So, I'm back from GenCon. And despite the fact that I washed my hands like Lady Macbeth the whole time, I somehow managed to get sick.
Ordinarily, I'm okay with this. It's one of the risks of attending conventions. Sometimes you get stuck on a panel where you don't fit in. Sometimes you get trapped in a conversation and have to listen to a guy tell you about his 15th level half-elven ranger/assassin.
And sometimes, if you're unlucky enough to have me as your arch-nemesis, you get a death threat in your fortune cookie....
... Sometimes you get a cold. It's all part of the game.
But this time it sucks more than usual. I did Worldcon and GenCon back-to-back this year, so I've been away from home for almost two weeks solid. However, because I got sick the day before I came home, I cannot have a joyeux homecoming complete with passionate kissings from Sarah.
No. It is bad for a pregnant lady to get sick. That means when I returned from the airport, Sarah greeted me at the door with a firm handshake and a pat on the head.
Don't get me wrong. It was a good handshake. But even the best of handshakes cannot help but fall far short of passionate.
So I sit at my computer, sick, kissless, and trying to catch up on 500 unanswered e-mails. What can I possibly find that will lift my spirits?
Yes, Felicia Day is all kinds of awesome. You had to know that already. What this video really did was firmly cement my love for Sandeep Parikh and Jeff Lewis.
I've wanted to go to San Diego Comic-con for years, but something always seems to keep me away. Two years ago it was a family vacation. Last year I was conducting a wedding.
This year was no different: I had an exciting adventure Wednesday morning. I was in the ER two hours before my plane was supposed to take off....
But while that story is a good story, exciting, full of drama and tragedy, it's not really part of the convention. So I'll pass it over for now. Suffice to say that despite many obstacles, 2009 was the year that I finally made it to San Diego Comic-con.
On Thursday, I met up with a fan called Pooka. I don't always recognize my fans, even when they contact me before the convention. But in her case, I somehow managed to pick her out of the crowd:
(I'm the one with the beard.)
You can't see her pink leggings in this picture, but you'll have to trust me on the fact that her plumage is abundant and bright. She was nice enough to show me around the convention, as she's a veteran comic-con attendee, and I'm just a newbie.
Pooka and her friends throw a party every year at the con: X-Sanguin. They invited me this year, and while I was flattered, I ended up taking a pass. I expect I'm not sexy enough to hang with the glitterati. Not even when I'm wearing my shades and pretending to be as cool as Neil Gaiman:
Pooka helped me find the room where my panel was being held. It was the only panel I was scheduled for at the convention proper, and to be honest, I was a little nervous. Not only was Jacqueline Carey on it, but Lev Grossman was moderating. Dude is scary smart.
I can't find a picture of the entire panel, but here's one of a few of the other folks, including Carey.
In the corner you can't see Lev, but you can spot a copy of his soon-to be released book, The Magicians. I got to read an advance copy a little while back, and really enjoyed it. I'll probably do an official recommendation on the blog a little closer to the release date.
The panel's topic was "The Evolution of Fantasy." I avoided making too much of an ass of myself and got a laugh or two. Which is as much as I can ever hope for on a panel. If you want more details, Lev wrote a column about it for Time. You can read it over here.
After the panel, I had a signing where some fans gave me an awesome little Voodoo doll. (Or mommet, if you will.)
(Yes. It's got little screws sticking out of its head.)
When I asked how they'd like me to sign their books, they said they wanted to be designated as official Fanatical Minions. Nobody's ever asked that before, so they got to be Fantastical Minions #1 and #2.
I felt obliged to point out that the numbers were not a ranking system. Just a designation.
After the signing I got to hang out a bit with Cindy Pon. Whose first book just came out. She's a lot of fun, and if you hop over to her blog, you'll see her dressed up as Chun Li the next day at the con. Needless to say, she's my kind of person...
Capping off Thursday, I got to have Dinner with Greg Dean from Real Life comics. We've known each other for a while, but never met in person. Dinner was lovely and the conversation.... Well.... I had a great time. But I don't know if I can say the same for Greg and Liz.
You see, most people have conversational filters. Not so much with me. So when something interesting happens in my life, I tell stories about it. Even if these stories are... odd.
As I've mentioned, when I was leaving for the convention I had... an adventure. An adventure that I shared with them....
So the power was out in my neighborhood today. This doomed me to an afternoon of stewing in my own juice. The weather in Wisconsin right now has been roughly equivalent to living inside a dog's mouth. It was not a good day to be without air conditioning.
Also, the power outage threw a wrench into my plan to fine-tune and post another blog about Europe. So, instead, I decided to pass along some news and answer a piece of fanmail I got yesterday instead.
First the news: I've just finished updating the tour page.
