"What are words for?
When no one listens,
there's no use talking at all."
-- Missing Persons
July 9th through July 11th
It's been a while since I've thought about going to a con that I wasn't actively involved in. I went to MileHiCon last October, and something made me decide to try Readercon this year. Maybe it was something Pygment had said, maybe it was because I knew I would want something to unwind with after the insanity of Anthrocon, maybe I expected it to be more writer-oriented than reader-oriented, I don't know. Whatever the reason, I had the vacation time, I was going to be in Boston, so I was going to do it.
The hotel was gorgeous. I was actually kind of envious of the space inside and wished that we could manage to get a hotel like this one when we switch hotels for Anthrocon again. There are more meeting rooms than the Hilton had, the ball room is huge and has high enough ceilings to accommodate either the Art Show or the Masquerade (without any of the fur suiters worrying about the chandeliers).
Jonah dropped Boo and I off Friday afternoon and got directions to the T, just in case he wasn't going to be back in time to pick us up on Sunday. Boo and I checked in, then went up to the hotel room and dropped our stuff off. Jonah took off and we made arrangements to get back in touch after we knew what was going on for the rest of the weekend.
I actually went to panels. It was a novel concept after running around like a headless chicken at Anthrocon the weekend before.
Friday saw me at five panels and the Meet the Pros(e) Party/Harlan Ellison's "Those I honor, Those I Despise" talk. The panels were entertaining at times, enlightening at others, and idea provoking at still others. I went and sat in on You're Mad as Hell, What do I Do?, where the panelists talked about anger in their writing and anger as a result of the finished product (people who just don't get it caused the most frustration, it seemed). Then came Robot Lib where the panelists talked about the treatment of robots in science fiction. I think I came away with some ideas to work on the few science fiction pieces I've got based on that panel. After that, I switched back to the first room and listened to panelists talk about Slipstream and the SF Community where the consensus was that "slipstream" doesn't really mean anything as a label for fiction. I spent the rest of the evening in that section of the ballroom and listened to Is Hollywood Getting a Clue? (nope, not really) and Misfit and Outcast Literature. Afterwards, Boo and I chatted back up in the room, then down in the con suite where I ran into Paul. The three of us trekked downstairs to the Meet the Pros(e) Party and chatted for a while. Then I listened to some of Harlan's talk before I crawled back upstairs and went to bed.
Saturday, I skipped out on some of the panels that I thought about going to. I started with The Autobiographical Voice, then bailed to run across the street and get lunch from D'angello's (yet another sub sammich). When I got back, I sat through The City as Character (complete with gestalt sucking panel members), Must Art be Difficult? (for the writer, yes ... for the reader, no), and The Short-Short Story (where I thought the stories were too long to be short-shorts ... I guess OwlHaven's spoiled me for short-shorts over 300 words). I'd been planning on going down for the conversation between Ellison and Datlow, but my brain shut down. Boo and I walked over to Bertuchi's and had dinner and chatted instead. When we got back, we watched some trash TV, then wandered back downstairs for Harlan Ellison's Strangling Cats and Other Happy Pastimes which was followed by The Best of the Kirk Poland Memorial Bad Prose Competition. After the Kirk Poland competition, I was in pain. The panelists came up with endings to bad (terrible, horrible) snips of prose that the host had pulled from published fiction. One ending of a passage that had been a painful list of adjectives (somebody was fond of their thesarus) contained "Kosher for Passover". I hadn't laughed that hard in a long time.
Sunday, Boo bailed to go down to Newport with Jonah. I sat through more panels: Fantasy Without World-Building, Just Say "Wow!": Drugs and SF, Ask Unca' Harlan (which was sort of unintentional because the room had initially been scheduled for Why I Love/Hate Science Fiction), and How We Would Have Edited Differently. I also sat through the debriefing to offer up my suggestion that they pick a hotel that's closer to more places to eat.
