Thursday, September 5, 2013

WorldCon Recap, Day 1

"I think I just gave my seat to a bestseller."

Two years of WorldCon has spoiled me. Their guest list is simply untouchable for fiction, routinely hosting many bigger members than their guests of honor. Harry Turtledove cut in front of me in line one afternoon, and I just so happened to take the elevator to check-out with Robin Hobb. Moving between panels with Teresa Nielsen Hayden, George R.R. Martin stopped to greet us. When Charlaine Harris or Joe Haldeman can just so happen to be the dangling last member on a panel, someone you didn't even know was going to be there, it's striking.

I don't get starstruck, but there is a certain fuzzy feeling of walking with gods, or at least some pantheon of creators that's been so distanced. It's neat to chat with a relative stranger minutes before he goes on a stage, is projected on two giant screens and addresses thousands of attendees. When people argue about how to attract more younger people to WorldCon, I wonder how much would simply lie in conveying the chance to meet so many people they likely already read.

Also, Paul Cornell is very good at turning his nervousness in front of such crowds into charm. And more people ought to read his Saucer Country.

Lois McMaster Bujold, Jean Yates, Elizabeth Moon, Martha Wells and Elizabeth Bear talk about fight scenes for an hour.

"The Hugos are great, the Hugos are awful."

My favorite thing about the Hugo Awards is seeing people who didn't expect to win or who get emotional regardless. I could have hugged Galen Dara, a talented and worthy winner of Best Fan Artist, when she so shakily received her award. And Stanley Schmidt realizing on stage why his wife had cajoled him into visiting San Antonio was hilarious.

Arguably the highlight of my entire trip was seeing Neil Clarke, who almost died from a catastrophic heart attack last year and edited Clarkesworld from his freaking hospital bed, tearily accept the award for Best Semiprozine. It was a grand social hug for years of his great work on a truly great market that would have left this earth without him. And in a sense, it's the positive side of "popularity contests" – not in excluding their losers, but in sometimes affirming a winner's great struggle.

Every year there's some category to grumble about; the Hugos are populist with all the shortcomings that can bring. The Avengers won Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form in a year when Beasts of the Southern Wild, Robot & Frank and The Secret World of Arrietty weren't even nominated. George R.R. Martin received an award for a Game of Thrones episode declaring we now live in "the golden age" of speculative fiction television, as though Japan hasn't been crushing it with televised anime for decades.

And yeah, I'll put Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex up against any season of Dr. Who you please.

There's an argument brewing on Twitter about not condescending against "media fandom." I love media fandom. Most readers of my generation are also watchers, and many are enthusiastic players as well, and we enrich each other by sharing what others might not have seen yet.

The dream for populist awards is to get enough people aware of lesser known things that they are opened up, and that's happened in previous years, such as when Moon won. This was merely a year where the category more resembled Nerds' Favorite Blockbuster. It's likely tied to the same nerdy complaining that all Summer movies are the same these days – because too many nerds are only looking in one or two places for their movies.

 "I'm not a people person."

I'm getting the hang of conventions, which is to say, I'm getting to know people who have the hang and will hold on for me. Teresa Nielsen Hayden and the Reddit crew were exceptionally welcoming on the first day. Emma Newman continued to be one of the nicest people I've met in publishing, this time introducing me to her party at Booksworn as "an extremely talented author who will be represented by the end of the year," easily one of the most touching things anyone has ever said about me. And writers kept insisting it wasn't "if" I'd make it but "when," something that clearly needs to be beaten into my grey matter.

I've never liked selling myself, but there's a flipside, in that I like helping and being of service. A huge part of making conventions worthwhile is being kind to strangers. I happen to be the sort who loves holding doors and fetching water for elderly panelists – I don't have the health to volunteer, but will do that much. If someone is looking confusedly at a map or struggling with their wheelchair, asking if they want assistance is the connish thing to do. And it has never hurt to ask your fellow nerds for their con highlights, what they loved or are most looking forward to. It's not a terrible way to discover parties, either.

But you cannot pester. This goes beyond sexual harassment, because for whatever reason our nerd conventions attract droves of people who don't want to talk to anyone. Do I get it? More than is comfortable, because I have my mental modes of solitude. Let them enjoy things their way.

I'm learning not to be an accidental creeper. Sometimes I lapse into just enough shyness that I will linger instead of introducing myself, which, as an adult man whose physical problems often makes him grimace, can wig the hell out of people. So I didn't get to talk to Jo Walton – better letting her go than lingering near her conversation for several awkward minutes. She's semi-abled and standing and walking are difficult, though that broaches disability and convention accessibility, which I'll have to blog about this weekend.


  1. "an extremely talented author who will be represented by the end of the year," brought a big fat smile to my face. That is WONDERFUL, and I am very, very happy that you are getting some deserved recognition.

  2. So speculative cons attract introverts? That doesn't surprise me.
    Sounds like a good time and you certainly had a servant's attitude. It's been years since I went to a con, and last year I was invited to one as an author but the timing was wrong. Not that I want to do public appearances. I guess that introvert thing is accurate.

  3. So very cool. I'm totally jealous! Sounds like you're having a great time :)

  4. Sounds like lots and lots of fun. And I agree with Emma Newman. ;) Or whoever said not a question of if, but when.

  5. Nice post, great blog, following :)

    Good Luck :)

  6. You say "there is a certain fuzzy feeling of walking with gods" as if you forget (as we are all prone to do) that they, too, are people. How do I know this when I've never met any of them? Because I know you- I know what your hair looks like when you've just gotten out of bed after very few hours sleep. And I have nothing but absolute certainty that Ms. Newman is 1000% right- if you don't come out of that week in October with a solid path to publishing I will die of shock. And if, once published, you yourself don't get put on some of those panels with those 'gods' I'll resurect myself and die of shock again.
    You are a "god" like they are- it's just that nobody's read your miracles yet.


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