I attended my first World Fantasy Convention in Seattle in 1989, when a friend was running Hospitality and needed people to help. I didn’t really enjoy it — it’s basically a professonal conference for writers, editors, and agents and has little for the fans. That was before I was writing fiction professionally. Today it’s one of my favorite conventions of the year.
The convention started out a little shaky. Our Southwest Airlines flight from Portland to San Jose was running about a half-hour late, and we were just starting to wonder what was up when I got this rather strange email on my phone:
However, as the gate agent explained a minute or two later, we didn’t actually have to fly PDX-SJC-LAX, LAX-PDX-SJC. It turned out that the plane had been delayed by mechanical problems to the extent that it jeopardized people’s connections in LAX, so they skipped the SJC stop and gave the few of us who were actually getting off in SJC tickets on an LAX-SJC flight that left LAX almost immediately, so that we only spent about ten minutes in LAX. Although this change turned our one-hour nonstop flight into a five-hour detour, I think it was well-handled: they communicated the problem well, gave priority to people with connections, and provided an immediate solution to the rest of us. Kudos to Southwest.
Once we got there, this year’s WFC was one of the best I can remember, indeed one of my favorite cons in a long time. Being on the West Coast, a lot of my writer friends were there; the hotel and its location, close to many fine restaurants in downtown San Jose, were excellent; and there was a great bar where everyone could hang out (unlike, for example, the Montreal Worldcon where there was no single obvious gathering place).
I didn’t attend a lot of programming that I wasn’t on. I was actually on two program items: a reading from the four DayBreak Magazine writers, which was remarkably well attended considering it was opposite the mass signing, and an uproarious Improv Storytelling event with Jay Lake and Mary Robinette Kowal about which someone later told me “I peed my pants laughing.” Most of my time was spent hanging out in the bar, the halls, and occasionally a party, talking with my friends and peers.
This seemed to be my con for meeting cool Portland people I hadn’t known existed: Lee Moyer, Victoria Blake, and Carlton Mellick III. I also met and was blown away by Seanan McGuire and Kate Secor, who fling off quotable quips like some cats shed hair — now I know how some people feel around me and Kate. (Just one example: I debated with Seanan whether the ASL sign for “moose lobotomist” should end with the sign for “doctor” or the suffix “-ist.”) I also got to hang out with some people I’d met before but never spent a lot of time with, including Grá and Jennifer Linnea and Laura Anne Gilman. I hadn’t realized I was getting Grá and Chris Reynaga mixed up, but now I think I’ll be able to tell them apart.
Most of the con, though, I spent hanging out with writer friends from all over, whom I will not attempt to enumerate for fear of missing someone. I don’t think I schmooze very effectively at these things — I should have been chatting up book editors a lot more than I did — but I got a lot of good writing advice and a few useful rumors as well as a lot of laughs.
At one point in the con I suffered a bout of Imposter Syndrome. What am I doing here? I whined to myself. I don’t even have one published novel!. I got over it, though, and shortly after the con Kristine Kathryn Rusch posted an entry in her Freelancer’s Guide series that helped me to understand what was going on in my head during that time. This quote in particular, from Robert Silverberg, nailed it: “My career, marked as it has been by triumph after triumph, has often seemed to me like nothing but a formidable struggle.” We don’t see our own successes, only our problems. Read Kris’s post for more useful insights on the hazards of success.
Apart from that one moment of bleakness, though, it was an excellent excellent con and I’m really looking forward to next year’s WFC even though it’s in Columbus, Ohio.
Oh, one other thing. This was my first con with an iPhone and I got into Twitter in a big, big way. There was a lot of Twittering at this con; see this post by Scott Edelman for one perspective on just how useful this minimal communication method can be. (My story “horrorhouse” was also inspired by Twitter.) So, for my own future reference as much as anything, I’m including my tweets from the con below:
10/28/09 11:19 AM: Flight change: our direct flight PDX-SJC is now shown as PDX-SJC-LAX-LAX-PDX-SJC. (Not really — but we are now changing planes in LA.)
10/28/09 3:20 PM: Only spent about 10 minutes at LAX; now on board plane to SJC.
10/28/09 6:32 PM: After a short side jaunt to LAX, we have arrived at #wfc2009! About to go for tapas with Sara Mueller and her friends Chris and Chris.
10/28/09 7:43 PM: Sangria Oobleck! “Sounds like a Bond villain.”
10/28/09 10:32 PM: Was afraid book bag this year would be paltry on account of the economy. But no! Bigger than ever! Some good stuff too.
10/29/09 10:18 AM: Breakfast at Bijan Bakery & Cafe. Pastries 10, service 3. Good quiche, free wifi.
