Sasquan Final Recap, with Hugo

This was a day that will be remembered in WorldCon history.

Unlike the previous recaps, I’m not going to go too much into the details of the day.  I want to focus on the experience of attending the Hugos.  These recap entries have been my way of recording my experience of the event.  Leading up to the Hugos, much of the day was like the previous, in terms of getting up, getting fed, and attending panels.

I was signed up for the Kaffee Klatche with John Berlyne, the same man I spoke about in yesterday’s post.  I wound up not going.  For one thing, I’d just sat with him for one-on-one time.  I admire and respect him, but I don’t want to come across as some kind of stalker, following him everywhere around the con.  For another thing, since I’d just had that one-on-one time with him, it didn’t seem fair for me to take up a limited slot at his table.  Also, breakfast with friends that morning went a little bit late.  I could have excused myself from the table, but given my other concerns, I decided it was better to stay and visit with my friends.

Melissa and I attended panels.  I took notes.  I’ll post the notes once I’m back in Sacramento.

Skipping ahead…

Melissa and I returned to the convention center all dressed up and ready for the Hugos.  This year they issued tickets with assigned seating.  I greatly appreciated this.  At ChiCon 7, I had to stand in the back the whole time, my feet aching.  With assigned seating, I knew that we’d sit down, and it would be less hassle getting to our seats.  We might even be able to see more than just the monitor.

We knew that they’d begin handing out tickets at 6PM.  The doors would open at 7PM, and the event would start at 8PM.  Our plan was to get our tickets, stroll to one of the local restaurants, have a nice dinner, then be in our seats just before the big event.

Things mostly worked out as planned.  We got to the ticket line before 6, but it already stretched long.  Melissa and I walked to the back of the line, which snaked through several halls.  Once they began handing out tickets, the line moved relatively fast, putting us on the street with tickets in hand around 6:15.

We walked to our first choice of restaurants and found it full, with a twenty minute wait.  We went on to the next choice and found the same thing.  We looked at the menu of a third, and fled because the prices were exorbitant.  I began to think we would just have to starve until after the Hugos.

It makes sense.  Everyone had the same idea.  With over 5,000 warm bodies at the convention, and a limited number of restaurants within walking distance, it was inevitable that there would be some waiting.

Fortunately, we were able to get a seat at Chili’s, right across the street.  The wait was still ten to fifteen minutes, but with the place being so close, we weren’t afraid of being late if service was slow.  Plus, we were able to pay at the table, so we didn’t need to wait for a server when it was time to leave.

We ate a mediocre dinner, then hurried to the performing arts center.  Staff efficiently guided us to our seats.  We sat in the orchestra section, with a view of the stage that was more than acceptable.

Before the award ceremony began, George R. R. Martin, John Scalzi, and a few others were interviewed.  The interview took place in another room, with the video projected on the big screen.  I did not catch the entire thing.  They were talking about the controversy around the nominations, and what could be done in future years.  I appreciated Martin’s stance the most, which was that we shouldn’t throw out the system and make broad, sweeping changes based on one anomalous year.  What we should do instead is be more active in the nomination process.

I read the program.  I noted the section that went into great detail about the “No Award” option.  The No Award option had been used five times in the history of the Hugos.  I considered the prominent placement of this message in the program as a sign of what was to come.

Finally, the award ceremony began.  A grim reaper rolled onto the stage, moving towards a Hugo in the middle of the stage.  Three women in red Star Trek outfits rushed out to stop the specter.  One of them was grabbed and taken off stage by the grim reaper’s assistant.  Another of the women drew a blaster, shouted something, and drove the grim reaper off.

I didn’t catch all of the words that she’d shouted.  She’s said something along the lines of, “You’re not going to destroy the Hugos!  You’ve already taken Terry Pratchett!” The woman that did the shouting and drove off death was Tananarive Due, one of the ceremony’s co-hosts.

The joke about Terry Pratchett earned groans all around me.  The whole message from the beginning, that someone was trying to destroy the Hugos by attacking women and people of color, was not perfectly executed or received.  With that opening, I had my doubts about how the evening would go.  I was afraid that it was going to be a very negative show.

