And so, I have come back from my very first Worldcon, healthy and hale — or, at least, with all four limbs still attached. Healthy might actually be pushing it: the smoke-induced allergies I thought I was suffering from appear to have bloomed into a full-blown cold, and my lungs are currently staging a bit of a protest. It’s especially annoying because I just got over a cold, or thought I did. Perhaps it never actually went away. Perhaps it was just waiting, maliciously, biding its time until my flight back home, as flying home sick appears to be my new favorite thing to do. (And by favorite, I mean, “Fuck you, sinuses, for making my face and neck feel like they’re about to explode.”)
Still, I’m a pretty big fan of the whole ‘intact, didn’t die horribly in a plane crash’ thing, so I’m going to call it a win.
Here’s roughly how my first Worldcon went:
Do not be alarmed. You’re only surrounded by fire on all sides.
So, California is currently burning down, as it is wont to do during summer, particularly in a devastating drought like the current one. The county I grew up in has been hit particularly hard of late: one fire alone took out nearly 70,000 acres. I kinda figured I’d be leaving all that behind me when I traveled to Spokane.
Well, not so much, apparently.
As you can see, the apocalypse came to Spokane on Friday. Actually, it was a bit like this when we arrived on Wednesday too — it was very much “Welcome to Spokane, otherwise known as Hell!” — but it seemed to return to normal weather conditions the following day.
And then Friday happened.
You’re really not supposed to use the raw sienna crayon to color the afternoon sky. Oh, and that sun, by the way? Bright red. It looks yellow in the picture, but the picture is wrong. All in all, it wasn’t exactly enjoyable weather to walk around in, although it was at least somewhat appropriate for an SF convention. I just wish I’d thought to steal some N95 respirators from work, that’s all. (I could’ve sold them and made millions!)
Mushroom hats and reading material are a girl’s best friend.
So, I kind of love shopping. Shoe shopping, no. Jewelry shopping, no. Clothes shopping, maybe, if the hanger size isn’t lying to you and the department mirrors are feeling particularly kind. But books and hats and any other weird little trinkets I can use to clutter up my apartment? I’m there with bells on. Or mushroom hats.
I am now the proud owner of this felt beauty. I am in love.
I also had to buy myself more books because, clearly, I didn’t already have enough to read. I kept the number at five, which I thought was fairly reasonable, all things considered. (Particularly since I was drooling over about ten.)
Helpfully, Bane decided that she needed to be in the picture too. I read this particularly baleful glare as ‘Why are you taking pictures of inanimate objects when you could be worshipping my radiance and/or petting me?’ (Also, if you’re actually counting the number of books in the hopes of proving that I’m a dirty rotten liar — or just not very good at math — I should point out that the thin one on the bottom is a free sampler of a JJA anthology and totally doesn’t count towards my “Look, My Willpower Only Goes so Far, and Capping at Five Novels Is Apparently that Distance” goal.)
And Miss Introvert 2015 Goes To . . .
So, I’m not extroverted. At all. I occasionally flip-flop a letter or two on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Test, but that first letter never, ever goes from ‘I’ to ‘E’. (As of a few weeks ago, I sit at ISFJ.) Which should mean that I ought to fit right in at these things — because writers, by and large, aren’t really well known for being social butterflies — but I always, always feel on the outside of writing cons.
It’s a little different at DragonCon, where I’m generally meeting up with a semi-large group of friends who I usually haven’t seen in two years and spend most of my time just hanging out with them. (And, well, buying shit. Seriously, the Dealer’s Room there is intense.) That’s what cons seem to be about: going to parties, hanging out with your buddies, and making connections. But at writing conventions, small or large, I usually only know a tiny handful of people, and only a couple of those people particularly well. And I just can’t seem to make myself talk to all these interesting writers and editors that I don’t know.
I had a decent time at Worldcon, I did. I even managed to meet a few nice people, however briefly. Scott H. Andrews seemed particularly kind, considering I was just awkwardly standing next to the person he was actually interested in talking to. (And also how underprepared I was at the time. Must. Get. Business Cards.) And they had surprisingly good cider at the Writers with Drinks thing I went to, so that was helpful. But all in all, I feel like I’m still missing out on the whole con experience that everyone else seems to go for, which I think means I need to readjust my strategy. If I can’t be the person who goes up to random writers I recognize and say, “Hi, I love your work! Let’s talk about nerdy things together!” then maybe I can work at developing relationships with writers online first, initiating conversations on Twitter and Codex and the like instead of just silently stalking people. And then maybe I’ll feel comfortable enough to say ‘howdy’ if and when I see them in real life. After all, all my DragonCon friends were internet friends first. (We all played the same Star Trek RPG. Maybe that’s the solution. Game first, chat later.)
