Readercon 2011 Recap: Saturday / Sunday (and we’re done)

I’ve previously talked about the books I brought home from Readercon, some Readercon advice on writing an author blurb, and recapped Thursday/Friday.

Saturday morning was breakfast at Panera, then panels:

11 AM Book Design and Typography in the Digital Era Neil Clarke, Erin Kissane, Ken Liu, David G. Shaw (leader), Alicia Verlager. From this I found out that Ken knows quite a bit about the history of the book and its evolution from scroll to codex to ebook, making him officially one of my favorite people ever. This was one of the most informed panels I attended, and I felt that all of the panelists had useful things to add to the discussion. I only wished it were longer.

12:00 PM Daughters of the Female Man Matthew Cheney, Gwendolyn Clare, Elizabeth Hand (leader), Barbara Krasnoff, Chris Moriarty. I tend to avoid panels on women’s issues in fiction, honestly. I’m of the school that we should promote damn fine writers who happen to be women as opposed to promoting women writers and hoping they’re good. I come from an academic background and am particularly informed by the discussion about women’s place in art history, and the (absurd) question which always gets asked, “Why are there no good women artists?” However this panel was excellent both for it’s suggestions for further reader and for the way it didn’t focus on anything other than good writing by women. Notable for this panel was the absurd statement from the audience about how the panel should have done “a little more work” and created an annotated bibliography to hand out (you know, so we wouldn’t have to read anything on our own).

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Readercon 2011 Recap: Thursday / Friday

The drive up to Boston was easy and uneventful save for the sudden realization that I was actually driving through the Bronx. That wasn’t clear from the directions, which essentially said take 95N from NJ to Connecticut, so you can understand why the first time I drove over the George Washington bridge and into the Bronx I was a little surprised. I stopped in Orange, CT, for breakfast at a place called Chip’s Diner, home to some pretty good buttermilk pancakes. That was my halfway point, and the rest of the drive was pretty but boring. I found the hotel with little trouble, got checked into my room, unpacked my suitcase, fell onto the big, fluffy bed, relaxed in the air conditioning, and very nearly fell asleep.

That would have been bad because I was due to pick Don Pizarro up from the airport an hour later. Logan Airport was only 12 miles from the hotel, but I wanted to be early if possible so he didn’t have to wait. Plus, Bart Lieb needed Don to read at the Broken Slate/Crossed Genres reading Friday night, so he insisted that I get up. I shared the elevator back down to the lobby with another woman – we looked at each other, said, “Readercon?” and both nodded. “I’m going to the gym to try to bike off this headache,” she said. “You?” I told her I was off to the airport. “Oh, at this time? I’m sorry,” she said, as the doors opened, and we waved our goodbyes. I wondered at that, got into my car, and for the first few miles I made good time. Switching onto 93 for the other 9 miles of the trip left me in dead-stop traffic. It ultimately took me 50 minutes to travel those 9 miles, by which time, Don’s plane was due to have landed. I finally pulled in, and called – no answer. I got into the terminal, since I had his flight info I knew where I was supposed to be, called again and … no answer. I checked the Starbucks (we’re writers, of course we gravitate toward coffee and wifi) but no luck. Called again and found his plane had arrived late; he was just getting off it now. Perfect! I wasn’t late after all. We found each other easily after that, got back to the hotel faster than I’d made it out to the airport, and after dropping his stuff off, made our way to the hotel bar.

My room was near the Con Suite, which was not, as directions would suggest, out the 6th floor window.

I did mention that we were writers, right?

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So You Want to Write an Author Blurb? Readercon Edition, With Advice from Ken Liu and Don Pizarro

We all know the first step toward getting yourself invited to talk on a panel at a convention like Readercon is to have a really outstanding author blurb. The kind of run-on sentence (or three) that not only conveys your vast experience in talking out loud but that also implies your great range of knowledge*.

Picture it, if you will.