The busy part of convention season is fast approaching, and I've got a lot of events scheduled over the next couple months. From relatively small conventions and signings here in Wisconsin (I'm in Wausau this Saturday, btw) to big conventions in Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Montreal, and San Diego.
(Rare footage of the elusive Rothfuss at his natural migratory habitat: the convention.)
At some of these conventions, I even get to be Guest of Honor. I'm not sure, but I think this means someone will be contractually obliged to fan me with a large palm leaf. I also expect to be given a shiny medal of some sort or at least a rather dapper-looking hat.
(The Rothfuss uses his bright plumage to lure readers into panels, where he devours them. )
So head on over to the page and take a look at where I'm going to be. I go to these to meet readers and hang out, so the more the merrier.
Now the piece of e-mail:
I have a quick question I hope you don't mind answering. I saw you do that sometimes in your blogs.
After finishing The Name of the Wind, I called my local bookstore to see when the next book was coming out. They didn't know. So I called my local Library. They didn't know. So eventually, I gritted my teeth and borrowed a friend's internet and found your blog.
Over the next week I read all of it. Including most of the comments. I was a little addicted. I'm guessing it took me fifty hours.
I don't have a question about book two. Take your time. But as someone who doesn't spend a lot of time online, I am curious about this whole blog thing. Specifically about the comments you receive on your blog. After reading these, I feel like I know a lot of the posters.
Many of them are funny, and some of them are really clever... But some of them seem downright insensitive or rude.
What is up with that? Am I just oversensitive, or are a lot of the people commenting on your blog actually rather rude?
I'm tempted to say it's the former. I'm not really a blog reader. And I've always assumed that people smart enough to read your book would also be courteous and polite.
I've always assumed that people who read my book are not only intelligent and polite, but more attractive and better in bed than your average person. They also smell like fresh pie.
Unfortunately, the internet is like a great machine designed to make humanity look stupid. Oh sure, there are good things the internet does for us. Smart things. Noble things. But for every one person using distributed computing to cure cancer, there are ten people forwarding me a letter that threatens impotence and the death of a fluffy kitten if I dare to break the chain.
The problem is this. The internet is allows people to do things very quickly.
Now don't get me wrong, some things are better done quickly. Getting someone to the hospital. Mowing the lawn. Making my 7-layer burrito.
But many things are not improved by speed. Most things, actually: Backrubs. Baths. Getting a haircut. Writing a novel. Cuddling. Kissing.
And blog commenting. Contrary to what people believe, fast is not always better in terms of communication.
The problem is, language is a slippery thing. People have a hard enough time getting their point across when they're face-to-face. Over the phone is harder because you can't see body language or facial expression.
But pure text is the hardest. That's why e-mail misunderstandings abound, because you don't even have timing or vocal inflection to help get your point across.
This means when a person types a comment without thinking things through, it's much more likely that their intended message will get lost and they'll seem rude when they really didn't mean to be.
Take my announcement today for example. I know what's going to happen as soon as I post about my upcoming convention appearances.
I'm going to get people posting comments that say things like: "Screw Indianapolis! Come to Mucwanigo!!! We have a bookstore!!!1!!"
Now this person probably wants to say three things:
1. They have a lot of enthusiasm for me and my work. 2. They won't be able to make it to Indianapolis and this ensaddens them. 3. They'd appreciate it if I came to Mucwanigo.
But despite the egregious overuse of exclamation points, this is not what this comment actually communicates. To a lot of readers, this comment seems rude. Here's why.
Signings and conventions require a great deal of effort on the author's part. Doing a even a handful of events like this means an author will spend dozens of hours on planes breathing recycled farts, hours scheduling panels and e-mailing plans, then days at the event itself.
It's also expensive, thousands of dollars on plane tickets, taxis, hotel rooms, and overpriced airport burritos.
Knowing all of this, a courteous internet user can understand why a comment of, "Why don't you ever come to St. Augustine?" seems a little insensitive.
At the same time, rude is sometimes in the eye of the beholder, too. That's why I try my best to read comments in the spirit they were written. That means looking at them with a generous eye sometimes, trying to cherish the enthusiasm and ignore the fact that the poster didn't take the time to think things through.
Still, when someone writes, "Minneapolis is a whole 30 miles away! Come to Wanamingo!" it's bound make me feel like a cat that's been rubbed backwards.
Not only is it issued as a command (which is never endearing) but it implies that even though the author is traveling several hundred miles, leaving his pregnant girlfriend home alone for the weekend, and effectively skipping his own birthday, he still isn't doing enough to please you.
So that's what I think is going on in the comments, Jen. Sure there are a few mean-spirited or genuinely snarky people out there making posts. But the vast majority of the people that come across as rude are probably just guilty of posting without thinking things through.
Of course my readers. My clever readers. My clever, polite, sexy, apple-pie readers are a class of person quite above the normal internet rabble. They think twice before they post. Some of them even think three times. Right?