It’s not a foolproof strategy, mind. Even on the internet, I have trouble making contact with people because, you know, what if I say something stupid to someone, and they’re like, “Why are you talking to me, strange creature? I will now shun you and tell everyone I know to shun you as well.” (I never said my anxieties were logical.) Also, I had totally legitimate reasons to go up to a couple of people. For example, I could easily have introduced myself to Sunil Patel when I saw him at Worldcon because (a) we’ve talked on Twitter before, (b) he’s one of the people who read and passed up my story at Mothership Zeta, and (c), he wrote a pretty funny story on The Book Smugglers that I recently enjoyed reading. And still, my Curse of Shyness kicked in hardcore, despite the fact that I’d really wanted to say hi, and I talked myself out of saying anything to him, like, two or three times before there was finally a brief hello at the Writers with Drinks thing. (If only I could get my Work Persona to come out at these things. I’ve been called outgoing at my day job. Friendly. Upbeat. PERKY, even. Obviously, anyone who knows me outside of the hospital is laughing their godamn head off right now.)
Still, it’s a goal, the whole internet-first-real-world-second plan, and I think I’ll give it a whirl — because if I can’t find a way to feel even a little more comfortable at these things, I’m not sure there’s a lot of point in spending the money to go.
If you can’t make new friends, keep the old ones. They’re gold, not silver, which probably means they’re worth more when you have to sell them out during the Apocalypse.
One of the best things about going to Worldcon, though, was seeing these delightful people.
My CW littermates: Cory Skerry and Alyc Helms, who are talented, charming, wonderful people who spent all weekend giving me shit about the processed, highly sugary foods I like to eat. Particularly Skerry, the little sparkly imp. I actually don’t usually eat much when I’m on the road — my stomach is often stupid, particularly while traveling or if I’m already not feeling well — so this was my supposed lunch when we all stopped at Red Robin.
Mekaela also joined me on this adventure to Smoky Spokane, which was nice. She’s my buddy! I didn’t get a ton of pictures of all of us hanging out — I always forget, somehow — but here are a few, some of which Mekaela took:
Mek, on a less smoky day.
Alyc, in her adorable Merida costume.
Dapper Cory, before failing to sneak into Prom.
A typical sister selfie.
Clearly, you can’t trust Alyc. One minute she’s all sweet and cute, and the next she’s going to bite your face off, and all you can do is giggle because you have always had the wrong reactions to everything. Ah, friendship.
There are no winners or losers here, only participants who will all declare victory no matter what side they were on in the first place.
I chose not to attend the Hugos this year, but I did watch them from my hotel bed — silly, yes, but my bed was comfortable and I enjoy being able to snark out loud — and was both surprised and pleased with the results: the Sad/Rabid Puppies were almost entirely shut out, save a win for Guardians for the Galaxy, which obviously had widespread appeal (even though The Winter Soldier is a totally superior film). If you don’t know about the Sad/Rabid Puppy controversy, Google it. Seriously, there’s a ton of shit out there you can read, and I’m not feeling like covering it right now. This blog post alone is already taking me hours longer than I initially anticipated.
I’m happy that the Sad/Rabid Puppies weren’t completely victorious in gaming the Hugos this year, even as I feel lousy for all the people, magazines, and works that would have been nominated had this whole nonsense never occurred. But I’ve also read a few pieces on both sides deconstructing the results, and in a way, I feel like people are trying to draw lessons from it that aren’t going to be learned. It seems obvious that whether they won or lost the actual awards, the Sad/Rabid Puppies were going to declare some kind of supposed moral victory, either in their ability to overcome the SJW’s or “prove” that the SJW’s were doing what the Puppies said all along, namely shutting them out because of their objectionable viewpoints. I don’t know, maybe it’s the head cold and fatigue talking, but right now I’m having trouble seeing a way out of this mess — because that’s the problem with debating an unreasonable opponent: they’re unreasonable. No side can win when you can’t even find a middle ground to meet at.
On the upside, I was pleasantly shocked when Orphan Black won over Doctor Who at the Hugos. Dance, Clone Party! Whirl like the wind!
The Places You’ll Go, The Authors, Dinosaurs, and Frogs You’ll See
I’m too tired to get into descriptions/thoughts now (although I will say that I really enjoyed all of the author readings), but here are the panels/readings/events I attended:
Connie Willis Reading
Catherynne Valente Reading
Writers with Drinks
What Prose Writers Can Learn From Comics
John Scalzi Reading
The Craft of Short Fiction
Scott Lynch Reading
Diversity Within YA & Middle Grade
What Does Horror Do That Other Genres Don’t?
Finally, there’s an upcoming Chinese Lantern Festival in Spokane, and while I won’t be there to see it, I walked by some of the preparations on my way to the Convention Center.
Farewell, Worldcon! I won’t miss your smoke or social anxiety, but we’ll always have mushroom hats and Green Little Foot!