Drifting out of Calgary
Last week I was in Calgary Alberta for World Fantasy Con 2008. Everything about it was good. I made new friends, new contacts. I generally left the con feeling better about myself and my career than I have in a long time. Considering my state of mind going in, that's saying something. It's nice to be reminded that you're full of shit sometimes.
I shall now attempt to recount my experiences. I'm going to forget things. Please correct me in the comments.
I packed light. Probably lighter than I ever have, at least since that trip to France back in the eighties. Getting to O'Hare was no trouble. My dad happened to be at the airport hotel in meetings, and called me while I was at the terminal to wish me luck. His envy is almost palpable these days. I hope he gets where he wants to be, while he can.
An intermission. At WorldCon, one of the running jokes was that Lou Anders and I could never be in the same place at the same time. We passed in halls, we walked in and out of the same parties by different doors. Even when I went to the party he was hosting, he was on an ice-run or something. So we never got to talk. I was hoping we'd have some time at WFC. And I was just reflecting on this, sitting in the terminal, when he sat down across the way. So we got to talk. Hooray connectivity. Of course this was the early flight, and he had just come in from Alabama, so we were both kinda stretched thin, but still. Good to talk.
The flight was uneventful. Well, for me. The guy behind me was persistently and stubbornly hit on by one of the attendants. She practically fed him her digits. They have a great future together, I'm sure.
Lou and I got a cab together from the airport, along with Asaf Ashery. Asaf's a writer from Israel, though he is currently in Chicago. A good guy, and we spoke off and on throughout the con.
I'm not sure what to think of Calgary itself. It's a new city, and fairly large. I don't feel like it has a lot of character, other than the mountain range at its back and this pervading sense that the whole place could fold up and disappear and the landscape would sweep in and cover it all in prairie grass at the blink of an eye. Good food though, and good bars. I've been told that Alberta is Canada's richest province, between the mining to the north of Calgary and the cattle/oil that got it a rep as North Dallas. The comparisons are apt. And if the wealth of a province can be linked to the quality of its beer selection, Calgary's going to be okay, people. It's going to be okay.
The con was successful enough. Programming seemed a little...random? I don't know. I don't have enough of these events under my belt to really express an opinion. I will say that most of the panels I went to, at least one or two of the panelists had no idea why they were there. Poor John Klima moderated the panel on Online Publishing, in spite of the fact that he's an all print guy. He did a hell of a job, too. Overall, though, I think it was competently run. Now then...an event log.
Thursday - Arrived around 2pm. Checked in, got my bag of goods, sorted them, unpacked. Went to the bar. Drank for the rest of the afternoon, including some time when I was eating. Sat in that amorphous social blob that usually accretes in the convention bar, getting larger and less round as new people kept arriving, social groups split off only to be reabsorbed later, etc. It was a good time, but I was tired and hungry and maybe a little unprepared for that long of a stretch of alcohol. I also ended up at a presentation being given by the Australian Arts Council. It was meant for publishers, trying to get them to buy Australian authors, but the Solaris boys had me in tow. There are pictures of that, taken by Locus. I hope they don't get selected to appear in the magazine, because man. I was lit. I crashed about halfway through my dinner of club sandwich and beer. Didn't drink all the beer! That was the last time that happened, I promise you. I *promise* you. Went to bed around 8:30 or 9:00. Woke up around 3am, wandered my room restlessly, still drunk. Back to sleep.
Friday - Woke up without a hangover! That's kind of a rare thing for me on the first morning of a con. I try to ramp up my tolerance in the week leading up to a convention (this is apparently common. We were all joking about how we had trained. Red wine seems to be a popular method, for its tannins) but hadn't really amped up like I expected. Also forgot that Calgary has the same altitude issues as Denver, which means an easier drunk, steeper hydration cycle. I think it was the sheer length of time that I spent drinking on Thursday that saved me. Either way, I felt great.
Had a nice breakfast at the hotel. I never was able to find a good breakfast alternative in easy walking distance. I wasn't up for a real march in the mornings anyway, and the hotel wasn't cripplingly expensive. It's easy to say that when it's Canadian dollars you're talking about. Anyway. Breakfast, then off to panels. I honestly can't remember which panels I went to on which days, with only a couple exceptions. Lunch was with Daryl Gregory, Heather Lindsley, Sean McMullen and Farah Mendelsohn. We ate Thai and talked about various writerly things. I mean, I suspect that's how it went. I was hungry. I get vague when I'm hungry. But it was nice to be around writers. Also, I'm a slow eater and bad at talking while I eat. This is why I drink. I can't be social at meals.