That isn't the hard part. Truth is, being Guest of Honor is a pretty sweet gig. I had my first taste of it up in V-Con last year.
When you're GOH, the convention typically does lovely things for you, like pay for your hotel room and your flight out to the convention. Usually an author has to pay for all that out of their own pocket, which means it's really expensive to hit two or three cons in a year. Let alone the five or six I usually try to attend.
This year, through a weird confluence of events, I'm going to be Guest-of-Honoring at four different conventions. Details are over on the Tour Page, if you're interested.
One of these conventions is only a couple of weeks away, down in Madison. I'm sorry I haven't posted up the info about Oddcon sooner, but I've been busy writing, and I was called in as a last minute pinch-hitter GOH to replace Tobias Buckell. He had to bow out on account of his wife being super-pregnant. If you're interested, they've extended pre-registration until Friday because of the change of plans.
Anyway, in exchange for having our expenses paid, the GOH has certain responsibilities. The main one of these is to do stuff for the convention. We do more than the usual number of readings, signings, panels. Etc.
I don't have a problem with this. This is why I go to conventions. I like talking about stories. That's what I'm all about.
My problem was with something much simpler. As I mentioned above, I'm going to be the author GOH at Gencon this year. So they asked me to write a bio they can put in the program book....
This should be easy. It's short. 150 words. When I was born. Where I'm from. What I've done. Stuff like that.
But I overthink these things. It's a problem I have.
So I write a regular bio. Names. Dates. The Name of the Wind. Sold in 27 countries. Simple.
But then when I'm finished, I read that bio and it seems really dry and boring.
So I write a new bio. I want it to be better. Different. A little funny. I want it to be cool. Sexy even.
But then I read that one and it seems desperate, whorish. It's stupid and corny.
So I write a new bio. I tone it down, try to be subtle, understated, professional.
But then I read that one and it seems boring again, plus stiff and awkward. Plus fakey.
So, finally, I get fed up and write something like this:
Patrick Rothfuss sprung fully formed from Marge Rothfuss, his mother, in Madison Wisconsin. In a mere three months, Pat grew to the height of a man while teaching himself to read and write using only a shovel and a dead cat.
When the voices told him to, Pat left home to attend college in at University Wisconsin Stevens Point where he joined Slytherin house and had many wonderful adventures. After graduating, Pat evolved into a being of pure light and energy. Then he went to grad school and evolved even further into being composed entirely of bile, anger, binder twine, and sweet, sweet, methadone. After grad school Pat joined forces with five plucky Japanese schoolgirls to form a giant robot that fights crime.
Through all of this Pat has read fantasy, watched fantasy, and written fantasy. Some academics have suggested that Pat eats, sleeps, and breathes fantasy, but this is simply untrue. The truth is that Pat eats burritos, sleeps like a drooly baby, and breathes a white-hot plasma composed of molten gold and rage.
And you know what? I like this bio the best. If I'm going to spew out bullshit, I'd rather have it be pure, unadulterated bullshit.
By the way, a lot of you have been asking who's been doing my illustrations for the blog. It's not me. I can't draw worth a tinker's damn. My illustrator's name is Brett Hiorns, and he is awesome. You can say howdy to him in the comments, if you like.
That's all I've got for now. More news soon. Cool news. Stay tuned.
I have a few stories to tell about the convention.... but I'll do it later.
While I was up in Canada, I must have somehow offended one of their primitive gods. I know this because I was smote down with a terrible illness.
My illness must have come from some sort of angry god, because within the space of twenty-four hours I went from being a gregarious, energetic scamp, chatting with new friends and mugging for the camera....
(By the way, isn't this my best hair ever?)
...to a shivering, wretched mass who could do nothing but huddle in a nest of blankets, moaning in pain...
Though honestly, the timeline was even tighter than that.
7:00 - I give the keynote speech at V-Con's closing ceremonies. I feel fine, though slightly nervous. I get a few laughs, and nobody throws a brick at me, so I count it as a success.
7:30 - Ceremony ends, and I spend a lovely hour or so chatting with V-Con's lovely Toastmaster and one of the other Guests of Honor: Jaymie Matthews.
8:30 - I go to the dead dog party to mingle, but my heart's not really in it. I'm oddly tired, and Sarah and I leave after about 30 minutes.
9:00 - Sarah and I go to dinner at a nearby pub.
9:15 - Sarah says, "Are you alright? You've got dark circles under your eyes...."
"Were they there when I was giving my Keynote?" I ask.
"No," she says. "They just showed up."
9:30 - I feel really cold, and really tired.
9:45 - We go back to our hotel room, where Sarah tucks me into the aforementioned nest of blankets. I commence being wretched and pitiful.
