Saturday, November 23, 2013

Requiem for a Muscle Car

You could only find the Impala by accident. It was way off trail, in the back part of a wetland tucked between an urban river and the woods behind a bunch of light factories. They were the kind of woods and wetlands no one is really meant to explore, made from volunteer trees grown up between the chunks of concrete and demolition debris dumped in this downzoned stretch of interstitial wilderness at what once was the edge of town. The negative space of the metropolis, where nature fills in the gaps and wild animals feel free to roam in the absence of human gazes.

When you stumbled across it as you stepped out of the tall water grasses, it looked like it might have been there for thousands of years. But you also could remember when cars like that cruised the streets. Cars with Batmobile lines forged in a pre-apocalyptic Detroit. Cars whose profiles of postwar strength and Rust Belt wonder persist even as they weather into ruin. It was of that certain vintage, after the assassination of JFK and before the resignation of Nixon. Baked by the sun to primer working on gunmetal, with water plants growing up out of the seats and the engine block, guarded by the herons and egrets who filled the secret sanctuary of the wilderness hidden under the roar of the old highway.

You couldn’t tell how it had gotten there. It might have washed downriver in a big flood, or been driven down here at some time when the river channel was different. You would go back and look for it once in a while, and it was always there, but every time you went you needed to intuit a different path through the impassable wild vegetation and knee-sucking muck. It manifested different forms with the changes in the river, sometimes almost completely submerged, at other times almost ready to fly off with its steel hood extended like a gull wing. A mystical motorhead Ozymandias that transported you in ways its designers never intended.

It’s gone now, pulled out of the muck by newer machines dispatched by the stewards slowly working on cleaning up the edgeland and turning it into a park. Maybe they are right that it didn’t belong there with the birds and the fish and the native plants, so close to the “scenic overlook” that there was a real possibility some Audubon Society folks might see it. But it sure seemed like an indigenous expression to you, an artifact that perfectly expressed the essence of this place. You can still find its digital ghosts, if you know the right place to look on the omniscient maps, but that won’t last long.

Curiously, I found love tracking metal Impalas in these uncanny wetlands, another wanderer tuned into the strange vortex of surreal power of the Zona. She was making the wind dance in the windows of an old concrete fire tower while I was paddling against the current in a river out of time. That was five years ago. Yesterday we got married, and today we’ll celebrate with family and friends in this place we ended up making our home. The relics will come and go, but the wonder is always there if you can open up your third eye to it. The power is inside us, and especially poderoso now that we have a pair of magic rings to knock together. Our love is about a lot more than place, but the way we met is what set us on course into the uncharted territories ahead. It’s pretty awesome.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The genius that is Picacio

The great John Picacio has one of those Kickstarter campaigns under way. If you haven't jumped on board with your support yet, do so now. You've got six days to go. The project's already funded, and stretch goals are adding up, so that's considered a "win-win" situation in common parlance.

Have you gotten that taken care of? Good. Now listen up, because I'm not likely to repeat this outside the friendly confines of a SF convention: John Picacio is pure, unadulterated genius. I don't say that lightly. It wasn't enough that the Hand of God reached down and blessed him with a singular artistic vision and talent to match (not taking away from the years of study and effort John put into developing that talent, by the way). It wasn't enough that John is one of the nicest people you'll ever meet--and by that, I don't mean he's "passive nice" in a quietly inoffensive way. No, he's pro-actively nice, in that he uses his success as a platform to try and improve the lot of his peers, his non-peers and strangers who don't know him from Adam alike. He's humble without false modesty. On top of that, he goes out of his way to simply make people feel good.