More panels. Dinner on Friday was the JABberwocky agency meal. I sat with Frederic Durbin, Jay Franco and John Berlyne. John's the guy who did the voice work on The Algorithm. I didn't know he was going to be at the con, so that was nice. We ate at a steak place, only I had fish because I'm contrary. The place apparently specialized in prairie oysters. Lots of ball jokes. That's kind of how the meal went. You're getting the sack. This is a hairy situation. Don't get any on your chin. Etc. But my fish was good. On the way back to the hotel I walked with Chris Szego of Bakkaphoenix. She was supposed to be helping out with the SF Canada party, and we were late, and I'm a quick walker. I haven't had much chance to talk to a lot of booksellers, so it was good to talk to someone about that side of the industry. Got to pitch my book, too! One thing I learned from the con. Explain to them what Heart of Veridon is about, and they'll be polite and nod. Say "Steampunk Thriller" and they light the fuck up. Especially booksellers and editors. They know how things are going. They see it coming. Revolution, kids. Okay, maybe just a solid selling opportunity, but from where I'm standing it feels like a wave tipping over a city. I'm all about it.
Back to the bar, some general conversation with Daryl and Chris Roberson. I wandered up to the SF Canada party and spent pretty much the entire evening talking to Chris Szego and her friend Jana Paniocia. Good people, good Canadians. There are pictures of that party somewhere. I left that party at around 1am, just as JohnCon was getting started next door. I decided to take a pass, went back to my room, nested into my king-sized bed with six huge pillows and went to sleep.
Saturday - Woke up without a hangover! Such a record. I'm almost disappointed in me. Not at all, actually. This is one of the rare times that I know which panel I went to that morning, because it was the Online Publishing thing run by John Klima. John Klima, that is, of JohnCon, which was just getting spun up at 1am that morning, and which historically includes almost monumental values of alcohol. I was shocked at how together he seemed. The man is of iron, I say. Iron and literary wisdom. I immediately went and bought a copy of Electric Velocipede, in the hopes that his constitution had somehow soaked into the pages. Then lunch with Chris and Jana, where they talked politics. It's sad how little I know of Canadian politics. Also we talked football. Did you know that in the CFL it is generally accepted strategy to concede the safety if your punter is standing in your endzone? You should know that, because it's the most un-American thing I've ever heard. Concede the safety? Really.
I missed my next panel because, as the panel that preceded it was letting out, one of the panelists took a bad fall off the stage and broke his ankle. It was Justin Gustainis, another Solaris author. Our mutual editor Christian Dunn visited at the hospital later. Poor guy's going to have to have an operation (probably already had it, by now) and is stuck in Calgary while he recovers. Bad scene. There was much milling about, and by the time the panel got organized and moved to another room half the alloted time was up and I said "To hell with it" and wandered the art show. I was particularly impressed by Todd Lockwood and Shaun Tan, though there were others that were quite nice as well. There were also some that cared perhaps too much about breasts. Not to say anything against breasts, mind you.
Dinner with the Solaris lads, and John Berlyne again. We ate down the street at a posh joint. There was a lot of highbrow talk, but then we devolved into a discussion about the contract between author and reader. That was a good time. Then back to the bar before I headed up to the Tor party and met up with Daryl and Heather again. That went for a while, then we gathered up an adventuring party and went to an irish pub for a while. That was me, Daryl, Heather, Paul Cornell and...uh. I've forgotten his name. His badge was turned around the entire evening, and I kept forgetting to get it sorted. I'm sure I'll remember later, about ten minutes after I've offended him by forgetting his name in a very public internet.
The point is that we sat in an "irish" bar where the bathroom was in Toronto and you had to get there via tunnel, and there was a band infesting the far corner trying to kill us with its hatred of music, and I ended up making a pope hat for my beer. That place closed at 2am. But wait! It's the night of the time change. At 2am it became 1am! Still open for an hour, right? Right? No, wait. So it's back to the hotel for us. And what do we find? JohnCon, day two.
This year's theme at JohnCon was something about rainbows. I wasn't inquisitive. There was a patio, and on the patio there was a table, on the table were bottles of fruit juice. The fruit juice had been cut with something polish. Vodka, I believe. Maybe Everclear. Again, it was dark out there. So we drank little plastic cups of blueberry, and some kind of superfood/kiwi thing, and orange juice, and white cranberry juice and, uh...something involving pomegranates. I didn't drink much at that point, because I could *totally* see where this was going. That ended around 2:30, and then Daryl, Heather and I went down to sit in the lobby until around 3am (which was actually 4am, remember the time change). Then bed.
Sunday - Woke up with no hangover! Seriously, an entire WFC and no hangover. Everyday I was out of bed by 8am, fast broken and day started by 9am. On Sunday I lucked into breakfast with Lou Anders. We had a grand old time. I think I spent more time with Lou this one weekend than I had over the previous three years. I saw Daryl briefly, went back to my room to pack, came down for lunch, talked some with Chris and Jana one last time, saw Newty and his fabulous hat, then headed to the airport. Home at 9pm and then *very* tired.
So it was a good con. Getting back to work was difficult. But here I am. Blogging.