July 12th, 2006

Readercon Report

As promised, here is my Readercon Report (be warned that I'm too lazy/busy to provide links, and be further warned that this post is unreasonably long).

First of all, the convention kicked ass. Probably the best one I've ever been to. Barring the unforseen, I'm certainly going back next year. Now to the details.

I was part of a group that piled into a van with driver, Gordon Van Gelder, editor of F&SF Magazine. The van would be leaving from Hoboken Station in NJ, which meant I had to take the PATH train from NYC to get there. So I'm on the PATH, half-asleep (had to get up at 5:55 a.m.), when I glance to my left and stare in surprise. On the same train as me, in the very same car is none other than the supremely talented Rick Bowes, a very accomplished author. Rick is part of my critique group, and he was also part of the group that would be filling up the van. With Rick was Chris Barzak, another talented writer whose stories have appeared in several magazines, including Realms of Fantasy. It was the first time I've met Chris, and he turned out to be a genuinely good guy.

So I'm on the subway, and already the con is unofficially starting. Once we reached Hoboken, we met up with Gordon Van Gelder, his assistant editor, John Joseph Adams (aka JJA, aka the Slush God), and the last member of our motley crew, Konrad, a Polish scholar & translator, who is visiting NYC for the summer. As JJA notes in his blog, it felt like a con driving up, because we were discussing the genre almost nonstop. But hey, what do you expect? Pack six geeks into a confined area and geeking out shall follow.

Along the way we made a stop in Connecticut at the house of writer Kit Reed, and her husband, Joe. This, I was told, was part of the yearly tradition in the drive up to Readercon (it was my first Readercon doncha you know). Kit & Joe proved themselves excellent hosts & excellent cooks, and after a very entertaining lunch, it was on to Readercon.

We arrived at around 4 p.m. First thing, we took care of checking in and registration. During this time I ran into Carl Frederick, an old Odyssey Workshop classmate of mine, whom I have stayed in touch with since 2000. He was also one of my suitemates, and is an incedibly talented author, having recently made his 25th pro sale, all since 2003. Keep an eye out for his work. He'll be making further literary noise in years to come. Sharing the room with me and Carl (although I didn't meet him until I woke up on Saturday) was Shane Tourtellotte, a friend of Carl's, and a regular contributor to the pro sf magazine, Analog.

From here things will become somewhat blurry, because events at cons have a habit of blending into one giant haze, but I shall do my best to recount the highlights.

The thing about Readercon is, while there are certainly fans there, it is a small con that is very filled with pros, particularly writers, editors, reviewers, and sprinklings of other literary types in the business. If you're already a part of the industry, it's very hard to go ten feet without running into someone you know or know via internet channels. Literally. There was a point where JJA and I spent about an hour stopping to say hi to people before we reached our destination.

Anyway, after getting settled and talking with Carl for a bit (who was nice enough to introduce me to Barry Malzberg, and then Barry wondered what was up with his story at Realms--that was fun!), I wondered into the dealer's room and ran into JJA. JJA was already deeply enmeshed in coversation with the ravishing and immensely talented copy-editor, Deanna Hoak (best in the biz, or so rumor has it). He introduced me to her, and her very lively personality. He also introduced me to author David Louis Edelman, a rather entertaining and thoughtful fellow. I and my posse ran into these two again and again over the weekened, and spent a lot of time hanging out with them.

During this time, JJA also introduced me to writers Jeffrey Ford, John Scalzi, and Laird Barron, the last one a regular contributor to F&SF. (damn, JJA knows a lot of people!)

During the course of my wanderings, I also bumped into Theodora Goss, another talented classmate of mine from Odyssey (nominated this year for the World Fantasy Award--go Dora!), sf radio personality, Jim Freund, who made JJA & I promise to make an appearance on his show in August to talk about slush, and I also ran into most of the members of my critique group, either in the dealer room or later on in the weekend--Bill Shunn, Bob Howe, Barbara Krasnoff (sp?), and I think I caught a blurred glimpse of Lorraine Schwab (sp?) during the weekend too. We came out in force, baby!

I also ran into the incredibly talented Catherynne Valente, whose book with Bantam Spectra--THE ORPHAN'S TALES--is due out this October. I've known Cat almost a year now, first met her some months ago at Lunacon, and it was great catching up with her. Also met Yoon Ha Lee for the first time, an author that is part of the F&SF family, and another writer I knew only via internet correspondence and such. Quite friendly, and she made me laugh when told me "I'll break into RoF eventually." I don't doubt it.

