Denvention 3: An (Oh, Probably Not) Brief Recap
So, how was Denvention 3? Well, you know. I had fun. Let me break it all up into easily digestible categories of personal experience.
1. Panels and Programming: This stuff worked out pretty well for me, I have to say. Unlike the Worldcon in LA, where I was on some panels where I ended up wanting to throttle someone either in the audience or on the panel, all my panels this time around were fun and interesting and not especially throttle-desire-inducing. Here’s how all my programming went down, in order of time:
Schmoozing 101: This was a panel in which I, Mary Robinette Kowal and agent Michael Kabongo tried to give tips to folks about how to handle meeting people they might admire and/or want something from, and also just how to carry on conversations with new folks. I think the audience had a lot of fun with this one; certainly the folks on the panel did.
My Signing: I did my signature over and over and over. Without getting too much into it, I still think it’s wacky that people stand in a line to get me to sign something. I hope I never get over it.
Bleeding Heart Liberals and Military Science Fiction: The panel (Joe Haldeman, Elizabeth Moon, John Hemry (aka Jack Campbell) and me) pretty much quickly dispensed with the panel topic because it was a little bit silly, and talked about military science fiction in a larger sense, especially touching on how folks today are relating to the subgenre. Perhaps not surprisingly, I was the sole panelist who had not been in the military. Given the caliber of the other panelists, it’s also not surprising this panel was (in my opinion) wide-ranging and fascinating.
Making a Living as a Writer – But Not Necessarily a Novelist: I moderated this one, which featured five other writers active in the SF community, but who weren’t making a living writing science fiction. The range of other writing jobs on the panel was impressive: Freelancer reporter, critic, scriptwriter, publicist, medical writer and so on. I think this might have been the most helpful panel I was on, because it made a point near and dear to my heart, which is that other sorts of writing can be nurturing to one’s fiction career, because it gives you security (or, at least, an income) while you’re developing your voice.
Reading: As noted before, Mary Robinette Kowal very graciously split her reading time with me, and we had a lot of fun, alternating between us, reading short stories, topped off by her reading a chapter from “The Sagan Diary,” which reduced me to blubbering tears. This was one of the real highlights of the convention for me, and all things considered, this is saying something.
“Hacking History”: I don’t think this was the actual title of the panel, but then, I wasn’t actually supposed to be on the panel, so I can be forgiven for not remembering the title. Basically, through a series of hilarious miscommunications, I ended up on the panel, discussing alternate history with John Hemry, Eric Flint, and Dr. Who scribe Paul Cornell. Since I was actually nominated for the Sidewise Award at the time, which honors alternate history stories and novels, I had some nominal association to the topic. It was actually a very interesting panel, so I’m glad I got sucked into it.
Sidewise Awards: As noted, I was nominated this year in the “short form” category, for this story. And as I said to Steven Silver, one of the jurists for the award, “I’m really happy to be nominated, but if I win, there’s something wrong with your award.” Fortunately, there’s nothing wrong with the award, since Michael Flynn and Kristine Kathryn Rusch were announced as co-winners of the short form category.
Incidentally, at the Sidewise Awards, I have given that very cool “Editing! Gerunds! Death!” pin you see on my nametag lanyard by Xopher, who comments here from time to time. You are now my favorite person evar, Xopher. Thank you.
Kaffeklatch: Kaffeklatches fascinate me, because it’s ten people who sit at a table with me and watch me babble insensibly for an hour or so. Hey, whatever makes these folks happy, you know. And I did most certainly babble. Nevertheless, a good group at the table, and I think we had fun. It was right before the Hugo Awards, too, so I was pretty wired.
Hugo Awards: I did okay there. I’ll talk more about that in a minute.
2. Denver: I liked Denver, or at least the part of it that I saw, which was the 16th Street Mall, the Convention Center and their immediate environs. I stayed at the Sheraton, which was ostensibly the party hotel, but as it turned out, most of the hanging out action for the pro publishing folks took place at the Hyatt, which was right across from the convention center and also had a big-ass bar capable of handling several dozen drunken authors at a time. Funny how the authors are always at the bar. Anyway, a couple of people I knew noted that they were being affected by the altitude of Denver (it is famously the mile-high city), but I didn’t notice it too much. I did notice that staying up until 4am because I was partying me brains out led me to being tired a lot. They need to make a pill for that, I think.
