Con-Folk Cometh

Mercurio and his Seaplane!I boarded a seaplane at Lake Union this morning and flew over the panoramic San Juan Islands, an archipelago of hundreds of islets, in my ongoing quest to experience–after the fact–a setting I’d already written about in a short story. When I arrived on the lush island of Orcas, I chartered a sailboat, as in my story, captained by a knowledgeable local Orcasian who pointed out the dolphins, otters and other sea life we encountered as we cruised the San Juan Channel. The gloriously sunny day seemed un-“Pacific Northwest” to me, except for the slight chill in the air. What struck me most during this day of sailing—and this was something that I failed to capture in my story–was the intense quiet, the sense of peacefulness that permeated the air. Otherwise, I must say that I think my fictionalized conception of the islands—if one tosses in a pinch of global warming and a dash of chemical contamination—wasn’t too much off the mark.

Lake UnionI’m growing more excited as Cascadia Con approaches. The hotel parking lot is now crammed with the cars of arriving attendees, Federation officials and other dignitaries. The hotel isn’t the only place where I’ve run across Con-folk. While visiting Pike Place Market and other tourist spots I was able to accurately identify several people as Con attendees—and spoke with them to confirm the fact. I’ve found there to be something, ahem, unique about the appearance of Con-folk—and I’m not talking about the glint in their eyes or their genre-related T-shirts. No, I’m talking about the heavy-set, bearded look. What’s that about? And why has it just now occurred to me as I sit here writing this blog, clad in my Star Wars T-shirt, that I’m borderline bearded and heavy-set…. Hmm. Hold on while I spellcheck “epiphany.”

On another topic, I plan to visit the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in the next couple of days. Frommer’s Seattle 2005 notes as follows: “[T]his place is an absolute must for devoted fans of one of literature’s least respected yet best loved genres.” Thanks, Frommer’s. I really needed to read that. Heck, at least sci-fi is loved.

In Search of an Essence

Today’s blog is written by my friend and fellow writer, Mercurio D. Rivera (aka Evil David) who is currently in Seattle for Cascadia Con – Matt

Northwest PassagesAlthough the Cascadia Con begins on Thursday, September 1, I decided to come to Seattle a few days early to try to get a real flavor for the Pacific Northwest. The short story that I sold to Northwest Passages: A Cascadian Odyssey, an anthology debuting at the Con this Friday, is set both in Oregon and the San Juan Islands off of Seattle—both places which I must confess I’ve never been to before. In fact, I’m a bit embarrassed to say that even though the anthology has been described as containing stories that “truly evoke the essence of the Pacific Northwest,” I’ve never visited this region of the country before. The “essence” that I evoked was more the product of what I imagined the Pacific Northwest felt like, aided, of course, by Internet research.

Ride the DucksWhen I originally wrote “Rewind Replay,” the story that appears in the anthology, the setting was off the coast of Kusadasi, Turkey, a place I’d visited with some friends a few years earlier. We’d chartered a sailboat that took us across the Aegean and, at one point, the captain stopped the ship and let us swim in the impossibly azure waters. I found the vistas so gorgeous, the experience so moving, that I resolved to tell a story about characters who felt the same way I felt at that moment. I’d like to think that it’s that experience that rings truest in the story, even though I ultimately decided to shift the setting from the Aegean to the Pacific Northwest.

And what about setting stories in places we’ve never been to before? Is this legit? Should we only write about specific places we’ve visited? Nah. At least I don’t think so. Writers use their imaginations and research skills all the time to write about unfamiliar settings. I recall that a few years ago Terry Bisson wrote a terrific sci-fi short story, titled “Charlie’s Angels” set in New Orleans. When a former student commented on the vividness of his setting, he said, “Really? That’s great, since I’ve never been there before.”

I guess I’ll have a better sense tomorrow of whether I did in fact succeed in evoking “the essence” of a place I never visited before. Yes, tomorrow I’m planning to sail off the San Juan Islands.

In the meantime, I’ve spent the last couple of days doing the typical “tourist-y” Seattle activities such as: soaking in Pike’s Place Market and the Waterfront; attending a Mariners-Yankees game; and taking the fascinating historical “Underground Tour” of Seattle’s subterranean city blocks buried in the 1800’s. (Did you know that 80% of Seattle’s economy in the late 1890’s was funded by a special “sewing tax” imposed on their “seamstresses of the night”?). Tonight I had dinner at the revolving restaurant atop the Space Needle where I took the following photo, which provides an eerie view of the cloud-enshrouded city.

Rainy Seattle

More on the San Juan Islands and the Cascadia Con to follow. Thanks for giving me a forum to report on these activities, Matt.

PS: So far, I’ve observed one notable difference between East Coast and West Coast Cons. As you can see from the atached photo, in Seattle, they don’t Ride the Naugy. Instead, they Ride the Duckie (see photo above).