Actually, I did take a picture. Don (left) and Ken (right) in the Marriott bar, July 16, 2011

One hot afternoon in Boston I found myself sitting across a table from Ken Liu and Don Pizarro, brilliant authors and Men of Experience. We were sitting in the hotel bar, like you do at a convention, talking about how awesome I am. Well, how awesome I’m not. See, I’d jokingly mentioned something to my day job boss about my positive attitude and wide set of skills, and while he didn’t seem to be sure if I was kidding or not, I felt a bit embarrassed. I mean, who goes around telling people they’re awesome unless it’s a joke?

But no, these men assured me, I was on the right track. Once they got done laughing hysterically at my faux pas, I was informed that this was the beginning of an author blurb that was sure to get me noticed. Ken had been on a panel earlier in the day, and both Don and I aspire to be on panels in the future (Don also aspires to be famous enough to say terrible things when he’s really old and get away with it, so I think I’m going to need to stick around and write his apologetic morning-after press releases for him). Don stopped giggling long enough to pay attention at what was about to be a very serious conversation.

“You have to start with that,” Ken advised me. “Carrie Cuinn, author, editor, publisher. Then, ‘I’m awesome’.” He made air quotes with his fingers as he said that part. “Or maybe put, ‘I’m awesome’ first.”

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Readercon, The Loot Edition

While I let the rest of the weekend tumble around in my head until a reasonable con recap post can be put into words, I’ll start you off with the small pile of wonderful things I brought home with me:

  • John Kessel’s THE BAUM PLAN FOR FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE AND OTHER STORIES – I first read this collection last year, checked out from my local library, and adored it. I was pleased to find a reasonably priced SIGNED paperback in the dealer’s room; was more than pleased to meet the man himself at the Pros(e) party too.
  • RIGOR AMORTIS – You might remember that I have a story in this little anthology of zombie erotica. I’d forgotten my copy but got one from the thoughtful Kay Holt, who’s also in the book. This meant I got to have her, Lucia Starkey and Don Pizarro sign it for me.
  • Postcards and flyers for various cons I want to attend and books I want to buy.
  • THE HOMELESS MOON 4 – A free zine being passed out at the con
  • OBJECTS OF WORSHIP – Claude LaLumière’s great collection, which I’ve already read and reviewed. I got this copy for a friend who (at the last minute) couldn’t make the con, and he was gracious enough to inscribe it for her.
  • Elizabeth Hand’s ILLYRIA – I am not too familiar with her work, but it’s been recommended to me, and I was at a few panels she was on, so I wanted a place to start. I found this lovely little hardcover in the dealer’s room.
  • Harold Waldrop’s novella collection OTHER WORLDS, BETTER LIVES – I saw him read two stories of his on Saturday night, and got to have a great conversation with his publisher about this book and the state of Waldrop’s sales in general. Bonus: this book is SIGNED too.
  • Claude’s DOOR TO LOST PAGES – I’d bought the epub, read it (review to go up soon) and wanted the paperback. He signed this one too, and it’s all mine!
  • Crossed Genre’s Issue 19: Gadgets and Artifacts – Bought because Don Pizarro’s got a story in this issue that I love, and that I got to hear him read aloud during the CG reading on Friday night. This brings up an interesting point about writers you get close enough to that you’ve mutually become part of each other’s lives: what happens is, we become slackers. I bought it with the intention of getting Don to sign it, and since we spent the whole weekend together, I didn’t think this would be a problem. I knew where to find him. Presenting him with it, and a pen, he opened it to his story, poised the pen over the page and  … stopped. “I need to think of the right thing to say,” he said, and handed it back. Yes, I understand, the pressure of not wanting to sign something dumb to people you’ll see over and over again. But … did I ever get it signed? No, no I did not. My advice here kids is: smile, be patient, but don’t let them leave til it’s signed.
  • Readercon 22 program booklet – lots of cool info I didn’t have time to read at the actual con (given out free with my badge).
  • Dec 2002 Locus – there was a stack of free, older, issues of this magazine and I grabbed the China Mièville issue. I love his writing and even though it’s an older interview, I’m sure there are things to be learned.
So much to read. And I have to tell you about the panels I went to, the people I hung out with (which, in my opinion, made the con as amazing as it was), the readings, the food, the … Readercon-ness of it all. Soon, I promise.