3. People: I don’t know why anyone else goes to Worldcon, but I go to see many of my friends who aren’t otherwise in the same place at the same time and have a big ol’ ball staying up late and saying terrible, hilarious things. What sort of hilarious things? Well, let me just say this: The moment that I, Ian McDonald, Paolo Bacagalupi and Blake Charlton tried to sell an anthology to Lou Anders at Pyr Books by saying “Two words, Lou: Unicorn Bukkake” was not actually the most disturbingly, howlingly funny moment of the con.
(Also, if you don’t know what “bukkake” means, for God’s sake don’t look it up. Especially at work. For serious, man.)
If I listed everyone I know who I saw it would get really boring fast, so I’ll just run through some of the new folks I got to befriend: Kat Richardson, who shares a hometown with me and is just crazy fun; Ian McDonald, who I had met briefly before, but who I now spent more quality time with (along with his lovely wife); Alethea Kontis, who is smart and sweet and quite gorgeous; Paul Cornell with whom I had some deeply amusing conversations about British pop music; SFWA president Russell Davis, whom I finally met in the flesh and who met up with all expectations of competence and class; Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders of io9.com, both of whom are as snarkliciously fun in life as they are on their blog; Jon Singer and Jo Walton, whom I’ve known and read online and with whom I share so many friends that in both cases it was simply like meeting a dear acquaintance for the first time, and Diana Rowland, who if all goes to plan will have a most interesting acknowledgement of me in one of her upcoming books. You’ll know it when you see it, folks.
There are of course many other people I met at Denvention and whose company I was delighted to share for the first time, but my brain is still of a flan-like constitution from travel and con-fatigue, so I will ask their forgiveness for not giving them a shoutout at the moment. You know I was delighted to meet you.
4. The Hugo Ceremony: I’d like to say I was all cool and mellow before the ceremony, but I’d be lying my ass off, so let’s just say that while I strove to maintain an outward image of cool, inside my id was running around, on fire, tripping over objects. But in the end it turned out well, and I got namechecked in Denvention Toastmaster Wil McCarthy’s opening speech, and how cool is that.
I’m actually going to discuss my Hugo win and so on in a separate post, but for the moment the short form is, yes, I’m incredibly happy to have won the Fan Writer Hugo, I’m really not at all worried about having missed out on Best Novel, and to diminish the joy of one with grousing about the other would be the height of total loserdom. I had a good night, you know?
As good a night as I had, however, it’s nothing compared to the night my friend Mary Robinette Kowal had, when she was crowned (literally, as we have a tiara) as the Campbell Award Winner for Best New Writer. Mary’s been making a name for herself in the last year both for the quality of her writing and for her involvement in the sf/f community (she’s currently the secretary for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America), and her Campbell win was basically confirmation of what some of us already knew: Here is a star, people. We’re glad the rest of you are in on the secret now.
My only regret is that my wife Krissy wasn’t able to be there to see me get the award. As consolation, my awesome friend Yanni came as my Hugo date, and aside from wearing the sort of dress that makes most men and some women walk into walls (and being able to rock that dress), she helped keep me grounded and sane, before, during and after the awards. I am blessed with friends who are good for me. Yanni is one of them.
5. My Denvention Highlight: As it happens, I had two of them, and both of them involved Mary Robinette Kowal. One, the reading the two of us did, I’ve already mentioned. As for the other, well:
After the Hugo ceremony (which, to be clear, really was a high point, too), Mary and I and a group of friends began our walk to the Hugo after-party, which was at the Sheraton hotel a few blocks away. The Hyatt was on the way, so I suggested to Mary that we cut through the lobby, so we went in, and as she and I walked through the lobby, toward the huge Hyatt bar which happened to be filled with lots and lots of our friends and con-goers, Jay Lake, who was in our group, said in a loud voice “Ladies and gentlemen, your winners!” or something to that effect. At which point the entire lobby area erupts into huge applause, and people come running up to me and Mary with hugs and yelling and general madness. It’s one thing to be applauded from a stage, and another to be in the middle of all that.
We kept moving (we had a party to go to), but while the parties were a hell of a lot of fun, my big memory of that whole convention will be walking through that lobby with Mary, awards in hand, cheering around us, the two of us having a really big night together. To share that moment with one of my dear friends made it just that much richer. It’s possible that in my professional life I might have bigger moments. But those moments are going to really have to work to be better.
And that was my Denvention.
(Photos from Denvention via Tom Suter, with thanks and much appreciation.)