Archive for November, 2013

“Bards & Brews” this Friday 11/29

You don’t really want to get into that whole “Black Friday” BUY BUY BUY thing, do you? Why don’t you come out to Hillsboro and hear readings from five local authors (including me!) while enjoying food and/or drink from the world’s largest collection of Oregon wines and beers instead?

What: Bards & Brews Author Reading Series
When: Friday November 29, 7:00-9:00 pm
Where: Primrose & Tumbleweeds, 248 E Main St., Hillsboro, OR
    Damien Macalino, What If an Alligator Ate an Avalanche?
    Eddie Regory, Wallace Park: A Memoir
    David D. Levine, Old Mars
    Jo Barney, Graffiti Grandma
    Christopher Lord, The Christmas Carol Murders

See–brews.html for more information. Hope to see you there!

Here’s Lois Tilton at Locus Online‘s review of my story “The Wreck of the Mars Adventure” in anthology Old Mars: “This is indeed high adventure, a cracking good sailing yarn with skiffy values. I love the imaginative audacity of the premise. The author’s version of Mars is also remarkable. Highly entertaining. RECOMMENDED.”


OryCon was fun, as usual, with friends and silliness and many fine meals. I was on a lot of programming, also as usual, to the extent that I don’t think I saw any program items other than the ones I was on. But those all went well and were generally pretty well attended. However, with all that programming, plus continuing jet lag from our recently-concluded European trip, the convention was over before I knew it. And once the con was over I came down with a mild cold — not con crud, I think, just exhaustion after what was, in effect, a month of travel including four cities and two conventions — and I’m only just beginning to get over it now.

A highlight of the con for me is that I was invited to read excepts from the five Endeavour Award nominees, which was an honor and a treat and very well received. But then, immediately after the Endeavour ceremony, I was surprised to be called back on stage to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from OSFCI (Oregon Science Fiction Conventions, Inc., the non-profit corporation that puts on OryCon and other Portland cons).

The award usually consists of a bottle of Scotch, but the organizers realized that would be wasted on me, so they consulted with Kate (who kept it a complete secret from me) and selected this lovely steampunky robot sculpture.

OSFCI Life Achievement Award trophy

I’ll be perfectly honest… when my name was called out as the recipient of the award, my first thought was that they must have already given one to everyone who really deserved it if they’d gotten all the way down to me. But, upon reflection, I realized that I’ve been doing something for OSFCI every year — including chairing OryCon, serving a couple of stints on the Board of Directors, and setting up and maintaining the corporate web page and email lists — pretty much continuously since I moved to Portland in 1983… and that’s thirty years. How the heck did that happen?

One thing about this award, though… I refuse to accept that a Lifetime Achievement Award means I have to stop now.

“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” at Theatre Vertigo

Last night we were very fortunate to see Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at Theatre Vertigo. A tight, crisp performance in a tiny space.

The acting was uniformly excellent, with Mario Calcagno’s performance as Jekyll a standout; most of the rest of the cast plays one or two roles (several of them cast gender-blind) in addition to dividing the role of Hyde, a decision I questioned at first but which worked brilliantly. The production is highlighted by subtle, highly effective music and sound effects and sharp lighting, with every sound and light cue nailed. And the whole thing takes place in a performance space the size of my living-dining room, with one and a half rows of seats along the wall on each side; this intense production takes place right in the audience’s lap.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde plays through November 23 and I strongly encourage you to see it if you can.

My OryCon schedule

OryCon starts tomorrow! (How the heck did that happen?) Here’s where you can find me:

Friday 1:00PM-2:00PM, Hamilton: Gender and Writing
Rhiannon Held (M), Rhea Rose, Barry Deutsch, Mike Chinakos, David D. Levine
Gender free? Gender neutral? Stereotyping? How gender affects our writing. What writers do to write effectively in the opposite gender’s point of view and whether they really do get away with it.