At some point during this geeky chaos (and this was all what? The first two hours??!), David Barr Kirtley showed up, one of the regulars of our merry crew. Dave has appeared in a host of magazines and anthologies, including RoF. From here, things get blurry (I remember a boring panel that I sat in on), until around dinnertime, when JJA, Dave, Deanna, and I decided to grab some chow. Near the end of the meal, Amy Tibbets showed up, part of our regular con crew, and so the circle was complete (or as complete as possible--since Chris Cevasco was & is away at Clarion, and Andrea Kail wussed out). As to Amy, make sure you check out the next issue of Black Gate, to read her premiere story.

Anyway, we sat around at dinner, yakking away long after our meal was finished, and now let's fast forward to the "Meet the Pros" hour. Here I ran into a few more people I'd known only through email. First was Marie Brennan, author of DOPPLEGANGER & numerous short stories, and also Sandra MacDonald (sp?), a regular contributor to Realms of Fantasy. Both authors expressed their appreciation to me for the way I've been handling things at RoF since I took over as assistant editor. Others have offered similar sentiments via email from time to time, and I'd like to offer a public thank you to everyone for the kind words. I do the best I can at this job (I love it & the magazine and authors deserve nothing less), so it really means a lot to me.

At some point during the night I started hitting the bar, loading up on screwdrivers. While I didn't get plastered, I did get drunk for the first time at a con, which is almost a rite of passage. Fortunately, my drunkenness did not interfere with my memory. I had the pleasure of meeting Paul Tremblay during this time, the assistant editor at Fantasy Magazine. Really nice and thoughtful guy, and one of the most interesting parts of our conversation was when I learned that our two magazines receive about the same # of submissions each month.

Anyway, from here more screwdrivers & further introductions followed. I had the pleasure of finally meeting Joy Marchand & Will Mcintosh, two talented writers that before now I had only know through the Codex Forum. Another writer from Codex that I ran into was Mary Robinette Kowal, also a puppeteer and the art director for the speculative magazine Shimmer (check it out, why doncha). Mary and I had only briefly met in the past, so it was great actually talking to her at length.

So let's see. I recall more screwdrivers and running into Mercurio Rivera, part of Matt Kressel's group (Matt is the publisher and editor of the speculative magazine Sybil's Garage--check this one out too, why doncha). Mercurio recently had his story, "Longing For Langalana," published in Interzone, to some very positive acclaim. My first story will be coming out in the same magazine, so we gabbed for a while about the magazine, along with Joy & Will, who also have stories with this magazine, either out or forthcoming.

From here, we wandered over to a table. My hazy memory recalls myself, JJA, Mercurio, and later on Matt Kressel sitting there. At some point, while my defenses were low from drunkeness, JJA convinced me to rap for everyone. David Louis Edelman happened to walk by, and so he as well witnessed the spectacle. I also recall a mildly drunken rant about how pointless the "gentleman's bet" is. I believe it consisted of two English characters (I played both parts) named Graham & Arthur. Shortly after the rants and raps were finished, Liz Gorinsky from Tor wandered over to our table. Then the hotel staff took away my drink, and Mercurio's too. Some kind of rule about no more drinking after one. What garbage. Shortly after that I trudged off to sleep.

End of day 1.

Day 2.

Started off with a cup of coffee with Deana Hoak & David Louis Edelman. Deanna dished out all sorts of juicy industry dirt to us, none of which can be shared in public (alas), but it was still interesting to hear. From her it was on to the Codex breakfast, where I spent time with Joy Marchand, Will Mcintosh, Mary Robinette Kowal, Elaine Isaak (author of THE EUNUCH'S HEIR & its forthcoming seqel, both from EOS), one of Elaine's friends, and D.T. Friedman, a graduate of Orson Scott Card's Literary Boot Camp, and a recent arrival to Codex. Mary gave us candies she brought back from Iceland. I got a chocolate-covered licorice. I don't even like licorice, but this stuff was awesome.

Breakfast ended at around 11:00 a.m., which was tough on the old stomach, because at 12:00 p.m. I had to go to the Odyssey reunion lunch. After that lunch, I spent the rest of the weekend feeling full (and when I came home was shocked to discover that I had gained no weight!). Both Carl & Elaine were there, as was Dave Kirtley, along with graduates from various years, and many of the students from this summer's class, which is currently in progress.

