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.)

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