Anticipation From the Other Side

Hugo Class of '09 Best Novel Nominees. Photo via io9.com

Now that this year’s Worldcon is in the books, so to speak, some thoughts on it, minus Hugo stat geekery, which I will address in another entry:

* To begin, Montreal is just fabulous; no offense to the other cities of the other Worldcons I’ve been to, but so far Montreal is my favorite host city. It was pretty but not twee, foreign but still familiar and by and large the people we met there were lovely. It makes me want to go back to the city sometime I’m not in fact spending most of my time in a convention center and actually, you know, visit the place. Which is what you want when you visit an unfamiliar city for an event. So well, done, Montreal, you have a new fan.

I also liked the convention center Anticipation was at, the Palais des congrès, I suspect largely because it was deceptively large. From the outside, it seemed actually a bit tiny; it reminded me actually of the place the Utopiales Festival in Nantes, France is held, which is an excellent convention space but small by North American standards. However, once you’re inside, the Palais des congrès expands until you feel like you’re walking a kilometer each time you go from one end of it to the other. Which is a very science fictional feeling.

* I was also very fortunate that all my Worldcon programming went off almost without a hitch, and was nicely attended. Generally, everyone can tell you horror stories of a panel that went hideously awry (I had three of them in LA in 2006, alas), but this year, even the programming I initially went “WTF?” to when I saw them on my schedule turned out all right.

The “WTF?” programming for me, if you must know, were the “Singles Meet and Greet” event, of which I was a co-host, and the panel on Michael Jackson’s Thriller video and how it related to science fiction, for which we had a ninety-minute slot. In the former case, enough people showed up to make it an interesting time for everyone, and people got that it was supposed to be a relaxing mix-and-mingle event, so all I had to do was show up, make sure the snacks had arrived, and just go about chatting. In the latter panel, we solved many problems by showing videos and generally not worrying, either as a panel or the audience, if the discussion went far afield from the panel description. And we ended up actually having a very fun time watching Michael Jackson do his thing.

* My favorite events were my readings, not so much for myself (I know how I read, thanks), but because of the people I read with. The non-fiction reading, which featured the nominees for the Best Related Book, was — I think we nominees all felt this way — surprisingly well attended, and it was a delight to hear the other nominees dive into their work; there was a lot of spread of topics and reading styles. Paul Kincaid emerged as the rock star of the panel since most of the questions in the Q&A section were aimed at him.

My fiction reading slot was also amazingly well attended considering it was at 10am on a Saturday (I mean, hell; I’m not awake that early at a Worldcon, on a Saturday), so if you came to see us, thank you. What was even better is that by coincidence or design of the programming committee, the works I, Peter Watts and Jon Courtenay Grimwood each read dovetailed really nicely into each other: We were all trafficking in very dark, very weird stuff this time around, which is not your usual Saturday morning fare. But the audience appeared to be with us the whole way. I really enjoyed both Jon and Peter’s readings, so as a SF/F geek, this was a real fun thing for me.

* The parties were the usual mad crush; the Tor Books party in particular was the place to be if you ever wanted to smoosh yourself against six other people, yet still have all your clothes on. I did the circuit and tried to get to them all, but there were quite a lot of them. That said, the party highlight for me was rocking out to “Any Way You Want It” on Rock Band at the Tor.com party (different than the Tor Books party), with me on vocals, Annalee Newitz on guitar, Pablo Defendini on bass, and Margaret Ronald on drums. Yes, there is YouTube video of this geek supergroup in action. No, I won’t link to it. Find it yourself, and be amazed at my Steve Perry stylings.

I can say that I was there when the hotel security busted the Asimov’s/Analog party for being too loud (it was being held not on a official party floor) just before the two magazines were about to give out their awards. It was a pretty surreal experience; after everyone trundled out, the award winners were snuck back into the suite and the awards were handed out sotto voce. I added an innovation by showing the assembled, very quiet masses how the deaf do applause (learned by me when I attended a graduation ceremony at Gallaudet University), so there was much applauding the award winners — silently.

The great story I got out of this is that while everyone was being made to exit the party, Robert Silverberg sidled up to me in that very smooth way of his and said, also in that way of his, “I thought you would be Twittering this.”

“Well, I could, if you want me too,” I said.

“Actually, I do,” he said. “I’ve never seen anyone Twitter before.”

