Novel ARABELLA OF MARS and two sequels sold to Tor

I am extremely pleased to report that my “Regency Interplanetary Airship Adventure” novel Arabella of Mars has sold to prominent SF publisher Tor in a three-book deal. The first volume will be published in late 2015 or early 2016, with two sequels to follow at yearly intervals.

Arabella Ashby is a Patrick O’Brian girl in a Jane Austen world — born and raised on Mars, she was hauled back home by her mother, where she’s stifled by England’s gravity, climate, and attitudes toward women. When she learns that her evil cousin plans to kill her brother and inherit the family fortune, she joins the crew of an interplanetary clipper ship in order to beat him to Mars. But privateers, mutiny, and insurrection stand in her way. Will she arrive in time?

Arabella of Mars will appeal to fans of Naomi Novik’s Temeraire books, Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy, and Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist Histories, all of which are fast-paced adventures combining a historical setting with a fantasy/SF twist. A novelette in the same universe, “The Wreck of the Mars Adventure,” appeared in Locus Award winning anthology Old Mars, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois; another related novelette, “The End of the Silk Road,” appeared in F&SF.

As for the author, I have published over fifty short stories in major markets. My stories have won the Hugo, have been nominated for the Nebula, and have appeared in five Year’s Best anthologies, among many other honors, and my collection Space Magic won the Endeavour Award for the year’s best F/SF book by a Pacific Northwest writer. I also wrote one of three new stories in the revised edition of George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards 1. In 2010 I spent two weeks at a simulated Mars base in Utah, and have presented a highly-regarded slide show about the trip at many science fiction conventions and other venues. A video I made of my short story “Dr. Talon’s Letter to the Editor” was a finalist for the 2013 Parsec Award.

Getting to this point has been a real emotional rollercoaster, with many years of hard work, long waits, and near misses. Arabella of Mars, my first sale, is my fourth completed novel; I started outlining the first one at the beginning of 2003, so this moment is the culmination of more than ten years of effort. And yet, of course, this is also only the beginning of an equally long strange journey to publication and beyond. I have a lot to do in the next year, including soliciting blurbs, writing blog posts, assembling a street team, and scheduling readings and interviews, as well as shepherding the book through production, not to mention writing book 2 (which currently exists as a solid outline and 4000 words of text). It’s going to be a heck of a ride, and I plan to keep you informed along the way.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email them or leave them as comments here. I can use topics for forthcoming blog posts! :-)

Two events for readers in Portland this weekend

This weekend (October 18-19, 2014) I will be appearing at two events for readers in Portland, Oregon: Story Con and Stumptown Lit.

Story Con is a one-day readers’ convention, “laser-focused on helping book lovers find their next great book.” It features over 30 local authors doing readings, signings, and panels, and will be held at the Vancouver Community Library from 10:30 to 4:30 on October 18. I will be doing a reading at 10:30, a signing at 11:30, and will otherwise be hanging out most of the day.


Stumptown Lit is Oregon Writers Colony’s fall festival for readers and writers. It features workshops, readings by Oregon authors, a book fair, and a reception honoring Jean Auel, and will be held at the World Forestry Center on October 19. I won’t be presenting, but I have books in the book fair (noon to 5:00) and will generally be hanging around.


Hope to see you there!

60 minutes to escape!

“Room Escape” is a genre of casual online game, originating in Japan, in which you wake up in a room and must search for clues and solve puzzles in order to escape it. Kate’s a big fan of this type of game, so when I found out that a live-action version was launching in Portland I snagged tickets as soon as I could.

“Spark of Resistance” ( is an interactive game, or possibly a theatrical experience, which takes place in a small room in an industrial space on the Portland riverfront. Up to 8 players at a time are locked into this room, with a 60-minute clock to figure a way out. It was tons of fun and I’d recommend it for anyone who enjoys a challenging puzzle.

One thing that I don’t like about room escape games online is the arbitrary nature of the puzzle. It’s never clear to me why you are in this room or why, if someone wanted to provide clues to help you get out of it, they would be so ridiculously obscure about it. Also, puzzle escape games often devolve into “pixel hunting,” in which you have to click on absolutely everything in hopes of locating the one click point that reveals a hidden clue or tool.

“Spark of Resistance” isn’t arbitrary. You are given a clear plot (involving espionage and paranoia in an oppressive fictional country) and, as you are in a real room made of real things, there’s no pixel-hunting… you use your actual eyes and hands to search the walls and drawers for actual hidden objects. This made it a lot more fun than any online game. The props and devices in the room were well-constructed, engaging, and thematically appropriate.

The puzzles in “Spark of Resistance” are challenging, but not impossible (especially if you are familiar with the conventions of the genre, e.g. no clue applies to more than one puzzle), and the game masters are watching and will provide timely hints if you get stuck. Even with hints, though, we didn’t manage to finish the last puzzle before the 60-minute timer ran out. However, as we came so close, they let us back in and we finished in about ten more minutes. We were told that so far no paying players, and only one team of beta testers, has actually escaped in time — we came the closest of any paying team so far. (The game hasn’t been running very long.)

“Spark of Resistance” is a game for up to 8 players. If you have fewer than that, the remaining tickets for your time slot are available and may be purchased by other people, so if you don’t have a full team of 8 you might wind up playing with strangers. We found that with 8 people in the room we did get in each other’s way a bit, but on the other hand with 8 people we had more eyes on each puzzle, more people looking for clues and objects, and more parallel processing on independent puzzles. I think 6 would be ideal… I don’t think 2 people would have a chance of solving the entire room in time.

If you’re in Portland and enjoy logic puzzles, I’d definitely recommend “Spark of Resistance.”

Support Greg Bear – preorder WAR DOGS from Powell’s

9780316072830As you may have heard, Seattle SF author Greg Bear recently had emergency cardiac surgery and spent a week in the hospital. The surgery went well and he is home and recovering, but he will not be able to tour or do other promotion for his brand new book War Dogs. Also, because of the ongoing Amazon-Hachette dispute, War Dogs cannot be pre-ordered from Amazon. However, it can be pre-ordered from Powell’s ( as well as Seattle’s University Bookstore, Mysterious Galaxy, and Barnes and Noble.

Greg is a fabulous writer and has always been friendly and extremely generous to other authors and Clarion West students. Please help support him by pre-ordering War Dogs, reviewing it, mentioning it in a blog, talking about it with friends, asking your library to order it, etc.

Spread the word!