The fever went away, but since then it feels like my head has been packed with hot cotton and broken glass. It's only through a ridiculous application of painkiller that I functioned well enough to get home to the states.
I'm partially recovered now. But not nearly enough to do any sort of worthwhile post about the con, or to continue my discussion of fanmail. Those will be forthcoming.
Instead, here's a picture of Sarah doing a handstand in the Vancouver airport.
Why is she doing a handstand? Shit. I have no idea. After all these years, I've discovered that it's better not to ask.
Did I forget to mention that I'm going to be up in Canada next weekend?
In case I did, I am. I'm going to be up in Vancouver. (The one in BC, not the one in Washington.)
The reason for this particular outing is V-Con. While I've done a lot of conventions lately, this one marks two notable firsts in my life....
The first first is that I'm not just attending this convention, I'm actually one of the Guests of Honor. It's a pretty sweet gig so far. Not only are they paying my travel expenses, but I'm pretty sure that while I'm out there, someone is contractually obliged to fan me with a big leaf and feed me grapes.
The second first is a little embarrassing, actually. This will be the first time I've ever left the country. I feel like such an adult, I've got a passport and everything....
Anyway, I just thought I'd let y'all know that I was going to be out there. Part of the GOH gig is that I got to be very heavily involved with the programming, so I'm going to be doing readings, signings, and a metric ton of panels. So if you've ever wanted to hear me pontificate on all manner of diverse subjects, this is going to be a great opportunity.
Also, since I'm don't know when I'm going to be up in that neck of the woods again, I'm going to do a reading/signing/Q&A session at one of the local bookstores. It's on Tuesday the 7th (of October) at 7:00 at the Chapters out in Coquitlam. Because that signing got set up fairly recently, I've only made mention of it on Facebook so far. (Yeah, I'm on Facebook, feel free to add me if you're into that sort of thing.)
Generally speaking, if you're looking for information on my upcoming appearances, you can get the details over here on the "Tour Schedule" section of my webpage. I try to keep that as up to date as possible....
Okay, a lot of you asked about the picture I posted up about a week ago:
True, the vast majority of the questions were variations on the theme of "what the hell?" But I still figure it could do with a little explanation.
While cruising around DragonCon, I tried to find a good present for Sarah, my girlfriend. I picked up the catgirl hat for her because I figured she would get a kick out of it.
About half an hour later I wander by a bookseller, and who do I see sitting at the autographing table but John Scalzi and Tobias Bucknell. Both authors, bloggers, and acquaintances of mine, it's safe to say that the sheer awesome manliness radiating out from the two of them combined was overwhelming.
Perhaps I exaggerate slightly. I can't honestly say it was overwhelming. Truth be told, it was just whelming. I was whelmed.
Anyway, I started to wander over to chat with them, then realized a golden opportunity lay in front of me....
Needless to say, they were horrified and amused. Scalzi actually borrowed my camera and took this picture of me, while Toby snapped his own.
That picture Toby posted up on his own website, offering a prize to the person who posted the funniest caption. There were over 80 of them there last time I looked, and I have to say, it's been a long time since I laughed that hard.
As I've mentioned before, due to angering some fickle deity, I only had one scheduled event at DragonCon: a reading.
When I showed up to the con, the programming staff were nice enough to schedule me a signing too. Then, using my not inconsiderable charm, I sweet-talked my way onto a couple of the writing track panels.
The panels went pretty well. Since they were already on the schedule, they had good audiences. I gave a few good pieces of advice, got a few laughs, and avoided - for the most part - making an ass of myself. If I can do all three of those things, it's a good panel.
My signing was another matter entirely. Since it wasn't on the schedule, nobody knew about it. You could hear crickets. Two people showed up, and I was surprised to have that many.
Rest assured that my ego did not suffer any permanent trauma due to low attendance. Why is that? Well... mostly because of the signings I used to do back when my first story appeared in an anthology....
They were brutal. Most signings are when you're a new writer. Typically you spend two hours sitting at a card table in front of a Waldenbooks at the local mall. Then everyone ignores you. Pointedly ignores you. Ignores you as if they fear making eye contact will give them herpes.
Those early signings, while grueling, did a great job of setting my expectations low. These days, if I have a signing and two or three people talk to me, I consider it a win. Everything beyond that is gravy.
The other reason my ego wasn't bruised by the low turn-out is that earlier this month at Worldcon, when my signing *was* on the schedule, I got a turnout that surprised so much that I took a picture of the line:
By comparison, my DragonCon signing is pretty relaxing. I talk to the two people who stop by, drink my coffee, and read the program book making plans to stalk Nathan Fillion, Morena Baccarin, and Jewel Staite.
Then I pack up and head over to my reading. My expectations understandably low.
