What a Surprise
1 September 2002
Two things keep striking me about WorldCon: how many people there individually matter in my life, and how many people there don't. The former is a pretty non-negligible number. Established authors whose work I adore, editors I pester, new authors and their SOs (and a few fen) who are friends and acquaintances, publishers and agents who don't know me but could make my career if they wanted to. Lots of folks who matter in my life, in various ways. But the latter -- whew, there are just a lot of people in that place. A lot. Really a lot.
When I first got there, I didn't really understand why a lot of people were there. The other seriously aspiring writers, yes, I understood that. And their spouses and other entourages, sure. But it seemed awfully expensive to buy a WorldCon membership just to be in members of your own geek group. Maybe it's that I don't deal particularly well with crowds, but it seems like it's much easier to be surrounded by geeks by throwing a party, if that's what you're after. Mark pointed out, though, that the price wouldn't seem unreasonable if it was your vacation entertainment budget for five days. Museums and park fees and parking fees and souvenirs...yeah, that could be. And I guess I do understand why, given a choice between hearing and talking about things that interest you, among people who share your geeky fondness for Whatever or at least won't look at you funny for dressing up like Whomever, and going on some other vacation, I can see why this one would appeal. Not every single time, but yes, some of the time.
Oddly enough, I think I'm less free about talking SF than I would be in other circumstances. I am quite, quite aware that the people whose work I like and the people whose selves I like are not entirely intersecting categories, and I don't want to be expounding on why I disliked someone's latest novel when she's standing right behind me. I especially don't want to be expounding on why I disliked someone's latest novel when she's standing right behind me, if it's the one reason I disliked it, as opposed to the fifteen reasons I liked it. I know that authors are used to having their work reviewed, and that most of them would be happy to be discussed. But still.
Timprov stayed home yesterday, feeling crappy and trying to gather his strength for today and tomorrow or perhaps just tomorrow. We'll see. Mark and I drove down for the David Brin reading at 10:00 a.m. Brin is an excellent public speaker -- no wonder he makes a quarter of his living at it -- but not such a great reader without his reading glasses. And calling his next book Kiln Time is such a bad pun that I'm glad he mentioned his three children -- it is a Daddy-Class Pun, for heaven's sake. Then we heard Orson Scott Card, who had his glasses on and read nicely but had to stop in the middle of his story, argh. But he promised two more Pastwatch books, yay! Pastwatch may be my favorite OSC yet -- I'm no good at total orderings, so I don't know for sure.
So then we went to the Scottish Socialists in SF panel. I found it particularly amusing that the program booklet described Charlie Stross as "a Scottish socialist SF writer," and he said, "Well, one out of three's not bad." Evidently he's a plain old left-leaning liberal from Yorkshire. But he does write SF. I enjoyed Eric Raymond, although he looked nothing at all like I expected (how many times have I said that this weekend!) I also enjoyed the interactions of the panel. China Mièville spent much of the panel in classic socialist "I am thinking deeply" pose, hand to his brow, and occasionally popped up to disavow Stalinism and proclaim himself anti-State. And to say that he thought violence would be necessary to get to the socialist utopia. I think as a speculative writer, he has an opportunity there that many socialists before him have neglected: he can show me how, exactly, he believes the mechanisms of State and State-sponsored violence will wither and die in the new socialist world. He can show me the interior of his characters who have been performing the State's violence against former fellow citizens and how they become non-violent community members in the interest of the non-State. I think "How?" is flung at socialists often, and it's treated rhetorically, but I don't mean it rhetorically at all. I would like to see, if he truly believes that it will be different this time, how he thinks it will. He treated Eric Raymond's comments about how he's waiting for history to show him how it would work as irrelevant, but I think they were probably sincere. They would have been if I'd been making them.
I also get very frustrated with the idea that anything that is not socialism is capitalism.
So. We went and got lunch after that, and I had very lovely things at Gordon Biersch, oh my. Rich and lovely. We attempted to go to three other restaurants first, but I'm more or less satisfied that that's where we ended up. Then Mark and I split, and he went to hear Woz while I went to the panel on writing SF for a younger audience, which turned out to be a lot more about getting a younger audience to read SF than about writing it. It featured Patricia McKillip and James Van Pelt, most notably, and they had some quite sensible ideas, but Van Pelt quoted David Hartwell in saying, "Young adults are style-deaf if they enjoy the story." I just don't buy that. I don't think the young adult audience has a lot of style-describing vocabulary, but I think that some will fascinate them and some will put them off. And I also think that style has a lot more to do with obscuring the story than one might think.
Throughout yesterday, a new novel idea was percolating, and I was taking notes on my pocket program. Just what I needed, right? Another novel idea. Everyone so far has said, "Oh, well, it's been, what, days?" Er, yes. Over a week, actually. So there. This one is near-future SF, fairly hard SF. Good stuff, exciting to me.
Mark and I met up at the Verisimilitude panel (about portraying computer culture), which was fun -- Cory Doctorow, Charlie Stross, Eileen Gunn, and James Patrick Kelly. My favorite bit from that panel was when Doctorow made reference to "Vichy nerds," which I think is a lovely neologism for the geeks who work for people like the RIAA. It was amusing, very cool, and the geek atmosphere in the room was very specifically familiar. Things have been familiar around the whole con, but the level of familiarity varies. It's like the difference between running into a fellow Minnesotan and running into a fellow Gustie, I think.
So after that we went to the body modifications panel with Lois McMaster Bujold and Fred Pohl, and Greg Bear was supposed to moderate but sent a messenger to say that he had been on too many panels and would not be showing up. That was not only disappointing, but it left the group without a moderator, and questions from the audience were rather less than stellar. My new unfavorite question beginnings are "Do you think it's possible that..." and "Isn't it true that..." and their brother, "This is less a question than a comment." Thank you, yes; we'd have figured that out when you shut up and sat down without asking anything. I don't know, folks. I figure if they want to hear what I think at length, they'll ask me to be on the panel. Or they can come read this journal! It was particularly pronounced at the Scottish Socialists panel. Half the room seemed convinced that they, individually, and the panelists were the ones people were there to hear. Sometimes amusing. Sometimes annoying.
Anyway, we snuck out of the modifications panel after the third cat-related question and came home. I really enjoyed the parties Friday night, but I feel no need to do them every night of the con. They exhaust me.
We have Messy Con House. Combined with Messy Sick Person House. I keep trying to clean up bits of it, but then we get ready to go and I shed the previous day's CDs on the kitchen table along with the newspaper and the mug cozy, and then the parking receipts end up on the chair or the arm of the sofa, and my morning cup for juice gets set on the counter, and off we go. Ah well. It'll only be messy for so long.
I dreamed of being tickled by an old friend last night. Just a brief tickle, in passing and teasing. It was nice. Much better than my helicopter-and-shark dreams of Thursday night.
All right. Well. I'm going to attempt to get a little more of the straightening up done, maybe read a bit of the paper, before we head out this morning. Maybe make some more notes on the new novel while it's fresh. In the "new" sense, of course. The Not The Moose Book is the one that's fresh in the sense of "grabbing me in uncomfy places." And I'm totally fine with that.
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