Several sales to report

Holy cow, I have been incredibly remiss in sharing my good writing news. I’ve made the following sales in the past couple of months:

  • Steampunk romantic fantasy novelette Liaisons Galantes: A Scientific Romance,” which originally appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies #108, resold to ebook anthology The Best of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Year Five, already available.
  • Horror story “Goat Eyes” sold to Black Static #42, out very soon.
  • Post-robot-holocaust story “Mammals” sold to Analog, forthcoming.
  • Asteroid mining story “Malf” sold to anthology Mission: Tomorrow, forthcoming in 2015.
  • And the really big news is that space opera “Damage” sold to, forthcoming in 2015. I’m really thrilled about that one!

Announcing the release of “Up and Running with VI” at

When I visited video training company in April to record AWK Essential Training, the producer noticed that I was using the vi text editor and mentioned that they didn’t currently have a course on that… would I be interested in creating one? I was, and I did, and it is now available to all members: Up and Running with VI. If you aren’t a member, you can watch five of the videos in the course for free at

Vi courseHere’s Lynda’s description of the course: “Although other text editors may be easier to use, vi is built into all Unix systems (including Linux and Mac OS). Knowing a few basic vi commands guarantees you’ll be able to work with these systems when no other editor is installed. In this course, David D. Levine shows you how to get in and out of vi, switch modes, and start editing files in place. Learn how to change text within a file, use commands like undo and yank, find and replace text, and invoke more advanced Unix commands. Although it may be arcane, vi is still the standard text editor for all Unix systems. Start learning it now and run your systems more smoothly in the future.”

Topics covered in the course include:

  • Entering and leaving vi
  • Understanding the Command, Insert, and Colon modes
  • Moving around in files
  • Editing text
  • Moving content with delete, yank, and put
  • Searching with regular expressions
  • Customizing vi
  • Filtering text through shell commands

If you are interested in doing something like this yourself, please contact Mark Niemann-Ross at He is especially interested in finding authors who are women or people of color. If you have expertise in any technical or business field, have good English writing and speaking skills, and enjoy helping people learn how to do things, I encourage you to give it a try.

Portland Film Festival this week

The second annual Portland Film Festival began yesterday (August 26) and continues through September 1, with a fantastic smorgasbord of feature films, short films, panel discussions; workshops for filmmakers, writers, and actors; and opportunities for networking, scattered all over downtown Portland.

I will be moderating a panel discussion on Saturday (1:30-3:00 at the 5th Avenue Cinema) on “Science Fiction, Film and Technology” with Ted Chiang, Daniel H. Wilson, and more! I’ll also be attending as many of the writing workshops as I can manage. It’s a busy schedule.

Other program items of interest to the science fiction community include the films Time Lapse, Rover, and Wizard’s Way (the last one is FREE) and Lessons Learned & 28th Anniversary Screening of Labyrinth with a Q&A with Toby Froud.

Hope to see some of you there!

London days 6-9, Toronto, and home

Tue 8/19 – London

Step count: 11,702

Awake 7:57 just before 8:00 alarm. Breakfast (yogurt and muesli) with Lise Eisenberg. Packed up. Twitter DM from Mary Robinette Kowal: coffee? But, alas, it didn’t pan out. Checked out, called for cab. Settled in for 20-minute wait, but then a cab pulled up so we canceled the first. Great view on cab ride of Shard beyond Tower of London.

The Arosfa hotel (it’s a Welsh word meaning “a place to stay”) has a lovely sitting room and friendly staff; the room is tiny but clean and well-furbished. (Yes, autocorrect, I did mean “furbished” and not “furnished.” Look it up.) Twin beds, alas, and a bathroom like what an airplane lavatory would be if it had a shower. There were two pull-cords in the bathroom, presumably one being the light and the other being that alarm cord placed in European bathrooms for the purpose of embarrassing American tourists. I went downstairs and asked which was which. “They’re both lights — no alarm cords here. If you get in trouble, just scream.”

Lay down for a nap, didn’t sleep but did rest for a bit. Went out to explore the neighborhood and find lunch. Many options, settled on Reynolds for a chicken and mango wrap and a corn and quinoa salad (sadly loaded with avocado). Back to the room with a stop at Waterstones across the street for the last Iain Banks book, The Quarry (which had not been available at the con, as the only new-book dealer had foolishly stocked only Banks’s SF). Grabbed our coats and headed back out to the British Museum (it’s free!). Saw mummies, Mesopotamian tile, Sutton Hoo grave goods, Phil Foglio, Cheryl Morgan. Flagging then, went to Tea and Tattle across the street for tea and a scone (flat white and walnut cake for me).

After tea, wanted to grab a Time Out to find out what was on. Stopped into 3 newsagents, 2 tube stations (packed with rush-hour commuters), and a bookstore looking for a copy, with no luck. In fact, no one even knew what it was until Waterstones, where I learned that it’s now a free paper which comes out late Tuesday or early Wednesday. The guys who were offering the Evening Standard to every incoming tube passenger today will probably have it tomorrow.

Back to room, did some online research on museums and theatre for the next couple of days. Realized about 8:00 that we really needed dinner. Went out to restaurant Olivelli for pizza, split a quattro stagione pizza and an insalata di pollo, which were ordered with some slight difficulty. We did not anticipate having as many language issues in England as we have been having (most of the staff at the Aloft were Eastern European, I think). After dinner, came straight home. Plan for tomorrow: TKTS in the morning, then John Soane’s Museum, then hopefully a play in the evening. Some futzing with luggage, electric plugs, and email. To sleep 11:00.

Wed 8/20 – London

Step count: 10,555

Awake 3:00 but got back to sleep eventually. Awake again 8:00. Really good breakfast spread including kippers, marmite, and any number of cooked-to-order options as well as all the usual stuff. I don’t usually eat fried eggs, but in this place it’s “the thing with eyes” so I ordered and ate them with gusto. (By this I refer to an incident in Japan in which I ate “the thing with eyes” which was in my bento. For some reason I will happily eat things in other countries which I would not touch at home, either before or after the trip.) Our host has a dry sense of humor, stating straight-faced that the options for toast were white, brown, and burnt. I think we did hold our own even before coffee. Among the breakfast offerings was a tray of ham-and-cheese croissants. Younger-me would have snagged one of them to have for lunch, but today-me would rather spend money and have a sit-down lunch than lug the thing around all day.

