September 7th, 2004


9/7/04: Noreascon Report, part 1

Word count: 92583 | Since last entry: 1533 | This month: 1533

Teresa Neilsen Hayden famously said of the San Antonio Worldcon that it had too much white space. This con wasn't like that, at least not for me: it was quite comfortably packed with content from margin to margin, all in neat rows and columns. Everywhere I went I found keen people to talk with and interesting things to do, and all the scheduled items happened exactly where, when, and with whom they were supposed to. (Admittedly, I didn't go to the Masquerade.)

Wednesday was our travel day. On our flight to Minneapolis, by chance we found ourselves in a half-row just abaft of First Class, with tons of legroom, a handy little cupboard for our carryons, and our own video screen. Later, in conversation with Duane (the 6' 6" manager of Seattle's University Bookstore) I discovered this is called a "bulkhead row" and giving it to a person as short as me should be a crime. But it was terribly pleasant, and I got almost 700 words written on my novel.

We arrived in Boston without incident, to find the airport under construction (so what else is new?) and there was no clear indication where to catch the shuttle to our hotel. But we did eventually find one, complete with a couple of fans already on board, and soon arrived at the Sheraton, where we stood in the short Starwood Preferred Guest line and got a room with a great view on the 25th floor. Kate was a little guilty that we got such a nice room by virtue of traveling a lot, but I pointed out that anyone can become a Starwood Preferred Guest just by filling out a form -- it's free. Maybe we didn't really belong in that line?

Once we had dumped our bags in the room, we went off in search of dinner and soon found nearby Steve's Greek Restaurant, and Bay Area fans Spike Parsons and Tom Becker and their friends Ruth and Ian. The waitress very kindly reconfigured the tables to let us all sit together, and the food was delish. Then, on returning, we ran into my Writers of the Future twin Carl Fredrick in the lobby. While we were standing there talking, we were joined at various times by Amy Sisson from Clarion, Tom Brennan from Writers of the Future, Ariel Shattan from Portland, Janice Murray and Alan Rosenthal from Seattle, Hope Leibowitz from Toronto, and many others. As I explained to Tom, whose first Worldcon this was, this is my typical Worldcon experience: getting about six feet in the door (of the hotel, dealers' room, party, bathroom, etc.) and immediately becoming engaged in a two-hour conversation with an ever-mutating group of friends old and new.

Eventually, though, that conversation broke up and we went in search of parties. First we hit Lise Eisenberg's traditional before-the-con-even-gets-started room party (where I got a great laugh off the old line about "separate dishes for milk, meat, and trayf -- and another set of each for Passover," but had to explain what I meant by "a rood screen for dogs"), then wandered down to the Japan in 2007 bid party, where we saw a modern working replica of a hundred-plus-year-old Japanese tea-serving robot doll. This explains much.

Thursday started off with breakfast at Charlie's Sandwich Shop, a tiny ancient crowded diner with the best turkey hash I have ever dreamed of eating. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at Flour, a delightfully decadent bakery/cafe, and walked through picturesque residential neighborhoods, all brick and stoops. We caught a cab to the marvelously eclectic Isabelle Gardner Museum, a grand old mansion filled with art and antiques, including a large collection of famous people's letters. We saw a letter from cadet U.S. Grant complaining that his West Point report cards were being sent to the wrong address, and another from John Quincy Adams sending some magazines from London to a publisher in Washington -- in effect, a two-hundred-year-old LoC offering The Usual. After we tired of the museum we walked through the fens of the Fenway neighborhood (yes, famed Fenway Park is named after a swamp), then took a bus home and a brief nap before hitting the convention proper.

As it turned out, the first two program items we saw were solo presentations: Gary K. Wolf on the history of Roger Rabbit (the book, the movie, the phenomenon) and Teresa Nielsen Hayden on the literary genre known as Mary Sue. I pointed out that the New Testament could be considered the oldest and most extreme example of an Author inserting himself into his Creation. Walking out of the Mary Sue panel we engaged author Jo Walton (Tooth and Claw) and blogger Rivka (Respectful of Otters) in conversation, and proceeded with them directly to a fine dinner at the nearby Atlantic Fish Company. After demolishing our share of crustaceans, Kate and I went for ice cream at the famed Emack & Bolio's, finishing up the evening at the First Night carnival and Mary Kay Kare's LiveJournal/blogger party. The carnival felt a little desperate to me at times, but it certainly performed its intended job of getting everyone to mingle together; the party was a huge success (though, as I've only been on LiveJournal for three days, I knew few people by username and even fewer by sight).

Friday we hiked back to Flour for coffee, yogurt, and possibly the best pain au chocolat I have ever eaten. But it was much farther from the con than we'd remembered, and we barely got back in time for the Thackeray T. Lambshead reading, where the authors were having entirely too much fun. After that Kate and I separated. I hung out for a long while in front of the SFWA table in the dealers' room with Jay Lake, Ellen Klages, Tom Brennan, and various others, eventually wandering off for lunch at Au Bon Pain with Seattle writer Brenda Cooper. Then I had a nice long talk with Davey Snyder at the NESFA Press table before I had to run off for my own first panel: Introduction to Worldcon for Neo-Pros.

The panel went well, with SMOFs Pricila Olsen and Janice Gelb, editor/fan Toni Weisskopf, and author/fan me. I compared attending Worldcon to dating -- by which I meant that that you have to be interested in order to be interesting -- but Janice pointed out that some people have been on a lot more bad dates than I have. From there the panel devolved into a collection of horror stories about Pros Behaving Badly ("kids, don't do this at your con!") but I think it got all the important points across. I had printed up 25 copies of the "Worldcongoing" article from Making Light, and all but 3 of them were picked up.

After my panel I wandered back to the dealers' room -- for some reason I tend to gravitate there at Worldcons when there's nothing specific to do, though I rarely buy anything -- where I talked with artist Ctein and writer Tobias Buckell (whose first novel will be coming out soon!) before heading off for my reading. I'd been handing out business cards with the time and room number of the reading on one side and my at-con contact info (hotel, cell phone, email, and LiveJournal username) on the other, but this was the first time I'd tried doing a reading without a bribe of chocolate and I wondered how many people would show up.

On the way there I ran into novelist and fellow fraud Lyda Morehouse (we bonded a few cons ago when we were both on an "I Feel Like A Fraud!" panel) and her friend Tim, and persuaded them to accompany me to my reading. As it turned out, there were about a dozen people there -- including two people who didn't even know me, one from Wednesday's airport shuttle and the other a complete random stranger! I read the first two chapters from my novel (its first public reading) and got a great round of applause at the end. Lyda said "I want to write slash in your world" and recommended her agent, Martha Millard. I was grinning like a fool.

Kate and I took the T to North Beach, where we listened to old men yelling at each other in Italian, nibbled on cannoli and excellent pastries, and had a fine dinner at Piccolo Venezia. I was astonished how few cars were on the streets. We got back to the con in time for a nap before the Rumor Mill gathering in the bar, but I stayed in the bar chatting with Clarion compatriot Amy Sisson rather than going up to the Klingon Birthday Party with the rest of the Millers. While Amy and I were talking several other interesting people joined us, including Ken Brady from the Wordos in Eugene, and Ken and I eventually decided to wander off to the Writers of the Future and Frank Wu parties. Frank's party was smaller, but had better food and no Scientologists. But I couldn't stay long -- I had to head back down to the bar for the Two Beers And A Story Challenge!