So I took out my cell phone and banged out a Tweet about being kicked out of the party, under Robert Silverberg’s bemused observation. When I was done, he looked at me and said “This has been a magical moment for the both of us.”

What I got out of that is when I grow up, I want to be as brilliantly deadpan as Bob Silverberg.

* One of the fun things of Worldcon is that you get to see all your friends at the annual gathering of tribe, and if I tried to recount all the very cool people I know and admire who I got to spend at least a little bit of time with, you would accuse me of being a grasping, name-dropping loser, and you would be absolutely right, so I won’t. That said, I will tell you a little bit about the people I got to meet for the first time who I was happy to make the acquaintance of.

First, the group I like to call the Clarion Clump, comprised of the former students of Neil Gaiman and Nalo Hopkinson (the latter of whom I also met for the first time, and who I was genuinely thrilled to meet, because she is awesome). The CC were a group of smart and snarky younger folks whose immediate response for my gentle mocking of their clumping tendencies (i.e., to travel as a unit) was to engage in an immediate and sustained campaign of George Lucas-based harassment against me. Which of course endeared them to me immensely. These are my kind of people. Shine on, you crazy Clarion diamonds.

Second, Steven R. Boyett, whom some of you might recall I mentioned I was happy to be on a panel with, because I was (and am) a huge, huge fan of his novel Ariel. As it turns out, I met him before the panel — he was chatting with Cory Doctorow just before Cory and I were about to have dinner (along with Krissy and our friend Anne KG Murphy), and we dragooned him along to having dinner with us. When he politely said he didn’t want to intrude on our time, I said “Are you kidding? I’ve been contriving to find a way to meet you for days.” Which worked. Thence followed an evening of drinking and debauchery of which I shall not bore you with the details (AH HAH HA HA HAH HA!), but suffice to say that Steven is absolutely wonderful company and I’m delighted to know him. The icing on the cake: I get home and what is waiting for me in the mail? The re-release of Ariel, which hits stores in two weeks. Sweet. I won’t squee about it much right now, except to say: People, this is in fact the only “boy and his unicorn” story you absolutely have to read. There, I’ve said it.

Third, after years of knowing a really astounding amount of people in common, and having a couple of tentative e-mail exchanges, I finally made the real world acquaintance of Neil Gaiman, who was, as you may imagine, funny, charming and gracious. Neil was the convention Guest of Honor, which meant that he spent most of his time going from one event to the next, and his down time was spent catching up with old friends and acquaintances, so our time to chat was fairly limited, and aside from that I’m sensitive to being The Guy Who Gloms, having been on the receiving end of that myself. But this Worldcon was compact enough that we would run into each other from time to time, and we also concidentally were on the same flight out of Montreal, so we ran into each other at baggage claim and had a nice bit of a chat there too when all the pressure was off. Basically, after all this time, it was lovely to meet and close that circle.

Ooh! Also, met Neal Stephenson and tried not to fanboy him. I may have failed. And, well. So would you have. So there.

* I could regale you with tales of how we almost didn’t get out of Canada and ended up running to get onto our plane back to Dayton literally at the very last possible minute, but you know what? We made the plane, and we got home. So I’ll just say: Hey, it’s good to be home.

And that was our Anticipation. It was a lovely time, with absolutely lovely people. To the people who put on the convention: What an excellent job. Thank you. I was glad to have been able to go.

54 thoughts on “Anticipation From the Other Side

  1. I agree with you about the choice of Montreal as a host city. I fell in love with the place–my husband makes it to Montreal every 18 months or so as he has a client in the area, and he’s always been looking for an excuse to take me along.

    Ironically, Worldcon ended up being the mechanism that allowed us to visit Montreal together. We came in four days before Worldcon started and did some sightseeing, but that wasn’t enough.

    I did get to try out my high school French and, damn. Not so bad, after all–even after thirty-five years or so.

    Now I want to see Montreal in winter. As a skier, I know I’ve got the clothing to deal with the weather….

  2. Montreal also has the best public transportation system…well, possibly ever, but certainly the best I’ve been on, so it’s dead easy to navigate as a tourist.

    I admire your restraint with Stephenson.

  3. Many years ago I moved from a huge house at one end of the country to a tiny apartment at the other and I had to cull my books. Ariel was among the ones which travelled with me and so, of course, I was delighted to see it has been re-released. Now, all I need is for it to be formatted for the Kindle and I will immediately buy it! {I already have your books there. :)}

  4. I love that Robert Silverberg anecdote.

    I read Ariel when I was a teenager, and in the decades since I’ve occasionally thought to myself — “What was that book? Remember? The one with the unicorn and the samurai sword?” And I couldn’t recall. So this reintroduces me to a sort of long-lost memory. Cool. Steven Boyett. I should re-read it.