First stop of the day: Leicester Square for TKTS. Spent about a half-hour in line and snagged half-price tickets for our first choice: Jeeves & Wooster. Proceeded from there to Sir John Soane’s Museum. An impressive, rather insane collection of artworks, mostly stone and plaster Classical sculptures and decorative elements but including an Egyptian sarcophagus and hundreds of paintings, assembled by an architect of the late 1700s and early 1800s and displayed in his home almost exactly as it was when he died. It’s free, but they only let in a limited number of people at a time, and no photography is allowed. This intriguing museum also included a temporary exhibition about London and Paris immediately after the fall of Napoleon, very much of interest to me for my novel researches. I bought the catalog of that one.

Lunch at a Thai place nearby called Thiwanya. From there I went to the Hunterian Museum, just a couple of blocks away, while Kate went shopping. The Hunterian is inside the Royal College of Surgeons, and you have to don a badge and pass through a security checkpoint to find it, but it’s free. It consists of a collection of anatomical specimens (animal, human, and a few plants — some normal, many pathological), the story of the museum itself, and the history of anatomy and medicine, especially surgery and the teaching thereof. Exhibits include the complete skeleton of the “Irish Giant” Charles Byrne, Winston Churchill’s dentures, and a cast of Jonathan Swift’s cranial cavity, as well as many other famous and noteworthy specimens. I’m glad I didn’t try to bring Kate to this. Upstairs, focusing specifically on surgery including videos of modern procedures, was a little too disturbing even for me. All in all I spent nearly three hours there.

Met up with Kate back at the hotel, then back out again for dinner before the show. Wound up at Pods, a healthy/organic fast food place. Mostly a lunch joint, they were sold out of everything except the red and green Thai chicken curry so we had one of each. Quite nice, especially with the multicolored rice. That was quick so we had time to kill before the play. Wandered down to Trafalgar Square and admired the art and architecture on display, also the street performers (including an Irish sidewalk-chalk-artist-slash-bagpiper, an energetic Spiderman impersonator, and a contortionist). The play, Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense, was very silly fun. The production was structured as a play-within-a-play presented by Wooster, with the help of Jeeves and one other actor, another butler. The two butlers played all the parts except Bertie and also provided the sets and props, sometimes to hilarious effect. Very reminiscent of the play The 39 Steps.

Not a lot of photos today, just about everywhere we went had a no-photos policy. Back home by 10:30, to bed 11:45.

Thu 8/21 – London

Step count: 10,337

Awake 8:00. Skipped the hot breakfast in favor of shredded wheat (which, it turned out, had fruit inside), yogurt, and a little slice of quiche (which, it turned out, was room temperature). Odd.

Courtauld Gallery featured a magnificent collection of masterpieces, especially Impressionists. We shared the space with a gaggle of students from nearby Kings College; the students were annoying but the lecturer pointed out some interesting things about the paintings. A really excellent museum.

Wandered the Strand in search of lunch. Wound up at Birley, a high-end sandwich shop, where most of the clientele was clearly lawyers from the nearby law courts. Proceeded from there to the Victoria & Albert museum, trekking down an astonishingly long underground passage from the tube station to the museum. Once inside, passed an amazing collection of sculptures just on the way to the bathroom. Special exhibit “Disobedient Objects,” about artifacts produced by protest movements, was thought-provoking and well-curated, but crowded. Ran out of spoons shortly after that, took the bus home, fell over. When we woke up it was time to leave for the Tun (London fandom pub meet, rescheduled to this Thursday for a post-Worldcon gathering of the clans). Spent most of the time smoffing with Alison & Steve, Steve & Giulia, and Martin Easterbrook, along with others less well known to me. Couldn’t take the noise and still had to pack before tomorrow’s flight, so bailed by 8:00 (with many fine people just arriving, alas). Back at hotel, arranged for a cab, wrote some postcards, and made an early night of it.

I often wish I lived in a bigger city with more big-city amenities, but London and Paris do take a lot of energy to deal with. I suppose it wouldn’t be so bad if it were my own city and more familiar. I’m ready to go home now.

Fri 8/22 – London-Toronto

Step count: 10,061

Awake just before 6:00 alarm. Packed up, had breakfast, checked out. Cab to airport arrived right on time, delivered us to Heathrow with no issues. Terminal uncrowded at 9am, found no lines at all either to check in or for security (admittedly we used the Business Class line for both — obtained with miles — but I didn’t observe any crowding in the other lines either). Long hike to Air Canada business class lounge. Settled in there for an hour, wrote a blog post about the last couple of days in Mechelen and the first day in London. Boarded plane (again no line, thanks to Business Class), got settled in. Flight was uneventful. Food more than decent (main course: seared cod with a chunky tomato coulis) but the cheese course was pathetic by La Cahudiere standards. Seat a very nice lie-flat pod, though at one point, late in the flight, it refused to sit back up again and the flight attendant had to reboot it, saying something about “we can only do this once per flight or it overheats,” after which I was reluctant to lay it down again. Slept about an hour, otherwise did a bunch of reading, didn’t even look at the on-demand video screen.

Huge crowds at Toronto airport but reasonably well managed, except for complete lack of signage of how to get out of baggage claim area. No issues with customs, except that we stood in the wrong line for passport control (they served us anyway, thank you polite Canadians). Ran into Colin Hinz and Catherine Crockett in baggage claim; apparently they’d been on the same flight. Long trek to Terminal Link train to our on-airport hotel, then had some difficulty finding it from the train terminal (it wasn’t far, but there was a signage failure for the last bit). The ALT hotel is reminiscent of the Aloft in its stark modernity, but the room is about as big as our last 3 rooms put together and has two double beds, a tub, a closet, towel racks, drawers, and washcloths, huzzah. Toronto is 75 degrees and humid, the warmest weather we’ve seen since Paris. Worked on blog for a bit.

Hotel has no restaurant to speak of and there’s nothing in the vicinity (airport is reachable by train but is pretty much a food desert) so we opted for a 15-minute walk to Zet’s Drive-Inn, supposed to have good Greek food. Airport/industrial roadways were actively pedestrian-hostile and under construction to boot, but we did eventually manage to make our way to Zet’s without being run over. We each ordered a peameal bacon sandwich (a Toronto specialty and something of a guilty pleasure of mine). Not exactly cuisine, but definitely tasty. After eating, not sure what to do with our trays. Spotted some other trays left on a table nearby and had the following exchange: “We decided one big pile was better than one little pile, and rather than pick theirs up we decided to set ours down.” “And we had another peameal bacon sandwich that couldn’t be beat, and didn’t get up until the next morning when we all had to go to the airport.” “Remember the airport? Whole damn thing’s about the airport…” Nearly midnight London time and running on one hour’s sleep we were getting kind of punchy. Back at hotel, posted another blog post covering through the end of the Worldcon. Fell over around 8:00.

