New fiction!

I have a story up at Rose Red Review.

My grandmother moved from Michigan to Arizona a few years ago, right in the middle of the housing crisis, which wreaked havoc on her retirement plans (as well as those of thousands of other older Americans).  I was in a rage about the economic powers-that-be that caused the collapse, and this piece was written from said place of rage.   I’d just read Catherynne Valente’s Orphan’s Tales and wanted to attempt a cross-cultural fairytale mashup (more fool me) as an allegory of globalization.  Also, wolves.

All this to say, this story was a strange one, and I’m very grateful it found a home.  Thanks to Larissa Nash for picking it up, and thanks to the many first readers who helped me wrangle it.

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Fatal bargain.

I made a pact with myself when I passed exams back in April.  “Get ten submissions out on the market, self, and then start drafting your dissertation.”  For those of you who read slush, this probably seems like a terrible idea.  It’s all too easy to fire off ten lousy, incomplete submissions just to get those documents off your harddrive and into the ‘net-verse: Ugly orphans seek loving lit mag parentage for one-time appearance and permanent archiving.  Except I desperately wanted to postpone starting (really, revisiting…I have 150 pages of random scenes) the redraft process on my diss.  I’ve definitely dragged my heels subbing stuffs.  The subs I have out in the world right now are…well, I kept revising them as long as I possibly could, to within an inch of their lives, in some cases.  I think they’re solid subs.  They were ready to leave the nest, anyway.  This was not a rush job.  No fear, slushers.

Oh and hey, exciting news:  New acceptance!  My flash story, “What We Can’t Reach,” will be coming to a Monkeybicycle near you at a soon-to-be-determined date, which I will announce as soon as I hear details.  I am ecstatic, as I adore the work they pick up.  If you have not yet checked them out, prepare yourself for fabulistness.  Other happy recent developments: good friend and purveyor of quality snark over at the Saskatchewan Review, Ms. Sushi had a piece picked up (one of my very favorites) at Alice Blue, and poet-friend Brianna has work up at Blackbird.  I’m surrounded by people writing interesting, smart things.  My adolescent self wouldn’t believe how cool her life turns out to be.
But back to evil pact with self: Now I’m stuck for it.  As of this morning, I have ten things floating out in the ether, and therefore I must begin outlining and plotting through the Messy Behemoth That Time Forgot.  While accruing the inevitable 9quintillion rejections that come from having so many subs out.  Anyone want to take bets on how long it’ll take me to hit the trifecta of three rejects in one day?  I give it a month, tops.

Let the rejection flood commence!  Dissertation drafting in 3….2….1….

Worldcon roundup, Day the Fifth (and beyond): In which there are many fond farewells

The last day of con James once again had off of work, but we were pretty much done with everything we’d wanted to do, save saying goodbyes.  We went down to the hotel in the afternoon and made the rounds, hugging and getting teary-eyed.  Had said bye to Bo the night before, and I realize now I should’ve said bye to Peta, as we ended up missing her.  But we caught most everyone else.  I bought a pair of earrings and a few books from the dealer’s room, including Annie’s favorite Walter Jon Williams book, Implied Spaces, which he happily signed for me (I booked it across the con trying to make his autograph table before it closed.  He seemed bemused by my huffing and puffing.  He also said this year’s Clarion class was excellent.  Can’t wait to see what they produce!).  Then Becky, Mark, Chris and the pair of us went to get fast-food noodles, returning to the con hotel to say bye to Dennis.  We wound up in the Green Room at the con, where all the panelists went to hide out and escape the hubbub.  The five of us sipped coffee and tried to stay awake after the late night of partying, and we got in  one last conversation about pubs, getting pubs, keeping your spirits up despite rejection, places to sub, all with a side discussion about post-Clarion writing groups.  But alas, eventually Becky had to go meet her friend Dayna in the city, and so we hugged her and Dennis and said our goodbyes.

The warm and fluffy part: Chris extended his Chicago stay so as to go to my Wit Rabbit reading Tuesday night, and Mark booked a Wicker Park hostel, so the post-con sadness was somewhat mediated by the lingering of good people.  Mark went to the hostel to check in, and James, Chris and I headed back to Logan.  We wound up meeting Tim and his partner Mark at a tapas bar for dinner (Tim and Mark also stayed on a few extra days, visiting relatives in the area) and once again we had fabulous conversations about online presence, pseudonyms, how to be a critic online without scoring endless hate-mail (I fear it’s unpossible) and a billion other writerly topics.  How did I ever live without these people in my life?