Friday 3:00PM-4:00PM, Morrison: Effective Readings
Anne Bishop (M), Grá Linnaea, Liz Argall, David D. Levine, Sonia Orin Lyris
You may be a good writer but reading aloud is a separate skill. Learn to make your words on the page sound great.

Friday 6:30PM-7:00PM, Mult/Holl: Endeavour Awards
Nancy Kress, Jim Fiscus, Daniel H. Wilson, Laurie Frankel
2013 Endeavour Award: The Award honors the best SF/F book written by a Pacific Northwest writer.

Saturday 11:00AM-11:30AM, Lincoln: David Levine Reading
David D. Levine
I’ll most likely be reading from my novel Arabella and the Marsman.

Saturday 3:00PM-4:00PM, Roosevelt: Workshop: Story Outline in an Hour
David D. Levine (M), Matt Vancil, Jason M. Hough
Bring something to write on and write with. You’ll have an outline (or a good start) to a story by the end of this panel. Bonus–this would be a great head start to that creative writing class homework you’re ignoring over the weekend.

Saturday 5:00PM-6:00PM, Alaska: Ask Dr. Genius: Ad-Lib Answers to Audience Questions
Janet Freeman-Daily (M), Karen Black, Jim Kling, Guy Letourneau, Dan Dubrick, David D. Levine
No really they’re real scientists honest. Bring your science questions and if they don’t have an answer they’ll make something up and it might even be sort of right.

Sunday 11:00AM-12:00PM, Madison: Audiobooks
Annie Bellet, Mark Niemann-Ross, Phoebe Kitanidis, David D. Levine
Selling the rights ACX hiring a narrator or–gulp–doing it yourself!

Sunday 2:00PM-3:00PM, Morrison: Gay Lesbian and Trangender Themes in SF
David D. Levine (M), GuyAlan Holady, Theresa “Darklady” Reed, Keffy R. M. Kehrli
SF and F have long been a magnet for people with alternative sexuality and genders. How does literature and media compare with the political reality today?

Sunday 4:30PM-6:30PM, Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills Crossing: Sci-Fi AuthorFest 7
A starfleet of science-fiction and fantasy authors descends for one galactic booksigning event. Free and open to the public.

Brighton (2)

Friday 11/1: This morning we selected the Full English Breakfast, which was nummy, and met several other con people staying in our hotel including Wesley Chu. Then off to the con and a full morning of programming!

The panel on “what can we learn from the transition from the pulps to the digests?” was more of a historical overview and reminiscences about the good old days. The Neil Gaiman interview was delightful as always, beginning with a memorable anecdote about how he lost his shirt (and all his other stuff) at the Metropole when he was here for the Worldcon in 1987. The Style vs. Substance panel sounded interesting, but on the way I ran into Mary Robinette Kowal, who very kindly introduced me to her UK editor. Because of this I missed almost all of the panel, which I do not regret in the least. After that we ran off with Gordon Van Gelder and Geoff Ryman for lunch at the Greek place near the hotel. Fried feta with honey, yum.

The Terry Pratchett interview was disappointing. He was accompanied by two people who didn’t introduce themselves and talked about projects which they assumed we already knew about and/or could not divulge details of, which was confusing and frustrating. Worse, they did most of the talking, so we didn’t hear nearly as much from Terry as I would have liked. Perhaps they were working around his limitations, but although his speech was slow I got the impression he was still pretty much in touch with the world (more so than some of the more elderly authors at the con, in my opinion) and I wished the other two people would have allowed him more microphone time. After that the “how far can you go in YA” panel was fun, but was marred by an overly perky moderator who insisted on referring to the panelists and audience as “hoodlums” and “sinners.” Don’t ever let schtick get in the way of content, people.

