Thursday, November 08, 2007

What World Fantasy Means To Me

So I had an interesting experience this past weekend: it was only the third convention in my life that I've attended without the support of an expense account from That Company. (First was a Lunacon, back in '94, which was my first con ever and led to my being granted an expense account, and the second was this year's Readercon, where I was searching for a job.) I mentioned this to various people over the course of the con -- editors were quietly thoughtful (as if contemplating the horrible spectre of losing their own expense accounts) and authors were wryly dismissive (though they generally did point out the silver lining of tax-deductibility).

Since I was there on my own dime -- and, at three nights in the con hotel at I'm-not-going-to-say-what a night, it was more than one dime -- I felt the urge to Do Things. Whenever I found myself in my room -- to which I am prone to retreat quite a bit at conventions, for a bit of quiet or some reading -- an inner voice screamed loudly, "You're paying for this! Get out there and network!" (Yes, it's hell when one's inner voice uses words like "network." Occasionally, it has been known to batter me with "utilize" or even "fungible.") Given that I'm yet another one of the Fabled Introverts of Publishing, this was not necessarily my natural inclination. But I managed to be social for four days running, which is some kind of record for me.

I had a good time, I guess, but I'm having trouble remembering how the various bits of the weekend related to each other, or in what order events happened. So the rest of this post is going to be composed of scattered thoughts:

Jonathan Strahan (who I really wish I saw more of, at this WFC and just in general) said the truest thing of the convention, which I'll try to put in something close to his own words: "There are people here who minutely rank everyone by their importance in the field, and they'll be talking and then suddenly ignore you in a heartbeat. Everyone has their moment at World Fantasy when they feel completely lost and alone...but then it passes." I had my moment like that on Thursday evening, when I missed my seat at the giant ring-around-the-rosy game that is convention dinner arrangements, and so set out into Saratoga to find pizza. (It took quite a while to find it, and I got quite depressed and grumpy along the way.)

Other than that, I had a good time, and I didn't find myself notably shunned. (And, being as I am generally a grumpy, depressed guy in the corner who often has trouble with small talk, shunning me is a quite reasonable response.) I talked with loads and loads of people, whose names I won't try to drop. OK, I do have to mention that I met Ted Chiang, which was cool -- he and I and Gordon Van Gelder were sitting together at the bar for quite a while on Saturday night.

I owe somebody a round of drinks: if I remember right, it's Laura Anne Gilman and Karen whose-last-name-I-never-remember. Oops. That'll have to wait until Lunacon, or something.

My one panel was late on Thursday evening; I moderated the "Fantasy Graphic Novel" panel. It was me and five comics professionals, and I think I did OK -- I tried to stay a moderator, and just throw out ideas to them and keep the thing running. (Except when Mike Dringenberg started monologuing like a Republic serial villain.) They had no interest in actually addressing the topic -- not that the topic was all that clear to begin with -- so it turned into a general "aren't comics cool?" discussion. Since, of course, the entire audience thought that comics were cool, it went over well, but it was all a bit pointless.

Friday night I attached myself (not really on purpose; it just happened that way) to the Solaris guys, who were taking Chris Roberson and...James Maxey? (I hope I got that right) out to dinner. Chris and Alison Baker and I (and James, somewhat) then proceeded to spent most of the dinner explaining the American political system. Marc and George either really were actually interested, or they're substantially more British than I thought and just being polite.

Saturday night I had dinner in the lazy fashion -- I hung around after the Orbit party and ate with a group in the same restaurant (Tiznow). We sort-of turned into two parties, since it was too loud to talk all the way down the table. Gardner Dozois, Susan Casper, and the Danns were in the other half; I sat with Ellen Datlow, Scott Edelman, Paul Barnett, and Pam Scoville.

(And those were my only "real" meals of the con, except for some very good mall food-court gyros on the way up with Minz; since I was trying to go on a budget, I brought a bunch of bagels for breakfasts and some snack food for the rest of the day. I try to only eat two meals a day at cons anyway.)

Other than that, I think I was in the bar or at a party pretty much every hour of the day from 3 PM to 2 AM. (Before that, I did spend some time in the dealer's room, mostly talking with people. Actually, I'm kind of fuzzy on how I spent the hours from 9 or 10 to 3 those three days -- I didn't get any reading done, I wasn't on the Internet that much, and I don't remember seeing any panels. Was I really talking to people that much?)