Sat 8/23 – Toronto-Seattle-Portland

Step count: 7,476

Awake around 3:00, but got back to sleep. Woke to alarm 6:00. Washed up, packed up, checked out. Did not buy anything from the little shop in the lobby (that’s what this place offers for breakfast), assuming that the Air Canada business class lounge would provide breakfast. This proved to be a mistake.

Terminal Link train to terminal. Took a bit of searching to find the right place to check in. Checked in our bags with the assurance they’d be checked through to Portland, but once they were tagged we had to drag them through Customs ourselves. First time using Global Entry for passport control into USA. Security person at Global Entry line said we would need our Global Entry cards. This didn’t match my understanding, and Kate didn’t have hers, but security person let us in anyway. Card was not needed, just passport and fingerprints, but the UI on the Global Entry kiosk could use some work. Getting a little cranky by this point. Next came security. We dropped our bags on the belt and then went to the priority security line. But, alas, I had the dreaded “SSSS” on my boarding pass indicating I’d been randomly selected for special security search. Not even Global Entry plus TSA Pre-Check plus Business Class will get you out of that. So I stood for a long time in a line that wasn’t moving at all, then took off my shoes, took everything out of my pockets, handed over my boarding pass, took my computer out of its sleeve, got my computer and bag swabbed for explosives, walked through a metal detector, walked through the metal detector again without my belt (oops), had my choice of getting patted down or standing in the X-ray scanner (took the scanner because it’s quicker), waited nervously for my boarding pass to be returned as they seemed to have forgotten that bit, then put everything back where it had been. Getting really cranky by now. Long, long walk to our gate. By now it had gotten too late to hit the business class lounge, so we bought some fruit-and-nut bars at the little shop near our gate and that was our breakfast.

Five-hour flight to Seattle in business class was fine, big comfy seats and a very nice real breakfast (omelette, sausage with a fruit compote, potatoes, yogurt, pretty good coffee). Back in the day, not everyone could afford to fly but the service was lots better. Today travel is cheap and uncomfortable, but you can still get the kind of service everyone used to get if you can pay for it. So basically they’ve bolted the Economy Class section onto what used to be the whole plane. Slept some and read some on the flight. Lovely view of Seattle on the way in.

On landing in Seattle, checked my email and found a message sent right after we took off, saying that our Seattle-Portland flight was canceled. After getting inside, trekked down to Customer Service desk to resolve the situation. Good news! Friendly United agent rebooked us on an Alaska flight leaving half an hour earlier than our canceled United one. Now all we had to do was rely on United to transfer our bags from Air Canada to Alaska in 45 minutes. Agent acknowledged that this was kind of iffy and instructed us to check with Alaska if the bags didn’t appear. Picked up a sandwich from Wolfgang Puck on the way to the Alaska gate and split that for lunch.

Uneventful flight to Portland. “Pointy trees! Pointy trees!” Good to be home. Something about the air, the quality of the light, is different here from where we’ve been. Surprised to find only a few bags on the carrousel, the plane wasn’t that small. Alas, none of them were ours. Alaska baggage agent said they’d most likely be on the next flight and would be delivered to us at home, also gave us certificates for 2500 frequent flyer miles each for our trouble. As we had no bags to shlep, took light rail and bus home.

Arrived home about 1pm, house is fine, huge pile of mail. Bleared about the house for the rest of the afternoon; sorted mail pile; cleared out TiVo; Kate went to the store for some groceries. Bags arrived 6pm, yay. Tried to watch Dr Who premiere but was falling asleep and had to give up halfway through. To bed 9pm.

Sun 8/24 – Portland

Awoke 1am, then 5am, got up for a few hours then back to bed, finally got up and dressed 10:30am. Went to farmers’ market, where God told us to make ratatouille. Okay, we are really home now.

And now… the last photos from the trip

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There was a painting of Mary Robinette Kowal in the sitting room of our London hotel

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The room was not large

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Typical view of the mummies room in the British Museum

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Is this the first of the Muffler Men?

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Reconstruction of the famous Sutton Hoo helmet

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This fabulous umbrella shop (est’d. 1830) was right near our hotel

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Londoners will carry damn near anything on a bicycle

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View of Big Ben and the lions of Nelson’s Column from Trafalgar Square. Not shown: giant blue chicken.

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Vicent van Gogh with bandaged ear at the Courtauld Gallery

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Riot shields in the form of books, from the Disobedient Objects exhibit at the V&A

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For some reason this sculpture at the V&A caught my fancy

FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE TRIP: The theme of this trip has been spending time with friends; only the week in Paris was by ourselves. I am pleased and honored to be able to hang out with the many excellent people whose company I shared in Normandy, Belgium, and London. Food was a highlight, with some of the best meals being very simple, classic French dishes — like steak frites, crepes, and grilled duck breast — done perfectly (but, with all the walking, I gained only two pounds in four weeks). I will probably never forget the startled eyes of the skinned rabbit at the farm market in St. Hilaire, though I wish I could. It was delicous, though. Though we did hit the Louvre and the British Museum briefly, we spent more time in secondary museums, notably the Carnavalet in Paris and Courtauld Gallery, which were very memorable. Here at the end of the trip, I am so jet-lagged and bone-weary that I feel a bit sick, or perhaps stoned, but I’d do it all again — though if we could arrange it so that the Worldcon wasn’t at the end of the trip that might have been better. I’m already thinking about where we’ll go next.

London days 2-5

Fri 8/15 – London

Step count: 8,976

Awake 7:30 before 8:00 alarm. Had a breakfast never seen before in human history: Greek yogurt and Cocoa Puffs — an experiment that will not be repeated. Thinking about the fact that I would have to speak for 15 minutes solo about Orphan Black, decided to write up some notes for it; this took about an hour. Wandered exhibit hall for a bit; had lunch with Vylar Kaftan. Orphan Black presentation went well, I think (did get several compliments on it later in the con). Talked with Nancy McClure after the panel, and made a lunch date for tomorrow. Ran into Kate, used my drink chit from panel just past to get her a glass of milk from the green room to thin out her mango lassi from lunch. Went with her to very interesting “Scientists Without Borders” panel, then a nap, from which I awoke in time for the 2-person play “Mastermind” (though Kate elected to stay in bed longer). The play was rather good, though I’m not sure whether or not I liked the ambiguous ending (is that irony?). Brief chat with Lettie Prell on way to next panel “Imagining Fantasy Lands: The Status Quo Does Not Need Worldbuilding,” which was a good panel though it didn’t cover any new ground for me. Headed for art show after that, but it was just closing.

