Random Notes From World Fantasy Con

1)  My reading at World Fantasy went much better than I’d expected.  I read to a pretty good-sized crowd – as witness this photo I took a couple of minutes before I started (even more people showed up after this):

My World Fantasy Reading

I gave a pretty emotional performance of “‘Run,’ Bakri Says,” which is in itself a pretty intense story.  I got what seemed like a really long wave of applause afterwards, so long that I had to thank people three times before it stopped, and afterwards Gini said that someone told her that she had to keep remembering to breathe.

I mean, pretty much everyone who showed up knew me on some level, which is the way it works when you’re starting your career, but I think that reading converted a couple of folks from friends into fans, which is nice.

The best part, however, was when Keffy took me aside after the performance and said, “I hope you realize how much I hate you in this moment.”  Keffy and I are Clarion-brothers, and intensely loving-competitive, and we a) do everything we can to help each other out, and b) seethe with envy over the other’s talents.  His hatred was the sign I’d written a good story.

2)  Speaking of Clarion, we had a rather monstrous reunion of my 2008 class, with thirteen of the eighteen students converging on San Diego, and two teachers.  Of course I didn’t get nearly enough time catching up with everybody, but that would require another six weeks.

Still, I did room with my Clarion-sister Dana, who I miss more than Internet-hearts can say, and had a luxuriously long dinner with my teacher Nalo Hopkinson, who has a YA book coming out that you all really ought to read.

My favorite Clarion moment was, however, courtesy of Neil Gaiman, who we didn’t expect to see much at World Fantasy, him being the guest of honor and all.  And we didn’t, really.  But at around 11 o’clock on Saturday night, he ran into me and Emily Jiang and said, “This has been crazy, but I do want to catch up with all of you – can we get together tomorrow morning for breakfast?”  And we said yes, and set a time and a place.

He took half a step away, then paused.  “You’ll tell the others, won’t you?”

Now, the thing you need to understand was that at Clarion, we were a hive-mind.  Tell one student, “We’re going to the beach tonight” and the information transparently disseminated throughout the group so that within an hour, everyone understood.  There was no explicit mechanism that made this happen; we were just all committed to getting the word out.  It was something teachers got actively used to, telling Monica there was a 4:00 lecture and having it just get around.

Neil’s pause was that moment of, “Oh, wait, perhaps I shouldn’t assume that telling Emily and Ferrett will automatically inform everyone else.”  But no.  As it turns out, I texted everyone who I had their number, who alerted the people they were partying with, and Emily did her social butterfly thing, and an hour later every Clarion 2008 member knew about tomorrow’s get-together.

Three years later, we’re still networked.  Go 2008.

3)  Yes, I also met Amanda Palmer briefly.  No, I doubt she’d remember me.  Yes, she’s actually much prettier in real life.

4)  Gini was also there, which made Clarion feel more complete.

See, my Clarionmates obviously heard a lot about Gini, because I do tend to go on about my awesome wife… but they’ve never met her.  And I realized at World Fantasy Con that to a very real extent, you can’t know me all the way unless you’ve met Gini.

So having them meet Gini was a relief to me, a sense of closure.  And it was delightful when many of them came up to me afterwards and said, “She really is that awesome.”  Damn straight.  But it feels like they’re fully engaged with me now, which is a little odd.

Unfortunately, that sense of completeness made the con a little harder for Gini.  Normally, I try to shepherd Gini through new places, but I kept seeing her talking with people who I knew liked me, and went, “Oh, well, if they like me, they’ll like Gini” and would wander off as I talked to other people.  All the while forgetting that a) Gini had just met these people and felt the low strain of making new friends, and b) forgetting that if I wandered off, Gini might have to wander around and make even newer friends once this current conversation ended.

Fortunately, Gini is charming and vivacious and swanned quite nicely through the con, but around midnight on Saturday I realized that hey, maybe I shouldn’t have this assumption of me === her.  Silly weasels.

5)  I got a secret beer at World Fantasy, because I’d had a story published at the fantasy fiction podcast PodCastle.  The beer?

In addition, I apparently got name-checked on a panel for that story as an example of “sympathetic monsters done right.”  Apparently people like monsters who unashamedly eat humans.

6)  I finished my next-to-final draft of my novel while at World Fantasy, because I’m a tireless git who writes for at least an hour a day, even at conventions.  Next up: send to trusted beta readers, get do final draft and 10% Solutionize, and start seeing if 2012 can become The Year I Sell A Novel.

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