Weekend at BEA

On Saturday, I decided to visit BEA here at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan.  While the smell of a shrinking economy wafted through the air, the convention still managed to fill the entire main floor of the center (what, no con BO?).  And there was an awful lot of enthusiasm, at least that I could see.  I didn’t see so much a dying of an industry, but a restructuring/repositioning.  E-books were the hot topic of the day, and I saw one called the Cooler which promised to be open source and hack friendly.*

I also got a chance to speak with China Miéville, who as always was very friendly and approachable, and he signed a copy of his new THE CITY & THE CITY for me.  Tempest Bradford also happened to slip him a copy of Sybil’s Garage No. 6, which he seemed eager to read.  Tempest and Alaya Dawn Johnson both spoke as if they had smoked a pack of cigarettes, their laryngitis due, they said, to this year’s WisCon crud.  The symptoms were so specific that I could tell who went to the con simply by how hoarse they were.  I visited Ellen Datlow over at the HWA table, where I saw promo cards for her new Lovecraft Unbound anthology — it looks fab.  Yes, the HWA table was in the “ghetto,” but this was simply because they are relative newbies to BEA.  In a few years, they’ll have a much better position on the floor.  And what else?  I saw Kelly Link & Gavin Grant and made sure to speak with them because I suspect, with their new child, I probably won’t be seeing much of them in the next two years.  Otherwise, I just wandered aimlessly looking for free stuff.  (For those who don’t know, this is the best reason to attend BEA, for the free books.)  Only the very largest publishers were giving out free copies, and most of them had run out by 10 a.m.

After the conference I attended a small party downstairs held by Baen Publishing.  Cheese quiche (with bacon!) and meaty egg rolls and strange cheddar breadsticks.  That and lots of familiar faces.  Oh, and manga.  Alaya and I found some manga in the corner.  One was called Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit which looked pretty cool and is about a society that randomly kills people to prove to an indolent populace that life is worth living.

Then we retired to a Thai restaurant, with lots of folks in attendance.  There were parties, but since I had been food poisoned the day before and a single glass of wind had me reeling, I decided against crowds and inebriation (I know, a new one for me, right?).  Paul Berger and I instead went to see The Brothers Bloom, an indie flick about two professional con artists on their last swindle.  The movie had me hooked until the last act (it seemed like it had four acts instead of the typical three, which might have been the problem: it was too long).  It lost its momentum, and so the ending lost its emotional poignancy.  But I did like the film’s awareness of its own cliches: in a con movie, everyone expects to be duped, even the audience, and I thought the writers handled this well.  The protagonist questioned whether he was being conned, and the audience didn’t know if he was or not.  The sense of questioning the authenticity of events I felt was the film’s most powerful message, though it was handled a little less adeptly than I would have liked.  Overall, it was a good weekend, and it was a nice little warmup for ReaderCon this July.

* The idea of e-books are very appealing to me, however, not one of them on the market today makes sense.  Number one, they are very limited in the types of fonts you can use, and the sizes of those fonts.  Two, you cannot write on the screen with a stylus.  I’d like to read manuscripts on an e-book and be able to comment in the margins.  Three, I’d like to be able to browse the internet with my e-reader.  I’m not paying $350 for a device that does ONE THING ONLY when my $150 netbook can do a thousand things more.  Four, I want my e-reader to be open source, and to support all formats.  The idea of emailing Amazon to get them to convert a Word Doc so I can read it on my Kindle is patently absurd.  So, yeah, I’m eager for e-books in the long term, but the technology needs to mature a bit before I jump on that bandwagon.