LoneStarCon 3

Worldcon 2013 began for me in Pasadena, California, on New Year’s Eve.  My wife and I were discussing our travel plans for the year, and I found a reminder in my email about LoneStarCon 3.  The  prices were quite good, and if I purchased my membership that very day, I could get an additional discount.  So I pulled out my credit card, and committed myself to my first Worldcon in 11 years.  I also booked a room from a nice-sounding couple who lived “5 minutes” away from the San Antonio convention center.  Cheaper than a hotel and full kitchen privileges.

In the months that followed, I was laid off, but since I’d prepaid for Worldcon and lodging, I decide to attend unless some lucrative contract appeared at the last minute.  I even tried to read  the entire packet of Hugo nominees.  That’s no small feat.  I was very pleased to discover several new authors (Brandon Sanderson, Saladin Ahmed, Ken Liu) and reacquaint myself with old favorites like Kim Stanley Robinson and Pat Cadigan.  (For the record, I changed my votes only once, in the novella category.)

Fast forward to August.  I was reading through the voluminous website of the con, and stumbled across the Writers Workshops.  Oh hell!  I’d forgotten to submit a story.  However, when I sent a query email, the wonderful organizer Oz Drummond responded within a half hour that several slots had opened up the day before.  So I immediately sent them one of my favorite Los Angeles stories, “The Carpetbaggers Ball” and $15, thus securing a coveted Thursday slot with two of their most “experience pros.”  Excitement!  Dread!

Two weeks later, I flew from Oakland (65 degrees) to Phoenix (99 degrees) to San Antonio (93 degrees).  The airport shuttle was 100% fen, and pretty much everyone knew each other.  They were friendly to me, and quite respectful when they learned I was a card-carrying member of SFWA.

Skip to the pictures!

My housing turned out to be a room in a quaint family home built ca. 1920.  Unfortunately, in the intervening months since my reservation, the family had grown by 2, so I found myself in the company of twin infants, a 3-year-old boy, and a loud standard poodle.  The host family, two immigrants (from Sweden and Jordan) welcomed me and gave me full run of the huge kitchen.

As it turned out, I spent so much time at the con, or the SFWA suite, that I literally ate only one meal at the house, and that was takeout from the excellent neighborhood food trucks. Mostly, I drank gallons of cold water, the occasional beer, and tried to sleep 6 hours a night.

And now, here are your highlights:

Wednesday

  • Arrival and sweating through my travel clothes
  • Getting my badge before the lines formed up – huzzah!
  • Having a lovely Italian dinner with VP 16’s own Jenn Wray.  Such a fun, gracious being.

Thursday

  • Self-promotion panel, featuring Teresa Nielsen Hayden.  Finally hooked up with Gary Henderson, who efficiently stalked me via text the whole weekend.
  • Standing in line for an hour for an autograph from Alastair Reynolds.  I told him how I’d almost missed a train connection in Sweden since I was engrossed in Absolution Gap.  He said many people hated the way that book ended.  Not me!
  • Opening ceremonies with Paul Cornell.  My god, the British simply own dry humor.  We should just cede it to them now.
  • My writing critique with K.J. Jewell and Eileen Gunn.  Honest and brutal, with some very kind words from Eileen about my prose style.  Apparently, I had written a Regency Romance without any significant plot.
  • Signed up at the SFWA suite for Door Dragon duty, so I had a chance to meet many folks.

Friday

  • Several trips to the dealer room, where I snagged a copy of Elizabeth Bear’s “Shoggoths in Bloom.”  I told her later that the lead story, “Tideline” pissed me off because it was so damn good.
  • An hour of Steven Brust’s filking
  • A brief chat with Kim Stanley Robinson, while he autographed a copy of Shaman for me.  The last time I saw him was 2 hours before he won the Nebula for 2312.  I wished him luck on the ballot, although I knew in my heart that John Scalzi would take the prize for novel.  2312 is a far superior book to Red Shirts.  Let’s just get that straight.
  • Panel discussion on How Magazines are Changing in the Digital Age
  • More Door Dragon duty and the Tor Party!

Saturday:

  • SFWA Business Meeting – no surprises.  Our new fearless leader, Steven Gould, carried on the tradition started by John Scalzi and kept the meeting under the projected 2 hours.  It took 57 minutes to do all the legal mumbo-jumbo.
  • Panel: But Why Can’t You See My Genius?
  • Panel: Writing combat, featuring Elizabeth Bear.  She showed us her self-inflicted knife wound scar.
  • Brain dead evening: decided to watch The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Sunday:

  • An early morning walk in quiet downtown San Antonio.  A bat (!) the size of my hand crashed into the window of the restaurant.  At 8 in the morning.  Go figure.
  • Nice walk around the Alamo.
  • Panel: Is Roger Zelazny still relevant?  (Duh.)
  • Panel: Consider Iain M. Banks – great stories, especially about Iain’s love for fast cars
  • Panel: Weta Digital – cool behind-the-scenes stuff from one of their lead compositing artists
  • A reading by Steven Brust.  The Incrementalists was the only book I didn’t buy this trip!
  • The Hugo Awards – funny, touching, glitzy, crowded – it was so cool to see Alex Shvartsman accept the award for Ken Liu.

Monday:

  • No brain left.  Decided to watch the winning “Games of Thrones” episode.
  • Got my picture taken on the Enterprise bridge set.
  • Bought souvenirs for my 11-year-old daughter.  She’s just starting to watch Star Trek: TOS, so a Federation pin and a fake driver’s license for Captain Kirk thrilled her.
  • Flew back to California, literally running to make my connection in Phoenix.  At least there was a seat up front to stretch out my legs.
  • Got home around 10:30 pm, and for the first time in a week, I was able to sleep through the night without overheating.

Overall:

  • A great, grand time, and we should all open up our bags of Praise and Thanks to all the amazing, amazing volunteers.
  • I met many great writers, some of whom are just starting their careers.  How on earth am I going to keep up with all the words?
  • I was so pleased to reconnect with the Viable Paradise crowd.  It was an important reminder that writing is not a solitary business.  We’re all in this together.
  • My backlog of books is now large enough that I’ll need to avoid gainful employment for another 4 months just to tackle it.

Thanks for listening.  Here are the pictures.

Karl