Whirrled-Con 2008

It’s an amazing feeling. You know, that feeling you get when you discover a new author. You put down the brilliant novel you’ve just finished, completely enraptured, and you hope this person has a ton of backlist that you can go straight to the nearest B&N and fill your shopping cart with. You can’t get enough of them. You’re obsessed. And it feels GOOD.

I get that feeling too. I fall in love with authors and wonder why on earth I didn’t know about them before. Only, I do it in person.

Sure, I had heard of John Scalzi and David Louis Edelman. I’ve got all their books. Haven’t read a word. (This is a hazard of my profession I’ve come to accept.) Doselle Young‘s name I didn’t recognize, despite having been the DC Comics buyer for five years. In the space of an hour (a dinner with Young and Edelman; a reading with Scalzi), I had three enormous crushes. What can I say? There’s just something about talented artists. Tell me I’m beautiful and make me laugh, and I’m yours forever.

I’m in the middle of Zoë’s Tale right now and loving it. I’m going to hunt down my copy of Infoquake just as soon as I finish. Books have become more than just books for me anymore; they’re visiting with dear friends whom I miss tremendously and wish to know better.

Conventions are like that too — even an exhausting five days is not enough to see all of your best friends and give them each the time and attention they deserve. Thankfully, years of attending Dragon*Con have prepared me to be overwhelmed, and not be disappointed that I can’t do EVERYTHING. Each day I chose two or three people to hunt down. I ran into Sean Williams while Eddie and I were checking into the hotel, did a quick Australian time zone calculation, and immediately sent him off to bed. I didn’t see George Mann, Christian Dunn, or Mark Newton until Thursday morning, by which time everyone knew them as “Lee’s Brits.” On Friday, I managed to snag one quick picture with Sharon Shinn, and one gignormous hug from Jeff Carlson. I also squeezed in an all-too-brief appearance at the Codex Writers breakfast to put faces with names I had known for so long. Saturday, we crashed the Baen party long enough to blow kisses at Toni Weisskopf.

The other fun thing at cons is running into friends you’ve known for years…over and over again in a crowd of thousands. It only reinforces that cosmic sense that fate would have thrown us together anyway, had we not figured it out ourselves. So I didn’t mind finding myself constantly haunted by David Coe, Stephen Segal, Ken Scholes, Diana Rowland, Matt Rotundo, Eric James Stone, and Jay Lake. I did, however, mind the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad blisters I acquired Friday morning.

Friday was just One of Those Days. The blisters were a bad way to start it out. Yes, I’ve done enough cons to know better than trying to break in cute new shoes, and if they hadn’t been a brand I’ve never had a problem with (RocketDogs) I would never have attempted it. I signed a few books at the Codex breeze-by and crashed David Coe’s breakfast with his editor Jim Frenkel, but by the time I made it back to the dealer’s room, the skin had already rubbed off one foot and my lunch date got cancelled. I missed running into both Jeff and Sharon at their Kaffeklatches while I went back to the hotel to change my shoes, which made me mad. Eddie and I bought lunch for Mary Robinette Kowal, but had to shuffle her off to a signing without actually spending any time with her. I was in pain and overtired, which only made it worse. Mary had explained why we weren’t sleeping well at the higher altitude, but knowing didn’t make it easier.

The masquerade was a treat, and the Pyr party and the smelly Tor party and the Weird Tales party and every other party Nick Mamatas dragged me to were fun, and I met tons of great people, and I wore the cute dress and different cute shoes, but every step reminded me how stupid and tired I was. I kept telling myself that it was only one day, that it’s only ever one day every time one of Those Days happens, and that tomorrow is always better. Always. Every time. Without fail. This was no exception.

Only, the Saturday of WorldCon was one of those amazingly wonderfully perfect days that I wish I could put in a bottle and treasure forever. Despite the excruciating pain I slept, actual SLEEP, and after a fortifying breakfast, I hobbled to the CVS to buy flip flops and band-aids. Afterwards, I skipped down the streets of the pedestrian mall, giddy with rest and the ability to walk again.

And what with one thing or another, the Hugos happened. I met up with the Codex crew (a.k.a. The Mary Robinette Kowal Cheering Section) and we set up a deathmatch between Jeremy Lewis’s rat and Lawrence Schoen’s buffalito. We took pictures of Mary and Ken entering the theatre, Mary more radiant in her gold dress than the Columbia Pictures lady. We fidgeted patiently through the pre-Hugo awards, and the lovely memorial presentation (tough when faced with just how many Greats passed on last year), and finally it was time for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer. We sat on the edges of our seats when Jay Lake sauntered on stage. I’m sure Jay said something poignant and funny, but the blood was too loud in my ears. And I know, I KNOW Mary had up until that point forbidden anything that might jinx her chances, but I quietly, subtly, crossed my fingers anyway.

When Jay read her name out loud, the crowd went wild. We flew to our feet. I welled up with tears and screamed like a banshee; Lawrence and Matt started a “MA-RY! MA-RY!” chant. But I heard other voices beyond ours, other people in that crowd who loved Mary just as much as we did. David Coe put it best later: it was just so refreshing to see someone new, someone good, someone who deserved such an award actually get it. Apparently, it’s a rarer event than one might think.

Not that I don’t think any of the other nominees didn’t deserve the Award as well: Joe Abercrombie, Jon Armstrong, David Anthony Durham, Scott Lynch, and my new best friend David Louis Edelman are all fine, upstanding gentlemen. But seeing Mary up there, MY Mary, OUR Mary…it was like watching my sister win an Academy Award. My heart still fills to bursting when I think about her in that tiara.

After the Hugos, I found myself in a packed elevator and managed to catch the eye of Sean Williams, who, you’ll remember, I saw for five seconds when checking into the hotel and then NEVER SAW AGAIN for three days. Conventions are like that. I had only two more minutes to catch up with him between the lift and the door to his party, and that was it. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t see him again, and I was kind of depressed about that. But I had Nick, and my Brits, and Jetse de Vries, who bought me a nifty raspberry drink at the Hyatt bar.

And when the Aussies wandered into the lobby and made an enclave with the Magical Words brigade, my boys didn’t mind when I ditched them. Leave it to David Coe to come unwittingly to my rescue…and to offer me one of his precious Tim Tams to boot. There was much laughing and origami and pink drinks (apparently I need to place my order with an Australian next time I’m at a bar, because Jonathan Strahan knew EXACTLY what Sean was talking about when he asked for a “pink drink”, and I only ever receive blank stares with that one). I thankfully remembered to take out my camera at that point — check out my website or Facebook for pictures (that I posted a lot more promptly than this con report).

When the bar closed a bunch of us walked to a diner and kept on going. It was the last night, and we all just didn’t want it to end. I’m not sure how many times I ended up hugging Sean that night — when two people live 16-and-a-half time zones away from one another, no number is too much. I cuddled back onto the broken couch with George and Mark (decked out in his Abercrombie finery). “Everything okay?” Nick asked me. Oh, yes, I smiled. Everything was just fine. It was a lovely convention.

Now, somehow, I need to find a way to get to Montreal next year…