But above and beyond, the man is smart. I don't have access to his inner circle, or have been graced with a peek behind the curtains, but from my vantage point, he is developing his Lone Boy company shrewdly, with a laser-like strategic focus. That is reflected in his Kickstarter campaigns. Now, John has a massive following in the speculative fiction community. He needs a U-Haul truck to cart around all his Hugo, World Fantasy and Chesley Awards. So last year, when he produced an art calendar of his "greatest hits," he had a ready audience. Many artists would be content with this, but not John. He's expanded his playing field a thousand-fold by producing original calendar art based on images from the Loteria card game:

This. Is. Genius. Have I used this word too much? Impossible. Look, I've lived my entire life in Texas and grown up as exposed to Tejano culture as a fat white kid from the country can be, but I'd never heard of La Loteria. Now, imagine tens of thousands of other genre fans across the country who don't know tomatillos from vaqueros. They don't know La Loteria either, but they do know gorgeous, fantastical artwork on oversized tarot-style cards. They're all in for a calendar featuring this work. Now pause a moment and consider the tens of millions of Tejanos, Mexican-Americans and Mexican nationals who grew up playing this game and have a deep-seated affection for it? And how would they respond to something many consider kitschy folk art being elevated, if not venerated, as high art? Now it starts to become clear. John is tapping into cultural cross-currents leavened with a generous amount of magical realism that has the potential to turn him into an artistic brand (if I may use so crude and crass a term for something so elegant) with far and enduring reach. And genre fans will buy whatever collectible editions of the game John produces as well, because, damn, have you seen how stunning the art is? A Picacio-designed tarot deck seems the obvious next step, but truth to tell, John's not built himself a successful career by being obvious. At conventions, I'll catch him alone for a moment and ask about an obscure, unexpected or off-the-wall idea that's struck me about his flourishing career, and invariably he'll respond with a sly, "What have you heard?" followed by a quick, "We'll talk later." John literally has more irons in the fire at one time than the average person has in a lifetime, but he keeps them all quiet until he wants to unveil them.

There are times I wonder what would've happened had John pursued his initial career as an architect instead of taking that leap of faith into the uncertain world of genre art. Sure, an architectural career seems staid and dull from the outside, consisting of drafting the next CVS Pharmacy or strip mall to go up in the suburbs, but really, is it possible to believe John Picacio being staid and dull in any career he pursues? He may well have become the next Frank Lloyd Wright, albeit with a distinct and original vision that's compared to Wright simply because no other architect has attained such stature in the U.S. even though their styles couldn't be more dissimilar. Part of me the wonders Picacio-the-architect would've given us, but is usually shouted down by the part of me that revels in Picacio-the-artist. But judging from his past track record and sly, unpredictable strategic thinking, who am I to say that John's inevitable world domination doesn't also include breathtaking architectural marvels as well?

That's the beauty of genius. It knows no bounds.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Jackson Pollock, Covert Propaganda Asset

A decade ago I wrote a story about a clandestine group of U.S. psychological warfare operatives who commissioned a piece of post-Frazetta sword & sorcery fantasy art as a secret weapon to influence a Middle Eastern dictator. The story, "Script-Doctoring the Apocalypse," was influenced by the news reports of Rowena Morrill chainmail bikini paintings found by American troops when the captured Saddam Hussein's secret bachelor pads. It was published in Eileen Gunn's The Infinite Matrix, the very week that Saddam was captured in a Tikriti spiderhole.

It turns out that Psyop part of the story was more plausible than I had intuited. Jayme Blaschke just tipped me to this amazing story from the Independent (with a byline much older than my story) about how the CIA covertly funded the New York School Abstract Expressionist painters all through the 50s and 60s as a propaganda weapon during the Cold War. On a "long leash," granted, using a variety of intermediaries—but still mind-blowing to consider what role intelligence support had in the mid-twentieth century American avant-garde (to say nothing of cultural products that made postwar anti-communism culturally credible among the intelligentsia—see below reference to the animated version of Orwell's Animal Farm).

Unknown to the artists, the new American art was secretly promoted under a policy known as the "long leash" - arrangements similar in some ways to the indirect CIA backing of the journal Encounter, edited by Stephen Spender.

The decision to include culture and art in the US Cold War arsenal was taken as soon as the CIA was founded in 1947. Dismayed at the appeal communism still had for many intellectuals and artists in the West, the new agency set up a division, the Propaganda Assets Inventory, which at its peak could influence more than 800 newspapers, magazines and public information organisations. They joked that it was like a Wurlitzer jukebox: when the CIA pushed a button it could hear whatever tune it wanted playing across the world.

