During the Passover Seder, there’s this short phrase that says something like, “the absence from normal life,” that my father never fails to point out means that the slaves were forbidden from having intercourse. At the moment I first thought about blogging about WFC, this phrase came to mind, but less for its sexual implications (though there might be some relevancy) and more for its straightforward truth: cons are truly absence from normal life. How do I mean? At cons, the world at large vanishes, or rather reduces to the geographical area around the hotel. Like a UN convention, representatives from many nations come together to one place to socialize, talk about their past, present and future achievements, and, well, drink.
And drink we did. My crew this time was the usual suspects: Rajan Kahanna, Mercurio D. Rivera, Devin Poore, and Eugene Myers. (Kris Dikeman, Alaya Dawn Johnson, and Tempest drove/trained up separately). Some of us stayed at the “Saratoga Downtowner” hotel which was billed as an “older model,” though we found it adequate with a refrigerator & dead fly in the windowsill. Never mind the crappy showerhead.
In trying to recall specific parties, incidents, and faces, it all washes into a blur. I suppose that with as much alcohol and as little sleep as I had, that is to be expected. But I remember some salient highlights. In one Thursday evening party I happened to mention the Kwisatz Haderach, and not one — not one — person in a circle of some fifteen people batted an eye. Everyone knew what I was talking about. I paused, struck by this realization and pointed it out to everyone. Can you imagine, I said, in a business meeting mentioning the Kwisatz Haderach to make a point about capital gains or profit margins? You’d get blank stares. Again, the con as the “absence from daily life.”
Friday afternoon was the Paper Cities reading. It was well attended and well received, and though I was mostly too nervous to pay attention to the stories, I did, once again, fall in love with Hal Duncan’s writing. We went over by five minutes but managed to squeeze in seven writers: Cat Rambo, Cat Sparks, Mark Teppo, Ben Peek (with guest reader), Hal Duncan, Catherynne Valente, and Kaaron Warren. There is hope that Eugene Myers, who courageously and selflessly filmed the reading, will provide the video to me for posting online.
Then came the Paper Cities and The Secret History of Moscow party, which involved placing subway maps from all over the world on the walls and windows without leaving marks anywhere (a skill in itself). It also involved several hundred bottles of beer. Though a lot had to do with the latter, I think people were excited to see Ekaterina Sedia and her work, and we had one of the most well-attended parties at the con.
Saturday was an easier day for me with less planning. By this point I was happy to hear that Paper Cities was selling out at the Small Beer Press table, and that Gavin was requesting more. Many, many, many (ad infinitum, as in the Captain from Police Academy) thanks goes to Gavin & Kelly for providing space at their table for the small presses to flourish. Senses Five Press wouldn’t be where we are today without their help.
Then there were pirates. We saw Raj Khanna read for the very first time at his Shimmer reading, celebrating the pirate issue guest edited by John Joseph Adams. I enjoyed all the stories, but was very impressed both by Raj’s story and his reading aplomb. You would have thought it was his tenth reading. There were also flint-lock guns that shot plastic darts, which was a nice touch.
Saturday night had us wandering through the cold to the adjacent Marriott hotel for a Weird Tales party serving amontillado. I had never had amontillado before and was pleasantly surprised at how tasty it is. There were chains and bricks before a chair in the corner, which I was told was for Mr. Jeremy Lassen from Night Shade Books, but I never got to see them used. Also there, I met Jetse deVries from Interzone for the first time.
A few of us wandered back to the con-proper, and on the way I had a nice talk with Edmund Schubert from InterGalactic Medicine Show. It was ten o’clock at night on a Saturday at a con, but we found the small press panel fairly well attended, and I enjoyed hearing Mary Robinette Kowal speak, not just for her eloquent discussion of the small press, but how she was able to project her voice throughout the room without much needing a microphone.
The rest of the night is somewhat of a blur, but I do remember having a very interesting discussion with Darin Bradley (who is also in Paper Cities) and at some point wandering into John Con (that is, John Klima Con). There, a rainbow of beverages were served, and it behooved every guest there to “taste the rainbow” as it were. Unfortunately for some, there was no pot of gold at the end, only hangovers. And, we didn’t know what we were drinking half the time, but Jon Con was the funnest party at the con (besides the Paper Cities one of course). I also got to meet Amal El Mohtar, whom I accepted a poem from recently for Sybil’s Garage. At some point I wandered outside to have a smoke and there sat Hal Duncan all by his lonesome, and there we shared a conversation about World Fantasy as the “indie press” con. I was very drunk, but I believe he suggested that indie press is where punk rock was in the late 70s, early 80s.
Sunday found me scrambling to get everyone’s autograph on a copy of Paper Cities, and by some stroke of luck or karma I was able to get all of the attendees to sign except for Cat Rambo (one would think I would have gotten their signatures at the reading or the party, but that would have taken forethought). I did, however, have Cat sign her chapbook, co-authored with Jeff VanderMeer, called The Surgeon’s Tale and Other Stories, so it wasn’t a complete loss.
There were many more faces, and it’s hard to align them into a cohesive thread, so I’ll try to mention them here:
Had a very cool conversation with Matthew Jarpe about the timeline of the origin of life.
Found out how evil Evil David (aka Mercurio Rivera) can be.
Discovered that Fantasy Magazine under Cat Rambo’s editor-ship will be looking for stories about comical bears.
Saw Alaya Dawn Johnson drunk for the first time.
Hung out with the ever smiling Kristin Janz and drank some of her warming cachaca.
Did not get filmed in my boxers by Tempest.
Watched JoSelle Vanderhooft buy the very first copy of Paper Cities.
Met the cool people from Abyss & Apex.
Had someone shout to us, “Shadow of the Vampire!” as we were crossing the street, trying to figure out the name of a movie. (Only at a con).
And, well, had a swell time. Now, my brain requests a period of sleep no less than twenty hours and an alcohol free period of at least forty days and nights. Otherwise, I hope your con experience was as fun and full as mine. Now, back to the “normal life.”
Here are some pictures I took.
And some pictures from Rajan Khanna.
And last, but not least (he adds later), many more thanks to Eugene Myers, Mercurio Rivera, Rajan Khanna, Devin Poore, Alaya Dawn Johnson, and Kris Dikeman for all their help this weekend.Â If I forgot to thank anyone, you know you are in my heart!