Let's do a quick recap before I need to put the experience away and concentrate on getting a novel finished.
The trip out started with a bang. The airporter shuttle from Belingham to Seatac airport, which we always take on such occasions, is usually punctual enough to set a watch by - but this time they were late, and then later, and then we found out that an eighteen-wheeler had overturned on the I-5 on the way from their previous stop and that made them nearly 40 minutes late in coming to pick US up. They compensated and by missing at least one of their major stops (they sent a substitute shuttle for that) they managed to get us to the airport only a superhuman six minutes later than we were supposed to be there.
And then we discovered that our plane was late. Thunderstorms in Chicago, they said.
And late. And late. And then later. We kept on being told it was all due to thunderstorms in CHicago, but we wound up sitting next to someone who was closely related to an airline employee who was in the know, and who told us that it was all pretty window dressing and the real reason we were so late was that VP Dick Cheney flew out of O'Hare that afternoon leaving chaos and confusion in his wake. So there. Now you know.
We left four and a half hours later than we should have, and arrived at O'Hare about twenty minutes after our connecting flight to Madison was due to leave - but THAT was late, too, and left only at 11:30 PM, so by the time we finally got to Madison it was past midnight, we had to take a cab to the hotel because the airport shuttle stopped running at 11:30, and by the time we registered and hauled our stuff up to the Governor's Level (the elevators needed some figuring out, it was the first time we had stayed up there and the card system was just TOO MUCH at this point) and managed to collapse into bed it was rather closer to 2 AM.
And then some previous dweeb who had occupied our room had obviously decided that a 6 AM wake-up call was required, and that was when he set the alarm for on the bedside clock, and *didn't cancel it*. So off it went at the appointed hour and I said "Whuh? Whuh? Whaaaa....?" and tried to hit every button on the thing to make this pesky piercing thing shut UP, and it did... only to go off again 20 minutes later...aaargh.
ANYWAY. It was Friday morning, and it was Wiscon, and who needed sleep anyway? So we went and grabbed a bite in teh Governor's CLub level lounge, and then wandered down, got registered, and started squealing at people.
We might have gone to an early panel, but didn't, in the end, and the first event was the 1 PM reading with Caroline Stevermer and lrcutter - one of the members of the audience was aenodia, so we were amongst "family" right away. We gave away copies of our books at the conclusion of our readings, which worked well - note to self, audiences LIKE it when they get to win things... I read a bit from the new YA novel, and the reactions were gratifying (they laughed when they needed to and all that). Then the rest of Friday swept by in a blur; I had my hair plaited up into a neat crown at the Gathering, by Wiscon's resident hair wizard whose name I am ashamed I cannot remember but who was a saint, plaiting patiently until every last long- and not-so-long-haired person in his line had got their hair done. HOURS of it. I admire his stamina, as well as his devotion. I wanted to get suzych to read my cards, but her line was twice as long as Braid-man's, and anyway I had to go get rdeck and we went and had dinner in the hotel restaurant - pricey but they do great things with chevre cheese. Afterwards, we went to a couple of parties on the sixth floor - Wiscon 30 Universal Anniversary Cheesecake party was merciless in providing four or five different kinds of cheesecake, in copious quantities, which was REALLY NOT FAIR, and the Broad Universe party spread was made very very special by the serendipitous nclusion of quince jelly in the offerings, something I hadn't had since my grandmother made the stuff when I was a kid. So I cried, a little. But they were good tears.
Saturday began with the mob breakfast. A couple of non-Wiscon-attending people had driven for several hours to be able to be with us, and I am absolutely in awe of their being willing to get up at some ungodly hour and spend half their day driving - there and back - for maybe an hour and a half's worth of chatter. People present included annafdd, carl_allery, llygoden, Aahz, Patricia Wrede, Suzanne Blom, and various other people who blur right now but whom I will remember as soon as I download the picture I took of the table. Tables, I should say, since we kept on adding them to accomodate people. rdeck started out next to me but the rapidly expanding table put kept on inserting people between us until he was at the head of the table and I was still somewhere in the middle...
Then I had my first panel, on chick lit and chick flicks, with John Szalzi as the lone male in a tableful of wimmin and he acquitted himself admirably. It was a good panel but like MOST panels on topics that begin to expand and have unexpected ramifications we discovered a lot of the latter too late to deal with them in an adequate manner... and there we left it. Maybe it's chick lit, take two, next year at Wiscon.
