Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Worldcon report the first

Gather 'round, boys and girls, and let me regale you with my tale of Worldcon, otherwise known as LoneStarCon 3.

Living in New Braunfels, a mere 20 minutes or so from the convention site in downtown San Antonio, I chose to commute over the long weekend. I arrived about 9 a.m. Thursday, a bit more tired than I'd like on account of staying up later than intended the night before. The con didn't begin until noon, but they'd scheduled a press conference at 9:30 a.m. and had asked me to come early to help out if I could. I should point out that after LoneStarCon 3 won the Worldcon bid, I was recruited to head up media relations. There are a number of reasons for this: 1) I've more than a decade's worth of experience as a working journalist, 2) I've more than a decade's worth of experience as a media relations professional (I head up the media relations division at Texas State University), 3) I served as media director for SFWA for six years, generating some pretty good press coverage for the Nebula Awards Weekends, with the 2008 event in Austin being particularly successful. I subsequently resigned from the position, but that's a post for a later date. Nevertheless, I agreed to help out with the press conference. Sadly, the press conference turned out pretty much as I expected, with most local media staying away and there not being much of anything for me to do. That's a post for another time as well.

So, suddenly I found myself with a couple hours to kill. I'd neglected to bring a bag with me, as all Worldcons, World Fantasy Cons, Imaging USA, and every other big national convention tends to hand bags out along with various donated freebies (in this case, books). Except not this Worldcon. They opted for plastic water bottles instead. I don't know if this was a cost saving measure or what, but it proved damn inconvenient. Several other folks made the same observation to me. Fortunately, I was parked only a block away, making it relatively easy to take my stuff to the car, but it is still a Texas August, and I returned sweatier and most likely smellier than I'd have preferred.

Once the con opened, things picked up. The dealer's room seemed smaller than in '97, but as that was my first Worldcon and completely overwhelmed me, it could very well be my imagination distorting things. I bought Kasey Lansdale's new CD, Restless. Her vocal range is a bit limited, but when she sticks to her range she can knock 'em dead. Her early work played with a kind of Patsy Cline/Janis Joplin fusion, which I absolutely loved. Her newer work is much more in the Reba McEntire mold. I prefer the earlier style, but there's no denying the newer stuff is good.

Here's the point where I discovered the greatest find--and biggest injustice--of the entire convention. The Science Fiction Outreach Project gives away free books. Great, right? Right. In this case, the North East Science Fiction Association's collected works of the late Chad Oliver: A Star Above It and Other Stories, Far From This Earth and Other Stories and From Other Shores. Oliver was the godfather of Texas science fiction, an influential figure who cast a long shadow and had a great impact on us whippersnappers who came after him. I met him several times and he was always friendly and gracious. Yet try as I might, I couldn't get him to make the 90 minute drive to College Station for Aggiecon. Oliver had gone through a nasty battle with cancer, and although in remission, the spectre of its return always seemed to hover over him and he took few trips away from home and his medical support (as he explained to me). Sadly, his fears were justified--his cancer returned and he passed away in 1993. Even more troubling, he quickly became a forgotten author. I snapped up the three volumes--I have some of his novels and one earlier collection, but I had no idea these even existed. At the same time, it angered me a little. Why weren't the attendees swarming this booth for these handsome volumes? They were all gone within a few days, sure, but I wonder how many people who picked them up actually knew what they were getting. If they get around to reading them, they will.

The art show was nice, with a magnificent display of the late Darrell K. Sweet's work. There was also a fantastic display of original Dungeons & Dragons artwork rescued from the TRS dumpsters, and I spent hours marveling at pieces I recognized (a lot of old-school work) as well as reading the back stories to them. Apart from that, the rest of the show ran a little thin. Maybe by sheer numbers it wasn't, but there were a number of professional artists who are regulars at other Texas conventions that were conspicuously absent. Not sure what to read into that, but the artists participating were certainly top-notch. And it was here that I had my only real negative experience of the entire convention. Whilst looking at the Sweet exhibit, a well-known fannish type who I will not name here looked at my name badge then said to me, "Jayme Lynn."

"Yes?" I answered.

"Your name is Jayme Lynn," he continued, more of a statement than a question.

"Jayme Lynn Blaschke," I answered, a little confused. He couldn't be a fan--I don't have fans.

And then, he actually tsked me, rolled his eyes, shook his head, then turned and walked away from me!

Needless to say, for one of the few times in my life I was left speechless. I've never had anyone so dramatically disapprove of my name before. Near as I can figure, he must've seen my byline somewhere and imagined me as a drop-dead gorgeous, Bettie Page-style bondage queen. The reality must've been traumatizing for him. I ran into him once more during the con, and he damn near did it again. If nothing else, he's given be a bizarre con story to tell at future shindigs.