Hung out with Ellen Klages in the “quiet” bar (hidden behind closed restaurant, and not very quiet at the moment because of a publisher party), then went out for a tasty and inexpensive Moroccan dinner with Lee Moyer, his friend Venetia(?), Shannon Page, and Mark Ferrari, returning in time for the mass signing, where I wandered around and chatted briefly with a lot of people. Several people asked me “why are you wandering around instead of sitting and signing?” to which I replied “no one wants my autograph.” Which isn’t strictly true — I did sign a couple of anthologies and several con program books — but not nearly enough to justify planting myself in one place just to make it easier for autograph seekers to find me. At the signing a well-known fantasy author told me how much she loved my blog, dealing with such tough subjects; I was disappointed to have to tell her she was thinking of Jim Hines (we do look rather a lot alike, if you judge by our LiveJournal userpics). She said “is there something here I can crawl under?” When the signing ended I tried the Tor party, but found it too crowded and noisy and went back to the room about 10:30 (feeling very wimpish for doing so, but also very tired after Barcelona and London).

Saturday 11/2: Breakfast: kippers for Kate, porridge for me. The “Next Big Thing” panel (Tom Doherty et al) was not really very informative, being mostly a reiteration of the standard advice “don’t try to follow trends, just write a damn good book.” The Agents panel (Meg Davis, John Jarrold, Ian Drury, Juliet Mushens, Barry Goldblatt, Joshua Bilmes) was more useful, and I talked to several of the agents afterward. I’ll have some queries to send when I get home.

After that panel I went to the Regency Tavern (right next to our hotel; not to be confused with the similarly named restaurant) to meet with Paul and Maureen Kincaid Speller, who came down from Folkestone for the day though they were not attending the con (cue horror stories about the Metropole, including the time they found their bed terribly lumpy and discovered that someone had put a door between the mattress and box spring without removing the knob). I was astounded to discover that the bartender (a 20something woman) had apparently never heard of porter (“Do you mean port?”) or stout (“You know, stout? It’s a dark beer?” “We have the X ale and the Y ale, the Y is a little darker, is that what you mean?” “Tell you what, I’ll have a cider.”) I also had a perfectly acceptable sausage and onion sandwich, though in the US it would have been served on a bun rather than between slices of bread.

Back to the con for the “ideas we never want to see again” panel. Apparently zombies are overdone (thank god) and many more people think they can write a literary fantasy a la Cat Valente than can actually do so. Also, no dinosaur erotica! (Far from the only dino erotica reference of the con. Apparently this is A Thing.) Then I took off from the con for a short nap, followed by a trip to the nearby shopping mall to look for Corgi cars (I collected them as a kid and still have fond memories) and fondle the new iPad Air. Finding no Corgis at the toy shop in the mall, I tried another shop nearby but couldn’t find it; apparently it’s folded. There was another toy shop not too much further away, but the weather was so grim (cold, rain, wind) that I turned around and headed back to the hotel.

The “Does SF have a future?” panel (Aldiss, McAuley, et al) was mostly reminiscences about the good old days by a bunch of old white guys and was literally drowned out by the raucous fantasy panel in the next room (Lynch et al). I fear that this does sum up the state of the field.

Looking for dinner companions in the lobby and bar proved fruitless, and we were just about to give up and go out by ourselves when Patrick Nielsen Hayden came by. He was amenable to returning to the Regency Restaurant (the second visit for both of us) for delicious fish. After dinner, I hung out in the bar with a variable crowd including Charlie Stross, Elizabeth Bear, Laura Anne Gilman, and an old friend I hadn’t seen in a few years who is now a different sex. This was, upon very brief reflection, not really a surprise, and they look very good in their new gender. To bed around 11:30; a satisfying evening.

Sunday 11/3: Breakfast today was muesli with yogurt. Breakfasts at Motel Schmotel have really been very good, and if the room had not been so small (which is no one’s fault; we booked a bigger room but Kate’s knee wasn’t up to the stair climb it would have required) and the weather not so awful it would have been great. We weighed our bags, to find out if we need to ship anything home (much easier today than tomorrow) but to our surprise we found out we were not over weight.

