November 6th, 2009


World Fantasy Con

I attended my first World Fantasy Convention in Seattle in 1989, when a friend was running Hospitality and needed people to help. I didn't really enjoy it -- it's basically a professonal conference for writers, editors, and agents and has little for the fans. That was before I was writing fiction professionally. Today it's one of my favorite conventions of the year.

The convention started out a little shaky. Our Southwest Airlines flight from Portland to San Jose was running about a half-hour late, and we were just starting to wonder what was up when I got this rather strange email on my phone:

However, as the gate agent explained a minute or two later, we didn't actually have to fly PDX-SJC-LAX, LAX-PDX-SJC. It turned out that the plane had been delayed by mechanical problems to the extent that it jeopardized people's connections in LAX, so they skipped the SJC stop and gave the few of us who were actually getting off in SJC tickets on an LAX-SJC flight that left LAX almost immediately, so that we only spent about ten minutes in LAX. Although this change turned our one-hour nonstop flight into a five-hour detour, I think it was well-handled: they communicated the problem well, gave priority to people with connections, and provided an immediate solution to the rest of us. Kudos to Southwest.

Once we got there, this year's WFC was one of the best I can remember, indeed one of my favorite cons in a long time. Being on the West Coast, a lot of my writer friends were there; the hotel and its location, close to many fine restaurants in downtown San Jose, were excellent; and there was a great bar where everyone could hang out (unlike, for example, the Montreal Worldcon where there was no single obvious gathering place).

I didn't attend a lot of programming that I wasn't on. I was actually on two program items: a reading from the four DayBreak Magazine writers, which was remarkably well attended considering it was opposite the mass signing, and an uproarious Improv Storytelling event with Jay Lake and Mary Robinette Kowal about which someone later told me "I peed my pants laughing." Most of my time was spent hanging out in the bar, the halls, and occasionally a party, talking with my friends and peers.

This seemed to be my con for meeting cool Portland people I hadn't known existed: Lee Moyer, Victoria Blake, and Carlton Mellick III. I also met and was blown away by Seanan McGuire (seanan_mcguire) and Kate Secor (aiglet), who fling off quotable quips like some cats shed hair -- now I know how some people feel around me and Kate. (Just one example: I debated with Seanan whether the ASL sign for "moose lobotomist" should end with the sign for "doctor" or the suffix "-ist.") I also got to hang out with some people I'd met before but never spent a lot of time with, including Grá and Jennifer Linnea and Laura Anne Gilman (suricattus). I hadn't realized I was getting Grá and Chris Reynaga (chris_reynaga) mixed up, but now I think I'll be able to tell them apart.

Most of the con, though, I spent hanging out with writer friends from all over, whom I will not attempt to enumerate for fear of missing someone. I don't think I schmooze very effectively at these things -- I should have been chatting up book editors a lot more than I did -- but I got a lot of good writing advice and a few useful rumors as well as a lot of laughs.

At one point in the con I suffered a bout of Imposter Syndrome. What am I doing here? I whined to myself. I don't even have one published novel!. I got over it, though, and shortly after the con Kristine Kathryn Rusch posted an entry in her Freelancer's Guide series that helped me to understand what was going on in my head during that time. This quote in particular, from Robert Silverberg, nailed it: "My career, marked as it has been by triumph after triumph, has often seemed to me like nothing but a formidable struggle." We don't see our own successes, only our problems. Read Kris's post for more useful insights on the hazards of success.

Apart from that one moment of bleakness, though, it was an excellent excellent con and I'm really looking forward to next year's WFC even though it's in Columbus, Ohio.

Oh, one other thing. This was my first con with an iPhone and I got into Twitter in a big, big way. There was a lot of Twittering at this con; see this post by Scott Edelman for one perspective on just how useful this minimal communication method can be. (My story "horrorhouse" was also inspired by Twitter.) So, for my own future reference as much as anything, I'm including my tweets from the con Collapse )