In Which Our Heroine Reports In

10 September 2004

Good con. Yes indeedy. It is extremely hard to keep track of what happened when and with whom. I have a list of panels and readings I attended, so that part is easy. I also have some pictures, so I know some of who I saw: the people in those pictures. Which are still locked away on the digital camera. I'll get there eventually.

I want it generally known that I do not have con crud. No con crud for me, thanks. I'll pass on that. Nope. This snozzliness: not con crud.

I'm now reading con reports and going, "Oh, was he there? Dang, I missed him. Oh, and she was there, too? Darn anyway, I didn't see her." But I think cons are like that, especially WorldCons: I think they are so jam-packed with people you might sort of want to talk to that the best you can do is what's in front of you.

And Celia says: "Just because Bear talks about it doesn't mean it's a good idea. I thought this would be self-evident!" Well, yes, I suppose it should have been....

So. Right. Organization, yes. I went to readings by Delia Sherman, John Scalzi, Bear, and Michelle Sagara West. It may defeat the point to only go to readings for people whose books you were seriously thinking you would buy anyway, but on the other hand, one only has so much time at WorldCon, and squirming through a reading was not how I wanted to spend it. I didn't know when (or that) Delia Sherman had a book coming out, though, so rah for that bit. Also, Michelle talks Very Quickly. Possibly because she has a lot to say. Possibly because she's, despite being a northerner, an easterner. Maybe both. Or maybe there's something with the name.

(I have no idea what language the T conductor spoke, but it was not, in fact, English. Also, there was a person on the elevator talking about the "consege," and after a horrified moment, I realized that she meant the concierge. Uff da. On the other hand, I told people that they could gauge my levels of con stress by the number of r's I put in any word containing that letter. More r's, more stress. The Minnesota accent comes out in force. When I didn't know where we were supposed to be at Fenway, I told one of the guards, "We'rrrr frrom oooouuuut of toooowwwwn," and he looked at me like, "golly gee, you don't say." But it's not just stress. I was replying perfectly normally -- perfectly normally, I tell you! -- to some piece of breakfast conversation the other day, and Hannah leaned down the table and said, "Wait, did you just say 'yah'?" And Bear said, "Yeah, she does that." So what was there for me to say but, "Nooo?" Perhaps I should stop writing "yeah" in this journal, since I mostly pronounce it "yah" anyway. As in followed by "sure you bet.")

They had an addition to kaffeeklatsches this year, called a literary beer. Same deal, essentially, so far as I could tell, but located in a different spot and later in the day. So I had beer, or rather did not have beer as I hate beer, with Jim Frenkel of Tor, and heard about the idiocy of some people he had worked for back in the day, and marveled at the idiocy he had endured. The beer really didn't seem particularly essential to anyone there, and the people next to me were eating fruit and yogurt. So. The kaffeeklatsches at ConJose had no kaffee available unless you brought it in, and at least beer was possible for them what wanted it.

And there were panels. Ummm. There was the Future of Short Fiction, at which Stan Schmidt and Sheila Williams and Gordon Van Gelder and John Betancourt and Nicholas DiChario talked about the present of short fiction. As usual, I had a question I didn't ask, but I am extremely wary of asking questions at panels. I discussed with some of Stella's OWWers how "this is less of a question than a comment..." is my least favorite phrase at panels, followed closely by, "but isn't it true that...?". I think that someone's con-going advice should have included a ban on "but isn't it true that...?". Why do people think they are so darn sneaky with this phrase? "But isn't it true that the opposite of what you've been saying is the case?" Oh, my goodness! Your rhetorical invitation to agreement has disarmed me! I retract all previous positions! (There were no "but isn't it true that"s at this panel, though, and some of the questions/comments were interesting, and "some" is probably as good a proportion as one can ask for.)

For the record, my question is: why did new SF readers used to seek out magazines when they do not now? Or the same in reverse: why don't they now when they used to? There had to have been some middle ground, some point at which it shifted. When was it, and why? "New readers don't seek out magazines for their SF" may well be true -- I trust that the people who said it know what they're talking about. But I didn't have a chance to find out why they think that's happened.