My first program item of the day was my own reading. About 10-12 people showed up to hear me read the pirate battle scene from Arabella and the Marsman. It seemed reasonably well received, though there were no questions after. Then I browsed the dealers room and (closing) art show and hung out with Marie Brennan until the “second book” panel, which had some good ideas and Snorri Kristjansson, the funniest person I saw on any panel at this con. After that panel, I walked past the long line of just about the entire con waiting to get into the banquet; it was like the big Right and Left Grand at the end of some square dances, which gives you an opportunity to say goodbye to everyone else at the dance. But we skipped the banquet — £50 for rubber chicken was just too much — and went for dim sum with Ellen Klages, Marie Brennan, and a friend of Marie’s whose name I did not catch (Alys something?). The dim sum was okay but a bit strange in places. Ordering was via a mark-sense form (like with the SATs, complete with #2 pencil) which was entirely in Chinese except for the item numbers. We ordered noodles with peanut and hoisin sauce, expecting Dan Dan Noodles, but got something that looked more like raw squid under melted peanut butter cups (tasted okay, though, but a bit too sweet).

After lunch, we had a brief nap, then returned to the con for the combined World Fantasy and British Fantasy Awards ceremony. But from the mezzanine, where non-banquet people were allowed to view the awards, we could neither hear nor see very well. I tried to follow the awards via Twitter for a while, but eventually gave up and went to the bar, where I latched onto a group consisting of friendly Armenian-Canadians Natasha and Nadine Kharabian, artist Todd Lockwood, and artist Jim Burns, a favorite of mine since the 70s and the first time I’ve met him. Also had a nice chat with Pat Rothfuss, my Writers of the Future classmate, in which we discussed Neil Gaiman, personal branding, and how no amount of fame can prevent a crisis of self-confidence.

Some time later I was dealing with one group of people (one of them via text message) trying to arrange dinner, and simultaneously with another group of people (also including one via text message) trying to arrange rides to Heathrow tomorrow, when I suddenly realized I’d hit the wall a little bit earlier and simply could no longer cope. With anything. We decided to get dinner at the hotel restaurant with Shannon Page, Mark Ferrari, Chaz Brenchley, Karen Williams, and Chaz’s niece (local, not a fan) rather than deal with the horrific winds in our sickly (Shannon and Mark) and brain-dead (all) state. The service was sincere, but rather slow and somewhat confused. Mark speculated that, this being low season, the hotel had ordered a truckload of Assorted Staff from Eastern Europe to handle the con. Dinner concluded about 9:30, and we went back to the room and fell over hard.

Monday 11/4:

Didn’t sleep very well, with the wind roaring outside and moaning in the chimney (plainly audible despite the fireplace being completely closed off). After our last Schmotel breakfast, of porridge with fruit, we packed up, got cash and stamps, got bus tickets using the hotel’s laptop and printer (European keyboard plus Windows 8 making it a very frustrating experience), checked out, left our bags in breakfast room, and headed out for a last bit of Brighton touristing. It was a beautiful sunny day, finally, though cold. We visited the beach, Brighton Pavilion, and the Lanes, had a nice vegetarian lunch at Ideya, and ended at the train station, where we caught a cab back to the hotel for our bags, then to the bus “station” (just a wide spot in the road; fortunately it was not raining). There we saw Laura Anne Gilman and her flat-mate get on the previous bus. With 40 minutes to kill, I went down to the Pier to smash a couple of pennies.

After a little confusion, we got on the proper bus for Heathrow. I spent the ride writing up my notes for Saturday and Sunday; I don’t think I left out anything significant. At Heathrow terminal 5, we caught a “Hotel Hoppa” bus to our hotel, taking about 50 minutes to reach a hotel which is practically on the tarmac, sheesh. We’re staying at the Premier Inn, a mammoth mall-like facility, where absolutely nothing is free (£1.50 per night for the in-room safe, coin-op luggage scale, etc.) but the room is spacious (huzzah!) and clean.