10/29/09 2:31 PM: Visited the outdoor History San Jose museum; nice cheap lunch at tacqueria at Willow & Vine; now at The Tech for the Star Trek exhibit.
10/29/09 9:46 PM: Ellen Klages’s Google Hand beats Google on iPhone in timed test!
10/30/09 8:01 AM: Awake. Spent entire evening in the bar. Much good conversation and laying of fiendish plans. Shower now, then search for breakfast.
10/30/09 8:25 AM: Kate found a place that’s supposed to have good chilaquiles, about 15 minutes’ walk away. Leaving shortly.
10/30/09 9:39 AM: Not sure whether the name of this place is 5 Spot or Chivas Grill but the food is good.
10/30/09 10:47 AM: Chelsea Quinn Yarbro on likeable vs. interesting characters: “If I were Watson I’d take a frying pan and whack Holmes on the head.”
10/30/09 1:49 PM: RT @Shineanthology: David D. Levine’s “horrorhouse” is is now live at DayBreak Magazine: http://is.gd/4IqqO and http://is.gd/4IquO .
10/30/09 1:55 PM: I will be reading from my DayBreak story “horrorhouse” tonight (Friday Oct. 30), 9 PM, Crystal Room. It’s not in the program book!
10/30/09 3:07 PM: I’ll have my zeppelin call your zeppelin. We’ll do lunch.
10/30/09 7:27 PM: We ordered the sushi boat at Kazoo. Good thing we ordered the small one! http://twitpic.com/nm3sb
10/30/09 9:12 PM: Time for the DayBreak reading in the Crystal Room! (Tweeting about this particular story is extremely apropos.)
10/31/09 12:01 AM: Spent evening in con suite, crashed ~12am. @LAGilman accuses me of wimping out, insists on seeing me up later Sunday. Yes ma’am!
10/31/09 8:34 AM: Awake. At the SFWA meeting. Why?
10/31/09 9:01 AM: Just FYI, @nkjemisin has the most fabulousest hall costume EVAR.
10/31/09 10:42 AM: Michael Swanwick compares steampunk to NASCAR: both are “revolutions of joy” taking pride in exciting technology.
10/31/09 10:45 AM: How to kill steampunk: drive a brass stake through its heart and bury it at a train crossing
10/31/09 10:50 AM: Anne Vandermeer is reading from http://tinyurl.com/4577tt Brilliant!
10/31/09 11:10 AM: I actually hate it when other people post about events (that I’m not at) as frequently as I’ve been posting about #wfc2009 — sorry folks
10/31/09 11:42 AM: Listening to @gregvaneekhout read Kid vs. Squid. Hilarious! Next, @jay_lake, @MaryRobinette, and me doing Improv Storytelling
10/31/09 2:00 PM: Falafel lunch w/@LAGilman & @KateYule. Nap time now. It may surprise you to learn that being “on” like that takes a lot out of me.
10/31/09 3:09 PM: Cool reading by Zoe Washburne #imaginaryRealWFC2009
10/31/09 5:32 PM: …brief gloomy bout of Imposter Syndrome…
10/31/09 9:20 PM: Even worse than having your e-published story pirated is having it used as bait on spam/virus sites.
10/31/09 11:08 PM: Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell them panel raised literally buckets of money for Variety Children’s Charity
10/31/09 11:25 PM: Remember folks: Spring Back, Fall Over.
11/1/09 7:41 AM: HOTEL INTERNET DOWN STOP AT&T REDUCED FROM 3G TO EDGE SPEED STOP MAY BE REDUCED TO SMOKE SIGNALS SOON STOP
11/1/09 8:47 AM: This conversation with @seananmcguire and @aiglet is so dripping with tweets that I cannot possibly do it justice.
11/1/09 10:21 AM: At the at-con post office, sending a big box of books home. This convention is dangerous.
11/1/09 2:21 PM: Skipped the banquet in favor of dim sum with square dance friends (Mayflower) and a visit to a yarn shop (Pearlescent).
11/1/09 4:32 PM: It’s reached the point in the convention where I have to count my brain cells and make sure I have enough to get home…
11/1/09 5:53 PM: Every time I tweet, another brain cell dies. “With my last brain cell I tweet at thee!”
11/2/09 11:16 AM: Had breakfast at Bijal and saw Kij Johnson, just like the first morning of the con. Now at SJC for the flight home.
11/2/09 12:39 PM: After surprisingly good sushi at Sora in the airport, we’re on board the plane to Portland. And there’s wifi on this flight!
11/2/09 3:56 PM: Home safe to find THIS as the view from our front porch. Good thing we moved the cars before we left. http://twitpic.com/o2a5j