The next unmissable thing was the Tool Punk reading by a set of Clarion grads who had all written stories on what was originally entitled "Tool Porn" before the phrase was, er, santized a little for the program. The stories showed just how much you can do with unexpected themes, and one of the absolute highlights was listening to carl_allery reading her toolbox-with-loose-drawers story in this rollicking nooyawk accent which was so utterly foreign to the way she usually speaks that I just sat there grinning all the way through (the story, by the way, was great as and of itself, accent or no. I didn't know you could DO this with toolboxes). Then we went down to the readings stream reserved for the returning Guests of Honor and listened to Ursula le Guin and Eleanor Aranson read from their work.
I caught up with various other folks during the day - batwrangler, oursin, dendrophilous, ktempest, hilarymoonmurph, Louise Marley, Matt Ruff and Lisa Gold, the good folks from the Dreamhaven bookstore, coffeem (and I finally told her off for the "cows with guns" earworm...), marykaykare, other people too numerous to mention. That's part of the whole con thing - there's this panel you absolutely HAVE to see, and then you spend it sitting in the bar chatting with someone else entirely and you know, it was just as good...)
Then we took a break to brace ourselves for the Tiptree Auction.
klages was stellar, as usual, keeping the crowd in stitches... after she ousted a chicken-suited usurper who threatened to take over her crown as the Auction Queen. We didn't stay until the end, and therefore missed, apparently, the spectacle of this year's Tiptree winner Geoff Ryman being chased hotly around the room by the auctioneer and Mary Doria Russell... whose pink bra, it would seem, Mr Ryman was wearing at the time. On his, er, rear end. I'm really sorry I missed this. But hey, compromises, compromises...
Then I went to the Haiku earring party (write a haiky in exhange for a pair of earrings - like I NEED another pair of earrings, but hey, what the heck...) and looked in on Sharyn November's Firebird party, and we crashed. Late. Again.
Did I mention that I was astonished that it was already Saturday night? Imagine my further astonishment when I discovered that Sunday flashed by without even pausing for breath. My first panel was the "Introduction to the Ecology of Joy" panel, a topic so abstruse that the panelists wound up meeting the day before to gaze at one another expectantly in order to find out if anyone ELSE had any ideas about what we were supposed to be talking about. The panel itself was altered at the eleventh hour by the addition of two other panelists, an academic type who kind of had a LOT to say and wound up talking rather more than the original panelists put together and the fellow who ran the "Ecology of Joy" website, who had not actually proposed the panel in question (or so he said, anyway) but who gave us a spiel on what it was that we were SUPPOSED to be talking about. The panel turned out to be in interesting if wordy one and I didn't get to talk a lot which (being gabby) I always kind of stew over - but the true treasure I took away from the panel in question was a new friend, a co-panelist sitting in a quietly elegant way next to me, who was billied on the official program as Katherine but whose name tag read "Katya" and I wondered about that for a while until I caught an inkling of a Slavic background - and after that we were off and running, arranging to meet for coffee the next day to exhange potted life histories and discuss the world, the universe and everything while exchanging LJ URLs (Hi, ksp24!)I WISH so many interesting people didn't live all the way on the other coast. I would love the chance to be able to chat with people like ksp24 on at least a semi-regular face-to-face basis.
I then spent about 2 hours volunteering at the Broad Universe table (service announcement: Join This Organization! They are fabulous people and they have wonderful ideas!) where they were selling members' books, including my own. I sold all the "jin shei" books I'd brought, both hardcover and paperback, which, um, probably paid for one night at the Concourse...
The next panel we went to was the immortal "Make SHit Up" - and when you get a panel with both klages and jaylake on it at the same time you KNOW you're in for a good time. WHich was had, in spades. However, an unexpected highlight of that particular panel was Nicola Griffith who sent us off with a haunting passage she had scribbled down during her own inspirational scribble periods, and which, for a throwaway piece of a paragraph, was so powerful that I still get actual physical goosebumps when I remember the sentence, "And still it rained, until the world was stone and bone and famine." That gives me shivers, it does. Nicola expressed doubts that anyone would ever buy a book by her (the current project) which was in excess of 700 pages. ALl I can say is, on the strength of that one sentence, *I* would. Without a hesitation.
More parties, including the LJ party hosted in part by holyoutlaw and his new bride. Lots of faces were put a name to, including the fabled matociquala who accreted such a knot of people in the corridor outside the LJ party that everyone had to segue away into the next room in order to allow people to actually pass in that corridor. Too many things going on at the same time as usual, so although I caught a glimpse of another room where Patrick Nielsen Hayden was plying his guitar and I would have loved to stay and listen, I merely passed by like a ship in the night and went on my way.