Imagine my surprise when I see that the room is pretty much full. It's surprising to me that all these people, in the middle of all the glamour and weird of DragonCon, have chosen to show up and listen to me read. What's more, they all started to applaud when I came in the door.
It was a good feeling. I felt cool. Really cool. I was a hoopy frood. I was about .8 of a Gaiman on the cool-o-meter, which is pretty cool.
I briefly excused myself to use the bathroom - as I said, it was exciting - then did my reading. They laughed at my jokes, asked good questions, and didn't hassle me too much about book two. In brief, it was a great crowd.
When my hour was up, so many people wanted me to sign that, after a half hour, I needed to move the remainder into the hallway because the next reading was scheduled to begin. Then I signed in the hallway for another half hour.
Needless to say, I was feeling pretty good about myself.
Then I realized that my zipper was down. Which means that it had been down since I used the bathroom right before the reading.
Thank you, oh universe, for reminding me of the truth. While I may be all that and a bag of chips, I'm usually all that and a bag of chips who doesn't know his zipper is open.
I learned my lesson though. Later that night, in order to prevent any further zipper-related embarrassment, I changed into my kilt before I went out to dinner with some of the folks who had participated in the photo contest a couple months back:
In less than ten hours I'll be leaving for DragonCon. I'm trying to look forward to it, but honestly, right now it's hard for me to see the convention as anything other than a pain in the ass.
Part of the problem is that I over-scheduled myself this month. Four conventions and a family vacation in August means that I've spent 9 days at home this month, everything else has been travel.
Don't get me wrong, I've had some good times, (more stories will be forthcoming) but it's easy to have too much of a good thing.
Adding to my lack of enthusiasm about the con is the fact that I'm not going to be on any of the programming. One of the main reasons I go to conventions is so I can sit on panels and discuss writing, worldbuilding, and stuff like that. At Worldcon I did 6 or 7 hours of panels, autographings etc. At Gencon, I did 11 hours, not counting a reading and signing at the nearby Indianapolis library.
Dragoncon? 1 hour. I have a reading at 1:00 on Saturday and that's it. (So if you're looking to catch me at the con to get your book signed, that would be the easiest place to do it.)
And now, looking at the Dragoncon page, I see that for some reason I've actually been removed from the list of official guest authors. Oh totem spirits of the con, what have I done to anger you? Let us not quarrel amongst ourselves, and instead use our combined powers to usher in an age of peace, enlightenment, and fluffy bunnies.
That said, angry spirits, if you chose to stand against me, be aware that I have terrible powers at my disposal. Should conflict arise, I will destroy you as easily as Optimus Prime would tear the stuffing from a one-armed Muppet with a learning disability.
Humorous hyperbole aside, I am looking forward to the con. This will be my first Dragoncon, and I hear it's a hoot. It will be nice to just be able to stroll around and look at things, as opposed to rushing from one panel to another.
Plus, I'm thinking of wearing a kilt. That might be tricky, if I was doing a lot of panels. Panelists tend to sit up in front of the audience, and I'm not used to keeping my knees together....
For those of you who are going to be in the neighborhood, but don't want to brave the convention crowd. I'm going to be making a stop at the Decatur book festival while I'm in town. I'll be on a panel about Fantasy with Peter S. Beagle from 12:00 - 1:00 at the Decatur Library Stage, wherever that is.
Yeah. That's going to be cool. I'm also hoping to hang around a bit with Peter at bit at the convention. Now that we've already met once, hopefully I can be a little more relaxed.
If you happen to see me at the con, feel free to come up and say howdy and ask me to sign a book if you have one with you. I'm down with that.
Normally, I don't associate with people who have three names. It's just intimidating. Plus, on a practical level, it's hard to deal with. Does he go by the full "David Anthony?" Is he a "David" a "Dave" or an "Anthony." Hell, he could even be a "Tony." I have a real problem remembering names. Even the simple first names of my friends. That means someone with three to seven different potential names is going to give me a lot of trouble.
I can't remember how we first got in touch. But I do know that our first contact was over e-mail. And, to tell the truth, I was more than slightly intimidated by him.
Part of this was due to the fact that before his most recent novel (an epic fantasy called Acacia) he wrote literary fiction. While I'm not one to engage in genre snobbery. The fact remains that to Lit Fic has a certain amount of cultural cache. A certain gravitas.
Another intimidating thing was the fact that he had a tenure-track job teaching creative writing, which means he's got some hefty edumication under his belt.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, this picture was the the first I ever saw of him:
Not only was he thinner and more attractive than myself. But to me this picture says: "I'm going kick a man's ass, then go read some Coleridge. You have a problem with that? No. I didn't think so. Move along."
I know, I know. It's wrong to judge a book by its cover. It's doubly wrong to judge an author by his jacket photo. If you were to do that with me, you would be forced to assume that I was some sort of rogue Muppet, eremite priest, or Russian dictator.
