Archive for August 23rd, 2011

Fragments of Worldcon

I spent the last week in Reno at the annual World Science Fiction Convention. I think.

Usually I take notes at these things, but this time I didn’t. I also can’t look back at my Twitter or email or blog to see what I said I was doing, because I barely even read any social media, never mind writing it. So I must have been busy doing something.

I didn’t make it to the art show at all. I visited the dealers’ room and the SFWA suite only briefly and just as they were closing. I only hit about three parties, and saw just a few panels that I wasn’t on. And there was not the usual endless hanging around with cool people in The Bar, because this convention didn’t have a The Bar. Between the convention center and the two hotels there were dozens of bars, but the ones that were open were noisy and smoky and the one that was comfortable, quiet, and smoke-free closed at 10pm. Despite any other snark in this post, the lack of a The Bar was the only major problem I had with the convention.

The one thing I am certain of is that I appeared on programming. A lot. I can tell this from the “program items you are on” sticker on the back of my badge, which is crammed with tiny type. I spent a lot of time looking at the back of my badge to figure out where I was going next. I did this while I was walking to the next program item.

I did a lot of walking. That part I remember. The convention center, which measured 2.68 x 10^5 Standlees from end to end, was connected to my hotel by a skybridge that was long enough to show the curvature of the Earth. But my hotel was closer than the other hotel, which was approximately ten parsecs away and was the site of the Masquerade, Hugos, writers’ workshops, and a few other important program items. We had rented a car for pre-convention travel, with the intent of returning it at the beginning of the con, but once we understood the layout of the con we called Hertz and extended the rental for the rest of our stay. Made a huge difference.

That pre-convention travel, by the way, included a visit to Virginia City with Janna Silverstein and Madeleine Robins — we had tons of fun touring an old print shop, school, and silver mine — and a trip to a famous Basque restaurant in Gardnerville, 50 miles away, with Glenn Glazer and his sweetie, where we found ourselves driving directly toward a 300-acre wildfire (which, fortunately, did not engulf the restaurant while we were there). The meal wasn’t quite worth the drive, but it was very good and we had a lovely evening of scenery and conversation.

The program items I was on were all well-attended and fun. I had a great spectrum of programming from serious panel discussions (The Necessity of Reviewers, Fans Turned Pro, Wild Cards) to solo presentations (a reading, my Mars talk, and a kaffeeklatsch) to wacky entertainments (Ask Doctor Genius, Liar’s Panel, Whose Line is it Anyway?). I also co-led a writers’ workshop section with Walter Jon Williams, which went pretty well.

I had about twenty people for my reading, where I read the first bit of my “Ned Kelly in power armor” story. I was a little nervous doing an Australian accent in front of Liz Argall but she said that, although it wandered a bit, it was quite good. There were about a hundred people at my Mars talk, which was well received as usual, though it’s been a while since I last gave it and I ran out of time before I ran out of slides. Still, I covered the most important bits.

The Liar’s Panel was probably my favorite single program item, with Jay Lake, James Patrick Kelly, Connie Willis, and me answering questions from a large, packed hall. Best moment: to a question about bad reviews, Connie replied “What’s that?” (big laugh). I said “Here’s an example: ‘You call this a book? It’s only half a book!'” (bigger laugh). Connie actually shook my hand on that one. Thanks so much to Jay for inviting me onto the panel when another panelist had to drop out.

Whose Line also rocked, where I joined Ellen Klages, Madeleine Robins, Dave Howell, and (fresh from her triumph at Just a Minute) Seanan McGuire for two hours of improv hilarity. I was afraid that no one would attend an 11pm-1am panel following the Masquerade, but more and more people filtered in as time went on and we ended with a fairly full house. My favorite bit was when I played a dragon, suffering from an inflamed flame gland, visiting Doctor Seanan. Who, by the way, was wearing candy corn underwear. Don’t ask me how I know that.

And then there was the Hugo Awards ceremony, where I was thrilled to present the Best Short Story Hugo to Mary Robinette Kowal. You can watch a video of that presentation. I got a lot of compliments afterwards on my speech and on how snazzy I looked in tails. Hugo night also included a pre-Hugo reception (with a giant ice Hugo) and a “Hugo Losers’ Party” (actually open to all nominees and guests, though the winners had to make an announcement about how they were actually losers in some way) where I got to mingle with the movers and shakers and explain the complicated Hugo vote-counting process to Phil and Kaja Foglio. (If you’re confused yourself, take a look at this great explanation of the voting system, using the Muppets.)

So that was the Worldcon. I had a great time.

I think.