Monday, we had breakfast with dendrophilous and llygoden - and then I went off to have my coffee with ksp24 and rdeck gatecrashed the "Mid Career Writers" panel which you were only supposed to attend if you had been publishing actively and consistently for at least 4 years. Ursula Le Guin kindly made room for him in the circle - so while I was gabbing away in the coffeeshop next door, my other half was being fed at the founts of wisdom about the current state of publishing and what - if anything - the mid-list author can do about bolstering their position in it. I was actually sorry to miss it, but - hey - cons - new friends - you can't go to EVERY panel, and technically I DID send a representative. Then I came back to the Sign Out event, where I lost a pen I really liked (if anyone has come across a cloisonne-wannabe enamelled red and gold pen depicting a chinese dragon type thing, I'd love it back!) and shared a table with Lois McMaster Bujold, something which is always good for a fledgling's ego. You know, the situation where people actually *form an honest-to-goodness line*, and turn up carrying five books in their eager little hands, and the expressions on their faces can only be described as glowing as they tell the writer to whom they have just come to genuflect that they'd been reading his or her work for years and "own everything you've written!". On the other hand, I did have a very nice lady who had bought one of my hardcovers from teh Broad Universe table come in to have it signed, and who told me that she had been looking for that book in hardcover for a year... baby steps. There's always a sun on the distant horizon in whose warmth you can bask by proxy - at least we were all in the same ROOM as Ursula Le Guin whose own signing line stretched across the length of a good-sized ballroom.
Then I went to take part in a panel to which I had been a late addition - and it turned out that only ONE of the original panelists, catvalente, was actually present - two of us had been later additions and catvalente herself had brought an extra panelist - none other than my new friend ksp24, who made the mistake of asking who was moderating this panel.
"You are", I shot back almost before she had finished speaking.
"Welcome to the panel on Heroine Addiction"," she said without a pause, steepling her fingers and turning to face the audience - of which, considering the timing of the panel, there was a substantial number. The panel was a lviely one with LOTS of audience participation, and has almost led me to believe that I will NEVER read that pristine copy of "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell" whcih I have sitting on my shelf. I have now heard... too many things about that book. But that's a different post.
I went to the post-mortem panel, discussion how WIscon 30 had gone, and there was almost universal praise. This did not surprise me. Wiscon really IS the best con, ever. ANywhere.
ANyway, straight after that I picked up rdeck and we wandered up to the Dead Cow Party which was not yet, um, dead enough - there weren't any people there to speak of, but we did run into dendrophilous, annafdd and llygoden... who had a copy of papersky's storytelling game cards, so we and another Wisconite unknown to me sat down and spun this improbable tale of two sisters, a Dark Lord, black unicorns, rats who turned into dragons, elves who turned into asses, a Strange Device called an iPod, and a sentient, talkative, and rather smelly cheese. We spent the afternoon rather pleasantly in shrieks of laughter, and I now want my own copy of this game, really badly. Following its conclusion, several of us went meandring down to the bar to grab something to eat, and wound up sitting gabbing about writing, Star Trek, thespians in Xena (you had to be there), the merits of voice recognition software and other topics for literally *hours*.
Tuesday, we had breakfast with carl_allery and did some strategic planning for 2007, and then we caught an early shuttle to the airport hoping to perhaps get on an earlier flight to Chicago. We got put on standby and made an eaerlier flight - but not before making contact with two other Wiscon goers waiting for the same plane, who grabbed a pair of signed bookplates from me and swore they were off to buy a copy of "Jin shei" at their earliest convenience, and discovering that, fittingly for the time and place, we were to be flown away from Wiscon by a woman pilot. We made Chicago only to discover that our 5:15 flight to Seattle had been delayed to 5:55... and then to 6:47... and then we finally made the runway... and then we were 15th in line for departure... and just as we were second in line and about to go we were grounded by the sudden and vicious descent of a thunderstorm cell which kept us sitting on the tarmac with engines idling for almost another hour... and we wound up leaving O'Hare pretty much four hours, at least, after our scheduled departure time. That meant we missed the airporter shutle which would have brought us home at 11:30, and instead took the last shuttle for the night, which left SEATAC at 11:30, which meant we got to Bellingham at 2 AM - and just to bookend the entire experience, we had to wait while an I-5 accident (this time involving two (or more) cars, with at least one body on the road either dead or seriously hurt) was cleared in front of us before we were allowed to edge past. By the time we got home I had just enough juice to hug the cats and then I was out like a light.
That was the Wiscon that was. I didn't talk about so many other things, like the wonderful guest of honor speeches by Jane Yolen and Kate Wilhelm or the truly classy thing that the winner of the Carl Brandon Society's new "Kindred" Award did - but this has been long enough as it is. I might just add, however, that I already have both my membership and a reserved hotel room for Wiscon 31.
See you all next year!