Tuesday was madness; I taught my two classes terribly sleep-deprived, and I never, ever want to begin a semester this way again, if I can avoid it.  I made it through, then headed over to Quenchers for my reading.  Closing out Worldcon with a reading = not my smartest idea ever.  I read “The Entomologist’s Three Ballgowns” (got to butcher some Latin, even) and a flash piece titled “When We Were Monsters,” both new pieces from this summer’s writing madness with Sacha.  I went last, which gave me four readers’ worth of time to build up a good steam of anxiety.  Wit Rabbit pulls some phenomenal readers.  The poet up right before me (who opened with Yoda haikus that just slayed me) had just won a Ruth Lilly fellowship.  No pressure.  Eeek!   The other prose writer, Amanda, edits Requited, and her piece involved bears and phobias and was just genius, funny and dark and perfect for the reading series.  I felt ehhh about my own performance, but I chose pieces in honor of my Narwolves rather than picking one of the punchier but less fabulist of my summer stories.  Maybe not my best reading, especially in terms of fitting my material to the crowd, but a truly splendid night nonetheless, and the series producers (thanks to Sara, Tyler, Nick, and Virginia) had positive things to say, so was good.  Chris, Mark and James stayed to have beers with my PhD peeps (when worlds collide, they go boom!), then we split off to get late-night vegan dinner at Handlebar.  James tried BBQ seitan, and liked it.

For Chris and Mark’s last day in Chicago (this is Wednesday now, a full week after my picking up that fateful Worldcon badge), we’d planned to spend the day at the Art Institute, but after taking the two of them to Irazu, one of my favorite neighborhood lunch haunts, we were so full up of food, only Mark was still up for museum-ing.  Chris and I holed up at a Caribou coffee and wrote for two hours instead.  A new story, about librarians and critics and the scent of desperation exuded by up-and-coming writers.  It felt so damn good—one of the best times I had all con, honestly.  When Mark came back from looking at art, we all walked over to the downtown library and spent a half hour or so wandering around.  Then I took them to Quimby’s, which cheerfully devoured the rest of Mark’s remaining time in Chicago (also where I picked up Orange Eats Creeps, because I have no willpower, even after spending a million dollars on books, booze and food at the con).  Jim got home from work in time to take Chris to Trader Joe’s to get snacks for his train ride to Boston.  We got to the station an hour early, which gave us enough time to have one last beer at the station bar, which is in the old Union Station building.  I still want to host a ballroom dance flashmob there.  Final hugs to Chris, final tears.

Then James and I went home to our apartment and collapsed in each other’s arms, as you do post-con.

I wish I’d gone to the morning walks with famous people.  I never did see Deanna Hoak.  I never did get to meet Farah Mendlesohn.  Caitlin Kiernan and Rahul Kanakia (to the best of my knowledge) weren’t at the con, two people I very much want to see on panels/hear read/meet in person, if I could ever be so lucky.  But overall, I got my registration $’s worth and then some.   It was madness, it was terrific fun, I’ll never do it again and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.  If you can make it to a Worldcon, go, go, go!  It was the time of my life, the best week I’ve had since Clarion.

My dearest Narwolves, I miss you all already.  Thanks for the BEST first con experience this girl could ever have imagined.

(Side note: Apparently I have written 6,000-ish words of this absurd magnum opus.  Ridiculous.  Eh, it was worth it to have a record of the experience, for posterity. Please, if I’ve left out something awesome, tell me!  My brain was just too full by Wednesday night.)

Worldcon roundup, Day the Fourth: In which Rachel Swirsky is a badass, Kessel is a dear, and a whole lot of people win Hugos – including someone in our Clarion class.

At some point, con related sleep-dep hit me the same odd way as happened to me at Clarion: I turned crazy insomniac.  Like, I only needed 6 hours of sleep on con days and I functioned as well or better than my usual (generally I need 7-8 hours or I’m spacey as hell).  By Sunday, I’d lost my mind and found it again.  I showed up to the con as usual, and went to the first panel of the day by my lonesome (James was back at work, and everyone else was sleeping off the night before).  There was a panel entitled “Clarion Call” with no description, so I showed up at that hoping to meet some former Clarion classes.  Instead, it turned out to be a panel for people trying to get in to one of the Clarions, chaired by attendees from various years.