The next key step came in 1950, when the International Organisations Division (IOD) was set up under Tom Braden. It was this office which subsidised the animated version of George Orwell's Animal Farm, which sponsored American jazz artists, opera recitals, the Boston Symphony Orchestra's international touring programme. Its agents were placed in the film industry, in publishing houses, even as travel writers for the celebrated Fodor guides. And, we now know, it promoted America's anarchic avant-garde movement, Abstract Expressionism.

Independent, "Modern art was CIA 'weapon'

Where's the gonzo James Ellroy novel about these guys?! Maybe Don DeLillo already wrote about Pollack and the spook and I missed it.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Worldcon report the third

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

Gardner Dozois

Gordon Van Gelder

John Moore

Nancy Hightower

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!

David Hartwell

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.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Reunen Letras Fantasticas

One of the major national newspapers of Mexico City, La Reforma, published this great piece recently on the World Fantasy Award nomination for Three Messages and a Warning. It helps explain what a big deal it is from the perspective of the Mexican writers included in the anthology to get a major English-language genre award. I thought it worth translating into English.


August 27, 2013


Fiction anthology edited in US

Book nominated for the World Fantasy Award—a prize won by Stephen King

by Rebeca Pérez

The streets of Mexico produce interesting literature.

Maybe it's because they are the scene of incredible inventions driving to an apocalyptic or technology-filled future, but they also offer settings full of nooks and crannies ready for the imagination.

That's the view of the American writer and editor Chris N. Brown, who, together with Eduardo Jiménez Mayo, compiled an anthology of 34 Mexican authors united around fantasy and science fiction themes.

Titled Three Messages and a Warning: Contemporary Mexican Short Stories of the Fantastic (Small Beer Press, 2012), this anthology of stories by authors like Bernardo Fernández BEF, Albero Chimal, Pepe Rojo, Hernán Lara Zavala, and Ana Clavel, has earned a nomination for the World Fantasy Award in the anthology category.

This prize was created in 1975, and is the most prestigious of the genre. It has been awarded to authors like Haruki Murakami, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, George R.R. Martin, Alan Garner and Karen Joy Fowler, among others. This year's winners will be announced November 3 during the 2013 World Fantasy Convention in the United Kingdom.

While only a nomination, the editor affirms that it is an important validation of the creativity and imagination of the authors collected in the book, as well as an award that could generate greater interest in Mexican literature among international readers and writers.

"I think this nomination will lead to more translation of Mexican writers of fantastic literature, and to more anthologies of translated works from other countries and languages," affirmed the Texan writer.

"For me, the most valuable thing these diverse Mexican writers share is a recognition that reason alone is inadequate to explain the experience of the world we live in, and that literature provides us the tools to explore and document the uncanny side of life," added the editor.

This creation of the anthology began in 2009, when Chris was invited to participate in a binational science fiction conference as part of the Festival of the Historic Downtown of Mexico City.

The trip generated many revelations for him. He felt that the Mexican capital was a window into the sprawling city of a science fiction future, and it put him in contact with authors who exposed him to interesting new experiences.

"I thought the energetic young Mexican writers were in many respects more interesting than my Anglo-American colleagues, and that my fellow readers and writers in the US would be interested in hearing their voices," said Brown.

"The Mexican writers provide an intensely rich and multicultural 21st century voice.  I think that global network access liberates them a bit from the folkloric confines in which many North American readers tend to situate Mexican artistic product.   They are well past the postcolonial.  The writers in the anthology are totally global and uniquely Mexican all at the same time," explained Brown.


Several of the authors who participated in the anthology affirm that the World Fantasy Award nomination is important for the nation's literature, because other genres have not received recognition of this sort.

They hope it helps Mexican writing to be translated and marketed in other publishing markets.

"I hope this nomination generates more interest for Mexican literature among the English language market, which as you know does not give much attention to writers in other languages," said Mauricio Montiel Figueiras, who participated with the story "Photophobia."

For Pepe Rojo, who provided the story "The President Without Organs," this distinction should be treated as a major event, but to the contrary hasn't received the attention it merits.

"The nomination of the anthology is phenomenal, and reveals a crisis in Mexican literature," he said. "There have been no reviews or notices of the book in Mexico, and even the nomination has passed by without any real notice in the cultural world down here."