Being trapped at an airport hotel without transportation, we had dinner at the hotel restaurant. We ordered a pizza, and wanted to order a couple of small salads to go with it, but there was no way to actually order a salad. You could “top up your meal” with a selection of three sides for £3.45, so we chose two salads and corn. What we got was one salad, corn, and one order of slaw, I guess because they figured no one would order two salads. Each was served in a cup, not a bowl, the size of a large coffee cup. Very strange. The pizza wasn’t bad, though. Then I asked where to print out the ticket for our Hotel Hoppa tomorrow morning and was directed to the “business center:” three PCs, two of them broken, charging £1 for 20 minutes plus 20p per printed page, minimum £5. Fortunately the one working computer had 36p in credit left on it, which was just enough for me to log into my email and print the e-ticket. Then back to the room for packing, blogging, and sloth.

Our flight home tomorrow leaves at 12:45; we’ll probably head to the airport right after breakfast. Although we are definitely still in England (who else has such dorky game shows on the TV?), in some ways we are already in transit, or perhaps in limbo — it feels like we’re at the Hiltion space station in the movie 2001, awaiting the next shuttle to the Moon. It’s been fun, but it will be good to be home.

In the bar

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Who’s a good Elder God? Who’s a good Elder God? You are! Yes! You are!

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Reading from the pirate battle

Reminds me of the zero-gravity toilet instructions in 2001

Shingle. (Instead of sand.)

Ruins of the old pier

What I love about these pigs is that they have little seat belts

George IV has much to answer for

Shadows of the past

This used to be the stables

View from the surviving pier

London (3) + Brighton (1)

Tuesday 10/29: Breakfast in B&B again, with same couple as yesterday. After a few morning errands, we hit the Cutty Sark, where the exhibits and signage were sometimes kind of awkward but we got excellent info from the volunteers, such as the difference between a windlass and a capstan. However, even after many tall ship visits and all the research I’ve done, I have to confess that I still don’t quite understand exactly how it is that they make the ship go by pulling on all those strings.

Lunch at Heap’s, a very fine local sausage with mash & veg. After lunch I left Kate in Greenwich and went to the British Museum (via Docklands Light Rail, changing at Bank to the Jubilee Central line). I did NOT go straight to the Assyrians and Egypt, having seen them many times, but instead headed to Europe 18th-19th centuries for research. Unlike the massive objects in the Assyria, Egypt, Greece, and Rome collection, most of the objects on display for Europe were small decorative items (many based on styles of earlier eras). I spent a lot of time in the clock exhibit: two large rooms of clocks, watches, and small automata. I also looked at the India collection, but it was small by comparison, mostly Hindu and Buddhist religious icons. Okay, then I went and looked at the Assyrians and Egypt because I couldn’t not.

Heading back to Greenwich, at the Tottenham Court Road tube station I saw a small door for Circle Central Line and decided to take it rather than the escalator. It turned out to be a narrow spiral stair, filthy and crammed with pipes and wires, very much a backstage space, visually interesting. Took the Circle Central line to DLR to Greenwich, where we had dinner at the Rivington again. My veg masala was just okay, Kate’s pork chop much better, I should have stuck with local standards. A quiet evening of reading and TV (David Tennant in The Escape Artist, god how bleak); to sleep by 11:00.

Wednesday 10/30: Last breakfast at B&B; packed up; paid up. Considered calling a cab to the train station, but the Hailo app has a £10 minimum so we just schlepped it. For the tube we have various apps to help with routing but the national rail is more complex; fortunately there was a human ticket seller at this station, who sold us a a “split ticket” for Greenwich-Croydon + Croydon-Brighton, though the only place we actually changed trains was London Bridge. Whatever, it was inexpensive and the system really works; wish we had the like in our neck of the woods. I also noticed on the way out of town many office and apartment buildings with dramatic curves etc. which would be architectural marvels in Portland but in London are just another building (because London, duh).

