan and Harley!  Harley, I’ve met before, but we didn’t get a picture last time, so she had plausible deniability.  Not this time!

Thanks especially to Regan, who drove us around like the Jason Statham in The Transporter for some Southern eats!  I can’t wait ’til I get to visit Mary Mac’s Tea Room again.  And the Breakfast BLT from the Highland Bakery… I still dream about it!  Let’s just say that it’s the culinary opposite of my (still beloved) Ithaca Bakery.

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All right, the con itself.  I didn’t take a tenth of the pictures I could have taken.

The highlights include…

  • Pics and video Captain Kirk, Commander Koenig, and The Doctor (just gotta figure out the best way/place to post the vids)
  • My missed opportunity to get a DVD copy of Bloodsucking Freaks (linky is NSFW) signed by Lloyd Kaufman.
  • My favorite costumes: Ulquiorra, Black Canary, Orko, and The Ambiguously Gay Duo!
  • Some random asshat in a black pirate shirt :s

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Also in that picture set are a couple of shots from the lit-track panel “New and Next Weird” with Lou Anders, Jeff VanderMeer, Stephen H. Segal, Ann VanderMeer, & Jean Marie Ward.  Jeff himself explained a lingering question I had about the link between Weird fiction and New Weird that I’d had ever since I read his and Ann’s The New Weird anthology.

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So, all that was good, but the highlight of my Dragon*Con was seeing Jefferson-fucking-Starship, not once, but twice!!

They didn’t start until midnight both nights, but it was worth the line (I managed to get myself to be one of the first 20-25 people lined up ahead of time), the lack of sleep, and the temporary deafness to hear what the program described as, “Blade Runner Against the Empire, a science fiction/electronica/rock opera โ€œmoshโ€ of Hugo-nominated album Blows Against the Empire and the Vangelis score for the film Blade Runner” on the first night, and hits on the second night.  Just seeing singer Darby Gould in a classic Trek uniform was worth the price of admission.  Oh, and schooling an appreciative Goth girl on the individual members of the current Jefferson Starship and stories about why we would not seeing Grace Slick, hearing “We Built This City,” nor seeing Mickey Thomas (yeah, not with Donny Baldwin back in the band, we weren’t) was cool, too.

And on top of all that, I got nice and close to the stage, as you can see by the relatively decent pics taken from the crappy iPod Touch 4G camera.

I’m glad someone got a decent video of “Jane,” ‘cos I was too busy rocking out…

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And, speaking of videos I was in where you’ll just have to take my word that I was actually there, I got to be in the audience as Episode 92 of NSFW was being recorded!  I hadn’t laughed so hard in such a long time!

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Other things I learned/saw/remember…

  • Gareth David-Lloyd has a delightfully filthy mouth.
  • It’s possible to see the same celebrities (Sylvester McCoy, Mark Sheppard, Howard Hesseman) multiple times across all 5 con hotels (not counting panels) more often than you see your own roommates.  The same people in the same costumes, too.
  • It’s absolutely true what they say about becoming buddies with the people you stand in lines with at Dragon*Con.
  • I’m 90% sure I shared an elevator with someone from high school, but I was too stunned to say anything.
  • And I will never, ever complain about any line I stand in ever again.

I absolutely know I’m forgetting things, but the fact that I remembered this much two weeks later should show how fucking great of a time I had!

Day Late, Dollar Short

I know I know… it’s been months, now.  And since Readercon, I’ve been to Dragon*Con and have given my presentation at the 2011 Rod Serling Conference.  But this unfinished post has been in my queue forever and my brain just won’t let me move on until I’ve finished this one.

It’s the proverbial dollar short and day late, and it’s pretty long.  Here goes…

I’m only gonna do highlights from this point on, ‘cos at this point, I’m just trying to get this down.

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“I could show you my Nook…”

A panel that ended up engaging me a lot more than I’d anticipated, “I’ve Fallen (Behind) and I Can’t Get (Caught) Up” with Michael Dirda, Jennifer Pelland, Craig Gidney, Don D’Amassa, and Rick Wilber.

It’s a problem a lot of folks have, especially writers (at least for several with whom I’m acquainted): How does one possibly read everything there is to read?  Obviously, you can’t.  But I liked how the panel dissected the issue.  My favorite bit: being called filthy by Jennifer Pelland when I said, “I could show you my Nook…” ๐Ÿ™‚

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Honorable Mention

There were a couple of other panels that I attended and even took notes for.  My lack of write-up doesn’t mean I enjoyed them any less.  But for the sake of time, let’s just say that I really enjoyed “There’s No Home Like Place” and “Reconsidering Anthologies.”

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A Face Made for Radio

In case you’re not hooked up with my other social media outlets, here’s my first-ever reading.  This is the first bit of my story “Combat Stress Reaction” in Crossed Genres.

It was a bit of a nerve-wracking prospect in itself, to say nothing about the prospect of following Camille Alexa and having Claude Lalumiรจre in the audience.  But, I survived, and I can’t thank Bart and Kay and Camille and Claude enough!

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The Land of the Lost

Speaking of Claude, I was enthralled by his Lost Myths show!

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Wold Newton

And to think the person who gathered all these literary idols of mine on the same stage is the same guy who stopped just short of walking into Au Bon Pain to ask where the Panera was… ๐Ÿ™‚

Oh, the person who adjusted the camera to capture the literary and literal height of John Kessel?  Yes… it was yours, truly.

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“Step aside, Butch.”

I high-tail it out of this one panel and then Carrie (who has a better write-up of the time I’m glossing over now) taps me on the shoulder to tell me, “You know you just brushed past Neil Gaiman, right?”

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Monty Haul

This is why I went to “I’ve Fallen (Behind) and I Can’t Get (Caught) Up.” And why I needed a chiropractic adjustment when I got back home.