Hung out in fan village hoping for a bite to eat before the SFWA reception but Catherine Crockett got the last dish of noodles from the China worldcon bid, alas. Talked with her and Amy Thomson for a bit before heading off to the reception. The path to the reception involved walking through an enormous, completely empty hall, climbing three flights of stairs, and walking down a ridiculously long corridor (with occasional views into an even larger hall containing a bouncy castle and some kind of maze) before reaching an anonymous conference room. Food consisted of about 4 varieties of crispy snacks, but there were plenty of good people (many of whom I hadn’t yet seen at the con, including Carl (Charlie) Allery, Cat Sparks, and Ken Brady) and it wasn’t dark, overcrowded, or too noisy.

After the reception, we trekked back to the Fan Village for our 9pm dinner rendezvous with Fran Wilde at the TARDIS. I talked with Charlie Jane Anders while waiting for Fran. She showed up with some friends of hers I hadn’t met before, or not much (I didn’t get their names, but I did get their Twitter handles: @amergina, @zanjan, @ELBlackEdits, and @KgElfland2ndCuz) and we trudged the ExCeL Centre’s 900-meter length* to a Chinese restaurant nearby. This was the first time in days I’ve been outside of the convention center and hotel at all, though apparently we were still on convention center property. The restaurant was having a big party with karaoke and we figured we wouldn’t get in, but decided to ask; the waiter said he’d check, then vanished. We were just about ready to give up and leave when he appeared from around the corner of the building and said yes, they’d seat us in a banquet room. He led us around back, through a gate, down some stairs, and through twisting corridors to a small but nicely-appointed room. The waitress did not seem pleased to see us, and the sound of rattling mah jongg tiles came to us from another room nearby, but once we ordered the food came remarkably quickly and was very good. Excellent conversation too.

After dinner we spotted the Tor UK party on the terrace of the bar next door and decided to crash it. Kate bailed but I stuck around until I was chilled through. To bed around 1am.

* While looking that figure up I discovered that ExCeL’s peculiar capitalization is because it stands for Exhibition Centre London. Which means that whether you call it ExCeL London or ExCeL Centre you’re being redundant. Also, it’s owned by the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company.

Sat 8/16 – London

Step count: 8,366

Awake 7:30 before 8:00 alarm. Dawdled a bit getting down to breakfast and had some trouble finding a table. A big difference in crowd level between 8:20 (half full) and 8:50 (line out the door). Didn’t want to wait in the line for hot food, so had yogurt and muesli for breakfast.

After breakfast, back to the room to update yesterday’s notes and blog my Orphan Black write-up, then headed out to the con. Voted in site selection; toured art show. Artist Grace Goldeen Ogawa told me her mother said to tell me how much she liked my story “Pupa” on StarShipSofa. Browsing the exhibit hall, I witnessed Charlie Stross fail his saving throw vs. Shiny — twice in less than a minute! Talked in dealers’ room and fan village with Fran Myman, Gail Carriger, Anne Leckie, Foz Meadows and others. Waited for Nancy for lunch but she was a no-show (I later learned that she was delayed by train issue) so I wandered down the Boulevard and wound up having chicken tikka masala with Elizabeth Bear, Scott Lynch, and John Chu. The Boulevard, with its fast-food counters and shared seating, is soulless but actually functions well, like the Coffee Garden in the Columbia River Red Lion of sainted memory; you can easily see and join parties of your friends (and, unlike the Coffee Garden, this doesn’t mess up the service).

After lunch I moderated panel “The Province of All Mankind” featuring former cosmonaut Anatolii Artsebarskii. This panel was in one of the larger rooms and was about half-full (because of the large number of attendees, almost every program item I attended or appeared on was full or nearly so, but this one was a last-minute addition to the schedule and didn’t appear in the printed program). If moderating the average panel is like herding cats, moderating this one was more like driving a 40-mule team. I’ve never had to deal with a translator before… wow, what a challenge. Whenever Anatolii had the floor he would speak for about a paragraph, which took several minutes with the translation. With that, and considering that most of the audience was probably there specifically to see him, I structured the conversation around him, extracting questions from his statements to pass to the other panelists before handing the ball back to him. We were also fortunate to have a 15-year-old British young woman on the panel, who provided an interesting and remarkably hard-headed perspective on the topic question “what drives us to pursue our childhood dreams of space?”

From there I went straight to my kaffeeklatsch, which I was surprised to find had 8 people signed up (out of a maximum of 9), none of whom I already knew other than Lynne Ann. I think I gave good value for money. Hung out in dealers’ room for a bit after that, then realized it was time for a nap. But back at the room I faffed around with notes, email, etc. and had just gotten around to lying down when Kate showed up for a nap as well. Woke up just in time to head off to a book launch where we were to meet up with Maureen Speller and Paul Kincaid for dinner. It was in the same space as the SFWA reception but even further down the long long corridor (why??? All the rooms are the same and none of the ones we passed seemed to be in use). Socialized there with a variety of Brits including Dave Langford, Joseph Nicholas, and Judith Hanna while waiting for Maureen to get out of a panel.

Eventually we headed off from there with the intention of going until we found something edible and eating it. Settled on Lebanese restaurant Reem Al Bawadi — at least that was what Yelp called it and what it said on the plates, though the signage outside called it something else. Long wait to be seated, but it smelled great and had been recommended by Giulia de Cesare so we stuck it out. Once we were seated and ordered, the food arrived very quickly and was absolutely delicious. The four of us shared falafel, ful, fattoush, and 2 orders of the grilled kafta and it left us pleasantly full. We also all tried a refreshing salted yogurt drink called ayran. At the end of the meal they brought us perfect little bites of baklava. Delightful conversation too.

Paul and Maureen bailed as we passed their hotel on the way back to the con, having had a long day. Heading for a play called Hallucinating Shakespeare, we ran into Ctein who was heading the same way, and caught up with each other as we walked the half-mile length of the ExCeL. By the time we got to the other end we realized we were pretty knackered as well and decided to make an early night of it. Back to the room 9:30, to bed by 11.