When I finally met him at a convention. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that most of what I'd assumed about him was off-base. He wasn't pompous, or stiff, or academic. He was relaxed and friendly, with an easy laugh.
At the last convention we hit together, Wiscon, we sat at the bar for an hour or two and had a lovely argument about Heinlein, and a different argument about C.S. Lewis, and a discussion about purpose of literature and the ethical responsibility of the author. We disagreed a lot.
It was lovely. I love few things more than a conversation with an intelligent person who is passionate in their beliefs and willing to disagree with me.
In short. He turned out to be my favorite sort of person. The sort of person that I wished lived closer to me so that he could come over to my house, watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and get his ass solidly handed to him at Settlers of Catan.
Because, as I've said before, I cannot be beaten at Catan.
Lastly, though not leastly, David may prove instrumental in insuring that y'all get to see books two and three.
Let me explain. At World Fantasy convention last year his hotel was hell and gone from the convention center, and I had rented a car. So one night when things were winding down, I offered to give him a ride.
We wandered out of the hotel to the parking lot. After we had climbed into the car, he looked at me and said, "You're not wearing your seatbelt?"
It wasn't the sentence itself, it was the way he said it. He wasn't chiding, or disapproving. He was honestly shocked. More than that. He was aghast. It was the same tone I use when I say, "You smoke?"
When I say this, usually the unspoken part of my comment is clear, "What are you, a fucking idiot?"
When he looked at me and said, "You're not wearing your seat belt?" I thought to myself, "Of course. I should wear my seat belt. I'd be an idiot not to."
And ever since then, I've worn my seat belt. This means that I'm much more likely to live long enough to get you day two and three of the trilogy, and many more after that.
Despite all of his coolness, it took me a long time to get around to reading David's book. I did mention his book, right?
It's epic fantasy. A nice mix of big empire-level stuff and character centered story. He's a great worldbuilder, which is where my heart lies, and his cultures are varied and well-developed. He leans more toward description, where I tend to do more dialogue. But we're playing a similar game in many ways. Odds are if you dig on Tolkien, Acacia will be right up your alley. Check it out.
It seems like every time I'm at a convention, a thousand small, cool things happen. There's usually a dozen or so that catch at me, and I think, "I'll write about that in the blog when I get home."
But then I actually get home, and I'm tired. Then the next day I need to do laundry, and answer about 800 e-mails, and make lusty snugglebunnies with my girlfriend.
And sometimes I write, too. I don't know if y'all have heard, but there is a book that I'm supposed to be working on.
Typically, by the time I'm caught back up with my life, the memory of those cool little moments has faded somewhat. And so most of them just gently evaporate without ever being written down. Which is a shame, really.
So, instead of trying to weave all of these things into any sort of consistent narrative, I'm just going to bang a few of them out there. If you're one of those literary folks, you can think of these as vignettes. If not, you can just pretend you're reading a Vonnegut novel.
I hate it when you're at a crowded convention, and people stop in the middle of the hallway to talk to their four friends.
I know that one of the great joys of the convention is running into people and having a nice chat. I myself have been known to stop and talk with friends I haven't seen in a long while. However, the center of the hallway is not the place for this conversation. A coffee shop? Yes. Over dinner at the Italian place? Certainly. How about over in the lounge there, on the couches? Why that sounds lovely too....
The hallway? No. That is not the right place for your reunion.
You see, the purpose of a hallway is to allow people to move from one place to another. That is its primary function. That is key to the platonic form of the hallway. If you stop in the hallway to talk, you are acting contrary to the fundamental nature of the hallway. This angers god and all clear-thinking individuals. Including me. Yes me, the person standing behind you. Yes me, the person standing motionless behind you in the hallway. Yes the person who looks as if he is thinking about howling with rage, punching you in the neck, then stepping over your doughy, twitching body.
In the interest of politeness and civilization, I resist my urges. However, I am tempted to do something. Like make buttons that read: "Hallways? Ask me how!" or a pamphlet entitled: "Hallways: a user's guide for getting the fuck out of my way."
Bad - My cell phone went off during a panel.
Worse - I was one of the panelists.
Worst - I was the moderator.
P.S. Then it went off again.
When did clocks become unfashionable? Am I the only one who remembers when you could go into a store and there would be a clock on the wall? You know, for the telling of time? Who decided that wasn't cool anymore?
Yes I know most people have cell phones these days. But that shouldn't make any difference. People used to have watches. You know what's easier than digging around in your backpack, pulling out your phone, then opening it? Looking up on the fucking wall and seeing a clock there. That's what.
Fans are cool. My fans are cool to an exponentially higher degree. At gencon, after my first panel, a lovely young lady came up and handed me this....