Fortunately, it didn’t keep going that direction.  David Gerrold and Tananarive Due ran the evening, and they were witty.  Mistakes were made.  Parts of the presentation were done out of order, and several videos started at the wrong time.  The show was not perfectly executed.  However, I found David’s fumbling with the script to be authentic and endearing.  No show is perfect, and I do not believe the flubs in the show diminished the quality of it.

Specific highlights for me involved Robert Silverberg blessing the ceremony with a story, and singing Hari Krishna.  He shook a tambourine and got the audience to sing with him.

Connie Willis took the stage and spoke as well.  She was endearing and funny.  After she’d made a statement about how she would not be a presenter, I thought her presence elevated the evening, and dulled the knife edge of the conspiracy surrounding the Hugos this year.

Jay Lake was posthumously presented an award.  I found myself tearing up.  I had only met him briefly, but he was such a sweet man.  The presentation touched us all.  I hope that there is an award named for Jay Lake.

The names of those we’ve lost this year scrolled by, with familiar names like Leonard Nimoy, Terry Pratchett, and Christopher Lee.  So many names this year.  David Gerrold nearly cried afterwards.  Another deeply touching moment during the ceremony.

Then it was time for the awards.  The John W. Campbell award went to Wesley Chu.  He accepted it, said that he wasn’t going to “go political” at first, then by the end, said, “You know what?  I am going political.” Then he declared his candidacy as a Republican nominee for the presidency.  Too funny!

The Hugo awards were next, starting with all the fan categories, and the semiprozine.  Elizabeth Leggett won best fan artist, and she made a very passionate speech that ended with “BlackLivesMatter.” The rest of the award winners stuck to thanking those that supported them.

The ceremony progressed.  I don’t remember the order.  I know that best related work was the first to receive “No Award,” only because I texted the result to Michael.

The evening started with five No Awards in the history of the Hugos.  It ended with ten.

With each one, the crowd cheered, loud and strong.  Melissa sat next to me, stunned.  She said, “That’s not right.” She hadn’t followed the controversy as closely as the rest of us.  I appreciate her perspective on this matter.

History was made last night.  Not just with the number of No Awards.  The winner for the best novel is the first time a translated work has taken home a rocket.  It puts the world in WorldCon.

After the awards, Melissa and I changed clothes and joined our friends at one of the bars.  We visited, then went to bed.

As I write this, it is a little after 2PM.  Melissa and I are going to attend the closing ceremonies, then probably wander around and eat before getting on a plane this evening.  Sasquan is effectively over for us, and we had a fantastic time.  We’re looking forward to WorldCon next year in Kansas City.

Before I close this post, I want to talk about the Hugos, one last time.

The ceremony attempted to put a positive spin on the situation, and I think it succeeded.  Leading up to Sasquan, people talked about there being an asterisk with these Hugos.  That concept was embraced, even celebrated, with the creation of a wooden asterisk constructed by robots with lasers.  The ceremony had its low points, but it also had humor and laughter.  It still celebrated fandom and the fiction that we love.

The future of the Hugos looks brighter after last night.  We will not be so complacent with our nominations.  The system may change in the future.  Or perhaps we’ll change.  Perhaps we’ll be more active, making it that much harder for any individual to mess with our celebration.

We fans will go on, and the Hugos will go on.  What’s past is done, and the future is whatever we decide to make it.

But there were victims this year, and I want to acknowledge them.  For every person that made something that would have qualified for recognition this year, but your work was overshadowed or supplanted by the slates, you will be known.  I don’t know the names of every person that falls into this category.  I just know that what happened this year was not fair to you, and I hope that you will continue your work and receive the recognition that you deserve.

Melissa and I sat in at Jennifer Brozek’s Kaffee Klatche this morning.  She composed herself well, and with dignity.  But it was clear that she was still hurt by how things went last night.  It was her first Hugo nomination, but because of the one that started this controversy, her category received No Award.

When Jennifer was about to sign a card for me, she asked if she should sign it “Hugo loser or Hugo nominee?” She said it with a smile, but like I said, it’s clear that this has been rough on her.