I did have a nice meeting with Rome Quezada on Saturday, where I tried to give him some of my secrets and tricks. (I'd had no opportunity to sit down with him since the kerfuffle -- by the time he had the job, I'd been kicked off the premises.) Now that I'm settled somewhere else, I'm mostly happy that I'm not in his position -- I went through one merger at that company this decade, which was plenty. I'd be happier if I had a direct connection to the field, but I'll get back, eventually. (I'm assuming someone will need a Marketing Manager, or maybe an Assistant Publisher, in a couple of years...)

I drove up with Jim Minz, who was running we didn't get to pick up John Klima (who got another ride, so that was fine). And I drove back with Cheryl Morgan, which was nice -- I think it's the first time we've said more than four words to each other in person, and company is good to keep a driver awake in the dark evening hours of a post-convention Sunday.

Hm, I said I wouldn't namedrop, but I seem to be doing so. Then I guess I can mention that I met Steven Erikson (at Klima's JohnCon, of all places, when Erikson was still all dressed up from the annual Morhaim Dinner). Still haven't managed to walk up to Tim Powers and say hello, though -- we've been at the same event four or five times, but he's Tim god-damn Powers, so I've never done it.

The World Fantasy Awards were fucking awesome, for the obvious reason. (I only went five-for-eight on my predictions -- I missed the two short fiction categories and Ellen Asher -- but that was fine.) I was at one of the Tor tables (David Hartwell subdivision), and chatted with Ellen, Kathryn Cramer, and the always dapper Lee Modesitt. The food was decent, too. Actually, all of the awards were fine, even the ones for things I didn't predict. I now need to read me some M. Rickert, though.

I kept telling people that I wouldn't be coming next year -- it's in Calgary, of all places -- but, if my business trip schedule keeps filling up the way it has (I'm flying to Charlotte on Sunday, New Orleans the week after Thanksgiving, and San Diego in late March...and probably to somewhere in Florida for Sales Conference some time in the spring, and then five or six other places for the rest of 2008), I might be able to turn in miles and points to make it cheap. So I'll have to see. On the other hand -- Calgary in November? Away from home and my two boys on Halloween? That'll be tough.

To sum up, World Fantasy, like every year, was made up of people who were fun to talk to (like Jess Nevins), people I saw but didn't manage to talk to (like Jim Frenkel), and people I wished I had more time to talk to (like Jeff Ford). It's all about the people, and I'm glad many of them still tolerate me...


Anonymous said...

Andy, I don't know if this will make you feel better or worse, but a convention pro (I go to at least 5 a year on my own dime)while I had a good time at WFC, I have to admit I don't actually REMEMBER much of it or what I talked about to anyone. I felt rushed throughout the whole con and unable to have a good "sit" and focused conversation with many people. So you're not alone at feeling weird at the con.
Ellen (Datlow)

Cheryl said...

The game of musical chairs at dinner is by no means restricted to WFC, and often happens with far less reason. I've known Marc for decades. We haven't seen each other in years, but I didn't get to go to dinner with him because he had deals to discuss. I'm very pleased that he did. The con at which I think I have most difficulty finding a dinner group is Wiscon, because while I know lots of people there, I'm not part of anyone's in group.

Of course if you are in need of dinner at Calgary, just yell - I owe you one.

Mr.SFTV said...

Andy, you definitely need to read some M. Rickert. It was good to see you.

Laura Anne said...

Actually, Karen J kept picking up the tab, so I owe both of you a round of drinks... (unless you got a it off the flask, which as been determined by impartial judges to be worth 3/4 round as these things go).

And 'amen' to the 'game of points' that gets played. There have been many many conventions, even when I was an Expense Accounted Editor that I knew damn well I was being dropped for More Interesting Editors down the bar. So it goes...

Anonymous said...

At one point, you were seated on a couch near registration with your laptop. I thought something of introducing myself as I've made a few comments on here over time, but I'm a depressed guy who's lousy at making small talk. Sound familiar?

Jeff P.

Anonymous said...

Andy: Yeah. We'll have to catch up at the dba before one of the upcoming KGB readings. It was good seeing you briefly, though.

jeff ford

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