This isn't a terribly good reproduction of the watercolour, as I just snapped it with my digital camera. But the picture is obviously a likeness of me from when I dressed up like a gnome at gencon last year.
Did I ever post up a picture of that? I can't remember. Here it is, just in case:
I never remember to take pictures of myself at these things, so I owe this picture to the fan who sent it along to me. When e-mailed it, she told me the story of how her daughter laughed when she saw it.
Her mom though that she was laughing at the obvious thing: a man dressed like a gnome. But apparently that wasn't it at all. The little girl reached out, brushed at my face in the picture, and said, "I like his fur."
Score another point for the beard.
Though I've done a bunch of traveling lately, I've never flown on Southwest Airlines before. They don't have assigned seating. Every ticket has a number, you board the plane in that order, then you pick whatever seat looks best to you, depending on what's left. It was a little weird. Not bad, just unfamiliar.
Also, Southwest apparently has the only funny flight attendants in the whole business. I've tuned out the standard safety procedures for over a year now. You know what I'm talking about: that little pre-flight spiel where they explain how the seat belt works and lie to you about your seat cushion being able to float.
But on Southwest, the woman said, "Please listen closely while my ex-boyfriend and fiance demonstrate the safety procedures." And I did pay attention, especially when she started to make fun of one of the guys who couldn't get his life jacket on quickly enough for her taste. Later, when she was walking down the isle, one of the guys got on the intercom and made a boom-bada boom-bada noise in time with her walk. It was good fun.
Lastly, on Southwest, they don't cheap you on the snacks. They go around with a big box of different goodies, and if you say, "I want one of each." Then they just give you one of each. They didn't act like the CEO was going to count the packets of peanut butter crackers at the end and beat them if one is missing. Plus you got a whole can of soda and not just a cupful, which I appreciate.
These may not sound like much, but life, like writing, is built from small details. If I'm going to pay 400 bucks for a plane ticket, then I want a whole can of soda and an extra packet of peanuts. Does it make me feel better? Yes. Yes it does. It's like being given the choice between sodomy and sodomy with a little lube. You're going to have the sodomy either way, so you come to appreciate whatever small pieces of consideration the airline overlords grant you.
So right now I'm in LA. I'm in the eye of the storm, schedule-wise. I was at Worldcon last weekend, and I'll be at GenCon in a couple of days. Right now I'm helping out a little bit with the Writers of the Future workshop.
And when I say, "a bit" I mean just that. The workshop is run by Tim Powers, who (whom?) I've mentioned before on the blog, albeit briefly. He's one of my favorite authors. And not only does he have an amazing grip on the craft of writing, but he's a great teacher to boot. That means, for the most part, I feel my best contribution to the workshop is to nod and occasionally chime in with an emphatic "hell yes."
Worldcon was cool. I sat on some panels talked about writing, and generally avoided making too much of an ass of myself. That's about as much as I can hope for, overally.
I got about 30 people for my reading, which was nice. I read some poetry, a couple humor columns, including one of my old favorites about guinea pigs, and a tiny piece of book two. Not even hardly a taste, just a tease.
I also had my first experience of randomly seeing someone reading my book in public. Unfortunately, it was at a convention, so it only counts for half points, but it was still pretty cool.
I think I freaked out the woman who was reading it though. I walked up to her and said, "That's my book!" She looked up at me with mingled surprise and horror. Understandable really, that's how I'd feel if I looked up and saw some freakish hobo-muppet crossbreed grinning down at me.
Next weekend I'll be at Gencon, doing all manner of panels, readings, and signings. I'll also be making appearance at the local library, accompanied by the awesome costumers who won the photo contest. A good time will be had by all.
Gech. Stupid hotel computer. I can't make it display the cover of the book. You'll just have to follow the link, I guess.
If the comic sounds familiar, it should. Rich Burlew was the cartoonist who did the lovely tribute to Gary Gygax that I linked to a while back.
It was fun writing the forward for the book, as I really love the comic. Plus Rich drew a comic version of me which is pretty dead on. If you're interested, the book will be available for sale at Gencon, and can be ordered off Rich's website.
A week or two ago a fan wrote in with the following:
Sorry to hear you didn't win the Locus award for Best Debut Novel of the year. Still, I hope you got to rub elbows with the famous people and wear a tux at the Locus awards.
I'd already had a handful of people send me their condolences about not winning. Some were gentle commiserations, while other folks were frothy with rage, upset at the sheer injustice of me not winning ever award in existence. Even the ones that were given out before my book was published. Even the ones that were given out before I was born.
Regardless of the tone, all the messages were sweet. And I told them the same thing: the winner, Heart Shaped Box, was a good book. A really good book, actually. I enjoyed it a lot. (Though I did something I rarely do, and listened to it as an audiobook without actually reading the paper version first.)