I want someone to fact-check this stat, but at one point an audience member asked how many Clarionauts generally went on to write professionally.  The answer was something like 1-2 people in each class “make it,” where making it means publishing at least one novel and/or consistently selling to the pro markets.  Another 4-6 go on to snag at least one sale to the pro or semi-pro magazines.

If this is true, then 2011 is rocking it.  At last count, 2 people have SFWA qualified (3 pro sales or more), 9 people have made at least one SFWA-qualifying sale, 5 more have sold one or more pieces to paying semi-pro markets, and only four people have yet to break in (although one of those is doing contract work, which really should count).  Of those four, three are actively writing, subbing, and going to cons; it’s only a matter of time for them.  Only one person has dropped off the face of the planet completely.  I’m kind of floored at the awesomeness of yous guys, for serious.  I’d love to know other classes’s stats, UCSD, South, and West.  For research purposes, you know?  And/or friendly competition.  😉

One of the Clarion Call panelists was Rachel Swirsky, looking like a movie star in dark glasses (apparently she had a wicked migraine that day).  I’d just pieced together that the author of Decomposition was the same person as the author of Stable Master’s Tale and “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window,” all of which I’d loved.  Swirsky had to leave early to go to her reading, which I’d wanted to attend anyway (based purely on my affection for “Decomposition”), and since I wasn’t in the market for how-to-get-into-Clarion advice (pity it’s a once in a lifetime thing), I followed her out and introduced myself as a Clarion grad.  We had the loveliest random conversation about MFA/PhD programs, her time at Iowa, her forthcoming collection (the evocatively titled How the World Became Quiet) and her previous collection, Through the Drowsy Dark, which I totally must get now.  She even introduced me to her scientist husband, who (and I thought this an utterly charming detail) took her last name when they married.  I panic-texted Becky that she Had to Get to This Reading, Now, or Else Live to Regret It Forever.  So Bolander, Becky and I were all in the audience for Swirsky’s reading of the title story from that forthcoming collection.  We laughed, we cried, I took compulsive notes and squeeeed lots.  Afterward Swirsky was equally sweet to Bolander, recalling and specifically praising her (brilliant) Lightspeed pub and generally being a splendid human being.  So THAT was supercool.  It made me want to turn back time and apply to Iowa.

Then Becky, Bolander and I, along with Bo’s BF Ben, took a lunch break and planned to meet back up at Kessel’s reading.  At this point I’d realized that readings and socializing were more my speed, and I cut back my panels to just one that day.  Becky and I spent a fair amount of time hanging out in her hotel room between readings, talking books and stories and “what are we going to do with our lives?” mild panic.  We made some solid plans to be deadline buddies into the future.

Kessel’s reading was fabulous and, like JPK, he read from a forthcoming longer work set in a world from his previous stories.  I particularly loved the descriptions of mini-ecosystems, and the way he justified functional invisibility technology.  This is the second chapter I’ve heard him read, and I want the novel to be done already so’s I can read the rest.  Also, in a strange confluence, the section he read involved the prosthetic hand of unknown origin and powers, reminding me of nothing so much as the Narwolf trip (with Kessel along for the rant) to see Cowboys and Aliens during the final weeks of Clarion.  Bo did NOT like this comparison, and she’s right that Kessel definitely got there first and the two texts are nothing alike, but there’s more to it than that, for me.  It’s a perfect example of how as much as SF thinks it’s foregrounding ideas, not storycraft, it is constitutively always both.  Tech of unknown origin is, in Kessel’s hands, art.  In other hands?  You get C&A.  It’s not the device’s fault; it’s its misuse.  I still can’t get over Kessel’s kindness.  We trailed after him like ducklings — at one point there was a whole row of us traveling up the escalator behind him.  He and JPK introduced us to major editors, other authors…unforgettable niceness.

I desperately wanted to see Bill Shunn’s panel on using personal details in SF, partly because I am a compulsive follower of Mamatas’s online criticism and wanted to see him in action (I was not disappointed), and partly because Bill has been so wonderfully inclusive and supportive since I arrived in Chicago.  He really is the nicest guy in the Chicago SF scene.  I asked a stupid question about the recent turn to explicitly including the personal in SF works, and Mamatas gave me the answer I deserved.  Next time: Write down your question before you ask it, ya ninny.  You know better than that!  The question I wanted to ask:  Do works like Drowning Girl, “13 Ways of Looking at Space/Time,” and “Story Kit” actually represent a shift in the genre?  They all look much more like each other than like previous eras of SF.  And it’s the open inclusion of the personal that looks like the core device connecting these texts.  What’s up with that?