But the best part was seeing Jeanne. Jeanne Cavelos is the director of Odyssey. She is an editor, a writer, and a teacher extraordinaire. I love her to death. She was the first pro in this industry to ever express confidence in my abilities. She taught me more than I ever imagined, and I can never express in the proper words what she has done for me. The last time I saw her was around four years ago. Back then I hadn't accomplished much, except for attending a few workshops, namely Odyssey & Orson Scott Card's Boot Camp. Since then I've landed the assistant editor gig at RoF and I've kind of excelled at it, I've become a web editor for the same magazine, I've had a review published in the magazine, Paradox, and I've had my first story accepted by the highly respected magazine of Interzone. There are a # of pros that I can thank for my success so far (Dan Simmons, Orson Scott Card, and Shawna McCarthy all come to mind), but it all started with Jeanne.

The first thing I did when I saw my beloved teacher was crush in a bearhug and lift her off her feet. I spent most of lunch talking to her, because Jeanne is the greatest. Period. However, before the Saturday in question, all my conversations with Jeanne had taken place as student to teacher, or unpublished writer to editor. Much of our conversation during lunch consisted of editor talking to editor, a new experience with Jeanne, and one that I will always treasure.

A few hours later Jeanne gave a presentation about Odyssey for the curious/potential students. Like many loyal Odysseans, I was in the audience to lend support. Afterward Jeanne took off, but not before I gave another bearhug that made her grunt in pain. I promise to be gentler next time, teach. ;)

I don't remember what I did next. Lots of hanging out and killing time. Somewhere during the day (or maybe Sunday?) I took in Matt Kressel's panel on starting a small press magazine, which was fascinating and the best panel I sat in at during the con. Dinner consisted of myself, David Barr Kirtley, JJA, Deanna Hoak, Amy Tibbets, Bill Shunn, author Michael Libling, and Catherine Morrison, a talented author whose work I've passed along to Shawna several times.

From dinner it was off to Deanna Hoak's birthday party, and her lovely birthday suit (to which, when I saw her in it, I told her I felt like it was my birthday).

At some point after this I attended Catherynne Valente's reading for her book I mentioned earlier (or did this happen Friday?) She has an amazing reading voice, and afterward I told her that while I was planning on reading her book anyway, her reading had bumped the book up to "priority read." Definitely check this one out, guys. She understands how to tell a fairy tale like few others can.

Then it was on to the Kirk Poland Bad Prose Competition. It's getting late and I want to finish this entry, so if you're curious what this is, check out the Slush God's con report on his blog. Anyway, this competition was funny, but way too long, so that by the end of it was more annoying than anything else. Afterward, although it would have been a better idea to go to sleep, I staggered to the bar and pounded down more scrwdrivers as I brainstormed about stories with fellow Codexians, Wil, Joy, and Mary. Then, finally, I called it a night.

End of day 2.

Day 3. Started out with breakfast, featuring me, JJA, Dave Kirtley, Amy Tibbetts, F&SF contributor John Langan, and a mysteriously absent Paul Tremblay. John T. proved himself a really funny and sociable guy, including his ribbing of Paul, who showed up as breakfast was winding down. Shortly after this I went my own way for a bit, then caught up with JJA, who was part of a circle featuring China Mieville. I'm sure China has already forgotten me, but it was still kind of fun to be standing in the same circle as him and John Scalzi. This was followed by a lot of aimless wandering, and various goodbyes to people leaving. Then Dave Kirtley suggested we play frisbee, which I hadn't done in years. So Dave, JJA, Amy, and myself went outside to do just this. Sadly, my skills had deteriortated, although I did make the best catches of anyone.

Following this we had a last lunch at the con, which featured myself, JJA, Amy Tibbetts, Dave Kirtley, Deanna Hoak, David Louis Edelman, John Scalzi, Liz Gorinsky and a friend of hers, and Kelly Link. From here it was back home, although this time we were two emptier in the van, as Chris Barzack & Rick Bowes didn't come with us for the return trip. Part of the Readercon tradition with Gordon's driving crew is also to stop at a certain book cafe on the way back. The highlight of that stop was when JJA offered me $10 to climb on top of a giant wooden moose. I accepted, of course (would've done it for $5), and JJA was all set to take a picture. Unfortunately the moose was fenced off, probably to keep destructive geeks like us from causing all hell. :) Instead I sat on a tiny wooden bench and looked scholarly while JJA took a picture. Visit the Slush God's blog to see pictures of the moose and scholarly Doug.

Somewhere on the way back, Konrad convinced me to let him record me rapping. God only knows what he's done with the recording since.

Eventually Gordon dropped me off in NYC, and it wasn't until today that I completely recovered. Cons are fun, but you don't sleep much, and after a while the caffeine stops helping. All worth it, though, and the next con (Philcon, I think), will be sorely pressed to top this one.

Later, my peoples.