  5. Glad you enjoyed the city! It was great meeting you on Sunday by the way and I loved the How not to be a jerk online panel.

    Once I get pics up on Flickr & get that 5 min of video up I’ll send it or a link to you!

    FWIW, my luggage is still in Toronto, and even with an hour and a half we still had to hoof it to our flight home.

  6. Montreal is, indeed, a most lovely place to visit. If you don’t mind a touch more of the twee — and fewer anglophones — I also highly recommend Quebec City. Beautiful. And yes, in my experience francophone Quebecers tend to range from politely patient to gushingly charmed with even stumbling years-ago-high-school-French-class attempts at communicating in their language.

    I don’t know whether it’s just their flavor of Canadian politeness and friendliness, or if they appreciate the contrast with English-as-Jesus-spoke-it Americans (and a rude subset of anglophone Canadians).

    As for Steven Boyett’s Ariel, ye gods and godesses, yes. It’s one of the very few fantasy novels that I adore.

    John, were you perhaps brave enough to ask him about the sequel to The Architect Of Sleep?

  7. Oh, and totally off-topic, I am finally reading Zoe’s Tale. This is because I am a cheap bastard who waited for the paperback. I am also a stupid bastard, because saving a few bucks is a poor reason to delay such a delightful experience.

    I am not a teenage girl. I’ve never been a teenage girl. Even when I spent a fair amount of time around teenage girls, I didn’t understand them, because I was a teenage boy, and I didn’t even understand teenage boys.

    Given that huge caveat, I think you done good making Zoe a believable character.

  8. That photo makes me cry for having missed WorldCon every time I see it. What are the odds of all you guys being in the same place at the same time again like that, ever?

    Sounds like you had a blast. Awesome.

  9. The final minute of John Scalzi’s vocals for Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” in Rock Band.
    Filmed at the Tor Party at Anticipation 2009 (Worldcon).
    [I know the audio is pretty crappy - it was a loud party. I'm given to understand somebody else may have filmed the performance from another angle which may have better sound.]

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6UHlUqSKdU

  10. Isn’t Steven Boyett also D.J. Steve Boy, the guy who puts out the awesome Podrunner workout mp3s?

    (This isn’t spam, just a mention. I do listen to Podrunner, and I’ve read Ariel, and liked it, except for the ending.)

  11. I was at Pennsic, and not work, so I can’t complain too much, but the week’s refrain was, “I could be in Montreal. They have running water there.”

    From this far remove, Reno seems entirely possible. I’ve never been to a Worldcon. [looks around sheepishly] I’ve never been to any con, actually. Don’t tell anyone.

  12. It was, indeed, a good convention in a town I really like. And, dude, Paul Krugman! (That was my own personal moment trying not to go all fanboy)

    I’m sorry I missed our panel on Thursday; getting in later than…err…anticipated, dealing with hotel check-in, registration, badge transfers for the kids…

  13. It is tremendously reassuring to me to know that you also had to make saving throws versus “OMG I AM TALKING NEAL STEPHENSON!” and may have also rolled in the single digits.

    Was he as kind and disarming to you as he was to me?

  14. Random observation — Montreal seems to have a radio station entirely devoted to the opus of Celine Dion.

    Pleasure to meet you in person, Mr Scalzi. Congrats on the Hugo win.

  15. Neal Stephenson is SO COOL!

    Hmm. Apparently my inner fanboy is uncontrollable. Probably a good thing I wasn’t at Worldcon this year.

  16. Hurrah! That means that at least two of us remember Ariel! And I am very glad to hear it is being re-released. This means I will be able to let my daughters read my old, dying copy without fear that they will lose the pages.

  17. First off, my dear girl Seven had her fangirl moment in meeting you. But I, like you, had trouble with the fanboy issue when meeting Neal Stephenson.

    Neal Stephenson was an absolutely wonderful and gracious person and even let me snap a picture with him.

    But also, Mr. Scalzi, you and your wife were an absolute treat to meet and chat with. Thank you for your time and friendliness!