I went to WorldCon Orientation for Pros, which had Gay Haldeman on it, and as a bonus David Levine (whom I met at MiniCon and found pleasant and personable, but I don't yet have the trick of pushing through milling crowds of post-panel people just to say, "Hi! How ya doin'?" unless I actually know know the person instead of just having met him), and also Toni Weisskopf and Janice Gelb and Patricia Olson. And they told us not to be jerks, and they were right, but that doesn't seem like the hard part to me, although a few audience members seemed to disagree. (One of them objected to the idea that one should wear moderately clean, moderately decent clothes if one wanted to be taken for a professional on first glance. Jeans and a Henley were considered too much to ask. Oh dear.) Do not make piles of your books on tables at panels you are not on: this is reasonable, yes, but not a warning I was going to need any time soon. Do not treat the fans like peons: yes, true, reasonable.

(I have now reached the point where I am more awed by major fans than by authors. Authors stick words together. I can do that. Fans remember people and make cons go. I can barely make my own con experience go, much less thousands of other people's, much less doing it more than once. Fans of the around-forever keeps-track-of-everything makes-the-trains-run type stick a community and/or an event together, sometimes multiple communities at the same event or worse. I appreciate how very hard that is.) (Hmm. I think the terminology is probably fuzzy here, because the same term gets applied to the people who make things happen and the people who show up at a Neil Gaiman reading, screech, swoon, make him sign their fairy wings, and leave. And sinking deeper into trufen and SMOFs and the like probably will not clarify things for those who need clarification. But really: if it was just authors, nothing would ever happen. Everything would fall apart. And not for lack of appreciation, because authors, in my experience, appreciate the heck out of each other. For temperament. Because we are, as DDB has so sweetly reminded me, every one of us fruit bats.)

Aaaaaanyway. It seems like the hard bit about being a neo-pro is in the other direction for me. I'm SFWA eligible but choose not to indulge in that particular vice, and I've heard enough stories of people who thrust their SFWA membership at all and sundry that I have a fairly keen awareness that it does not, in fact, make me all that. So I have a hard time telling when I'm putting myself forward too much, and my instincts are very Midwestern in this regard: pull back, don't intrude, don't make a nuisance of yourself. But I don't suppose that the panelists have Five Easy Tips For Telling When You're Welcome In A Conversation, so I just have to muddle through smiling hopefully at people.

I went to Drunk On Technology with Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Charlie Stross and Cory Doctorow, and it was lovely, because they were funny and interesting and enthustiastic. Enthusiastic goes a long way with me. And my conversation with Celia beforehand provided amusement for the bearded geekman to my other side, and amusing bearded geekmen may not be what I live for, but it's certainly on the short list. So hurrah for that, I suppose.

The Fantasy of Manners panel featured Jo Walton and Lois McMaster Bujold and Ellen Kushner and Madeleine E. Robins, the last of whom I have not read but will probably look for now. It was lovely for me because I have no intentions of writing FoM any time soon, in any form at all, so I could go purely as a fangirl and not have to field all kinds of excited poking from my brain. Not that the poking was entirely unwelcome -- titles, story ideas, story notes, book notes, all are good. But...but sometimes it's nice not to be entirely bombarded by them. To be able to disengage that kind of brain function.

I probably should know better than to make statements about what I will write any time soon. I have been bitten in the butt too hard, too many times, for that to be a good idea. But I have the feeling that I could push it if I wanted to. I could poke my brain until it handed me FoM. I choose not to do that kind of poking now, because I don't have to. FoM novel ideas didn't spring fully formed from my forehead or a dark alley like the crime noir fantasy novel set about five hundred years after Dwarf's Blood Mead in the same world. (Which I am mentioning mostly to intrigue my mom and Karina with the idea of it.) At which I am carefully not looking, so it doesn't start bugging me. La la...I do not see you, little are lurking unnoticed in the corner of my vision, unnoticed I say. It would be best for you to skulk away until later. Sampo is like an armed escort. Someday I will not have it with me, and then, oh book, you may strike.