What I actually asked: “Why all the hate-or-ade poured on “13 Ways of Looking at Space/Time?”  Mamatas’s response boiled down to “haters gonna hate.”  Which, yeah.  That’s totally true.  My bad, Mamatas.  I threw you a stupid.  I’m still pissed I wasted my question. Better luck next time, I suppose.

Then!  High-speed fast-food grab, and some pre-Hugo beer drinking up in Becky’s room.  One of my favorite images from the entire con: we had no way of cooling the beer, so we chucked it all in the bathroom sink and covered it with ice. We took the partying quite seriously.

Various people wigged about their Hugo outfits, but ultimately people wore a wide range, and nobody looked out of place, from ball gowns to flops ‘n jeans.  Bolander looked particularly adorable in her just-bought-that-day-in-a-mad-scurry suitcoat and tie.  We took over a row of seats, and Brady got off work just in time to sit by me.

The Hugos themselves?  Well, it was felt a bit like being at the Oscars—someplace between Hollywood Oscars and Theatrikos Oscars, maybe.  Much pomp and circumstance.  Flouffy dresses.  Speeches.  Tears.  Who am I kidding, it was so awesome I had so much fun OMG I want to go every year.  I was so pleased that E. Lily Yu won the Campbell (that story was SO GOOD), and we sent up a mighty arooo when Kij took Best Novella for “The Man Who Bridged the Mist.”  And our beloved Narwolf Tim runs Sofawolf Press, publisher of Digger, which won for Graphic Novel.  So (granted, on a technicality) someone from our Clarion class picked up a Hugo our first year out.  Rock!  And Scalzi was hilarious, as Scalzi is wont to be.  Note to self: I absolutely must download a backlog of Squeecasts.  I’ve been late to the podcast party, but I’m running 1-2 times a week, and I need stuffs to listen to.  This would be perfect.

The post-Hugo party involved Scotch, rum, and many toasts to the joy of being together, to brilliant people winning statues, to the bizarre wonder of Clarion anointing us as belonging to this wacky scene.  We all commented on how much we liked that the Hugos also honor the fandom that sustains the artists.  I mean, how many literary events pull five thousand people?  It was some mad energy being in the room with that many devout readers.  Pretty spectacular.

And once again, we party hopped.  My favorite was probably the London Worldcon bid party, which featured Worcestershire-flavored crisps and Battenberg cakes.  We ended the night once again in the SFWA suite, this time talking at length to Gini (and a bit to Ferrett) until the room started spinning sleepily and we had to go home.  We got back to the apartment at 2:30am, just as an FYI for all you PhD-school friends who mock me for my lack of late-night stamina.  Every once in a while, I hold steady past the midnight hour.  But only for large, shiny awards ceremonies, apparently.  Somebody start throwing weekly galas, and I’ll ring in the dawn every time.

Worldcon roundup, Day the Third: In which Worldcon fails to provide adequate disability services, Valente defines magical realism for the neophyte, and the Narwolves throw a hotel pizza party guest-starring Kessel and Kij.

James and I were up so late the night before, between con parties and train rides home, we decided to skip the morning panels and hit the afternoon ones hard.  We arrived at the hotel just in time to join Becky for a quick lunch.  Saturn reunion party at the Giordano’s!  [Side note: I left my credit card and didn’t realize until later in the day…they held it for me, wonderful people, and I retrieved it no problem.  Con exhaustion takes its toll…]  Becky and James came with me to Nnedi’s reading, which was just as gorgeous as anticipated.  She read from a novel she’s currently working, titled Lagoon.  Speaking of non-Euro-centric settings, Nnedi is where it’s at.  Also her whip-smart daughter was in attendance, and she even handled a few audience questions for her mum.  I must now track down a copy of Zahrah the Windseeker.

Then we went for part of Annie’s panel on effective writing habits.  She was smart and well prepared, and I wish we could’ve stayed for questions, but I desperately wanted to catch Geoff Ryman’s reading.  In a sea of excellent readings, Ryman may have been my favorite.  For one thing, he’d done historical research.  The backstory of his piece involved Shakespeare and early telescopic lenses.  For another, he rendered the precise moment of scientific discovery so profoundly that I actually teared up.  I was glad James was there with me.  It was stunning, the characters’ dawning realization that Copernicus was right, that the movement of the heavenly spheres doesn’t work in the way they’ve always believed…Ryman made you feel it, the whole world shifting underfoot.  Well played, Geoff Ryman.  Well played.

