Archive for June 1st, 2005

5/31/05: Wiscon report

Well, we’re back home from Wiscon. Ate too much, slept too little, exercised not at all. Had a great time. For me this Wiscon was not so much a feminist convention as a writers’ convention. I spent most of the con hanging out with writers, and the program items I attended were almost all on the business and/or craft of writing, from the writers’ workshop bright and early Friday morning to the “writers in mid-career” discussion group at the dead tail end of Monday afternoon. Some people asked me what I was doing in the workshop, and I replied that I was there for the same reason they were — to learn. Mostly one learns from the critiquing process (it’s easier to spot flaws in one’s own work after seeing them in others’) but in this case there was a pretty strong consensus that the antagonist’s conversion at the climax was insufficiently motivated. Now I have to figure out why he does what he does. Also, no one believed that an impoverished loner living in a shack in the woods could possibly have that many guns. Unfortunately the shack, and the guns, are drawn from life. But just because something is true doesn’t make it plausible, so that little darling must die. The mid-career writers’ discussion was even more valuable. Pat Murphy, who convened it, warned me that I might not be quite “mid-career” enough for this (she is considering defining “mid-career” as “has had at least one novel remaindered”) but I attended anyway and found it a validation of both my fears and my hopes. It’s nice to be able to hang out with other people who know that success can sometimes be as stressful as waiting to succeed. In between I spent time with many wonderful people, including Elizabeth Bear, Kristine Smith, Leah Cutter, Charlie Allery, Jed Hartman, Maureen McHugh, and many many more. It’s a hell of a fine crowd for a convention of less than a thousand people (I keep thinking it’s much bigger than that) and every time I turned around there was someone else I wanted to talk to. Exchanged business cards with a couple of agents and an editor, too. My reading on Friday night went reasonably well — we had about a half-dozen people and they seemed impressed with the novel’s new opening. The other program items I was on also went well. I was concerned that I might not have enough expertise to hold my own on the panel about David Reimers, subject of the book As Nature Made Him, given that two of the other panelists were transgendered and the remaining one was the author of Why Men Hate Sex, but I did find some things to say and several people told me after the panel that what I’d said had been sensitive and well-stated. I guess I know more about the transgender and intersex communities than most people, even at Wiscon. The other two panels, on business in SF and gender modification in SF, turned out to be more about corporations and gender (respectively) in the real world but they were still lively and interesting discussions. After the first hour or so of the Tiptree auction Kate and I got up to go to the Tor party before it got too crowded. But we’d made two mistakes: 1) sitting in the front row, and 2) being known to the auctioneer. Ellen spotted us walking out and insisted we sit back down. So we borrowed a Michael Swanwick mask from Eileen Gunn and tried to sneak out behind it. That didn’t work too well — Ellen grabbed me and hauled me up on the stage where she could keep an eye on me, and Kate took advantage of the fracas to slip away. I looked so pathetic that they passed the hat to free me, and wound up collecting about $110 (plus another $80 from those who wanted to keep me there). Next year I’ll try to be more inconspicuous. Many fine meals were eaten — Japanese, French, Indian, Nepali, Himalayan (those might be the same cuisine, but they were two different restaurants) as well as a couple of traditional American meals and fresh baked goods from the farmers’ market. Many were among the best meals I’ve had this year; I’ve never had a really bad meal in Madison. No cheese curds this time, though, nor the traditional stop at the noodle place. What else? The crowd on Sunday night was all turned out in film noir finery, with many a trench coat and slinky dress, and someone took a picture of me with the Maltese Falcon. Later that night I wound up in a hallway party with Barth Anderson and some nice people from Pittsburgh and Indiana whom I’d never met before. I missed the Campbell nominees’ cream-pie duel but not the aftermath. I discussed Los Alamos with Ellen Klages and got cold feet about that novel idea (she said that if I did less than two years of research I’d be in over my head). After that conversation I was worried that I had no other novel ideas on the back burner, but on Tuesday morning in the shower I had a key insight on another idea — a short story idea originally, but I found a way to make it novel-sized — and now I’m really excited about that one. It’s a little bit Thomas Covenant, a little bit Connecticut Yankee, and a little bit Narnia, but like Remembrance Day it uses the reader’s expectations about this type of story against them. I love playing with the reader’s head. All in all it was a fine, fine convention and I’m really looking forward to next year’s, which being the 30th Wiscon promises to be extra-special. But there was a bit of a weather delay in Denver coming home, so we got home late and I’m running on about five hours’ sleep. So, to bed.