The truth is that Jennifer Brozek is one of the hardest working individuals in the business.  She manages her time, setting herself a scheduled that stretches nine months into the future.  She doesn’t miss her deadlines.  She’s managing multiple projects at the same time, both editing and writing.  She’s methodical.  She’s knowledgeable, and dedicated to her craft.  She rarely takes vacations.

These are not the qualities of a loser.  Quite the opposite.  I have complete confidence that this will not be the last time we see her up for a Hugo.

We owe it to her and everyone like her to be involved.  We need to nominate our favorite artists and editors, and we need to vote.  If we do these things, then people like Jennifer will get the kind of recognition that they’ve earned.


Sasquan Day 3 Recap

This was a day of high emotions.

Again, Melissa and I rose from our bed early.  We made our preparations for the day, then went downstairs to catch a shuttle to the convention center.  The smell of smoke was already in the air.

I’m not sure what happened with the shuttle.  We arrived right at 8AM, and waited almost half an hour, but never saw it.  It either came and left early, or was off to a late start.  Since I needed to be at the pitching session by 9AM, we left on foot, and once again walked the streets of Spokane.

When I signed up for the pitching session, I didn’t realize what I was signing up for.  Thursday, I’d gone to the desk for the Kaffee Klatche signups, and the woman behind the desk said that if I filled in one of two sheets that were close to full, she could put the sheet away and make more room on the desk.  I obliged, scribbling my name on the bottom of the pitching sheet, thinking that I was going to go to a session where I’d learn how to pitch my book.

That’s not quite what it was.  I mean, I could learn how to pitch my book, but it was via pitching my book to an actual agent.  I discovered this just before getting there.

I started off nervous, and feeling like I shouldn’t be there.  The online information about the panel stated that some of the work should have been sent in advance.  Since I hadn’t done that, I felt like at any moment, a couple of burly security guys would come in, haul me up by my belt and collar, and throw me out with the words, “And you’ll never work in this town again!”

Those fears were a bit exaggerated and misplaced.  Instead, I wound up sitting down with John Berlyne, a man that I’ve seen at several WorldCons, and that I’ve admired.  His name has appeared on this blog before.  To put it mildly, I have a great deal of respect for him.  In addition to being nervous about pitching my novel, I was a little bit star struck.

I did my best.  I told him about The Repossessed Ghost and he listened and gave me some tips and advice.  He said it sounds marketable, derivative in the good way, and that I should send it (not necessarily to him) when it’s ready.  He talked about how urban fantasy had its heyday, but is now on the decline.  There were a few other things he said, but I didn’t have the mental fortitude to retain it all that well.

I thanked him, gathered up my stuff, and left.  Melissa rejoined me, and we stepped outside.  I was wound up tight, my emotions running like an engine in the red.  I calmed down quickly, and Melissa and I were able to move on to the next thing.

Keep in my mind that when I say that I was emotionally charged, it has nothing to do with acceptance or rejection.  The experience had nothing to do with that.  This had more to do with presenting something unprepared to one of my heroes.  It’s the real life equivalent to the dream where you’re on stage, and you don’t know your lines.  Or you arrive at class, where there’s a test you haven’t studied for.

From the pitch session, Melissa and I made our way to the first panel we’d be attending that day.  It started off reasonably well, but then went off the rails.  The moderator was not prepared, recovering from partying the night before, and she said some things that turned Melissa and I off.  I have some notes, which I’ll post at a later time.

A little bit peeved, we prepared to go to the next panel.  Only, there were two events I jotted down that I wanted to attend.  I wound up convincing Melissa to go to one, which I knew she’d enjoy, and I went to one I was interested in, that I thought might help me decide the course of my writing career.  Melissa went to hear George Martin and Robert Silverberg talk, while I went to learn whether or not I should self-publish, or go the traditional publishing route.

Again, I’ll post the notes to the panel later.  It was okay.  Not fantastic, but it did end with a question which I think has me decided.  That is: Do you want to have control over selling your books, and manage all the aspects of the business of your writing, or do you want someone else to sell your books, leaving you to just write stories?

Put that way, it’s easy: I just want to write stories.

Melissa and I met up for hot dogs.  We ran into Andrea Stewart and sat with her, and enjoyed lunch together.  That was nice, for a couple of reasons.  One, Andrea is a really cool person, and is in my local writing group.  For another, the next item on our agenda was attending her reading, so as long as we were sitting together, we weren’t going to miss her event.