Sun 8/17 – London

Step count: 6,665

Awake 7:00 before 7:30 alarm (it’s a gift, I guess) for our 8:00 breakfast appointment with Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden. We talked about our travels and great museums we have known, and they shared with us the news that they would be Guests of Honor for the Kansas City Worldcon (just a few minutes before the official announcement). After breakfast I spent an hour looking at the day’s program and decided not to blow off the con.

The first panel I attended was “On The Blogs: Bloggers Discuss Their Roles in the World of YA.” Looking for book blogs? Google “book blogs” — your readers will too, and the first ones you see there are the popular ones, the ones your readers will also see first. They do come and go rather frequently. “The Internet is taking up the slack in our high school educational system” — review blogs show kids how to consider a text and write persuasively in a way they are not even allowed to in school. When sending books for review to book bloggers, read the guidelines, be direct and honest, don’t oversell yourself, be nice, have an introductory paragraph about yourself and the book, don’t include manuscript in initial email (unless guidelines say so), say thank you, be flexible about submission times (send as far in advance as possible), start chatting with bloggers on Twitter or the comments in their blogs to find out who’s who and what they’re interested in, offer a guest blog post if the blog is open to that. Blog tours aren’t that useful unless you’re Holly Black; interviews are better. Look for bloggers who are entertaining and insightful. Don’t argue with reviews, or request that a bad review be taken down. Remember that bloggers talk to each other, and to publishers.

Next I stood in line for the hall to open for big panel “Iain M. Banks, Writer and Professional.” Panelists’ anecdotes made me even more sorry I never met Banks or even saw him speak. “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

Unfortunately I had to leave the Banks panel early, because I was appearing on the next one: “Should We Trash The Planet on the Way to the Stars?” Moderator Hayden Trenholm and panelist Paul Abell introduced themselves as Canadian; I claimed to be “Canadian in spirit.” They both agreed that the premise of the panel was silly; I stated (as a joke) that I would be taking the devil’s advocate approach and arguing in favor of trashing the planet. Paul told me to turn in my almost-a-Canadian card. The premise of the panel was indeed silly, and no one actually advocated trashing the planet; we spent the panel talking about motivations and priorities for space travel and what costs (financial, environmental, etc.) we’d be willing to pay as a society for it. Greg Benford: “Those who do not learn the lessons of statistics are doomed to become one.” Full house, good panel.

Had lunch in the Boulevard (chicken sandwich) with Jim Kelly, Rick Wilber, Michael Blumlein, and Michael Swanwick (another Kansas City GoH, as it happens). Attended the Clarion West party in the fan village; visited the creepy-crawlies in the exhibit hall (I mean a display of insects, not the dealers). The Girl Genius radio play was tons of fun and I recommend it highly. After that, ran into Jo Walton on the Boulevard and wound up having tea with her and Michael Swanwick. She compared the Chicago Worldcon hotel to a brain with a stroke; workarounds are required. Of course it’s actually two brains forcibly joined together (now there’s a story idea…). Later Cory Doctorow joined us. Me: mostly listening.

Dinner arrangements were… complicated… but eventually we wound up with Kate Schaefer and Glenn Hackney at the same Chinese place as Friday (this time at a table right by the door) and had a perfectly decent meal. For some reason at this con the cat-herding around arranging meals was much more difficult than even the usual Worldcon. Still, we did manage to have at least decent food with good friends at most every meal. Though not, today, with another Kansas City GoH.

Back to the con in time to catch most of the Hugos. Very pleased with the results; ceremony was pretty good too. Afterwards, Mary Robinette Kowal was a class act as usual, showing up in the Fan Village and taking pictures of people holding her Hugo. To bed about midnight.

Mon 8/18 – London

Step count: 10,241

Awake 7:15 before 8:00 alarm. Joined Lise Eisenberg and Alan Stewart (Australian) at breakfast (yogurt and muesli). After breakfast, blew off con in favor of Docklands Museum. Ran into Amanda Baker on DLR, already heading home from the con. The museum had many excellent exhibits, many of which were relevant to my next novel; we only did half of it before lunch time.

Walked around Canary Wharf looking for lunch but everything we saw was too plastic (but still, the place looks great considering it was completely destroyed by the Daleks just a few years ago.) so we got back on the DLR and took it back to the museum for Tale of India near there, which Kate had found on Yelp earlier. We were the only people in the restaurant, never a good sign, but the food, when it came, was excellent: pumpkin curry with lamb; garlic dhal; okra; lemon rice; naan. After lunch, Kate went back for the second half of the museum, while I returned to the con (despite a hang-up on the DLR). Exhibits and dealers were already closed down, but the fan village and program continued. I talked with Jeffrey Carver on the Boulevard and Dave Clements in the green room (having popped in to use my one remaining drink chit).

I headed for the “Ruling Party” panel (Charlie Stross), but the line was clearly too long to fit in the room so I bailed for “The Scientific Culture” (Dave Clements), which I enjoyed greatly. “I don’t see my job as looking for Truth, I see it as building models that fit the data better and better.” — “This business of knowing more than most people about something can lead to arrogance.” “*cough*surgeons*cough*” “*cough*physicists*cough*” — Scientists work within multiple cultures (academia, industry, government, medicine, military, etc.) so what is “science culture” anyway? It’s a kind of matrix. Industry is actually more cooperative and less cutthroat than academia, which tends to pit individual researchers against each other (as opposed to industry, which tends to have teams working toward a common goal). — Science offers an occasional “I am the first person in human history to see this” experience which is unique and addictive. Geologist: “I can touch a billion-year-old rock and feel myself a very small part of a very big story.” Astrophysicist: “I can’t touch them, but I can look at some very old things.” Other astrophysicist: “My things are older than your rocks.”

Next panel was “How Space Missions Happen,” which was largely anecdotes, and of course plenty of puns from Jordin Kare. “It’s the end of the world… con.” — Space funding is “politics first, finance second, science and engineering third;” “everything comes from luck and personal contacts.” — NASA wanted to do everything “faster, better, cheaper” but engineers know it’s “pick two one.” — Geoff Landis worked on an instrument to make fuel on Mars but the mission was canceled when Mars Polar Lander, based on the same design, failed. The spaceframe did eventually fly (under the name Phoenix) but all the science instruments were scraped off and replaced by new ones. Geoff got a T-shirt: “My spacecraft went to Mars and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.” — “NASA is a collection of fiefdoms, each with its own budget — it’s amazing how little the director actually controls.” — The “Triana” mission was initiated by VP Al Gore and was mothballed for 12 years after Gore lost in 2000. It’s now scheduled to launch (under a new name) in 2015 but nobody’s left who knows how it works and it all has to be reverse-engineered. — There’s a revolution happening now with 10cm “cubesats” which can be piggybacked on other missions effectively free… “but there’s no such thing as a free launch.” Cubesats cost less than the Xerox bill for big satellites, meaning that failure isn’t a disaster. “In the computer industry, failure is not an option… it comes bundled with the software.” Most cubesats are built by students, who work cheap or free. — It’s extremely difficult to launch a satellite to orbit a gas giant’s moon. The Europa Clipper mission has been repurposed as a Jupiter mission with Europa flybys because it’s so much easier to do it that way. — It takes ~5 years to develop a satellite, 10-30 years for a major mission (e.g. space telescope).