We showed up early to Valente’s quantum mechanics and magical realism panel, since so many of the rooms had been overbooked.  This may have been my favorite panel, in that it felt like a UIC colloquium.  Valente panels like an academic, which for me was refreshing after many days of author/fan panels, with criticism taking a backseat.  Best sum-up in a single Tweet: “On a panel on quantum physics & magical realism: Cat Valente, 2 people who didn’t know what magical realism was, & no quantum physicists.”  Yeah, pretty much.  Based on Valente’s recc’s, I need to seek out more Eastern European magical realists, and I’ve flagged Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312 as my next book purchase (once I get through Orange Eats Creeps and DFW’s Pale King).  The panel ultimately devolved into audience members playing pop goes the genre with Valente.  “Is Vonnegut magical realism?  What about Firefly?  What about Harry Potter?” etc. etc.  It was madness.  I wish UIC could fund additional out-of-state speakers beyond the second-year lecture series.  I would love to see Michaels and Valente go head to head.   She argued that according to Borges’ essays, among other critical writings, one of the key devices for magical realism is a journalistic style, and that historically speaking magical realist writing tends to arise under fascist regimes wherein state rhetoric has become almost completely untrustworthy.  I need to go back and reread Emilio Sauri’s dissertation on magical realism, because I remember liking his definition, but have absolutely no recollection of it now.  Swiss cheese brain, grrr.

The worst part of the panel: Our Clarion-mate Dennis was supposed to be on it.  The panelists were put up on a dais, and there was no way to get Dennis’s wheelchair up onto said dais, so he elected to remove himself from the panel.  Almost all the Narwolves (but Annie, who had a panel running concurrently…possibly one or two others?) had shown up to see Dennis.  We were pretty damn furious at the con for that bit of mismanagement.  I know a bunch of people plan to write letters.  But yeah.  Poor planning, Worldcon. A panelist shouldn’t have to step down due to inadequate accommodations.

Note to self for future cons:  I need to cut myself off at 5:30pm.  I kept wanting to see 6pm panels, but that meant getting out at 7:30 absolutely starving, and with long lines at every restaurant.  Well, we did it again on Saturday, heading to see Gene Wolfe take part in a “how to get unstuck” writing panel.  By the end, Becky, James and I were delirious of hunger.  We wound up ordering a pile of pizzas, and James and I brought a bunch of beer back to Dennis and Becky’s Annie’s (kindly volunteered; sorry if we thrashed it!) hotel room.  Bolander still had Kij Johnson’s number from Clarion, and texted to invite her to the pizza party.  Which is how we ended up having a Narwolf pizza party with a soon-to-be 2011 Hugo winner.  I still can’t believe how much of their time Kij and Kessel gave to our motley crew.  It was unbelievably generous, and (alongside seeing all my Clarionauts) it pretty much made the con, for me.

Perhaps my favorite bit of the impromptu party, besides seeing Kij again, involved spontaneously calling a bunch of the absent Narwolves, just to let them know they were missed.  Fifteen or so people yelling into a cell phone isn’t exactly audible, but at least they felt loved, I hope.

James had to work in the morning, so we jetted early, leaving the other Narwolves to their exploits, the best of which involved Mark, Becky and Gil hanging out with GRRM at the Tor party.  Next time, I’m staying in the con hotel.

One additional point that deserves a mention: Only a few of the Narwolves attended the morning meeting re: the creation of a YA Hugo, and I was not among them.  There are many reasons why I think a YA Hugo is a good idea, but rather than belatedly sticking my nose into an ongoing discussion, I’ll just express my sincere sadness that the Narwolf cohort didn’t group up and form a bloc vote in favor of it. I was exhausted, I slept in, and I regret it.  The vote failed 51/67.  We could have made that margin appreciably tighter if all of us had shown up.  I feel I let my community down — especially Peta, as founding editor of Scape.  I believe your work is award-worthy, YA folks, and I’m sorry I didn’t cast my vote to defend that.

Worldcon roundup, Day the Second: In which the Narwolves starve James Patrick Kelly to within an inch of his life.