And then, abruptly and unexpectedly, I hit the wall. By 5 p.m. I was dozing on my feet. The late night of work before, coupled with a general lack of sustained sleep earlier in the week, simply hammered me. Without pre-arranged dinner plans, I wandered the Rivercenter Mall food court a few minutes before realizing nothing was appealing. With the room parties still four hours away, I reluctantly made the strategic decision to go home and go to bed. I wasn't happy with it, but it was the right call.

Anyway, enough yammering. Here are some pictures. Lighting conditions were awful but beggars can't be choosers. Enjoy.

The opening of the dealer's room.

Martha Wells, Troyce Wilson with the art show in the background.

Martha Wells gets meta, taking a photo of me taking a photo of her.

Convention Chair Randall Shepherd rides the mechanical bull the first day of the convention. Yes, they had a mechanical bull.

Doctor Who was well-represented at the convention, in observance of the program's 50th anniversary.

Daleks were out in full force. The copper one rolled around the convention hall followed by little girls calling it "Adorable." The Dalek responded indignantly, "Dalkes are NOT adorable!"

Kasey Lansdale takes my money for her new album, Restless, on the first day of the convention. This woman is very good at separating people from their cash.

George R.R. Martin was a popular person at the convention, for obvious reasons. When not being mobbed by his legions of fans, he could often be seen in the coffee bar area chatting with 3-4 folks at a time.

The remote K-9 could be seen roaming around the convention as well. Unlike the Dalek, K-9 had no objections to being called "adorable."

K-9 was quite polite and cooperative, posing for pictures for anyone who asked.

Whoa! What are these 587 people standing in line for? Oh, must be a George R.R. Martin autograph session.

I am known to occasionally wear a colorful and/or whimsical vest during conventions. That said, this gentleman schooled me in a profound way. I am so envious of him.

One of the convention's behind-the-scenes mover and/or shaker, Karen Meschke.

Norman Spinrad (left) and toastmaster Paul Cornell play to the audience during opening ceremonies for LoneStarCon 3.

The incomparable Jay Lake.

National Treasure Howard Waldrop and Chris N. Brown during the Turkey City panel.

Eileen Gunn and Howard Waldrop during the Turkey City panel at Worldcon.

Paul Carl is always entertaining and quick with a quip.

The talented Lillian Stewart Carl. She instructed me in my very first writers workshop. Considering the awful quality of my work way back then, it's a wonder she didn't break down in tears.

Legendary literary agent Eleanor Wood. She just sat down beside me and started chatting. Lovely woman.

The dashing Steven Gould, aka Unka Stevie, an Aggie made good.

LoneStarCon 3 fan guest of honor and book seller extraordinaire, Willie Siros.

This strange, wet thing was lying inert in one of the hotel elevators. I found it more than a little unsettling.

Ann Vandermeer publicly claimed me as an author she'd published at the Dell party Saturday night. That's cool. Usually they cover their faces and shuffle away awkwardly. That's John Chu next to her.

Unka Stevie and Laura J. Mixon/M.J. Locke at the Dell party Friday night.

This is a shot that doesn't present itself often--Tom Doherty, Ben Bova and Steven Gould at the Dell party Saturday night.

Jay Lake at the Dell party Friday night. He's still incomparable.

Jo Walton and Laura J. Mixon/MJ Locke at the Dell party Saturday night.

Stanley Schmidt, center, finally won a Hugo Award for best editor after something approaching 500 years in the business. Ron Collins, right, is someone I hadn't seen in close to 15 years. Amazing who you run into at the Saturday night Dell party.

The legendary Robert Silverberg doesn't know it yet, but ace assassin Joe Haldeman sees his opportunity and is about to spring into action. Actually, I wish I'd been just a hair faster in getting the camera up, but these guys walk fast!

Bland Lemon Denton and the Lemon-Aids played the Chesley Awards after-party. And drank a little hooch for inspiration.

Caroline Spector kept Blind Lemon Denton on the up-and-up during the Chesley Awards after-party.

Monkey Girl joined me at the convention Saturday. Being a hard-core Whovian, she fell in love with the 50th anniversary Doctor Who display.

Monkey Girl strikes her most regal pose upon the Iron Throne. "But Dad," she complained, "You won't even let me *watch* it!" I assured her she would appreciate this photo a few years from now.

Being a fan of Game of Thrones myself, I couldn't help but strike my own dramatic pose on the Iron Throne.

Being the idiot that I am, I couldn't resist making a fool of myself upon the Iron Throne. It's sort of a counterpoint to the previous image.

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