  18. Hi! Dropping by via @wilw’s tweet :) I’ve not heard of Boyett nor or Ariel: immediately went to the Chicago Public Library website and there’s no sign of it there. :( There was this one, though: Treks not taken : what if Stephen King, Anne Rice, Kurt Vonnegut, and other literary greats had written episodes of Star trek, the next generation? … figure that’ll feed the inner geek in me while I hope that with this rerelease you mention, perhaps the library will put it into circulation :D

  19. Actually, if I met Neal Stephenson, I would probably ask him what the odds are of him going back to writing books like The Diamond Age, instead of rambling odes to historical administrivia that take 8 years to write. With an antique fountain pen.

    So, that would make me an EX-fanboi, I guess.

  20. Occupations from photo:

    Accountant, Network Administrator, Philosophy Professor, High School Math Teacher that the kids think is cool, Rock Star.

    I don’t really have to say which is which, do I?

  21. Oh fine, you mention the time you hung out with the Clarion Clump but not the time spent at the Delta bar with the VPeeps? (aka the Viable Paradise Pack?) *sob*

    Well, despite your lack of love for us all (hand to brow) it was lovely to meet you in person finally and to be able to congratulate you in person on your awesome rocket statue.

    Hope to see you again soon!

    Julia

  22. They’re releasing ARIEL? That is awesome! Of the (relatively few) books I’ve lost along the ways of my life, I have more than once regretted that one. I didn’t even know there was a sequel coming. (Note to self, move out from under rock.)

  23. Julia:

    But, you see, my love for VP alumni is a special love, which I treasure as a secret in my heart.

    Also, the VPers didn’t travel about as amusingly clumped as the Clarionites. What can I say, presentation counts.

    That said, it was in fact a great honor to hang out with the VPers for an evening. All y’all ROCK.

  24. Wow. That sounds like quite the con experience. Thanks for sharing so we may live vicariously though your experiences. :)

    On a side note, I find it amusing that everyone in that photo is leaning towards Neil. While each are immensely awesome in their own right, could it be that the awesome aura around Neil is so great that everyone else unconsciously gravitates towards the more massive awesome aura? Awesomeness follows the laws of gravity, right? Or, I suppose it could be something else. Maybe. Probably not.

    Thoughts?

  25. Seeing Charles Stross and Neal Stephenson side by side like that gives me such a huge case of beard envy. Those two are the kings of scruff.

  26. Steve Burnap @28: I have to say, in that picture, John looks like he wandered over from the Young Rotarians convention by accident.

  27. Being a Certified OldGeezer, with half a century of involvement with fanzines, I’d join (vigorously) with those who object to _Whatever_ being considered a Fanzine, or nominated in that category. However, I might very well vote for John Scalzi in the category of “Best Fan Writer” — and would feel comfortable about citing this ConReport in support of such a stance.

    That you’re also a Pro Writer is immaterial (in this context) — so, also, were/are people like Agberg, Poul (& Karen) Anderson, MZB, Ted White, Harlan Ellison, Dave Langford, and at least a dozen others. It’s a matter of Style and Attitude, and in both of these you’re spot-on. With a bit of added fillip, perhaps, of writing (like Janis Ian’s marvelous report of an earlier worldcon) about the Pro side of a convention, and inventing Fannishness pretty much independently of traditional FanWriting …errr… conventions.

    You deserve a kudos.

    P.S.: Oh, yeah, I think you’re also one of the better Science Fiction writers now active.

    [end of squee]

  28. I think if Robert Silverberg asked me to twitter something, I would fangirl so hrd my thumbs wouldn’t work and the twit would be ‘oijmnm bggg SILVERBERG.ookkmmmmg.’

  29. *sniff* no mention of our ‘moment’, Scalzi? :(

    but… my hair… (which I’m pretty sure will be the bane forever of hotel towels… blue is totally superior to bleached white, right? I’m sure the laundry people will see it my way…)

    btw, grats on the hugo. Man those look super shiny this year :)

  30. I second the Ariel recommendation. It rocks, despite (or maybe because of) being a ‘boy and his unicorn’ story.

  31. Huh. You were on that plane out of Montreal? Cause, as I was lining up to get on that plane, I turned around and there Neil was. We chatted a little bit about Charles N. Brown as we boarded. We were actually sitting only a few rows apart, and I briefly entertained a fantasy of trying to swap seats with somebody before dismissing that as too fanboy-stalkerish. (And when I got up to go to the lavatory I noticed that he was napping — not too surprising after five days of being “on” as GoH.) I didn’t check any bags, so no chance of meeting up with either of you at baggage claim.