Panels. Right. Grow Old Along with Me: Aging Your Characters featured Lois McMaster Bujold, Nancy Kress, Jean Lorrah, Steve Miller, John Scalzi, and Susan Shwarz. At several points I wanted to jump up and shout, "Young doesn't mean stupid!" at one or two of the panelists (generally the same one or two). I refrained. There was a lot, a lot, a lot of focus on how Baby Boomers' preferences and interests and writing habits would affect the age of characters in the field. Fair enough; generationally, they're the 700-pound gorilla. But someone on the panel (I think it was Scalzi, from whom I would have liked to hear more; 6 people was perhaps too many for an ideal panel, if they all had something to say) pointed out that a 40-year-old can't remember what it's like to be 20 now, just what it was like to be that age 20 years ago. The other stuff relies on imagination and empathy. I have the sense that it's very easy to see how one's parents' aging affects one's world, sort of easy to see how one's own aging affects one's world, but fairly difficult to see how one's own aging affects one's children and grandchildren's world, at least not without that empathy and imagination stuff again. I'm thinking of the people who tell my mom she doesn't look 50, as if 50-year-olds wear flowered hats and white gloves and have hair so coiffed it looks frozen. One's own concept of different ages may freeze when one is 7 years old (gosh, I hope not), but the rest of the world will go on changing theirs.

With all the discussion of how Baby Boomers' aging affects their own views of aging, there was nothing much about how their aging affects the rest of us. Steve Miller made an offhand remark about collecting Social Security becoming a standard feature of novels if there are more older characters, and I sat there wrinkling my forehead up thinking, "Collecting -- what?" I think Stella and I snarked about it a bit, if I remember correctly. Because honestly. Suspension of disbelief, hanged by the neck until dead, etc. Social Security. WhatEVer.

Some people wanted to deal with population in the 1970s (I'm thinking John Brunner and cheery folks like that), but they didn't seem to get around to the idea that if people were successfully urged not to have as many kids, taking care of the huge wave of elderly was going to get to be a problem in itself. With a population explosion like that, there's a problem either way. So while I'm interested in older characters (and I think that 40 shouldn't be old enough to count as "older!"), I'm also interested in older societies, societies that have a much higher percentage of the elderly.

That is, however, my own personal hot button and probably the crankiness of con crud speaking. It was a panel with interesting people saying interesting things, which is what one wants in panels.

I went to Bear's Chickpunk? panel (punctuation in the original) on the spur of the moment. It had Karin Lowachee on it, too, and M. M. Buckner, whose books I have not yet read. And one of the things I like about Bear is that some of my pet-peevy misconceptions about the field ("there were no women writing hard SF until [favorite year]!") are things she won't let slide either. Also, reasonably enough, there are the Bear Hugs, which are as you would expect them to be or possibly more so. She did relatively little hugging during the panel, but there was still interesting stuff about post-cyberpunk in a different direction from my post-cyberpunk. Externally post-cyberpunk rather than internally.

Then there was the Asimov Award thinger, which was less a panel and more a presentation, I guess: it was only half an hour long and had two featured participants, Sheila Williams and Rick Wilber, both of whom I met the year I won the Asimov Award. So I swapped hugs and howdies with them and met Stacey and Bryn from other years of the award and also Bryn's boyfriend Kyle.

Oh, and I went to a baseball game with fen. A herd o' fen, many of whom were Minnesotan, one of whom was Norwegian and had never been to a major league game. Good time had by all, victory to the proper side, etc. I was glad to have eaten beforehand, though (that was not an accident): $4.25 for a bottle of water. A not exceptionally large bottle of water. Timprov and I mocked the opening band. (Since when does a baseball game need an opening band? But opening bands are there for the mocking.) We explained rules to the Norwegian fan behind us. I like having people who don't understand rules at a baseball game, actually. It's a bit more exciting when one is engaged in explaining.

The con crud -- which I don't have -- is kicking my butt. Just thought I'd mention that.

The dealer's room is a dangerous place. I got out of Boston with only two books in my suitcase that weren't there when I left for Boston, and I'd read every book I'd packed plus one of Timprov's, so I think that's justifiable. But....

