Friday, September 6, 2013

Worldcon Sunday

We did a lot less on Sunday.   It was much more relaxing, but we were still exhausted on Monday.  Heck, just thinking about that day makes me tired.

Sunday 9/1

10:00 a.m.
Autographing
Amanda Downum, Mary Robinette Kowal, Elizabeth Anne Hull, Jack Skillingstead

We dropped off a bottle of Pedernales Cellars Viognier Reserve 2012 with Kowal; my apologies to her for having to lug it around the rest of the day.  I accidentally brought Glamour in Glass, the second volume of her Regency fantasy series, to be autographed instead of the first.  This turned out to be a serendipitous choice, because the first line of the book was accidentally left out by the publisher and Kowal wrote it in for us.  Awesome!   

11:00 a.m.
Disaster and the Literature of the Supernatural
The inexpressible damage done to Japan by the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami of 2011 is but the latest in a long line of disasters. The relationship between natural calamities and literature of the supernatural has never been so profound. We will use both visuals and commentary to describe the current state of the damage done by disasters, and will explore the relationships between disasters, traditional ghost stories and the literature of fantasy, as well as Japan’s unique folk cultural traditions. We will present graphic
images of unusual Japanese spirits, demons, and monsters.
Masao Higashi (M), Toh EnJoe, Seia Tanabe

We actually ran into Jess Nevins and sat with him at the panel; Robin and he got a chance to talk about the life of college faculty before the panel began.  Cool guy.  I also made a point of thanking Nick Mamatas and Haikasoru for making these panels happen.

This panel was very sobering.  The damage still remaining from the tsunami is astonishing.  What’s also astonishing is the Japanese people’s reaction: they’re actually inventing brand-new ghost stories about the tsunami victims, telling tales of them returning to say goodbye to loved ones.  This is so bittersweet and poignant, even for an atheist like me. 

Noon

Mz. Harris read from a story that will be in an upcoming anthology of sports-related horror stories (or maybe it was mystery stories).  In any case, Sookie Stackhouse meets a medium (whom I understand will be a central character in her new series of post-Sookie novels) and they watch a game of girls’ softball.  I’m not sure if Anna Paquin copied the way Charlaine Harris reads Sookie’s lines or vice versa, but there’s a distinct similarity in the way they emphasize her speech. 

Robin used to play softball, so she was really happy that it turned out Sookie did too.  She forgot to bring a book for Mz. Harris to sign, so instead she had her sign one of Robin’s business cards and Robin taped that into the book later. 

1:00 p.m.
Lunch

We ran over to the Fuddruckers across from the Alamo and wolfed down some chicken sammiches. 

2:00 p.m.
Kaffeeklatsch: Mary Robinette Kowal

A kaffeeklatsch is an informal get-together where the celebrity author sits at a table with a small group of fans and everybody talks.  I heard more than one person suggest it should be the format of the whole convention, and I have to admit that it allows for a much more intimate and insightful gathering than a moderated panel.  Many, many thanks to Mary Robinette Kowal for making two pesky Texas wine evangelists so very welcome.

We brought some Texas wine and shared it with the group; my apologies to the lady who is allergic to alcohol.  Kowal was late, but she’d warned us that would happen; one of the first things she did when she got there was request a glass of wine.  We really wanted to impress her so we brought a bottle from Lewis Wines; it had the desired effect. 

I’m hesitant to write too much about what we talked about; there was some news that Kowal quite specifically didn’t want revealed (and I don’t have my notes handy anyway).  Suffice to say, she shared some insights on how her experience as a puppeteer informs her writing, she’ll be writing more sci-fi soon, and she has some really unusual long-term plans for the Glamourist Histories.  As the Regency dude, I had to ask what other authors she enjoys; it turns out she actually deliberately avoids reading Regency authors besides Jane Austen because she doesn’t want to mix up fact and fiction.  She asked me in turn what Regency authors I would recommend; when I offered Loretta Chase, it turned out that Kowal already follows Chase’s Two Nerdy History Girls blog.

4:00 p.m.
Reading: Mark Finn
AND
4:30 p.m.
Reading: Mary Robinette Kowal

Mark Finn wrote Blood & Thunder: The Life & Art of Robert E. Howard – a great biography that helps to fight many of the scurrilous myths L. Sprague deCamp concocted -- so I wanted to make sure I went to at least one panel he was at.  He read from his story in Ray Guns Over Texas, an anthology of sci-fi from Texan writers (which, oddly enough, includes Michael Moorcock these days).  This was one of the few times I really wimped out and didn’t introduce myself to an author, but since Kowal was reading in the same room immediately after him, I just decided to stay in my seat during the hustle to change over.  At least I tweeted about how much more I enjoy a dinosaur apocalypse to zombies.

(He also wrote a great blog post about the joys and failings of Worldcon that reflects many of my own opinions.  I really have to agree that the con needs more gaming programming; even Kowal confessed that her first, unpublished novel was based on her D&D character.)

Kowal was the only author who got to finish what he or she was reading of the three readings I attended, and that’s because she only read part of a chapter.  It was a selection from Valour and Vanity, the long-promised heist thriller volume of the Glamourist Histories.  Kowal does character voices in her readings, there were pirates, and I was very amused.

5:00 p.m.
Dinner

We scheduled a long, relaxed break for dinner and went over to ORO Restaurant at the Emily Morgan Hotel.  I probably would have been more impressed if I’d ordered one of the $40+ plates, but the Charleston She Crab Soup was pretty good.

8:00 p.m.
Hugo Awards Ceremony
The Hugo Award is the only major science fiction award that is voted on by fans around the globe. Join us as we honor our nominees and winners Sunday evening in the Grand Ballroom.

This is probably the closest I’ll ever get to being at the Oscars.  We deliberately came in late because we didn’t want to stand in line for an hour, but we still had good seats.  Admittedly, I wound up mainly watching the screens where they were projecting the live feed from the wards, but I was still there with the live sound and thunderous applause.

There’s been a fight in the RPG blogosphere recently about sexual harassment at GenCon and PAX (though I’d call it celebrating rape culture).  This is a very real, very painful concern for many people (and not just women) in sci-fi and fantasy fandom.  Host Paul Cornell made it very clear in his opening address that this is an issue fandom needs to conquer; Texan artist John Picacio also used his acceptance speech to emphasize how much Texas itself needs to stop mistreating half its population.  I applaud them both for their forthright stances on the issue.

I admit that I am unfamiliar with most of the works and nominees for the Hugos this year, so I don’t have much to say about the winners.  One of my lessons from Worldcon was that there is a lot of great work being produced right now and I don’t read nearly enough.  I was, however, reminded that I probably wouldn’t enjoy Game of Thrones at all. 

(Also, I doubt Brian K. Vaughn is getting nominated again.  There was NOBODY there to pick up the Hugo for Saga.  It was… uncomfortable.)

We were beat by the time the Hugo Awards ended, so we headed home to feed cats and go to bed.  We used to go to an anime convention in Austin several years ago.  At the time, we lived in San Marcos, so it was about a one hour drive.  The painful lesson we learned after the first couple of times is that even though the con was close to home, it was still better to stay at the hotel.  Even though we were twenty minutes from home this time, staying at the hotel would still have helped.  We’ll have to keep that in mind if any cool conventions swing through SA or Austin.

We also need to keep in mind that we really do belong to a community, that there are people out there who think like us and are fun to hang out with.  I hope this once in a lifetime chance to attend the World Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention is just the first step in really joining that larger world.

How much would it cost to go to London?

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