Like last year, I generally enjoyed ReaderCon a great deal. It's that rarest of beasts (in my opinion): a convention that's actually good for writers. I was very heavily booked, but didn't really mind. I prefer not to have a lot of "downtime" at something like this. Anyway, I suppose I should mention what were, for me, the highlights, and do the overview, recap sort of thing. I should say, my great thanks to Geoffrey Goodwin (readingthedark), who very kindly helped Spooky keep track of me, and was generally good company.
Friday: We got to the con hotel, a Marriott in Burlington (Mass.), sometime between 2:30 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. And despite what their website promised, there were no PS3s in the rooms, rather like how last year they promised free internet that turned out not to be free. Sooner or later, someone has to call them on this shit. They speak lies that sucker in geeks, and create unrealistic expectations. Anyway, my first panel, at 4 p.m., was the reading for Ellen Datlow's forthcoming Lovecraft Unbound (Oct. '09). I read from "Houses Under the Sea," as was very pleased to meet, and hear, Michael Cisco. It's going to be a fine book, but then Ellen's always are. Next up, I had the solo presentation for A is for Alien, which was very well attended, and that's about the best you can ever ask for. Then I had a panel, "Reality and Dream in Fiction," which wasn't so bad, though I suspect the subject was rather too broad for an hour-long discussion. I spoke about my "dreamsickness" and my pathological inability to know that I'm dreaming while I'm dreaming. After the panel, I had another solo presentation, "You Never Can Tell What Goes on Down Below: Reading Dr. Seuss as Weird Fiction." It came off better than I'd expected, at least the first half hour. Thereafter, though I'd been asked to read the entirety of The Lorax, and had agreed to do so, the whole thing was hijacked by a number of annoying people in the audience who wanted to argue the political correctness and sociological implications of children's books that were neither "weird" nor authored by Dr. Seuss. Before that, though, it went rather well, and I also read from Lewis Carroll and James Reeves. No dinner on Friday night, because there wasn't time. I did have a short break, and then managed to see Greer Gilman's (nineweaving) wonderful reading from Cloud and Ashes (Small Beer Press), which opened with a genuinely amazing performance by Sonya (sovay), who exquisitely set the mood for Greer's prose with a ballad. And after the reading, there was the ReaderCon 20 Grand Ceremony, and the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, and then the annual "Meet the Pros(e)" thingy. I hid in a corner with Peter Straub, whom I'd not seen in ages. Getting to spend time with Peter (and his wife, Susie) was definitely one of the very best aspects of the con. And later still, because I lacked the good sense to go to bed, several of us retired to a vacant meeting room and talked until 2 a.m. or so (me, Spooky, Geoffrey, Michael Cisco, Sonya, Eric Van, and a few others whose names have been lost to me). I got to bed about 2:30 a.m., I think.
Saturday: The day started off with my signing, at noon in the dealers' room. Many books were scarred by my hand, some of which I'd not looked at in years. Then I had an hour free before the first of two rather unfortunate panels, starting with "Is Fiction Inherently Evil." The whole affair was predicated on a highly dubious pronouncement made by French ne'er-do-well Simone Weil, that (deep breath) fiction is inherently evil because it portrays good as dull, glamorizes the wicked, and fails to point out the supposed banality of evil. I sort of disqualified myself from the whole discussion right off, by noting that I don't actually recognize the division between good and evil in any traditional sense, and by asking if we were really supposed to see Grima Wormtongue as being more glamorous than Aragorn or Galadriel. I think Peter had the most cogent comments on the panel, though Michael Bishop and James Morrow added good bits, as well. And after that, I didn't even have to leave my chair, because the equally questionable "Is Darwinism Too Good for SF?" took place in the same salon. The premise was, simply, that it has been suggested that Darwinism has proven such a successful theory that it has left sf writers with very little room to wax fantastic. I started off by pointing out that all of biology is based on a single data point (Earth), and, therefore, no matter how well we might presently understand life on Earth, we may understand very little about life as a cosmic phenomenon. The panelists all had scientific credentials, and we quickly concluded that there was plenty of "wiggle room" in SF for nonDarwinian (not antiDarwinian) stories of evolution. My favorite moment was when Anil Menon was asked (by Stephen Popkes) if India has seen the sort of resistance to Darwinism we see in America, and he said no, there'd been no friction to speak of, no creationism in the school systems, and so forth. After the panel, we were corralled for a truly grand and delicious dinner at a nearby Szechuan restaurant. Too many dishes and tastes and flavours to even try to recount here. But we made it back in time for the "Kirk Poland Memorial Bad Prose Competition Tournament of Champions," which has forever etched the phrase "she cupped him where he was soft" into my brainmeats. Later, those of us who'd gathered late the night before reconvened and talked until sometime after two. Oh, we were interrupted by some very rude harpy of a woman wearing two cameras, who noted that we were, collectively, wearing a lot of black, and so felt compelled to ask, "Isn't goth getting old?" I almost smacked her with my cane. Geoffrey almost asked, "Like you?" But we were all somewhat too stunned and polite to do much of anything. That was Saturday.
Sunday: I had only a single bit of programming, so it was an easy day. After we checked out of the room, Spooky and I prowled about the dealers' room, where I was very good and bought only a single book. At 2 p.m., after saying my goodbyes to Peter and Susie, I had my reading. All of Chapter Four of The Red Tree was read, and my thanks to everyone who stuck around and missed part (or all?) of the closing ceremonies while I went so far over the one-hour time slot to get it all read. We left the hotel sometime about 4 p.m., and made it back to Providence just before five, I think. Before dinner.
Also, it was good to meet Chris and Meg, as I'd only met them previously in Second Life.
And yes, I will likely be back next year, and no, I will not be at Necon (I never said I would). And yes, I did wear masks almost the entire convention, and will likely do so next year. In fact, I may do so at all future public appearances. Friday's Cthulhu mask (and the Kambriel dress) was the most popular. Alas, there are no photos from Friday of that outfit (to my knowledge); some might turn up online somewhere. Oh, by the way, my masks were crafted by E. L. Downey; they were gifts to Spooky and me in May 2005. Also, my grateful thanks to everyone who took part in the recent eBay auctions that made it possible for me to attend the con.
And now, the photographs (behind the cut):
Saturday. Peter and me on that dreaded panel on whether or not fiction is inherently evil. Peter is the cute one.
More of the same. Left to right: Michael Bishop, Gene Wolfe, James Morrow, Peter Straub, me.
On the way home, a self portrait.
Okay. Yeah. That wasn't quick. Or even particularly dirty.