Arrived Brighton, cab to hotel (Motel Schmotel — yes, that is its actual name), checked in. We took a smaller room on the ground floor rather than the larger room we’d booked (before Kate’s surgery) on the third floor. This room is even tinier than the one in Greenwich, I think, also kind of shabby, and the two-block walk in the tearing wind isn’t pleasant. I really wish we’d been able to book in the con hotel, but for some reason the hotel sold out before the con announced that rooms could be booked. Lunch at Mad Crush (steak & onion pie), nap, walked to the Metropole (the con hotel, also headquarters hotel from the 1987 Worldcon), had tea in bar with Colleen Cahill and Peggy Rae Sapienza. Several others passed through including the Jeters and Ellen Klages.

Registered for the con and got the bag of free books. Not very many by comparison with previous WFCs, but that’s okay, as we’re being extremely selective about what we bring home. Tried to assemble a dinner party but found little interest (Australians keen on the welcome reception at 7) so had dinner by ourselves at the Regency Restaurant (not to be confused with the Regency Tavern). A nice low-key place, prices not unreasonable, excellent grilled scallops, rapid service, friendly Albanian waiter. Then back to the Metropole for the welcome reception, where I chatted with Chris Garcia (who was constantly surprised by the rice crackers), a couple of friendly Canadians, an ex-Portlander now living in Ireland (we lived less than a mile apart for over 5 years, have friends in common, but never met), Charlie Stross (planning an expedition to the Apple Store tomorrow for the latest shiny), and James Bacon (keeping everyone’s wine glasses full and not quite understanding the concept “no wine for me “). Kate was not mingling much, because she couldn’t stand up much, so she left at 9:30. Shortly thereafter I got a text: her hotel front door key did not work, and our hotel has no front desk. I walked over and we found that the 2nd keyring they’d found for our room had two copies of the room key and no front door key. As long as I was home, decided to make a night of it.

Thursday 10/31: Breakfast in hotel: hot porridge with fresh fruit, quite nummy. Visited Brighton Pavilion, which was quite extraordinary: “Indian” outside, “Chinese” inside, but not authentically either, an English vision of a fantasy Orient. Kate thought the Green Vault in Dresden left it in the dust as far as over-the-top luxury but it was definitely quite something. Alas, no photos were allowed inside. Had a very nice lunch at the tea shop inside the pavilion, then walked back to the hotel for a nap. The weather was pretty nasty — clouds, drizzle, rain, continuing high winds — and Brighton is generally kind of shabby. We’re both hoping our mood will improve once the con really gets going.

After our nap we hit the con for the afternoon panels. The place is really hopping now, three times as many people as last night. Program rooms are more than large enough for the crowds even with Neil Gaiman on panels, but the bar is a real scrum (not quite as packed as the typical Tor party, but pretty darn crowded). We met up with almost all of the Book View Cafe members present for an extremely delicious and surprisingly inexpensive Indonesian dinner at Warung Tujuh. We ordered seconds on the lamb and chicken dishes, they were that good. Then we skipped the David Gemell Awards and took a cab back to our hotel for an early night (9:30), getting to sleep by 11:00.

I found this sign on the corner near our B&B in Greenwich charming

Rigging of the Cutty Sark

View down the length of the dry-docked Cutty Sark toward London

View down the length of the keel

A collection of figureheads. The name of the one on the far left is unknown but to me she is the S.S. Jane Austen

An automaton centerpiece at the British Museum. At a certain time it would roll down the table, ring bells, and fire its cannon

They don’t make ’em like that anymore

One of a very few surviving bronze sculptures from Greece. Most were melted down

“Secret” stairs at Tottenham Court Road tube station

“Secret” tunnel to Circle Central Line

View from our hotel room in Brighton. “Sunshine makes me high”

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Our hotel, Motel Schmotel, offers Schmotel Rock instead of a mint on the pillow

The Brighton Pavilion. Sadly, no photos allowed inside