Andrea’s reading was fantastic.  She gave Melissa a copy of her book, and after the reading, Melissa told me how much she wants to read the rest of the story Andrea read to us.  That was really nice.

After the reading, there wasn’t anything on my schedule until dinner.  We wound up following Richard Crawford and his wife Jennifer to a couple of interesting panels.  One was on adapting the human body to low gravity.  The other was about pseudoscience.  After those two panels, Melissa picked one on narrative structure and expectation.  All three panels were interesting and fine.

By the time we were done with panels for the day, it was nearly time to meet Jennifer for dinner.  We started to leave to take our bags back to the room, and discovered that the air was barely breathable, full of smoke.  It blocked out the sun.  People on the streets covered their mouths.  One person on a bike wore a full gas mask, and it seemed appropriate for the conditions.

Melissa and I didn’t dawdle.  We took the shuttle, stayed indoors as much as we could, and arrived at our meeting place with plenty of time.  We relaxed on a couches in the lobby where we were to meet Jennifer for dinner.  Melissa told me all about the Silverberg-Martin talk.  I knew she would love it, and I regretted missing it myself.

Dinner with Jennifer was very nice.  I met one of the people in her writing group, Jason, and both of them asked me about some of the stories I’m working on.  I told them at length about A Clean Slate, and they had some sound advice.  We talked about our stories, the emotions involved in putting work out there.  Jennifer told us about an early rejection letter she received, and how she’d accidentally turned down an agent’s inquiry.

The food and the company was fantastic.  I think we all had a really great time.

After dinner, we had to rush back across the street to attend the masquerade.  Denise Tanaka was a participant, and we didn’t want to miss it.  The masquerade was full of some fantastic costumes and some truly inspired presentations.  One of my favorites was in the novice division.  He came out as Groot, and apparently, he’d never done any sort of costuming before.  His Groot was perfect.

The costume presentations took a long while.  There were close to 50 entrants.  After the last one left the stage, the judges were excused to tally their results, and the artist guest of honor, whose name I can’t remember, came out to entertain the crowd with his filking.  Before he’d made it out on stage, about a quarter of the audience had made their way to the exit.  Melissa and I thought that was rude.  Then the guy said that he was going to perform for more than an hour, and Melissa and I exited, too.  We still thought it was rude, and we felt bad about it.  But we just couldn’t sit there for the whole show.

The smoke was still really bad outside.  We shuttled back to our hotel.  Melissa stayed in our room, and I went over to the party hotel to visit.  I was out for about an hour and a half, and entered into some great conversations.  Before midnight, however, exhaustion caught up with me, and I went back to my room and went to bed.

It’s been a great convention.  As I’m writing this up, I’m feeling that fuzzy in-between place, where I’m not entirely sure what day it is, or what I’m going to do next.  It’s hard to believe that I’ll be back at work on Monday.


Sasquan Day 2 Recap

This was a day of walking.

Melissa and I got up early by convention standards, but not quite early enough to get a full breakfast.  We wound up getting muffins and coffee from the lobby Starbucks.  Then, we hit the street and walked to the convention center.

We made it just in time to meet up with the Walk with the Stars group.  Every WorldCon has one of these in the morning.  It’s not a race.  It’s more like an amble, or a mosey.  We walked along the path into the park area.  We crossed a bridge and looked at the water flowing.  We saw ducks.  And we visited with other people attending the convention.  The exercise made the blood flow, and stretched our muscles, both physical and social.

After the walk, we sat down and let our legs rest.  I wrote yesterday’s post.  Then we were back on our feet, and attended a number of panels.

Throughout the early part of the day, my head ached.  The pain washed over me in waves, distracting me.  By 1PM, Melissa and I went back up near registration, and picked up teriyaki bowls for lunch.  After eating, I felt a bit bitter.

We enjoyed a couple more panels.  As usual, I took notes, which I’ll decipher at a later time, and post on this site.  By 4PM, we made our way to the art exhibit and looked at all the pretties.  While in the dealers room, I ran into Jennifer Brozek and got to pick her brain about a panel I knew she was on that I was going to miss.

