September 07, 2004

WorldCon Report

This weekend was an amazing experience for me. I can't believe it's taken me so long to actually attend a convention. In general, I did a lot of panel-attending, almost no socializing, and probably got far too much sleep for your average con-goer's tastes. Everyone who warned me that WorldCon is an overwhelming experience was absolutely right, but it was overwhelming in a pleasant way, sort of like being buried in chocolate.

So, right. A day by day breakdown, because that's the only coherent thing I can think to do this morning.

Thursday, or Holy Shit, What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

On the way from Logan Airport to the Marriott Hotel, my cell phone rings. It's Jason, calling not to tell me about the birth of his second son, but in a panic, afraid that I missed my flight to Boston (I'd spent the night at their house the night before, and there was some miscommunication about when I actually left). Only after I'd reassured him that yes, I was in Boston, was I able to pull any news of Ryan's birth out of him. That was the last I really heard of the outside world (or saw of it, for that matter) until Monday morning. I knew the Marriott was connected to the convention center, but I didn't realize it was connected by way of a gigantic mall. Farewell outside world! Other than a desire to actually see Boston (which went sadly unfulfilled), I had no real reason to leave.

The convention center was HUGE. We wandered and gawked, and I didn't manage to make it to my first panel until 5pm, "The Shadow of the Torturer: The Writer as God", with Lois McMaster Bujold, Barbara Chepaitis, James Alan Gardner, Tamara Jones, Elizabeth Moon, and Uncle River. I come away from it, vowing to catch up on my reading and actually READ Bujold and Moon, as I've been planning to get around to for ages. This is not the last time I end up kicking myself for being so behind in genre reading.

Then I spent some time learning exactly what "slipstream" is, wandered through a little bit more of the convention (First Night looked like a lot of fun) before giving up, eating some dinner, and going back to the room to collapse.

Quotes of the day:
"If you don't let the consequences [of their actions] happen to your characters, you're being a bad writer." -- Elizabeth Moon

Friday, or Yes, I Know I Snore, Sorry About Th--Hey, Is That Terry Pratchett?

After a peaceful solitary half-hour with coffee and people-watching from a distance, I ran into Julie (one of my five roomies, the other four were Mer, Eric, Julie (another one), and Lou) and we went to "You Can't Take the Sky from Me...?", a "Firefly" panel. Here we had our first glimpse of how con organizers vastly underestimated the appeal of certain things--the tiny room was bursting at the seams and had people clustered around the doors trying to listen, well beyond standing room only, and at 10am! Overall it was a pretty fluffy panel, but highly enjoyable, if only to be in a room with so many "Firefly" fans. The most exciting thing I learned is that not only has principal photography on Serenity finished, but it will also be Universal's major summer movie next year, with a huge marketing push. My fingers are crossed that this might (might!) give the show impetus to come back on the air.

The rest of the day was wall to wall panels, with a break for lunch and another to wander the Dealer Room. Topics went from writing to feminism to death as a character--that last one with Terry Pratchett. I spent the day happily geeking out. I learned the truth about James Tiptree, Jr., and considered stalking Justine Larbalestier, but settled on buying her book and attending several of her panels instead.

I also, through the course of the day, had ALL FIVE of my roommates come tell me exactly how loudly I snore. By dinner, I think a consensus was reached not to strangle me in my sleep, but rather to buy earplugs for everyone in the room, which Eric did. (Although, in retrospect, I realize I should have volunteered to buy the earplugs...)

Then following dinner there came a period of drunkeness and hilarity, which is to say, drunkeness for some of us, and hilarity for the rest of us. But I think it was agreed that what happened in Boston would stay in Boston, so I will attempt no blackmail here.

Quotes of the Day:
On hearing someone's work described as "post-feminist": "Post-feminism? But we're not done with it yet!" -- Diane Duane

Ending the panel on death: "I suppose we'll have to finish this conversation... on the other side." -- Terry Pratchett

Saturday, or How I Stopped Being a Neil Gaiman Fan--and Became a Squeeing Neil Gaiman Fangirl

Not being among the hungover on Saturday morning, I was up and out of the hotel room by about 8am or so, to enjoy another few moments of solitude. I was, however, at the convention center when it opened by 9am. Why? Neil Gaiman was reading at 10am, and I was fairly certain seats would go quickly. I like to think I made up for at least some of my snoring by calling the folks back in the hotel room and volunteering to save seats for everyone.

A good thing I did, because the room was packed. I was slightly bemused to notice a preponderance of female attendees, but didn't think a whole lot about it, despite insistence of some of my roommates that Neil was "teh HAWT" (yes, pronounced that way). I mean, he's attractive enough in his author pictures, but I was more geeked about hearing an author I really really like do a reading. Yeah, that geekiness was replaced about two seconds after he actually walked into the room, wearing sunglasses and a leather jacket (which, I am told, is The Jacket). The wave of estrogen that followed him up the aisle was impressive, and I have to confess, some of it was mine. Good god. Pictures don't do full justice; the man has charisma for days.

Not only that, but he gave an excellent reading of the first chapter or so of the first draft of the novel he's working on, Anansi Boys. I can't wait to read the finished product. There was the threat of a riot when he was forced to stop reading when the hour was up, it was that good.

Saturday, for me, was really the most exciting day of the con. I went from "Woman Warriors" to a discussion of how short stories are really accepted and rejected (it really is merit, they promise), and that was just before lunch. After lunch I had my only major realization about my own work during the "Writing the Young Female Protagonist" panel, which included Tamora Pierce. Almost all of my notes from that panel are about Alex from The Exile's Daughter--I think I may have figured out how to fix most of what's wrong with her as a character, and therefore most of what's wrong with the first draft. That'll be what I start tackling tomorrow.