Tim, bless your heart, why did your panel have to be at 9am?  Training in from Logan Square, I ran much, much later than I’d intended, but it was totally worth the early wake-up time, because Tim’s panel clarified many of my questions about the metaphorical content of furry lit.  Becky met up with me at said panel, looking equally sleep-deprived and under-caffeinated.  We decided to grab breakfast and catch up (which meant missing Cat Valente and Eugie Foster’s identity panel…why can’t I be in two places at once?).  Becky had a new sale: one of her Clarion stories went to Scape, and we celebrated with offsite bagels and OJ.   After, we met up with Tim, Mark and Chris at the Elizabeth Bear/Dennis panel on non-Euro-centric fantasy settings, but it was so packed there was only floor seating.  After Thursday’s frenetics, I’d decided to be kinder to my poor body for the rest of the con, so we wound up leaving the panel in search of chairs.  I headed down to the dealer’s room/autograph tables and got my copy of Palimpsest signed.  Valente had an ARC of the second Fairyland book up for grabs, but you had to answer a question correctly to get it.  Tragically, I haven’t yet reread the first Fairyland since its days online (Mom, you DID mail me my hardcover copy, yes?), and I couldn’t for the life of me remember the required detail.  Fie on you, gods!  Also there was the rigor mortis of being in the presence of one of my very favorite authors.  I pretty much swallowed my tongue, got my signature, and stumbled off in a daze.  Am kicking myself, too, since I’d just done a close read of Labyrinth, marking down devices, repetitions and favorite lines to quote in my dissertation prospectus.  As in some terrible teaching nightmare, I’d prepped the wrong book!

I’ve been teaching pieces from Kessel and Kelly’s Secret History of Science Fiction, so I got Kessel’s signature on it so as to show my students.  Kessel also let me hang around his table catching up, and even asked if the Narwolves might like to grab dinner with him and Jim Kelly.  Um, yes?  Definite yes!  My favorite autograph acquisition, though, has to be Nnedi Okorafor’s.  She was so unbelievably kind, let me natter on about my dissertation project (she got her PhD from UIC too), and signed my copy of Who Fears Death.  Don’t want to say more about Sekrit Awesome Plans lest I jinx them, but…yeah.  I’m really hoping that I’ll be able to work with her into the future.  She’s even more fabulous in person than I’d dared to hope.

I went to Jo Walton’s reading, a painfully sweet defense of artistic endeavor in the face of a culture that believes such work to be so much wasted time.  I was quite pleased when Among Others won the Hugo a few days later.  (No, the book isn’t perfect; critiques of its uncritical promotion of SF tribalism and insularity are accurate.  But it’s also a smart, girl-centered HP in many ways, which left me with a mixed but generally positive reaction).

I do love readings.  There’s something so peaceful about being read to, bedtime-story style.  I definitely preferred the readings to the panels.  It helps that my favorite authors spec-side are not generally the GRRM/Scalzi/Gaiman types who command 500-person rooms, so there’s a real feeling of intimacy, especially when said author is reading from brand-new, unedited work.  I secretly hope my favorite authors don’t get too famous.  Sorry, favorite authors!

Somewhere in there, I wound up in the dealer’s room with Annie, Tim and Becky, watching Dennis do the Writers Under Glass thing (from Dennis’s description of it: “Writers volunteer to sit in a certain place for 30-40 minutes each and write serially on a collaborative story. Each takes up where the previous left off throughout the run of the convention. The resulting manuscript will be printed out only once, signed by all the writers, and entered into the charity auction as a contribution from all the writers. Con attendees can watch the writers at work–this has to be done in public like Harlan Ellison’s writing in shop windows–but may not harass them. The attendees can watch what’s being written in real time on a remote monitor. The story is complete at the end of the con and no other copies will be made without consent of all the writers who participated.”).  I remember it being a fascinating conversation, I think having to do with e-publishing (Annie is an expert on doing it right), but (and this is endemic to the con experience, I think) I have absolutely no clue when this conversation took place.  Maybe before the Valente reading but after the Walton?  Must be.  Did so many things I’m already missing pieces.