Melissa and I walked back to the Davenport Tower, dropped off our bags, then went and had dinner at the Red Robin.  Then we made our way to the bar where Drinks with Writers was taking place.  We ran into some friends and familiar faces, mingled, and drank a little.

We stayed out as long as we could, but after being on our feet for so long, we were exhausted.  We were closer to the convention center than our hotel at that point, so we made our way to the center and caught a shuttle.  We retired to our room, foregoing the parties altogether.

I don’t remember walking this much at previous cons.  Maybe it’s selective memory?  Sasquan is really spread out, both in terms of where the panels are located, and where the hotels and parties are taking place.  I’ll have to talk to Michael about previous WoldCons he’s attended when I get home, and compare notes.


Sasquan Day 1 Recap

I love WorldCon.  These are my people.

Melissa and I arrived late Tuesday night, and went straight to bed.  We got up early Wednesday morning, went downstairs, and had breakfast at the hotel.  Then, it was off on a brisk walk to the convention center for registration.

We arrived relatively early.  The doors weren’t open yet, but a line had already formed.  Once inside, we had our badges and goodie bags in short order.  We were lucky.  Shortly after we wandered away from registration, someone announced that registration had a three hour delay.

The first event we took part in was the blood drive.  Again, Melissa and I showed up early so we wouldn’t have to wait too long.  We talked with the people running the blood mobile, and found out that they expected about 25 to 30 people.  It turned out that they had 25 people before they even opened the doors.

Melissa was first in to donate, and I was second.  I give blood frequently, but this time, I agreed to do something different.  I knew about giving platelets, which I’ve never done.  This was like that, only they were taking red blood cells and putting my plasma back in me.  That way, they could effectively get two units from me.  They take twice the red blood cells, and the recovery is twice as long.

It felt strange.  The withdrawal of the blood was normal enough, but part way through, the machine changed direction of the flow, and I could see fluids pumped back into me.  The plasma and saline was room temperature, which meant that it was comparatively cold going into my arm.  I’m not sure I’ve ever felt my circulatory system before.  The process changed course twice more before it was done.

I’m glad to give blood.  The only drawback this time was that it went a little longer than I expected, and I wound up missing the first panel I wanted to attend.

Melissa and I shambled away from the vampires.  We made our way back upstairs to the dealer room and looked at all the goodies.  Unlike some conventions I’ve been to, a map is posted, with a list of the different vendors.  We didn’t make use of the map or list, but it was nice to see it there.

We looked at books and shirts and costumes.  We spoke with David Malki.  He even seemed to vaguely remember me from Reno and Chicago.  We picked up some surprises for the kids.  They don’t read my blog, but on the off-chance that they decide to check it out this one time, I won’t spoil their surprise and say what it is.  But the gifts are absolutely perfect, and they’re going to love them.

We eventually made our way downstairs to the ballroom, for the opening ceremonies.  Again, we arrived nice and early, and we were able to get good seats.

Opening ceremonies began with a native American storyteller (whose name I cannot remember), blessing the convention with a song.  He then told a few stories, talking about how there is something to learn from every story.  He talked about how there are truths in the head, and there are truths that are in the heart.  His stories spoke to those truths in the heart.  He also spoke about the importance of verbal storytelling.  I thought of Michael and knew that he would approve.  It’s a real shame Michael couldn’t attend this WorldCon.  I know it’s tearing him up that he can’t be here, because he loves this event as much or more than I do.

After opening ceremonies, there was a procession that lead out to the park area behind the convention center, near the river.  Men and women from the SCA were on display, dueling.  Someone was flying a drone.  There was a booth for face painting, some tables for convention bids, and a good number of people simply mingling.  There was also ice cream.  Melissa and I each acquired a cone.

Smoke from all the fires in the surrounding areas choked the sky, and dimmed the sun to a smoldering red.  It made for a beautiful and terrible sight.

At 7PM, Melissa and I went into our first proper panel, which was about critiques and writer groups.  I had been looking forward to it especially, both for the subject matter (which, honestly, I was already familiar with) and because Jennifer Carson was one of the panelists.  I’ll write up detailed notes about the panel later.

Then it was off to the con parties!

