Late last night I got home from Worldcon in Chicago. I had a lot of fun but I must say I've very glad to be home. I only had a few days between returning from my trip to Alaska and leaving for Chicago (at 4am on Friday, incidentally), so I don't plan to go anywhere for many months if I can avoid it.
I kept a travel journal, of course, but it rambles more than the Alaska journal and descends into cranky mode a bit too often for me to want to post the whole thing. I'll just post some excerpts, mostly about the panels I attended (but not all panels since I didn't made notes for some of them). I really really really love the panels at cons. That's why I go. I was planning to meet up with a few online friends who attended, but I don't have a smartphone and OF COURSE the super expensive Hyatt didn't have free wifi, so I couldn't get in touch with them.
Anyway, here's what I did this weekend. I know it's long but I swear I cut a lot of what I wrote.
Friday, August 31, 2012 8:50 am
I'm at my first panel. I wanted to attend "Writing Gender Roles in SF" but I can't find the room--or rather, I found the room and no one is in it. So I think I'm in the panel "Creating Plots," but the posted schedule is still showing Thursday night's panels, so who knows where I am? Way to go, Chicon!
Compared to DragonCon, Chicon is lightly attended and terribly mundane. Then again, it's 9am. Also, at breakfast I sat at the next table over from a SF writer whose name escapes me--and it will drive me crazy until I can get home and check my bookshelves [Allen Steele, I believe]--talking to a younger writer about his career. It was pretty interesting to overhear, and I couldn't avoid eavesdropping.
The last panel, about plotting, was pretty good although not really useful in my case. They talked about outlining and pacing mostly. There was one woman who said she hated writing short stories and as a result always outlined them although she didn't always outline her novels. I wonder if that would work for me. I too hate writing short stories....
Friday, August 31, 2012 11:45 am
The Violence in Fantasy panel was excellent, and I'm following it up with the "Female Villains" panel. The violence panel was all men--including two authors I've read and liked [Scott Lynch and Douglas Hulick], which is always a plus--so I hope to get a more female perspective on similar issues in this one. It looks like the panel members are fairly evenly split male/female, although they're not all here yet.
Note to self: buy David Boop's book. He's the only one on this panel who's trying to keep on topic and respond to the moderator's topics, and he's getting dumped on. Why would anyone agree to be on a Female Villains panel and then refuse to address the difference between male and female characters? I'm on the verge of leaving the panel out of boredom.
The panel picked up, but not by a whole lot. The panel members hardly referenced any book at all, just movies and TV shows, even when an audience member asked specifically about well-written villains. And Gene Wolfe hardly got a chance to speak until the very end, when an audience member asked him a question directly. His reply was measured and intelligent, so I wish the panel had stayed on topic so he could have said more.
Friday, August 31, 2012 7:15 pm
Wow, am I slowing down. I've been up since 4am. After this next panel on YA books translated to film, I'm heading back to my room. I can take a bath and read my ghost book, then go to bed. There are a lot of panels tomorrow that I want to attend....
I just had a wonderful thought. The first panels start at 9am tomorrow, which is 10am my time. So I can sleep as late as I like and I won't miss them, because I couldn't sleep until 10am unless I was terribly ill.
Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012 8:15 am
Hey, it's September!
I slept until 6:45, which isn't bad. The YA books into movies panel last night was excellent, a small, relaxed group, a good moderator, and clever, interesting panelists. Since it was the last panel in that room we ran right up until 9pm.
I went to a nearby bagel place for breakfast and now I'm sitting outside the hotel. It's overcast and feels like rain. I wanted fresh air, but there's nowhere to sit except the 'smoker's garden,' so the air is nasty. I guess I'll go in and find a stretch of hallway to perch in while I wait [for the 9am panels].
I ended up going to the Men Writing Women panel, which had four male writers and one female librarian/academic on the panel. The discussion strayed pretty widely instead of focusing on, you know, men writing women characters. The men were very careful [to not say anything that could be perceived as sexist], which I think hampered their spontaneity. Of course, they were right to be so careful since the woman panelist got very sharp with a guy who made a comment (and an entirely appropriate and correct one) but used the word "femininity." She demanded he explain what he meant by that, and suggested he meant sexually available. My God, can we not have one single conversation on gender where someone doesn't derail over semantics? And you'd think she would know better. She acted like she was teaching a class, not participating on a panel.
Anyway, I'm following up with what should be a fun panel, The Art of the Cover Pose. Since Jim C. Hines is on the panel I hope it covers (ha) the unrealistic female poses that he spoofed on his blog a few months ago.
Jim C. Hines and a lightsaber, demonstrating a particularly difficult cover pose. Hines also won his first Hugo at Worldcon this year.
Saturday, September 1, 2012 11:40 am
The covers panel was a lot of fun, especially the first part where Jim Hines did cover poses. Now I'm at a panel on worldbuilding. It should be good. I have no idea who's on the panel, but even if it's awful at least it's in a room with windows.
I was waiting for the worldbuilding panel to start when I heard one of the panelists talking to a guy who'd asked him a question. His response was so ponderous and condescending that I started to worry about whether I'd enjoy the panel at all. Then I realized hey, this isn't a class. It's not required. So I left.
I went down to the dealer's room and looked around. I hadn't gone far when I found the Angry Robot booth, and recognized Wes Chu from his online icon pic (which is sort of creepy, but it's not like we aren't in the same little writing support group). I said hi, but he obviously didn't have a clue who I was, and probably couldn't hear me over all the noise. My voice gets really soft when I'm nervous. I asked if Laura Lam was there, thinking OMG, at least she'll know who I am, I betaed her book, but Wes said she wasn't around but might be by in another hour.