  32. John:

    I share your appreciation of Silverberg. The first time I chaired a Philcon, I called him, out of the blue, to be my GOH and he accepted and was the perfect guest, with the same dry wit. This year, at Anticipation, I was in the Green Room having breakfast before a panel, and Silverberg, Larry Niven and Tom Easton joined me at the table and we started reminiscing about Charlie Brown, who I’d seen at Readercon just before he passed away. People who aren’t in fandom just don’t relaize how awesome it is that things like this happen.

    Liz@47:

    The Brits are making rumblings about another bid for 2014, so keep an eye out- you may be at a Worldcon sooner than you think.

  33. “First, the group I like to call the Clarion Clump, comprised of the former students of Neil Gaiman and Nalo Hopkinson (the latter of whom I also met for the first time, and who I was genuinely thrilled to meet, because she is awesome). The CC were a group of smart and snarky younger folks whose immediate response for my gentle mocking of their clumping tendencies (i.e., to travel as a unit) was to engage in an immediate and sustained campaign of George Lucas-based harassment against me. Which of course endeared them to me immensely. These are my kind of people. Shine on, you crazy Clarion diamonds.”

    I called them “The entourage for hire” since I almost always saw them in the company of a more than one well known writer.

  34. I really enjoyed Worldcon and wanted to say thanks for taking the time to sign my copy of THE ANDROID’S DREAM for me after one of the panels. I know you were in a rush to get to the next panel and it was a bit of a pain having me slow you down but that was cool of you not to gripe but just say ok and sign my book. It meant a lot to me and thanks! I saw you on a few panels and thought you did a great job.

    As for the Hugo for best novel, I voted for Zoe’s Tale and although I love Neil Gaiman’s stuff, I can’t understand why he was nominated for best SCIENCE FICTION novel. Aren’t his books fantasy? No big deal and maybe I’m missing something.

    Thanks again, Mr. Scalzi!
    Dave Christie
    Whitehorse, Yukon

  35. The Hugos are for fantasy as well as science fiction. From the Hugo Awards FAQ, they’re “awards for excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy.”

    Gaiman was nominated for best novel . . . not best science fiction novel. Again from the Hugo Awards web site: “Best Novel: Awarded for a science fiction or fantasy story of forty thousand (40,000) words or more.”

    I’m guessing the confusion comes from it being called the “World Science Fiction Convention” and the “World Science Fiction Society,” but it’s really about more than just science fiction. :-)

  36. Hi Mr. Scalzi, I know I’m a bit late with this, but congratulations on the Hugo win. It was one of the categories with some wonderful competition, and your win was well deserved.

    The Palais des congrès was a very interesting building, but I swear there’s a space warp in there on the 5th floor. Walking from one end of the building to the other end on the 1st or 2nd floor didn’t seem all that far. However, on the 5th floor it really seemed as if there was an extra building in there somewhere.

    And having seen you and your lovely wife together at the Convention, I have to say, she is not only beautiful and tolerant, but also very patient.

  37. “From the Hugo Awards FAQ,”

    More authoritatively, from the WSFS Constitution, which officially defines the Hugo rules, among other things:

    [...] Section 3.2: General.

    3.2.1: Unless otherwise specified, Hugo Awards are given for work in the field of science fiction or fantasy appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year.

    Moreover, no committee, nor Hugo subcommittee, nor Hugo Administrator, has ever ruled out a piece of fiction because of any judgment on its content (as opposed to place/time/degree of publication): in content, it’s up to the voters to vote for whatever they think they want to nominate, and then vote for.

    Naturally, people will always disagree, and some prefer sf, some fantasy, lots of people have different definitions, etc., but none of that is the business of anyone with any power over the Hugos other than each individual voter. And then, of course, everyone gets to opine about how right or wrong the voters were. :-)

    Meanwhile, if you want early examples of outright fantasy winning Hugos, note, say, Best Short Story Winner: “Or All the Seas with Oysters” by Avram Davidson [Galaxy May 1958], or “That Hell-Bound Train” by Robert Bloch [F&SF Sep 1958, although a 1959 Hugo winner, since Hugos don't't run by calendar year]. Similarly, the 1959 Best Professional Magazine Hugo winner was The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, which won innumerable times over magazines that focused more on “just” sf. Etc., etc., etc.

    This question is a perennial.

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