But anyway, that’s when things got hairy.  I’d spent a few hours attempting to get a reservation for dinner.  Finding a restaurant near the con hotel that could accommodate 15 people on a Friday night in a major US city?  Unpossible. Also I refused to miss Cat Valente and Ferrett’s readings, which were practically back to back.  Valente read an excerpt from a forthcoming story, Snow White retold as a Western.  The heroine’s gun was named Rose Red.  I was of course utterly enchanted.  Ferrett read from a strange, dark piece told from the POV of a mother whose child had been basically kidnapped as part of an occult boarding school/experiment.  The kids were being trained to communicate with Lovecraftian beings that might or might not be about to apocalypse.  The light clicked on when I realized that, intentionally or no, it operated as a fantastic explication of the paroxysms writers go through as they attempt to communicate with that shadowy otherspace where ideas come from — a shadowy other place that may be trying to kill them, and those they love.  (Full disclosure: Half my post-Clarion stories have been thinly veiled wrassling with the difficulty of writing well, so I may be overinterpreting.)  I think he just sold it, so that’ll be out soon, too.  (I’m amazed I remember this much of both stories, as I was frantically trying to yelp restaurant possibilities throughout.  I hate being That Girl Texting in the audience.  Is terribly rude.)

Thanks to several hotel restaurants playing the classic “it’ll be about 45 minutes” game, we wound up back at the same bar/restaurant as the nachos of the night before, only this time with a two-hour wait.  Oy.  I blame myself for the fail.  Everyone was starving, and round about 70 minutes in I imagine Kessel and Kelly had cause to rue their kindness in agreeing to grab dinner with us.  But somehow we all managed to crowd around a long table, with JPK, Becky, Annie and I tucked into a nearby booth.  Food, glorious food, and salted with JPK delivering unto us the wisdom of a long-time pro.  It was a truly fabulous evening, despite the meal-planning difficulties.  Then Brady got off work and came out for a beer with the Narwolves, who were ecstatic to see him (finally!).  And then we went up to the SFWA suite as guests of Kelly, Kessel, and our two SFWA qualifying Narwolves (Annie and Bolander).  Elizabeth Bear was there (Week 3 instructor) along with her hubby Scott Lynch, and Mark had a bottle of Scotch he passed around, and we all got a brief taste of what it’ll feel like when we SFWA qualify (oh yes, I did say when).  Once again I return to yesterday’s mantra: write more things and sub like a fiend.  I want this so terribly baldly.

We rode back to Logan with a trainful of club kids taking the blue line home from the North Coast music festival.  Them sweaty and adorned with rainbow bracelets, us with nametags still on and reeking of con-funk, and everyone asleep on their feet.  To each their own tribe.

(Oh, and ya like how I just snuck my BF’s pub in there, all sneaky link like?  Yeah.  It’s a gorgeous story, one of his Clarion submission pieces, and I’m so thrilled it went to a good home.  I promised him I wouldn’t make a fuss about it, but I did want to do a blog shout-out.)

Worldcon roundup, Day the First: In which the Narwolves aroooo and I meet famous people.

I picked up my badge Wednesday so as to avoid first-day lines, which meant that I spent Thursday morning bouncing up and down waiting for panels to begin at noon.  Brady made me chilaquiles before he headed off to work so’s I’d have something heavy in my tummy to keep me from falling over of low blood sugar halfway through my first con day.  Fed and caffeinated, I wandered the Hyatt’s halls, spotting a Jay Lake, a K. Tempest, and a Ferrett walking beside a Gini.  I grinned like a crazy person at each of them, which I now realize probably made me look like an idiot, but hey, Worldcon!  Rubbing elbows with famous people!  Wheeee!  Oh, and Gini grinned back even though we had not yet met, just in case we knew each other, which proves that time-travel exists.

Went to a panel on using SF literature in the classroom and heard Richard Chwedyk of Columbia College talk about teaching SF in an academic setting.  I’d heard him read at Tuesday Funk but had not yet met him in person; a few days later we would have a short conversation at the SFWA table.  Hopefully now that we’ve met I’ll get to catch up with him again into the future, since we seem to run in parallel Chicago SF circles.

When I stepped out of that panel, I almost immediately ran into Mark and Chris, my first Narwolf sightings of the con.  Much hugging and giddy squeeing ensued.  Chris headed off to the Alternate History panel with Kenneth Hite and Mary Robinette Kowal, and I stayed in the teaching room hoping to catch Maryanne Mohanraj at her panel.  The room was absolutely freezing, though, so I was ultimately driven off an hour or so into the panel, teeth chattering.  I went outside to warm up, then slipped into the Capitalism v. Socialism panel, which had already devolved into a bunch of people complaining about the U.S. elections.  Favorite moment involved an attendee making a blanket assertion about politics in the U.S., followed by the moderator asking how many people in attendance weren’t U.S. citizens.  Two-thirds of the room raised their hands.  It’s a WORLDcon, yo.  Way to make us look like U.S.-centric chumps.