During that panel Kate and I decided (via text message) to order carry-out from the fabulous Lebanese restaurant and take it into the fan village where Donya White, with her broken kneecap, was encamped. When we called the restaurant to place our order, they insisted on a phone number but then were apparently unable to comprehend Kate’s US cell phone number when she gave it. Apart from the problems of the international prefix, I figured that they just couldn’t understand a number stated in groups of three, three, and four digits — I took the phone from Kate and gave them the digits in pairs, and they accepted that. I know that I have great difficulty comprehending a phone number when it’s stated European-style in pairs (or, even worse, as two-digit numbers e.g. “seventeen” instead of “one seven”).

Ran back to room for coat, cash, and phone charger, as my phone was getting very low on juice, then met Kate at panel “How Do You Divide a Railroad?” States leave archaeological marks in societies when they join, and when they break… you still can’t take a bus across the Daneline. (NB: I have Googled on this term and come up empty. Farah, if you’re reading this, can you explain?) Every national border in Europe is a tide-mark of the ebb and flow of empires. Don’t forget that governments exist at multiple levels (nation, department, county, city). When a state breaks up, who gets the existing embassies? Who pays the pensions? [It was at this point, halfway through the panel, that I realized that the unstated subtext of this panel about “what happens when nations break up” is the open question of Scottish independence.] Revolutions don’t happen when things are really bad; they happen when things have been bad and have gotten a bit better. In Adam Roberts’s novel Salt the big societal problem starts with a custody battle over a child. Infrastructure is always a big issue when countries divide. If Scotland becomes an independent EU country they won’t be able to charge English students more to attend Scottish universities, which they are permitted to do now. Irish people can vote in British elections and enter Britain without passports not out of friendliness but because Britain didn’t want to recognize Ireland’s independence. (This scattered write-up makes the panel, which was brilliant, seem much less coherent than it was. I blame end-of-con brain.)

After the panel, we hiked down to the Lebanese restaurant. We had some worries about our order, given the confusion about the phone number, but it was waiting for us (along with a restaurant-full of fans). Dragged it back to the fan village and a very grateful Allen and Donya (who seemed remarkably chipper). Had a nice dinner with them and some of their friends. One last pass around the fan village. Met Lynne Ann, Sarah a Goodman, and Juan and Elise on the way out. Back to the hotel by 9. A good end to the con.

And now… photos!

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For you are crunchy and good with ketchup

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These signs were in every bathroom. Who cares if a wall gets slippery when wet?

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Charlie Stross blows his saving throw vs. Shiny

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Don’t mess with li’l Cap’n America

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The Fan Village. Note the group posing for a photo in front of the TARDIS, which includes Deadpool, a Jawa, a Stormtrooper, and Batman

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I had a poster in the Exhibits Hall

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This vast, empty airplane hangar was only the first stage in the route to the SFWA reception

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Phil Foglio gives the audience (playing air pirates) their line in the Girl Genius Radio Play

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Yes, I am a big geek

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They called this the “party tree,” possibly because it looks as though it has partied too hard

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This, believe it or not, is a Smart Car — a quarter-mouse-fart engine with the styling of a 500hp Jaguar

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Proclamation outside the former warehouse which now houses the Docklands Museum. They don’t write ’em like that any more.

IMG 1690The Boulevard after the con was over. You’ll have to imagine these chairs crowded with fans.

Belgium days 6-7, London day 1

Tue 8/12 – Mechelen

Step count: 13,658

Awake 7:15 ahead of 7:30 alarm. We were joined for breakfast today by Lynne Ann and Roelof’s friends Irina and Sara, then got out the door by 9:30. Caught a bus to the train station (even I can recognize “you can’t miss it” in Dutch), then a train to Brussels.

In Brussels we got rather lost coming out of the station, but did eventually manage to find the Beaux Arts museum. It’s actually 4 museums: Magritte, Old Masters, Fin de Siecle, and Modern. We bought a combo ticket and started with the Magritte, which provided an excellent overview of the man and his work, with many well-known paintings. I did have trouble following the text, which tended to the poetic (not too surprising given Magritte’s surrealism and fascination with the relationship between art and language).

After Magritte it was time for lunch. The museum restaurant was too expensive, the museum cafe seemed understaffed (long line of people awaiting service) so we headed for the nearby Comics Cafe, but ended up at Sushi Shop next door to that. Not the best sushi ever, but it was grab-and-go convenient.

Back to the museum after lunch for the Old Masters (Breugels, Rembrandt, et al were cool, but all in all rather dark and brown and featured far too many dreary Crucifixions) and Fin de Siecle (much more to my taste than the Old Masters, including paintings full of life, some dynamite Art Noveau furniture, and at last I’ve met James Ensor, Belgium’s famous painter). Also in the Old Masters gallery for some reason: a series of modern bronze self-portrait busts with added horns, delightfully whimsical. After that we were very low on spoons. Had hoped to hit comics museum but simply didn’t have the energy, so headed home. Did stop in a little shop near the station in hopes of some 1958 World’s Fair memorabilia but came up dry.

Took the train back to Mechelen. Stopped at a couple of book shops on the way home from the station, finding a few items, then took Lynne Ann and Roelof to a nice dinner at restaurant Puro. I had carrot soup to start, then “Mechelse koekoek” (translated into English as “Malines cuckoo,” it’s a local bird which, well, tastes like chicken, but was deliciously prepared with an onion cream sauce, broad beans, and potatoes au gratin) and ice cream with advocaat for dessert. After dinner, came home and the cats actually deigned to show themselves, even to be petted a bit. Had hoped to do more than one museum today but, in effect, we did do three. Hope to have enough time tomorrow to see the comics museum before the train to London. To bed about 11:00, after a glimpse of the near-perigee near-full moon.