Then came the single most sobering (and yet somehow encouraging) panel of the weekend, "Tough Love for New Writers", with Gavin Grant, David G. Hartwell, Steve Miller, Priscilla Olson, and Teresa Nielsen Hayden. In short, the last bit of hope I had that I might someday support myself writing vanished, but the hope that I can be both happy and in excellent company while writing with a day job grew exponentially. It was Gavin Grant of Small Beer Press who gave me a goal that I can accomplish, no matter what: "Write a lot, don't get published, then die." I figure that even my few publishing credits put me ahead of the game now. Also, the easiest way to make Teresa Nielsen Hayden collapse into helpless giggles is to tell her that someone's major life goal is to become a member of SFWA.

The last thing I did before dinner was to attend Elizabeth Bear's reading with Mer. Fantastic. The voices in the story (and we got a glimpse of two of them) were compelling, and startlingly different from each other. I noticed that she was reading from a galley, and I'm seriously tempted to pester one of the SF buyers at work to find out if they've received one yet, and if so, can I have it? I'm dying to read the rest of the story. And also, Mer and I were hired as fangirls. Whee!

Then after dinner came the Hugo Awards. And more Neil Gaiman squeeing (well, internally, at least), as he was the master of ceremonies. I spent most of the ceremony just sort of quivering inside, thinking, "Holy shit, I'm at the Hugo Awards!" I was a little disappointed that "Firefly" didn't win for either of two episodes it was up for (and I think vote-splitting is probably the reason it didn't win anything), and wasn't sure whether to root for Return of the King or Pirates of the Caribbean, since RoTK has already won everything. I was ashamed and a little horrified to discover that I hadn't read any of the other nominees, and plan to rectify that as soon as possible. (All weekend long, I kept wondering, what the hell AM I reading? I know I read a lot, but looking over my reading lists for the past couple years, I've been reading a LOT of stuff outside of the genre.)

After the awards, we headed briefly to the ConSuite, and afterwards--realizing that I was getting overtired and grouchy--I crashed while the rest of the party embarked on another wild night of carousing.

Quotes of the Day:
"Transparency is a great thing in windows, but not so much in stories." -- Delia Sherman, in the panel, "Lyrical Language"

"What Neil said." -- Lois McMaster Bujold, on winning the Hugo for Best Novel, referring to Neil Gaiman's acceptance speech for American Gods, which started with the memorable words, "Fuck, I won a Hugo!"

Sunday, or Nearing the Saturation Point

Sunday morning was the first time I missed a 10am panel, just managing to make a panel at 11am on "Exotic Mythologies", which raised some interesting points, not the least of which was Vandana Singh's comment, "Your exotic mythology might be my religion." I spent more time wandering alone on Sunday, partly because I was just starting to feel oversaturated, with crowds, with new ideas, with just people and fandom in general.

I got to spend a few enjoyable minutes chatting with Mrissa, largely about how small the fandom world can really be at times. I think that was after the panel, "Creating Gods", with Lois McMaster Bujold, David B. Coe, Glen Cook, George R. R. Martin, Tamora Pierce, and Jo Walton. This panel takes the award for having the most authors I was familiar with prior to the con (5), as well as the most authors that I'd actually read (2). Aside from the fact that the lights kept going out (funny, considering the topic of the panel, but it was really because it was SRO and someone in the back kept leaning on the light switches), I got a lot of good information from this panel. And a lot of amusement, such as when Tamora Pierce was introducing herself, and paused to beg to know when George R. R. Martin's next book is coming out--which the rest of us wanted to know as well, but the lights went out just then, and he got to dodge the question. I don't know why this startled me, but I hadn't stopped to consider that a lot of the big-name writers are fans of each other.

The last panel I attended at the con was "The Perils (and Promises) of Rejection Slips", with Janna Silverstein, Charles Stross, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, and Jo Walton. It was a nice way to sort of wrap things up. A lot of the actual material was a refresher from TNH's excellent Slushkiller, with the additional input of the other panelists, both from the writing and the editing side of things. There was also some good insight into the slush-reading process, including the notion of someone being "slush-drunk", i.e., addled by just how bad most of the slushpile is. I walked away feeling that I have, actually, received some pretty good rejections, enough that I think I'm on the right track here, and that no, no matter what my occasionally poor self-esteem tells me, I am not the worst thing in the slushpile, not by a long shot.

Dinner followed, and by then I was offically conned out. I skipped the masquerade and went back to the room to pack in preparation for our early departure the next morning.

Quotes of the Day:
This exchange, on a poorly attended panel on sex, earlier in the day:
"What kind of country is it where god draws more people than sex?" -- George R. R. Martin
"America." -- Tamora Pierce

"If you're literate, coherent, and not crazy, you're in the top 10%." -- Teresa Nielsen Hayden, on the slushpile

I realize that I really only sort of skimmed across the top of the convention. I didn't go to any parties, I didn't really meet a lot of people, and I certainly didn't network the way Mer had a chance to do. I think I did far more observing than actual participating. That's probably my biggest regret about my first convention, but I'm not sure it really could have been helped. I just felt too shy and too introverted. I really really should have gone to the Strange Horizons tea party, but I felt awkward and weird (I know, at a SF convention of all places!). Also, I've published so little, comparatively, it felt presumptuous of me to try to forward a career I don't quite have yet. Ah well, there's always the next con.

Because believe me, there will be a next con.

Posted by Lisa at September 7, 2004 07:18 PM
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