Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The quick and dirty Armadillocon recap

Arrived at the con later than I'd planned, around 5 p.m. on Friday. This was a new hotel for the convention, the Austin Doubletree, and the layout of the hotel was so different from other hotels Armadillocons have been based at in the past that I had a severe case of disconnect going through most of Friday. Several other congoers told me the same thing. It was a very nice hotel, however, nicer than the Red Lion, Omni Southpark or Hilton that have recently hosted the con, so by Saturday I was settled in and really developing a strong appreciation for the new digs.

Since I'm sort of committed to write a more formal con report for RevolutionSF, I'll restrict this commentary here to personal experiences. I was a little disappointed I didn't get to hang out with Charles de Lint and MaryAnn more, but since I was a program participant I had my own obligations to fulfill. I caught about half of their performance on Saturday, though, and they're as gracious and entertaining as I remember. Charles Stross and Sean McMullen were both friendly and funny, raising the quality of the panels I shared with them.

One development that was wholly unexpected knocked me for a loop early on and repeated itself several times throughout the convention. During the "Meet the Pros" reception, Damian Broderick, the Australian SF author of Godplayers, among many others, walked up to me and introduced himself, saying he'd wanted to meet me after seeing my posts to the IAFA mailing list. Wow! I found out about six months back that Broderick now lives in San Antonio, and nagged Armadillocon to invite him. So to say I was flattered is something of an understatement. I have no illusions about my stature in the publishing world. We chatted for a bit, and he commented to the fact that I was lucky, since New Braunfels had it's own resident astronaut (Charlie Duke). Later on during the con, he suggested we could get together sometime, go knock on Duke's door, and run away. Sounds like a plan to me. I shared a rather uncomfortable odd moment with Broderick at a Saturday night party, when a fan (who is a well-established presence at Texas cons) asked Broderick why there weren't many fantasy stories featuring Aborigine mythology, "Dreamtime" and the like. Broderick explained that there were strong cultural and social taboos to this in Australia. All would have been fine and good at that point, except that the fan continued to talk about the subject, referring to the Aborigine as "Abos." Broderick stopped him, explaining that "Abo" was as offensive a racist term in Australia as "nigger" is in the U.S., to which the fan replied, "Oh, I know that," and continued to toss off "Abo" left and right. It was so egregious that I wonder if he was even paying attention to what Broderick had so diplomatically explained.

Later in the convention, Wil McCarthy, a talented SF writer from Denver, came up and introduced himself. Wil and I had exchanged messages in the past on SFF.net, so his knowledge of my existence wasn't as shocking as Broderick's, but it was no less gratifying. During the ConDFW party Saturday night, he drank some of my beer, and listened to my entirely too-passionate rant about the failings of Paul Verehoven's Starship Troopers film, which just happened to be playing on the TV. He also engaged in a little discussion of a gaming geek nature--a sure sign that I've had a beer or two in the preceeding hour. A self-confessed gaming geek himself, he didn't hold my Champions stories against me, and bought a copy of my chapbook for "The Dust" at my autograph session on Sunday to "read on the plane." I just hope he doesn't think it sucks too badly.

During that same autograph session, the fine folks from Edge Books came up and asked when I was going to sign their stock of Voices of Vision. I replied that I'd already done so way back at Aggiecon. They explained that no, they'd sold out of all of those (30 books!) and had 25 new ones for me to inscribe. Holy moley! An autograph session where I actually sign something other than the completist fan's program book! I really, really like Edge Books!

I got to hang out with Deborah Layne of Wheatland Press fame. We breakfasted with the unparalleled Rick Klaw Saturday morning and boogied to the "Time Warp" during the Baby Face Nelson concert on Saturday night (along with Ann Guin and Martha Wells). She sold me a copy of the talented Steven Utley's new collection, Beasts of Love. The only reason she didn't sell me a copy of All Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories is because they ran out before I got there.

I also caught up with Del Rey editor Jim Minz at the various parties happening on Saturday night. He not only remembered me (wow! Another one!) but talked about an author I'd recommended to him as having a killer novel manuscript in need of a home. He then asked when I was going to send him something. Which, of course, sent my heart all a-flutter. Granted, he may very well have been making polite conversation, but when you've been through as long of a sales drought as I have, any encouragement is welcome. On a related note, several times during the weekend various Austin-area writers brought up the last short story I workshopped at Turkey City, asking if it'd been published yet (unfortunately, no) then making appropriately rude jokes about some of the ruder scenes I have since reined in to some degree.

Finally, my reading Sunday saw a turnout of eight or so people--none of them related to me. I was shocked, and was compelled to ask if they'd found the right room. I read the first chapter of Wetsilver, which I'd been very, very nervous about. I workshopped maybe 10,000 words of the novel with Slugtribe in Austin a few years ago before interviews consumed my writing time. I'd taken the Slugtribe comments and reworked the opening chapters, but was having real doubts about them. I didn't think I had real characters or compelling action. I questioned my worldbuilding. I felt my tension and suspense ham-fisted and unconvincing. I was certain the crowd would thin as I read. But something strange happened as I started reading--the prose came alive for me. Suddenly I felt the words gain meaning and resonance as I spoke them aloud, and my ponderous dialogue became lithe and lively, the narrative crisp and energetic. The audience reacted in all the proper ways, and seemed genuinely annoyed that I didn't have chapter 2 with me to read when I came to the end of chapter 1. I did read The Days of Rice and Assault for them, which got a bunch of laughs and seemed to satisfy them.

So that encouragement, coupled with Important People knowing who I was without my first explaining myself to them... well, it turned into a spectacular weekend.

Now Playing: Neville Marner Amadeus Soundtrack

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