LoneStarCon 3 was Monkey Girl's first Worldcon. She'd been to several local cons--Armadillocon, Aggiecon and ConDFW--but Worldcon was a whole other animal. She worked at Schlitterbahn all summer, her first job, saving up money so she could buy her own membership and have a little spending money in the dealers room and art show, not to mention the Texas Renaissance Festival later this fall and general goings-out with her friends. She'd shown a bit of responsibility with her money, enough so that her mother and I didn't worry too much about her going nuts unsupervised with her own debit card. Big mistake. Folks, have you ever gotten to a really spectacular buffet line, and your eyes get way too big for your stomach? That's pretty much what happened over Worldcon weekend with Monkey Girl. In just three days, she burned through every single penny she'd earned over the summer with a staggering array of impulse buys--those steampunk shoes to the right being Exhibit A. They cost $150. Cute shoes, if you're into footwear like that, but she can't wear them to school. They're barely wearable at all, and some of the cogs and gears have already started dropping off. Now, I'm sure the merchants were happy with her spending spree, as were the artists in the art show. But there's only so many impractical steampunk shoes, tee shirts, prints and other gee-gaws one can impulsively blow money on before reality sets in and second thoughts rule the day. If you've got teens itching to be set loose in a convention with a lot of tempting buyables beckoning, take my advice and keep them on a very short leash.
Other than these issues with my eldest child, the remainder of Worldcon went by in fairly happy fashion. For my literary beer, I found myself a seat beside Mark Finn, and as he held forth on all things Robert E. Howard, I pulled out bottles of La Terrible Belgian ale and Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout, and proceeded to school those folks in attendance on the glories of really dark beers. For the next two days I had people stopping me in the halls, thanking me for introducing them to such beverages so powerful good. Even some self-proclaimed dark beer haters admitted conversion on the spot, so I feel confident in declaring victory in Literary Beer. And I talked some Chicken Ranch as well, lest you think I'm only about the fermentables.
Saturday night I took Monkey Girl to the Masquerade. As an aspiring costumer/cosplayer, she drank it all in. It was good exposure for her, and she found much inspiration to be had. The number of entries (30+) was on par with the '97 Worldcon, but apart from the ragged mechanical angel put together by Phil Foglio's crew, there seemed to be fewer high-end, elaborate, hard-core costuming this time around. Lots of whimsy, humor and DIY work on display, though. Afterwards, we hit the various fan/convention parties and enjoyed ourselves a bit before calling it a night around 11 p.m. or so. Gotta set a good example for the child, after all.
Sunday started out with a bit of frustration, as the parking garage next to the convention center was full up when we arrived, and I had to park on the other side of the Riverwalk for double the price. By the time we reached the convention center, I was already sweating. Ugh. My reading didn't make. I'd feel bad about this, except for the fact that Bud Sparhawk had the slot immediately prior to mine, and that one didn't make, either. Early Sunday is not good for readings. My autograph session later that afternoon went a bit better. Whilst David Brin and Joe Haldeman signed for big long lines on either side of us, Rick Klaw and myself cracked wise with each other and--surprise! surprise!--actually signed a few autographs while we were at it. I signed some copies of Cross Plains Universe (to go with the two copies I'd signed on Thursday!) and gasp! an actual for-true copy of Voices of Vision, which means I only have to sell another 700 copies before it earns out (give or take). Monkey Girl decided she didn't want to stay out late after the Hugo Awards, so I took her home, showered and changed before heading back into San Antonio. This time I got a spot in the close parking garage. The Hugos were packed. I was disappointed Jay Lake didn't win a Hugo, but was gratified by Paul Cornell's surprise tribute to the Lakester. Very touching. Somewhat less touching, but somewhat more amusing, was my Twitter commentary throughout the evening. I believe I got more retweets, likes and interaction than ever before. The Gardner Dozois quote from late in the evening is particularly choice:
I found myself staggering home at 2 a.m.--somewhat later than I'd planned, but I'd gotten wrapped up in so many great conversations--some people were actually interested in my Chicken Ranch book, and grokked the significance of the LBJ stuff--that I flat-out lost track of time. And me with a 10 a.m. panel the next day on comic book movies. Ugh. I did make it to the panel almost on time, and was accused of shooting fish in a barrel when I brought up the Justice League TV pilot as an example of a live action adaptation gone horribly wrong. I did earn lots of agreement when I held up Mystery Men as an example of a comic film that gets it right without being condescending to the audience. I also got to hold forth a bit on how the Arrow series makes for good TV, but it only bears superficial resemblance to Green Arrow as historically portrayed in comics.
My takeaways from this Worldcon are an interesting mix. I didn't get invited out to lunch or dinner a single time. Ouch. I've realized that the four years the research and writing of the Chicken Ranch book have taken me away from genre publishing may as well be an eternity. Editors and authors still remember me and are friendly, but I'm no longer an active consideration. I didn't have a huge profile before, but my absence of recent years has been damaging to my fiction career. Aspiring writers I once advised in writers workshops are now coming damn close to winning the Campbell Award, which is as gratifying as it is discouraging. I've also come to the conclusion that I suck as schmoozing. I can engage in all manner of conversations, as long as it doesn't involve schmooze. I lack that particular gene, I suppose. It simply doesn't work for me. I'm also not a bar fly--the hotel bar was an impenetrable mystery to me. I do much better at parties, which is kind of the same thing, I suppose, but the setting makes a difference. Why? I dunno. In any event, it's clear that I've got a lot of work to do in order to repair the damage done to my career by my absence as a productive genre writer. It'd be different if publishers were engaged in a bidding war for my Chicken Ranch book, but right now I'm stuck with agents telling me how they talked themselves out of repping me. I have come away with a renewed focus, and a plan, of sorts, to get myself back in the game. I've got some short fiction pieces lined up to finish, and a novel I've been threatening to write for a while waiting in the wings. If I can find a home for the Chicken Ranch book, that'll be a huge burden lifted, and hopefully this recent LBJ stuff I've dug up will help on that front.
I had a good time at LoneStarCon 3, but much of it was a blur. It brought some issues into focus, and forced me to take stock of things. I can't say that was good, but it was necessary. Hopefully, I'll be able to build on that and make it into a beneficial convention, if only in hindsight.
John Kessel, Gardner Dozois and Gordon Van Gelder
Walter Jon Williams
Gordon Van Gelder
Steven Gould--aka Unka Stevie--cleans up real good.
Is there anyone who radiates as much cool as John Picacio? I swear, the man could give the Rat Pack lessons!
Tim! In a suit!
Bill Page and Fred Duarte
Astronaut Cady Coleman and Paul Abell at the Hugo losers party.
Cady Coleman, Paul Abell and Hugo Award-winning author and feminist with a huge front yard, John Scalzi at the Hugo losers party.
Japanese guests whose names I cannot remember at the Hugo losers party.
Molly--who is an Aggie--and Amy Sisson at the Hugo losers party
My arch-enemy, Stina Leicht, hanging out at the Hugo losers party.
Paolo Bacigalupi and a well-known author I'm drawing a blank on at the Hugo losers party.
Walter Jon Williams and other folks in the Mariott Rivercenter lobby, circa 2 a.m.