Anticipation From the Other Side
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.