ReaderCon 21, or The Super Secret Party That Everyone Knows About July 12, 2010 – Posted in: Aberrant Normalcy, Altered Fluid, Sybil's Garage

There is a certain timelessness to conventions.  And as such they do not translate well into a linear narrative.  Perhaps that’s because a large portion of the time we are talking about ideas, things, places, events outside ourselves and often outside our universe.  Coming back home after that is like traveling near the speed of light and returning to a changed world.  Except the world hasn’t changed.  We have.

Readercon 21 started off somewhat humbly.  Several of my friends who have accompanied me before couldn’t make it, and this time around I knew a larger portion of the attendees than ever before.  My first thought upon arriving was that the convention didn’t feel real.  I tried to explain this to a few folks, and they kept reminding me that it was still Friday and it takes some time for things to warm up.  And warm up they did.

The first panel I attended, one of the annual short-fiction summaries, name-checked two friends of mine as talented up-and-comers: Genevieve Valentine and Alaya Dawn Johnson.  It was nice to hear their work getting recognized.  Later, Scott H. Andrews hosted a Beneath Ceaseless Skies reading, where I read a section from “The Suffering Gallery,” a short story appearing in BCS this fall.  I also heard Michael J. DeLuca, Margaret Ronald, Tom Croshill (which I later found out was his first reading), and several other talented fantasists.  People seemed to like my excerpt.  In fact, people seemed to like all the stories, which is a credit to Scott’s editorial eye.

Later, I participated on a panel about the bright future of SF magazines, which had as a launching point the question of how to make SF magazines more culturally inclusive.  Liz Gorinsky did a great job keeping us on topic, and we heard well-thought-out comments by panelists Neil Clarke, K. Tempest Bradford, and pinch-hitter Michal J. DeLuca, who was there for Gavin Grant.  Compared to last year’s somewhat sullen first panel on the future of SF magazines, this one felt much more positive, and we all agreed the short fiction market is in a renaissance.  These things go in cycles, and we are presently on an upswing.

Kate Baker (known for her podcasts at Clarkesworld Magazine, writing under Kathryn E. Baker) was in the audience, and she was shyly waving at me until I suddenly realized who she was.  She did a wonderful podcast of my story “The History Within Us” and also has her first published story in Sybil’s Garage No. 7.  I ran over and hugged her, which I realized immediately following might have been a little too forward considering we had only met for the first time.  I hope she forgives my exuberance.

At the Meet the Prose party I chatted with a lot of lovely people, including Mary Rodgers, whom I met in New York a few weeks back, and I got to taste a Brooklyn Stout from Scott H. Andrews, who had smuggled in a growler into the hall.

I had a nice conversation with Jacob Weisman and Bernie Goodman from Tachyon Publications about Jewish-themed fiction (I’m writing a novel partly based on Jewish myths).  And they also gave me excellent publishing advice.  By the time everyone moved toward the bar, it was 1 a.m., and they were closing.  Exhausted, I ducked off to my bedroom.

Saturday, I was free of panels, and so attended things sparsely.  But I did attend Alaya Dawn Johnson’s reading from her novel Moonshine.  I also attended Part II of the future of SF magazines and also found the panelists to be forward-thinking and positive.  The general consensus was that the short fiction future is a good one.

I attended the Rhysling Awards (two poems from Sybil’s Garage No. 6 were nominated in the short-form category).  We didn’t win, but I heard several fabulous poems, especially a sung one from Amal El-Mohtar.  I offered to record a classical guitar accompaniment to it, which she seemed excited about.

All of this felt like a prelude to Saturday night.  We had been planning to throw a room party for a while, and the intention was to tell a few people, but not the entire con.  After all, it was a small room, and we didn’t reserve a suite or a room on the party floor.  Well, the word got out.  We knew this when a gentleman showed up first to the party whom no one knew.  “Where did you hear of this party?” we asked him.  He named another person no one in the room had told.  That’s when we knew things might get…crowded.

The lovely Kristin Janz bartended, making specialty cocktails such as Aviations and Margaritas.  The room quickly got hot and loud and sometimes raucous, but I punctuated the noise with readings from the new issue of Sybil’s Garage No. 7.  Kathryn E. Baker, Tom Croshill, E.C. Myers, and Amal El-Mohtar all got up on the bed and read at various points in the night.  And all were grand.  More than one person told me these readings were the best they’d heard at the con.  At one point even Peter Straub showed up to our party, but when I somewhat awkwardly re-introduced myself to him and praised his latest novel, he told me he was going to “mingle on” and left the party.  Oh, well.

I popped in to a party Mike Allen threw upstairs, and there was treated to a fabulous performance of theatrical poetry (I unfortunately don’t recall the name of the woman he read with, but she [edit, thanks Amal!] Claire Cooney was great too.)  It is so wonderful to be surrounded by creative people.  At times like these, there are no other places I’d rather be.

At around 4:30 a.m. the last stragglers left the party.  But I could not sleep, and so wandered down into the lobby to hang with Liz Gorinsky and Benjamin Rosenbaum.  At one point the hotel called security on her because Ben had stacked pillow cushions upon her.  I kid you not.

The sun was coming up.  I had another day and another panel to attend.  And so at some point I wandered off to bed.  I think it was 6 a.m.

Three hours later, miraculously, I was up.  The shower, which the night before was full of beer, had one remaining.  Not bad, I thought.  I made it in time to see the metaphysical hard SF panel, which was highly entertaining if not a bit over my head a times.  Mr. Ben Rosenbaum, you are super smart, but can you slow down sometimes to let us non PhDs grasp an inkling of what you are saying?  I’m tongue in cheek of course.  I thought Ben and the other panelists were fabulous.  I can sometimes forget how many smart people come to ReaderCon.  It’s staggering.

I hosted a Sybil’s Garage kaffeeklatsch, of which the lovely JoSelle Vanderhooft attended, and we spoke in depth about where to take Sybil’s Garage and Senses Five Press.  Mercurio D. Rivera and Devin Poore, editors of Sybil’s Garage, sat in on the conversation.

There was also more mingling.  And carnivorous plants.  Oh, and I sold nineteen copies of Sybil’s Garage No. 7.  A good omen, or I should say is a sibylline signal of future sales.

Some other highlights, not necessarily in any order:

  • Talking with Sean Wallace of Prime Books about anthologies
  • Finding out I share a TOC with Neil Gaiman, Michael Chabon and Peter Beagle (The People of the Book, Prime Books, Dec 2010)
  • Finding out Gordon Van Gelder and I are distant cousins
  • Seeing Kelly Link for literally ten seconds
  • Swimming in the pool in the rain
  • Going out for Korean BBQ and finding out all of the NY people were already dining there
  • Hanging out with Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi of Chi Zine Press
  • Talking e-books with Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld Magazine
  • Seeing Blake Charlton transformed into The Last Cakebender (see photos)
  • Jeremy Lassen suggesting dirigibles are the new vampires

The surreality of the opening hours evaporated away by the end of the weekend.  The conference had most definitely become real.  The wave function collapsed.  Now I’m left with the typical post-con blues, missing the conversations and the stimulation.  But I’m also rejuvenated by the weekend, brimming with creative energy, and I’m looking forward to starting several new projects soon.

Thanks to all who attended for a great weekend.  And thanks to the organizers for putting this convention together.  You can see some of my photos here.