Many of you already know about what happened to me in the dealer's room. I got accosted by a necklace. One of Elise's. "Singing Them Back." Also some earrings that match but are a different story entirely. Also Barrayar necklaces for my mom and me. With that and Stella's and Jenni's generous gifts and the haiku earrings, it was a very jewelry con. In a very happy way.

Here's the thing about me and jewelry: I don't like it as a general rule. I like specific examples, usually from specific people. I'm not one of those women you can always please with a random pair of earrings, but the earrings I like, I get quite emotionally attached to. Which is why I'm on my third pair of gold love-knots from Mark and will be on my fourth if I lose one again. (They tend to be slightly different in size and wire thickness and so on, so just sticking former pairs together has never been an option.) It's hard to predict sometimes: there's a silver heart necklace on a double-chain that I immediately required upon touching it. I didn't generally buy myself jewelry at that point, so I surprised my mom and grandma by buying it for myself. I still don't generally buy myself jewelry, actually.

But different pieces of jewelry work in different ways. Having one of Stella's necklaces on steadies me and gives me courage to face whatever it is I'm facing. Sometimes this is irrelevant because what I'm facing is a lovely lunch and an afternoon with scenes that flow from my fingers, and then the necklace is just a pretty necklace from a friend and does not have to be a talisman of belief in the Mrissa. But when I need one to be that, there they are. The first time Stella gave me a necklace, it went perfectly with the sweater I was wearing, and I barely knew Stella, and it felt to me even then like an expression of belief that our friendship would be worth having, that there would be such a thing as our friendship into the future. I'm glad Michelle gave me a bracelet and earrings made by Amber as part of my bridesmaid gift, because it's a double association, that they're from one friend at a very important time in her life and made by another.

This Elise necklace was mine, and the story in it crept up on me, and I'm not sure what it'll mean to me to wear. Maybe it'll depend on how the story goes, how close I can get it to what's in my head, where it branches off without me. Kelly looked at me on Monday and said, "It's a novel, isn't it?" And I said, "Nooooo!" And she hugged me and told me it would be okay. But I really don't think it is. A novella at most. Not that this is comforting, because we all know how I feel about novellas. But even if it's a novella it'll be okay, because it's going to be a good story. I really think.

I was writing this last night, and then NyQuil and I went to bed (to treat the con crud I don't have, you see), and it turns out that the necklace Stella made me also has a story in it, but I'm not sure what story. I just know how it smells. Which is enough, sometimes, NyQuil notwithstanding. I do have to sit down and make a concrete, organized list of what needs doing soon, in my writing work, and then do it.

I'm having trouble, because a well-paying and prestigious children's mag expressed an interest in a Kalevala retelling from me after they read (and rejected) my last submission. Here's the thing: for me, gods drinking and hacking people to bits is the very stuff of childhood. This magazine does not feel the same way. This magazine rejected one of my children's stories with the comment that it was very well written but "we cannot print such things." (Such things!) So I'm trying to figure out what I could retell from the Kalevala that would be 1) short and 2) of interest to younger readers and 3) skip any hacking to bits, visits to Hell, or other happy features that make me love Finnish mythology. And when I leave the Kalevala for less organized Finnish folktales, I get to stuff like the girl with the squirrels and weasels in her pants, and I feel like Tim Robbins in "The Hudsucker Proxy": "Y'know. For kids!" Riiiight. I don't need the rejection slip in my hand to know that the weasels in the girl's pants are "such things." I think I'm going to have to do something with Väinämöinen's more surreal courtship feats. Knotting an egg with an invisible knot and the like. Kids like magical feats, right? I did, anyway. We'll give it a go.

Emily and Aaron are getting married tonight (finally). Success conditions for the day are directly related to this: wrap wedding presents, sign card, clean and dress self, show up on time. (Or slightly early: Em has indicated that it will be a short ceremony, and I don't want to be five minutes late and miss the whole thing. Not that I want to be five minutes late anyway. But still.) Other success conditions for the day involve a few phone calls. I'm keeping success conditions low. I'm sure I'll accomplish a bunch of other things, but with everything on slow motion with the DayQuil, I'm not sure how much, and resting a bit won't hurt anything and may help. I really do feel better. It's just that I want to stay that way. Okay? Okay.

I'm sure I'll think of more later. Until then.

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