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?