Whew. Got that off my chest. Took us best part of forty minutes (and a fare of $40) to cab it from the Orange County airport to the Anaheim Hilton. And when we walked into that cavernous hall that calls itself a lobby and remembered that we'd arranged to meet someone neither of us had ever met before for dinner on Thursday "in the Hilton lobby", I turned to rdeck and said, "You gotta be kidding me." I had visions of us and our dinner partner chasing each other's tails around the "lobby" most of the night without EVER catching sight of one another at all. Be that as it may, I did manage to catch sight of someone I knew less than ten minutes after walking into the lobby area...
They gave us a room on the party floor. I distinctly said I didn't want to be on the party floor, but that's where they put us. And right next to the emergency stairs, too - you know the kind, made out of metal in echoing concrete stairwells...? Well, right next to THAT. I supposed I could have said something but rdeck is laid back about things like that. "Let go," he said, "we'll survive." But more about that, later...
We went down to get some dinner, and met up with batwrangler and bigblued and had an impromptu party where much laughter ensued. I'd sailed off to the Convention Centre to get both oru registrations not too long before, and it was at this dinner that we discovered that rdeck's badge had simply... wiped itself away. ALready he only had his first name on it (much quoting of Galaxy Quest and "What's my last name?!?" and threats to get him a red shirt at the first opportunity) but even that had managed to blur itself into a fading trace of black smudge so we had to go back to the CC after dinner to rectify that and get him reinstated. A couple of other people had the same problem, I noticed, later - one of their printers must have been a bad inkjet or something because stuff just WOuld Not Stay Printed... That was Tuesday, really. Just the official stuff. We did sit in (part of) the foyer, later, mapping out our convention - which is when other people I knew drifted past and said hi, and I learned things like that Joe Straczynski of B5 fame had begged off from coming which made me pout because I had every intention of going to his panel and going all fan-girl on him. During the mapping out process I learned that I would have time to breathe at this con, but only barely. Practically every hour of every day was accounted for, and the convention hadn't even properly STARTED yet. I also put in some Christmas shopping. My nieces are getting a ton of Disney stuff. Straight from the gates of Disneyland. Yeah!!!
Wednesday, and I started by hitting the ground running. I did my shift at the Broad Universe table early in the afternoon, but at this point people were still only just starting to get into the Dealers' room (which was FULL of excessively neat stuff!) and nobody was in a buying mood yet. But I talked us up to passing strangers, and although I didn't sell any actual books from the table (mine or anyone's) I had a good time. And I went straight from there to the first of my Wednesday panels.
The title was "Fantasy doesn't have to be about kings and wizards" which was moderated by marykaykare in the absence of the scheduled moderator, Darrell Schweitzer, who was at this time apparently still somewhere in the air and not even in ANAHEIM never mind at the con. (There's something to be said for scheduling people before they actually arrrive - I mean, I know it's supposed to be science fiction and all but the last I heard Scotty's transporter technology hadn't been perfected in this century yet...) It was a good panel, with our "token fan" as the moderator and myself, Sean Williams (an Australian author whom I knew via the Net but had never met before) and the added panelist of Madeleine Robins - lively discussion ensued with some neat audience participation. I then had another panel straight after that one, "Fantasy - how can it be good?". This one was a humdinger. norilana and I turned up on time but our mderator, Elizabeth Gilligan, had still not shown up by the time the panel was due to start so we started without her. Sometime in the middle of a REALLY interesting discussion Ms Gilligan turned up, a little late, and joined right in. This panel had the best ending of any panel I've ever been on, EVER - right at the time we were supposed to wrap it up, the sound of the Pink Panther theme was heard from Elizabeth Gilligan's scooter (Tah-dum, tah-dum, tahdumtahdumtahdum, tah dum tah DAAAAAA, tah-tah-tah-dum!) Everyone snapped around to stare, and Elizabeth said in a faintly embarassed voice, "Oh! That's my husband..."