Wed 8/13 – Mechelen-Brussels-London

Step count: 7,888

Awake 8:30 or so, though Kate slept poorly and didn’t wake up until nearly 9:30. Breakfast, wrapped up St. Michael for travel, gathered divots, packed, checked around for any left-behind stuff, said goodbye to Roelof; Lynne Ann accompanied us to Brussels. By the time we got our bags squared away in a locker it was 12:45. We had about 2 hours until we wanted to check in, not really enough time for the comics museum, alas. Lunch of panini at Cafe Antonio near the station, not bad (it was down the street from the place we were heading for, which was closed for vacation). Nothing much in the vicinity of the station, so went back inside. Bought chocolates and a waffle, retrieved bags, went to check in — sorry, too early, come back at 3. Sat on a bench in the plaza for half an hour, then came back. Some American arguing with some Brit in the line, also screaming babies. Lynne Ann stuck around until we got through the first passport check. Half an hour to get through passport control and security, then 15 minutes in the waiting room before boarding at 3:45 for a 4:00 train — “Welcome aboard the Snowpiercer, I mean Eurostar.” Weird not to have seatbelts and safety lecture after all that.

Swift, smooth 2-hour journey to St. Pancras station. Massive rush-hour crowds and an unanticipated change of trains meant that getting from there to our hotel (Aloft) took 3 trains and an hour and a half. Then Kate had to bail from the front desk due to a scent cannon nearby, leaving me to cope with checkin and all the luggage. I kind of lost it.

Room is nice, close to elevator, very modern, plenty of outlets, on the small side (but much bigger than the last 2 weeks!). After checking in, wandered over to convention center and registered; program ops was closed for the night, though. Ran into some fans but didn’t have the brain for conversation. Went back to the room to put our feet up for a bit. After perusing program book for a short time (did not fall asleep, I swear) looked up and realized it was already 7:50, or 8:50 Paris time. No wonder we were hungry and brainless. Decided on hotel restaurant for dinner, but they couldn’t seat us until 8:30. Checked out bar and other options nearby and realized that was our best option. When 8:30 came it took a while to be seated. I had a very bad feeling about this, but the food didn’t actually take all that long to arrive and was actually really good: Irish stew for me, chicken curry for Kate. Can’t believe how wiped I was after a day whose main activity was just a 2-hour train ride. Fell over hard 10:00.

Thu 8/14 – London

Step count: 7,400

Awake 6:00 with a hard bar of sunlight shining into my eyes, as I didn’t get the blackout curtain quite closed. Also: room has not a single drawer, no shelves to speak of, only a short closet with 6 hangers (on a bar with slots for 5). Out of bed 7:30 to beat the crowd at breakfast. Very nice breakfast spread, full range of options including yogurt, fruit, cereals, breads and pastries, and the usual cooked options. Had egg, sausage, hash browns, and mushrooms (“will there be mushrooms at breakfast?”) just to remind myself where I am. Still very weary; maybe doing a Worldcon after three weeks of European travel was a mistake. Back to room, sync’d photos, blogged schedule, etc. Tried to put money on Oyster card via website but this proved unworkable due to credit card hassles. Off to con!

No one knew where program participant packet pickup was, but I did find it eventually (it was on the far side of the blocks-long line for registration — sure am glad we registered Wednesday night!). No program participant ribbons, though; they were held up at Customs and didn’t arrive until the second day of the con. Two-sided badges were a great idea (name is visible even if badge flips around) but the back-of-badge program sticker obscured it, so I stuck that on my name tent instead. Talked in green room with Todd McCaffrey, Bud Sparhawk, et al before my 11:00 panel “Reimagining Families.” Surprisingly, we had a packed house. Turns out there were only 6 panels at that hour, all in small rooms, so all were packed, but it was still a nice surprise. Panel was pretty low-energy — I tried to engage the other panelists in actual conversation but the bait was not taken — but all in all a success I think. Talked with Jed and a couple of audience members for a while afterward.

Lunch in “Boulevard” (convention center food court) of adequate lamb rogan josh with Tom Becker and several Brits slightly known to me. Hung out in Fan Village for a while, had a very nice talk with some local physicist in the Exhibits Hall about dark energy. Attended first half-hour of a panel on “The Joy of Sex” (for which GoH Chris Foss did the illustrations) but got a tweet from CE Murphy — whom I had not met before but a mutual friend had suggested via Twitter “you’re both at the convention, you should meet” and she was available now — so I bailed (couldn’t hear anyway, why don’t people use the damn microphones) and met her in the Fan Village bar. Learned that a TARDIS makes an excellent rendezvous point. Had a nice chat with her and several other Irish fans.

I was feeling very chilly then (I guess they turned the air conditioning on) and the rain had let up, so dashed back to the hotel to put on another layer. Ran into Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, Terri Windling, and Mr. Terri Windling. Also Patrick and Teresa, just arrived after being greatly delayed by traffic. Tried to help Teresa get to her panel on time but there was little I could do to help, so I left her in the hands of a member of the Nights Watch (no, really). Met up with members of Book View Cafe for an early dinner, wound up in Boulevard again. Had a baked potato with chili, again adequate, along with cider (which no one else in the party had managed to locate). Back to Fan Village, talked with Cory Doctorow, Lisa Hayes, and others. Corey recently did a year-long Imagineering fellowship; among other things, he said that Paris Disney has problems with different “line cultures” (“the Italians’ is more of a scrum”) which explains the mess we encountered in the line at Pirates of the Caribbean. Presupported Helsinki in 2017 and got a T-shirt.

Off to Retro Hugos with Kate. Sat with Flick and, briefly, with Farah Mendelsohn. Mary Robinette’s outfit and hair were fabulous, but her opening number seemed off for some reason, as though she couldn’t hear the orchestra. First Fandom awards were all presented by one deathly dull presenter who went on and on in a monotone without looking up. Some of the recipients weren’t much better. Endless, tedious. Realized I didn’t care who won the Retro Hugos and bailed.

Back to Fan Village, talked with Alan Baum (Donya, having broken her kneecap in the Tube on the first day, had just gotten out of surgery), Jack Foy, Paul Cornell, and others, met up with Kate for “I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue.” It was fun and much of it was comprehensible to non-Brits. Back to the room by 11, wrote up these notes (remembered more than I thought I would!). To bed before midnight.

And now, a few photos

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Street scene in Brussels

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One of Mechelen’s selection of fine book shops

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Our last view of Mechelen’s Grote Markt

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Our first view of the Aloft hotel