Readercon: And so it begins …

I am at Readercon, having arrived yesterday, in a blur of driving and more driving and being stuck in traffic and short on sleep and I ended up passing out at 9 pm. This morning I’ve had a lovely breakfast and am now sitting in the first panel of the day. There will be con recaps throughout the weekend, as often as I feel like paying the exorbitant fee for daily Internet usage, but for now – I am having such a lovely time.

And the con is just getting started.

Philcon 2010

It’s been about a week and a half since Philcon, so I’m very nearly overdue for my post-con write-up. Philcon is a local science fiction and fantasy con, here in NJ, and is the first con I’ve attended on the East Coast. Cherry Hill, where the con was held this year, is about a 40 minute drive from my apartment; including a short side trip to pick up a friend, it took me 10 hours to get there. This involved a windy mountain road, a sweet rental car, losing cell service at precisely the wrong time, and an unfortunate dinner in Scranton.

Don Pizarro (my friend, con-buddy, and a contributor to Cthulhurotica) and I got to the hotel too late on Friday night to see much of anything, so we check in and went straight to bed. Breakfast the next morning was coffee and a bacon/egg/bagel at a Panera, and then back to the con hotel to pick up badges and schedules. On the upside Don and I had pre-registered, so we got to skip the line and our badges were already printed out; on the down side the young kid working the table didn’t mention the odd layout of the con schedule, which caused us to get lost later in the day*. Don and I split up (we actually ended up in very few of the same panels together) and I dropped in on “The Shift Back to the Small Presses” which meant to talk about small press publishing but ended up being a conversation between Wildside Press publisher John Gregory Betancourt and the rest of the panel/audience. We talked a lot of PoD technology and the evolution of ebooks, and the panel did change my mind about how we were going to distribute Dagan Books titles. Betancourt acts like a man who’s pretty sure that he knows more than everyone else in the room, without being too cocky about it, and perhaps he does … but I would have liked to hear more from other presses. Part of the problem is that the rest of the folks on the panel were writers and editors and self-publishers, and Betancourt was the only actual publisher**. Neil Clarke sat in front of me and had some good comments; he’s another publisher I’d like to chat with more at another time.

Thus the day began and ended with the most useful panel I was going to attend all weekend.

The rest of the day was spent attending panels, running errands, and getting lost in Camden for an hour and a half because my gps kept missing one important turn. This ended up being a blessing in disguise because I accidently found a wine shop that carries Absente absinthe. (This comes in to play again later on Saturday evening.) Meanwhile Don was meeting Peter S. Beagle, the GoH, and getting stuff signed by Beagle and going to a Beagle reading … and apparently never noticed my quick trip out to find a working atm became a three-hour tour. I did finally get back to the hotel, and started making plans. Simon Carter, a writer friend of ours, was going to come to the con that evening to meet up with Don, and I had to read my zombie erotica story “Mitch’s Girl” at 6 pm as part of the Garden State Horror Writers reading. We settled on dinner beforehand, and Don came along to the reading so I’d at least know one person there – I’ve been a member of the GSHW group for about 6 months now, and I hadn’t actually met any of the other writers.

I needn’t have worried. Dinner in the hotel cafe was mainly a collected of shared appetizers but there was a corned beef sandwich in there I remember being fond of. The reading was well attended for th size of the room we had (small) and the GSHW folks turned out to be warm and chatty. There were 6 readers in all, in a variety of genres (I think mine was really the only “horror”, and my story isn’t actually scary as much as it is erotic; we also had fantasy, steampunk, YA with a talking cat, paranormal romance and lit fic). I got to meet Danielle Ackley-McPhail, who edits a couple of books for Dark Quest (where I still read slush for Neal Levin), Hildy Silverman, who edits Space and Time, and of course Neal, in addition to Gary Frank, Ed Greaves, Jon Gibbs and some other folks from the group. We chatted after the reading, and into Danielle’s launch party for the Bad Ass Fairies anthology series website. The party featured more baked goods than I’ve seen crammed into one room in a long time, as well as a couple of interestingly-dressed folks hanging out before the masquerade. (Don, who has a lovely handmade Dr. Who scarf, couldn’t help comparing it to another man’s Dr. Who-ish scarf, and may even have taken photographic evidence to support his argument that his scarf was better.)