I met some of the Rumormillers over the course of the convention, too: Mark Rapacioli (saw him as I was looking around right as You're Mad As Hell, What Do I Do? started, chatted with him off and on over the course of the con ... he didn't seem to be wearing any of Hmm's clothes *grin*), Paul Pence (ran into him in the con suite before Meet the Pros(e) and chatted with him off and on ... told him I'd give his novel a read-through and critique), and Mary (who Paul introduced me to and whose last name I can't remember!). In spite of impressions developed by what I may or may not have said online, I'm not little and waifish, even though I'm a perkyswinggoth(tm). *grin*
Some impressions of the folks I saw on panels:
Harlan Ellison was a kick in the head. I laughed so hard almost every time he opened his mouth. I heard a lot of mumbling from people about him, and some not-quite-mumbling from people about him, and some complaints about the number of times his panels ran over. I can see why he offends some people, but at this point, I'm almost of the opinion that anyone who takes him too seriously, deserves to.
Gordon Van Gelder... I don't know what I was expecting after the rejection letters from him, but my first thought was, "He looks way too young."
Scott Edleman ... Again, not sure what I was expecting, but he was taller than I thought he'd be. And perhaps goofier than I expect editors to be. I certainly didn't expect to see him stick one of the "I have no mouth and I must scream" mouse pads into his pants so he could open his fly and flash people with the mouse pad. I think that broke my head Sunday afternoon while I was sitting down, relaxing, waiting for the 1 P.M. panels to let out.
Paul Riddell ... His name sounded familiar, but I couldn't remember why. Damned if I know whether I've read anything he's written. He started the con with hair down past his shoulders (dyed what looked to be hibiscus) and ended it shaved bald. He was adorable, entertaining, and a kick-in-the-head-in-training.
And now that the facts and impressions of people are out of the way, here come my reactions, thoughts, fears, hopes, etc. ... If you're not into self-indulgent angst bullshit, now's a good time to stop reading.
I found out a few things while I was at Readercon. The most apparent thing was that I'm clueless about schmoozing. I know nothing about what to say to professional authors or editors. I don't know how to approach one and not look like a complete moron. I know what I could have said, what I could have done, but if I had, I probably would've lost any chance I might ever have had to establish some sort of rapport with them later when I wasn't so clueless and new at this.
I spent a lot of time at the con frustrated... frustrated that there weren't more 'how to' panels, frustrated that the panels seemed more oriented toward fans, reading fans, than toward writing fans, or aspiring writers. I'm hungry to learn more, to find out more, to figure out where I'm going wrong and why I'm going wrong, and to discover how to fix those problems. I spent a lot of time wishing I was on the other side of the stage, wishing I could somehow have lived up to the expectations a friend of mine had for me based on what she's seen of my writing (that I'd have my three pro sales by the end of this year). I spent a lot of time angry with myself that I hadn't met that expectation with my brain constantly asking, "How hard can it be, anyway?" I know how hard it can be. I know how frustrating and painful and foolish it is to want to be a writer, to want professional recognition for my fiction. I knew before I started trying. I spent part of the con swearing at myself, and frustrated that I couldn't say, "I should've known better" because I did know better.
While Readercon was fun, I guess it was also disheartening, disillusioning. I wanted to say, "Hi, Gordon, I'm Stacey Wenkel. I just wanted to meet you after sending my fiction your way for the past year. And I wanted to say, 'Thanks for the quick responses.'" I didn't. I couldn't. I couldn't bring myself to walk up to him and say it because I didn't want to make a fool out of myself, because I didn't want to hear, "Yeah, and?" or something like that. I didn't want to look naive, innocent, starry-eyed, hopeful, stupid, etc.
In spite of everything, I guess was hoping for something, anything, that would me a break. Some sort of magical "in" that would lift me out of frustration, disgust, nervousness and trepidation and into something bigger, something better, something professional. I'd hoped I might find that at Readercon. In that, I was mistaken and disappointed... foolishly so for hoping I might find it there in the first place.
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