When arranging our hotel, I wanted to make sure that we were in the same hotel as the parties, so that when I needed to go to bed, I didn’t have to go very far.  The sasquan web site mentioned that the parties were at the Davenport, so I made sure that we had rooms there.  Unfortunately, there are multiple Davenport hotels.  Our room is at the Tower, but most of the parties were actually at the Davenport Historic.  The Historic is really close to the Tower, fortunately, so it wasn’t too bad.

After giving blood, and then staying on our feet most of the day, Melissa and I were both exhausted pretty early.  We only visited a couple of parties before we called it quits and headed back to our room.  We were in bed before 11.

This WorldCon looks to be every bit as splendid as the ones I’ve attended previously.  It’s not the same without Michael, but Melissa is here with me, and we’re having a really great time so far.


Walking My Stories

Walking is great exercise.  Maybe not as great as a 10 mile obstacle course in Tahoe but it’s still great.  You work the largest muscles in your body without putting excess strain on your joints.  It’s natural movement.  It’s good for you.

But most of the time when I go walking, I’m not doing it for my body.  I’m doing it for my mind.  I clear my thoughts.  I let stress and emotions roll out along my legs and into the ground beneath me.  I unravel programming knots.  I contemplate stories.  I think.

I take a little bit of time out of every day at work to go and walk.  It’s the same route, everyday.  I go out through the back door.  I cross the parking lot towards the pond between my building and the next.  I take the path that runs along the stream, that connects the two parking lots.  Then, I go along the entire outside of the next lot, step over onto the side street, and follow it to the main street.  A right turn, and then I’m headed back towards my work place.  It’s just under a mile, with busy freeway on one side, a quiet, verdant pond on the other.

When I’m not solving a problem in my mind, or working out the details of a story, I try to be in the moment.  I listen to the cars racing by on Highway 50.  I look up at the sky, appreciating the cerulean sky and the softness of the clouds.  I imagine the vastness of space, lying just beyond the sky.  With no roof over my head, there is nothing preventing me from spinning off into the nothing, save for the Earth herself holding me to her surface.  Holding me by my feet, which I keep lifting and moving away from the concrete, like an unruly child squirming away from his mother’s embrace.

Yesterday, while walking this same route I’ve walked for more than a year and a half, I felt like a character in one of my own stories.  Details lent itself to narrative.  If you’ll indulge me a moment, I will share!

I rounded the corner onto the last street leading back to my office.  The heat of the afternoon pressed me from all sides, and I felt sweat forming in the middle of my back.  I chastised myself for not walking earlier in the day, when the temperature would have been more mild.

As I made the last leg of the trek, I spotted the corpse of a raccoon lying on the grass, near the road.  It lay on its side, its paws pulled up and its eyes closed, facing me.

“Oh man,” I said, and turned away quickly.  I thought for a moment how mild my exclamation was.  No profanity.  Then the smell hit me, and my thoughts evaporated.  I quickened my step.

As I moved past, I noticed something else out of place.  Dotting the grass and bushes along my path were dozens of pieces of notebook paper.  They were empty and lined, though not like typical, college ruled paper.

The paper littered the ground for a dozen yards or so.  I’d walked past most of it before my steps began to falter.

In a cartoon world, an angel and a devil would have appeared on my shoulder.

“Leave the world better than you found it,” the angel would have said.

“Get back to work,” the devil would respond. “This isn’t your problem.”

“But it won’t take much to pick up the paper.  It’s dry.”

“There are other people who get paid to do this.  It’s not your job.”

I turned around.  The angel doesn’t always win, but I always want him to.

I walked back to where the paper began.  I bent and picked it up, then turned to the next.  Then the next after that.  The odor from the roadkill struck me again, but I pressed on.  None of the pages were close to the dead raccoon, and I considered that a blessing.

A few minutes later, I was back on the path, a stack of blank pages in my hand.  I went into my office and dumped the pages in the recycling bin.  I sat at my desk and went back to my programming, feeling like I’d done something small, but right.

I walk almost every day.  I don’t write nearly so often.  I need to write more.  When I’m not writing, I get depressed.  I withdraw.  And apparently, when I go long enough without writing something, I start framing minor events in my life in some sort of narrative.