Finally got to meet Ferrett and Gini in person.  I love it when people are their blogs.  Gini was charming, witty, and loquacious, and Ferrett was friendly with the occasional wry aside: his Tweet about collecting as many Clarion alums as possible (we are like Pokemon cards) became a running joke.  He must’ve met dozens by con’s end.  Perhaps if he collects enough, he can trade up for a Campbell winner.

I’d been texting with Tim all morning to coordinate a meet-up, and finally we gathered at Scalzi’s opening ceremonies.  An inundation of Narwolves: Bolander, Peta, Tim, Gil, Jasmine (and her YA-fan friend Stephanie), plus the return of Chris and Mark.  An overwhelm of hugs!  Then we hit the con suite as a pack, talking nonstop (must catch up!  On a year of life!  In ten minutes or less!  With five people!  Madness, Sparta!).  Grabbed a quick hit of coffee and chocolate to keep us going, and then I fled to catch the tail end of the DSF panel.  I’d wanted to thank the editors for picking up “Substitution.”  They were both terrifically kind, and their children were adorable, handing out DSF bookmarks to anyone who passed by.

Then Becky texted that she’d arrived.  Becky was the third member of Saturn room (with James Brady and me) at Clarion.  The three of us bonded like Superglue.  Once I knew Becky was in the building, the whole pack of us stalked over to registration and surrounded her, yipping and arrooooing like crazy people.  Good times.

Instead of splitting up to panel, most everyone went to Jim Kelly’s reading at 4:30.  I finally got to meet JPK in person!  John Kessel was there (one half of our anchor team, Weeks 5-6 at Clarion), and we formed a hugging line so as not to overwhelm him completely.  Jim K.’s reading was spectacular and tantalizing—I’d read “Men Are Trouble” a while back, and he performed a bit from a new story set in that same world.  He gave the entire audience a passcode for downloading the rest of the piece (smart marketing move, and a classy gift/perk for attendees.  Plus it meant he could read from a longer work).  Score.  (This is the first entry in a long string of Brooke adds 900 books/stories to her reading list mini-sagas.)  Free download ahoy!

Then I went by my lonesome to a short story panel featuring Gra Linnaea (Shimmer editor and Clarion 2008 alum) and Ferrett.  I’d been following Gra’s work for ages (also his sister Jennifer’s — I adored her recent DSF story).  Learned how to read a personal rejection from Shimmer, which was useful, since I have accrued many of them.  It was a bit demoralizing in that the short fiction markets are getting ever more difficult to break into, but also uplifting in that Gra and Ferrett were both in my friend Dan’s Clarion year, and lo, both have published extensively, one has been nominated for a Nebula, and the other is editor at a major mag.  Where will the Narwolves be in four years?   Equally awesome places, I should think.  Ferrett’s persistence remains inspiring.  Damn do I need to write more things and sub like a fiend.

Exhausted, paneled to within an inch of my life, I hooked up with Bolander and Peta for a reward beer in one of the hotel’s many restaurants.  Also nachos.  Realized I had not eaten a thing since chilaquiles at 10 that morning.  Ooops.  BEST NACHOS OF LIFE.  Then:  Enter Dennis, surrounded by Narwolves!  Enter Annie, surrounded by Writers of the Future!  Dennis had been scheduled for an afternoon panel but thanks to a delayed flight had missed the first half-hour.  We mobbed them and immediately degenerated into fisticuffs over the state of SF criticism while consuming additional bar food.  Was so, so lovely to be surrounded by smart readers of SF/fantasy with whom I could talk out my many thoughts.  I’d spent the summer reading predominantly spec fic, and pretty much on my own (no, that’s a lie—I have a live-in James Brady)…but the two of us occasionally turn into an echo chamber, so outside influences are super helpful.

Near the point of collapse by 11pm, with both feet aching, I stood on the curb until James swung by with the car to pick me up.  Oh, and I forgot to mention: I was afflicted with violent hayfever for the entire con and left a trail of used Kleenex in my wake until Day 3, when I gave up and dosed myself with Sudafed.  Bad timing, sinuses.

I look back on this mini-essay and think, whew, exhausting.  Insanely eventful.  A long list of and then, and then, and thens.  And THIS WAS JUST THE FIRST DAY.  I have no idea how pro authors survive multiple cons a year.  Possibly with meth?  Intravenous coffee?  Pure adrenaline?