At this point, Don insisted that we attend at least one more panel for the evening, since we were actually at a convention with the stated purpose of doing such a thing. The GSHW folks were sort of insistent that we meet them in the bar for drinks instead. I wavered, then went with Don, and planned to meet up at the bar after the panel let out.

That panel turned out to be “Sexy Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories” which we felt we kind of had to go to, since we both had zombie erotica stories in Rigor Amortis, and we’d been working on Cthulhurotica. This was our first panel we attended together, and we discovered that a) I will talk in a panel discussion if someone asks for input, and b) Don won’t. The three ladies on the panel, after an awkward pause were we discovered that none of them really knew what the panel was supposed to be about, launched in a rousing discussion of Things Not To Call A Vagina. There was a list***.

Once done, we headed out to the bar, by exiting through the room’s doorway and walking into the hallway, like you do. There we found Hildy, who was scheduled to be on a panel on “The Hard Boiled Detective Tradition in Fantasy”, and fairly certain that no one would show up. Never being the sort to leave a damsel in distress, Don and I went to her panel, where it turned out one important person did – in fact – not show up: the other presenter on the panel. The moderator, a charming gentleman, bravely dove in to help out, but his area of expertise was the classic detective in film, and he knew very little about the trope in the spec fic/UF/fantasy genres. Luckily, some more group discussion was had, and I got to introduce new people to Seanan McGuire’s Toby Daye series. Yay!

And then, finally, the bar. The GSHW guys, it turns out, had been sitting out front the whole couple of hours I was in panels, and had started to suspect we weren’t going to show up. We explained, they forgave, and we wandered in for drinks and to await the arrival of Simon, who was leaving a party at that point and heading over to drink more with us. We got Simon, introductions were made, and the group got exactly one drink order in before the bar closed on us. At 10:30 pm. Is that right? I ask you. We’re writers! But luckily, the evening was saved because I’d stopped by that wine shop earlier in the day … After Simon made me split a free beer with him (Dogfishhead) and I downed my Old Fashioned, Gary Frank went home for the night and the rest of us headed up to the room to break open the absinthe.

It was a thing of beauty. Smooth, flavorful, and subtly strong, it fueled the slow descent into madness that is a bunch of drunk guys trying to play Munchkin Cthulhu for the first time. Simon, that charmer, won with a smile, and it was only afterward we discovered he’d been cheating the whole time – though to his credit, he hadn’t realized it himself. Things eventually wrapped up sometime after two, and we all headed to our beds.

Sunday morning was breakfast (full buffett in the hotel restaurant), contemplating panels, not being able to find anything we cared about, packing, and finally heading back to my house for lunch and family time (were again we played Munchkin Cthulhu, and again we realized Don’s not that familiar with the rules). A lot more driving ensued before I got Don back home to upstate NY, and got myself back home.

Overall the con itself was a disappointment but the people made up for it exponentially. Don P turns out to be a great guy as well as a great writer, Simon is as clever, and as Scottish, as you’d expect from his Twitter feed, and the folks from the GSHW were fun and full of helpful writing/publishing tidbits. We bought books, we chatted up writers, we wandered the dealer’s hall, and I managed to only volunteer to help with another project once the whole weekend. Maybe twice.**** I met so many new people that I could have skipped every panel offered and still the con would have been worth the price of admission.

Footnotes:

* The rooms were numbered in a way that only mattered to the Programming department, and had nothing to do with the room numbers, which were on a seperate piece of paper. Guess which one we didn’t get at the registration table?
** If you’re considering “publisher” to be someone who publishes books by people other than himself.
*** The V, the Triangle, and the Core, if you’re wondering.
**** This is an improvement, for me.