After that I went to find somewhere to eat. For a while I just walked, looking for a decent-looking restaurant. I went down a staircase in the middle of the sidewalk and found myself on a street beneath the street, which was cool, and right in front of me was the Billy Goat Bar and Grill. I wouldn't have gone in because it looked like such a tourist trap, but it was fantastically busy so I thought it might actually be good food. Well, it turned out to be cash only and the food was bland. It tasted like cafeteria hamburgers. I didn't even finish my burger.
Saturday, September 1, 2012 4:30 pm
I meant to catch up but took a while to find an ATM so now the Writing Realistic Women panel is starting.
Stop talking about your own books.
It feels like I've attended this same panel over and over. They all reinvent the wheel. Yes, let's start with the realization that all people are people regardless of gender, and writing a rounded character no matter the gender is the important thing. Now let's discuss specifics. Or not. Let's go get pizza instead.
Also, if you only reference your own books in a panel, I start to assume that you haven't ever read any other books.
[After lunch] I had an hour to kill and tried to find a quiet corner where I could rest and read or write. Then I realized that duh, I have a room in this hotel. So I went up to my room and got some rest and quiet time. Like a toddler, I get cranky when I'm tired. Then just before 3pm I came back down to attend a panel. It was just a group of five prestigious authors telling funny anecdotes about previous conventions, mostly from the 1950s through 1970s. It was the fandom version of listening to aunts and uncles tell funny family stories. It was packed and everyone was laughing like crazy.
After that I felt much better, but unfortunately I came to this panel, which is endless. Now they are talking about men vs. women and they are not even discussing writing anymore. At least that means they're no longer talking about their own books. The only panelist who is trying to keep it on track is the self-published author, who isn't even the moderator.
Saturday, September 1, 2012 8:00 pm
The [minorities in SF] panel was very good and I have several new books I want to find now. It was almost 7:30 when it was over and I was starving, so I decided to blow off the 7:30 panels after all and went to find somewhere to eat.
It's a cool, blowy evening and every restaurant I found was packed. I wanted pizza, but the only pizza place I saw had a wait of an hour and a half just to get in. Finally, out of desperation I came back to the hotel and am in their uber-expensive restaurant. I am embarrassed to say how much I'm paying for a sirloin and a salad. I almost ordered the lamb, but it would have almost cost as much as my water bill this month. [Note to the worried: filling the tank of my car also costs almost as much as my water bill. So it's not all that much money.]
[rant about the terrible service in the restaurant mercifully snipped] Grouchy cat is grouchy. Oh, damn, I meant to stop by the bar to see if any of my writing group are there. Never mind. I'm way too tired and not in a good mood. Besides, I walked down to Fannie May Candies after eating and got an assortment of extremely expensive chocolates, which I will proceed to enjoy in the bath.
[I forgot to include this in the journal, but right before I stepped into the bath I heard booming outside, and when I looked out the window I could just see the reflection of fireworks on a nearby building. I pulled on some clothes and went to watch fireworks over the lake from a window at the end of the hotel hallway, then when it was done I came back in and took my bath. It was a nice little surreal interlude.]
Sunday, September 2, 2012 8:40 am
I got breakfast at the bagel place, and had to fight to get online. [My laptop does not play well with others.] I finally got online via Starbucks wifi, of all places. But by then it was getting late so I only stayed long enough to check my email (nothing) and Twitter, where I found that Laura had tweeted me ten hours ago asking where I was. You know, the next con I go to, I am not staying in a hotel that doesn't have free wifi. [Or maybe I should get a smartphone, huh?]
I'm at a panel for Perseverance, for authors like me who can't see success in the foreseeable future. They didn't put it that way but that's what it is.
Sunday, September 2, 2012 10:25 am
The perseverance panel turned out to be excellent! The moderator kept it on track and the responses were brisk and interesting. It made me feel good about where I am right now instead of worse. I really appreciated that the panelists assumed the audience members weren't all raw beginners. They treated us professionally, which right away made me feel better.
Now I've checked out of the hotel and I'm at the "Committing Series" panel. One of the panelists is giving out cookies, and I have candy left over from last night. I'm set.
The series panel was pretty good, although whether I actually learned anything I hadn't already discovered by trial and error I don't know. Now I'm at a "Medical Myths and Errors" panel, which is in a room with actual tables. This is awesome because I can lean on a table instead of fidgeting around trying to get comfortable....
Of course, the last panel was in a big room with windows, so I spent most of the panel staring out at the trees tossing in the rainy wind and two crows who kept flapping around the courtyard. Maybe that's why I didn't get much out of the panel.
Sunday, September 2, 2012 1:20 pm
The last panel was interesting and I've decided to charge right into the next and skip lunch. This one's about modern pseudoscience and should be very good. It's in another room with windows and I'm glad to see the sun's trying to come out.
So, that last panel. My God, where to start? It would have been brilliant with any other moderator. A yeti would have made a better moderator; he could just grunt and point. He would not play devil's advocate so strenuously that he comes across as an obstructionist crackpot, he would not derail the topic, he would not interrupt the panelists, and he would not overtake the conversation with his own views. I only stayed because the panelists were well worth listening to, even if they didn't get much of a chance to talk. And they were all unfailingly polite to the moderator no matter how hysterical and off the wall she got.
And thus endeth Worldcon for me.