"It really is an unprecedented success that raises the possibility that Mexican literature will open doors that were always closed before." — Alberto Chimal, writer

"It's an unusual thing for Mexican literature to be considered for the most prestigious English language prize for the literature of the fantastic, and I see it as a spectacular collective achievement." —BEF, writer

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Patricia Anthony (1947-2013)

Patricia Anthony (1947-2013)
This morning a terrible message from Gordon Van Gelder awaited me in my inbox: Locus Online was reporting that Patricia Anthony had died Aug. 2. It's bad enough that she's gone, but for it to take more than a month for her passing to be noticed is unconscionable. She was a writer of immense talent. Unfortunately, she had little interest in continuing to write traditional science fiction, and this did not sit well with her publisher, Ace. Her work grew progressively non-SF, moving into slipstream and what is now popularly known as the "New Weird." Her career, which had started out so strongly in the early 90s with Cold Allies and Brother Termite foundered later in the decade with the publication of God's Fires and Flanders, two books that were more metaphysical historicals than science fiction, but much more sophisticated and engrossing novels than her earlier efforts. Flanders tanked so badly that Anthony actually bought back her next novel, which she'd already delivered to Ace, rather than let the publisher cast it adrift with no support.

By Anthony's own account, Mercy's Children is a real departure, set in a Puritan colony in the New World and narrated by a gossipy guardian angle in faux Elizabethan English. "It is definitely not [science fiction] genre at all," she told me. "It's 843 pages of 'What was I thinking?' It's an outrageous book. I wanted to show that there are always other perspectives."

I'd encouraged her to seek out a publisher for Mercy's Children in 2006, feeling there's been enough editorial turnover at various publishers, along with a general shift in genre publishing that made the market more receptive to her envelope-pushing style, but she wasn't convinced. She indicated she'd been working on another book--along with some screenplay collaborations--but didn't go into details. I sincerely hope her estate pursues publication of her unpublished work, but as she was divorced with no children, I'm not sure who her heirs are.

In the years since, we stayed in contact until recently. When I published "The Makeover Men" on HelixSF back in 2007, she honored me with the following appraisal of the piece: "Oooooooooo. NICE and sick! Good writing, sneaky story." It wasn't until Gordon's letter this morning that I realized it'd been 2011 since I heard from her.

As fiction editor of RevolutionSF, I had the good fortune to publish two of Patricia's thought-provoking short fiction pieces: "Good Neighbor" and "Eating Memories". She was also the second author I ever interviewed. The original interview appeared in Interzone and has since been reprinted at SF Site: A Conversation with Patricia Anthony. I invite you to read them all, and gain a bit of insight on the extraordinary writer Patricia was.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Worldcon report the second

Friday dawned and I was feeling much better. I made it back to Worldcon around 10 a.m., and as there were several panels I wanted to see, I ended up dithering and didn't make it to any of them. I did catch the "Turkey City turns 40" panel with Chris N. Brown, Eileen Gunn, Don Webb, Jessica Reisman, Howard Waldrop and Lawrence Person, which was good fun and, seeing has how I've attended half a dozen of them, I had some skin in the game. As my earlier "History of Steampunk" panel got cancelled, the programming folk subbed me onto the "Steampunk: Trend or Genre" panel, alongside Lou Antonelli, Gail Carriger and Jess Nevins. I've known Lou and Jess forever, and the panel went very well. I even learned from Carriger that the steampunk aesthetic arose independently of the literary trend, and has a variety of disparate, unrelated origins. A prime example of "steam engine time," that. I like to think I didn't dumb down the discussion too much.

After the panel, I found my lack of advance preparation to be a huge mistake: Faced with a number of panels I wanted to attend, I couldn't come to a decision and retreated to the art show and dealers room yet again. After grabbing a bite to eat in the green room, I joined up with Joe Lansdale for the "Adapting Bubba Ho-Tep for Film and Other Tales" event. Playing ringleader to Joe's circus is incredibly easy--all I have to do is get out of the way and Joe keeps the audience in stitches with his hilarious stories. The lack of communication that plagued LoneStarCon 3 reared its ugly head here, though. Following the hour-long discussion of Joe's filmmaking experiences, the convention had scheduled a screening of the afore-mentioned Bubba Ho-Tep. Except they hadn't told Joe, who wouldn't have know had I not informed him the day before. Not only that, but the con apparently failed to make arrangements to secure a copy of the film for showing--Joe had to call up to his room and get his wife, Karen, to bring down a DVD (which they luckily had). Nobody from the convention showed up to operate the projector. That's a lot of assumptions and expectations to place upon a guest of honor when you don't communicate well.