We tried the con suite, after that, in the hope of getting something to eat with a price tag of less than the $30 which seemed to be the minimum required for any sort of decent meal downstairs in the hotel restaurants, but it was... disappointing, Maybe we WERE there at the wrong time, or something, but not only was there no food other than a large bowl of popocorn, some raisins, and an assortment of candies and crisps but I couldn't see any evidence of there ever havign been or potentially being any. We left quickly in search of more sustenance, and were given emergency rations in the ASFA suite consisting of a pair of chicken sandwiches which we gratefully devoured. Then we were invited to the writers' workshop party that night, and it seemed that this was where all the food had gone to hide. It was a room, not a suite, and it was packed to the rafters with people like Larry Niven Jay Lake, Robert Sawyer and the like - and there was FOOOOOOOOD. GOod stuff, too. I had two plates balanced in my hand, and could not really maneuver with them because they were on the flimsy side - so I stood there gratefully and patiently while Larry Niven spooned Waldorf Salad onto my plates for me. Good party, good food, good company, my thanks for the writers workshop people for the invite (as it WAS invitation only...)
I hit one or two parties, after, and got a sticker for "Australia in 2010" from the party supporting the Australian bid. I hope they get it. I'd love to have the excuse to visit Australia...
On, to Thursday.
Busiest day of the con, for me - THREE panels, and I spent an hour at the SFWA table in between. The first panel was another good one - "Crossign genres", with Keith DeCandido (who I know has a LJ but I don't know his handle), Nancy Holder, and John Maddox Roberts. Lively discussion on genre, what it is, who invented it, whom it serves, and how to circumvent its more straitjacketty restrictions followed. Here's a qusetion for all of you reading this - leaving aside all aspects of "where the heck do I SHELVE this thing?!?" - how do YOU feel about books that seem to embrace more than one genre? I got the distinct feeling that there would be more than enough readers out there willing to experiment in this way. Which is pretty cool, really, given that my own work has been described as "mainstream fantasy" (don't throw anything at me, I wasn't the one who said that...)
The second panel was "What is Evil?" and I think that this was by far my best panel of the con (I kind of sat down and yelped, "Eek! I'm MODERATING this one!" - but after that first speedbump things went swimmingly, people asked some GREAT questions, and panelists Fiona Avery, P C Hodgell, Stephen Leigh and Brandon Sanderson stepped up to the mark to field them with elegance, finesse, and erudition. It was fun that two of the panelists (Fiona and Brandon) bore the names of two, well, shall we call them antagonists which were cited as being the audience's "Favourite" such characters in the known literature... One word which kept on coming up was "choice", and I concluded the panel by telling the audience this, and then saying, "Go thou forth, then, and choose wisely". It was a cracker of a panel, full of great insight and wonderful ideas, and I will probably blog on teh subject all by itself at some future point.
Then we went off to a John Scalzi reading, which was ENORMOUS fun, and all I'm going to say is when his new novel comes out, buy the sucker. You'll be laughing out loud before you get past the first SENTENCE.
rdeck felt like a little rest, afterwards, so I schlepped back to the convention centre by myself for my last panel of the day - "Good endings". It reunited three of the Evil panelists, Brandon, Fiona and myself, and added Kay Kenyon and John Kessel - and it was another great panel, ably moderated by Brandon (who generously gave us all time at the end of the panel to tell the audience where to go buy our books - which is what I call a Very Good Ending... [grin])
Then we went and sat around in the lobby and played cellphone tag with our dinner companion, a lady who used to own the "change of hobbit" bookstore and whom hubby knew from online for a long while. We went to the more expensive restaurant in the hotel for that one (to be greeted by the sight of Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle in full fig including black bow ties and very nice they looked too and BOY did I suddenly feel shabby and underdressed...) We had a delicious (if extraodinarily expensive) meal, good company and conversation was had, and then we parted company and rdeck and I went back to the convention hall for the ASFA Chesley Awards reception. I saw the original Targete oil painting for teh cover of "The Hidden Queen" hanging there - it was a Chesley finalist, but didn't win - with an eye-watering price tag of $10,000.00. I permitted myself a small wibble at that one... We also managed to catch up with Voyager MB's "Mopsy" and Australian artist Shane Parker, who did the Aussie cover for one of my Changer books (this, too, was hanging in teh Art Show, and we obtained permission for a photo op with the artist and the author of the book whose cover this was to stand proudly next to the painting with one of the Art SHow staff hovering nearby to ensure no funny coyrightviolating business was being perpetrated. While we were still there a small kid made a fascinated beeline for "my" particular painting, calling out "Dinosaurs!" and then, when corrected, "Camels! Camels" It was precious stuff... and it was great to finally meet the artist, especially since I have a LARGE print of the self-same painting hanging on my study wall. It's one of my favourite covers.
And we began to have a taste of what being on a party floor really meant. More about that in the next post...