Following a hasty dinner of a mediocre kabab from the Rivercenter Mall food court, I dropped by the "Astronaut cocktail party" put on by Amy Sissom and Paul Abell. And when those two put on an astronaut cocktail party, they don't screw around: Cady Coleman, a veteran astronaut with 4,330 hours in space aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia and the International Space Station, was the guest of honor. And I have to say, there was not a party at the convention the entire weekend that was anywhere near as packed as this one was. I made the following observation when Coleman appeared during the Hugo Awards ceremony, but it bears repeating here:

Coleman seemed a bit perplexed by her rock star status amongst all the SF writers. But this is as it should be. Whereas most of us merely write about traveling in space, she actually does it for a living. Pretty much every science fiction writer started out wanting to be an astronaut growing up. I know I did, and my kids currently harbor similar aspirations. Coleman's living our dream. Is there any wonder science fiction writers go all fanboy around astronauts? I think not.

I would be very, very remiss were I to not single out Paul Abell at this point. Being involved in Texas fandom in various degrees for more than two decades, I know first-hand that landing an astronaut guest is one of the Holy Grails of Texas fan conventions. We tried all four years during my involvement with Aggiecon, and were rebuffed each time. One year we did manage to land two planetary scientists who gave presentations on future Mars missions and exploring the outer solar system. Those presentations were so packed, we quickly added additional showings. But astronauts eluded us, and other cons. Until Paul became involved with Texas fandom some years ago. Due in no small part to his liaison efforts, NASA astronauts have become almost-regulars at these events, ApolloCon in Houston being a particularly juicy nexus for NASA involvement. That's a great thing in my book.

Elsewhere, the Dell and Tor parties were great fun. I got to sit in on some great conversations and interact with great people, including Ron Collins (who I hadn't seen in 15 years), Ann Vandermeer, Gardner Dozois, Steve Gould, Laura Mixon... the list goes on. Around midnight I decided to conserve my resources and headed for home. After all, I still had three days to go.

Monkey Girl got to see the Dalek pop its top.

My buddy Paul Carl again. His excuse for this silliness? Grandkids.

There weren't a whole lot of hall costumes this Worldcon, but this franchise-melding couple did stand out.

Another couple sporting pretty good hall costumes.

Scott Edelman stalks a Dalek in the dealers room.

I've no idea who this guy is, but I'm very impressed that his balloon headpiece didn't deflate from the masquerade the night before.

Another balloon-art headpiece from the previous night's masquerade.

The Revolution SF staff who weren't at Dragoncon gathered for an impromptu Worldcon podcast.

David Farnell, direct from Japan, participates in the RevolutionSF Worldcon podcast.

Matthew Bey, direct from Austin, participates in the RevolutionSF Worldcon podcast.

Sarah Arnold plays the role of ring master during the RevolutionSF Worldcon podcast.

Peggy J. Hailey, direct from Kenedy, participates in the RevolutionSF Worldcon podcast.

Elizabeth Moon finds what she's looking for in the dealers room.

Josh Rountree is another author I didn't get to spend much time talking to.

John Klima and I have gotten pretty good at trading snarky comments via Twitter.

Even in the midst of Worldcon, Mary Robinette Kowal, stays hard at work, crafting her next regency masterpiece, no doubt (I have since been informed she was engaged in an intense AMA on Reddit. Upon which she was FOCUSED like a LASER I tell you!).

Adam-Troy Castro, whom I spoke to briefly on Thursday with the intent to have more in-depth conversations later on, converses with Joe Lansdale (Lansdale's out of the picture, so you'll just have to use your imagination). I never did catch up with Adam-Troy for that conversation. Such is life.