For the more morally outraged folks, I explained that Joe hill has actually been writing short stories for a while, so he had a bit of a pre-established readerbase even before his novel came out. Plus, he writes in the thriller/horror genre, which tends to have a bigger readership than epic fantasy. Both of those things, I explained, couldn't help but get him more votes, and that's the cool thing about the Locus Award - everyone gets a vote. It's like a democracy or something.
Plus, Hill's acceptance speech was very gracious. He mentioned all the other nominees, myself included. That's classy.
As for the Locus Awards themselves - they really weren't a tuxedo sort of affair. They're more of a Hawaiian shirt deal. Which, personally, I found kind of refreshing.
I also didn't get to do much elbow rubbing while I was out there. I had some sort of strange fever that left me exhausted and sweaty. Really sweaty. There were occasions where I was literally dripping, and that's not the best way to make a good impression on folks. So, for the most part, I just hung out.
I did get to hear William Gibson talk, which was pretty cool. And I got to hang out with Peter S. Beagle for a while (for reasons that I will discuss in a later blog.) That was terribly exciting despite the fact that I didn't feel very well. My only anxiety is that I looked like I was having the worst panic attack ever. But sweaty exhaustion aside, the fact remains that getting to talk with Mr Beagle made the whole trip worthwhile.
And that, I thought, was the Locus awards in a nutshell.
But it wasn't. Just a couple days ago, someone sent me an e-mail saying it was a shame about the awards. I was robbed, etc. etc.
I bounced them back the same response: Lost to a good book, established writer, classy speech.
Then the fan replied and said, "You do know that they changed how the votes were counted after the polls were closed, don't you?"
To which I said, "What?"
So he sent me a link or two explaining what had happened.
For those of you without the inclination to click and read the details on your own, here's the short version. After the polls closed, Locus apparently decided to count their subscriber's votes twice when tallying things up.
Which changed the results, obviously. Cory Doctorow's story collection Overclocked would have won first place if everything was even. But after they weighted their subscribers votes double, he came in third.
And, apparently, if they hadn't changed things, I would have won in my category.
So now I really don't know how I feel. Honestly, it would be way easier for me to form an opinion if my book weren't one of those affected by the change. (or should that be "effected?" I can never remember....)
Changing the way the votes are tallied after the polls are closed looks pretty dodgy though, no matter how you shake it. It makes it seem as if things got counted up, then folks started saying, "Hmmmm.... Well, how does it turn out if everyone who lives in New Hampshire gets two votes? No. Not what we're looking for. How about people with a GED only get three-fifths of a vote? Still no good. Starbelly sneeches get ten votes? Yes. Perfect. That works. Let's go with that."
I don't really have a good note to close on. The fact remains that Hill's book is still great and his speech was still classy. If I didn't mind losing to him before, logic says that it shouldn't bother me now.
On the other hand, winning awards is cool. Aside from the warm fuzzy, it creates publicity, and that helps spread the word about the book.
Plus, this award was a plaque of some sort. I could have used that for all sorts of things. Obviously it would be useful for decorating the barren walls of my house and intimidating my enemies, but that's just for starters. I could have also used it for serving drinks when company comes over. It also looked pretty heavy, so I could have used it as a projectile in the eventuality of a zombie attack.
Meh. That's all I've got. I should get back to working on the book.
Part two of the Peter Hodges interview is now live over HERE, for those of you who are into that sort of thing....
Also, for those of you that are hanging around here in Central Wisconsin, I'll be at a little one-day convention in Wausau tomorrow. You can find some details HERE.
And lastly, for those of you on Facebook, we're having a bit of a shindig to celebrate the paperback release of the book. There will be cake* and fabulous prizes for people who are interested in participating. So stop on by if you're interested.
A Convention, A Trip to Boston, and a Touching Story
First, an announcement for those of you Michigan area. I'm going to be at Confusion Jan 18th through the 20th. I'll be signing books, speaking on panels, and generally getting my geek on. Stop on by if that sort of thing sounds like a good time to you....
Second, an apology. Over the last year I've fallen into a bad habit. I post a blog announcing some appearance I'm going to make, then, when I come back, I make a post along the lines of, "Whew. I'm back. It was cool, I'll give you the details later."
But then, of course, I never do.
This isn't because I don't love y'all. It's because this past year I've been really over-busy. Typically I spend all weekend at a con, come back exhausted, then spend most of the week catching up on everything I'd fallen behind on because I was out of town. Then, by the time I'm caught up, it's usually time for me to leave town again....
As a result, there are a bunch of stories I've been meaning to tell, but haven't. I've met cool people, discovered cool games and books, and frequently made an ass of myself in a variety of amusing ways. The last one, if you haven't guessed yet, is a particular specialty of mine.
So expect to see some of those convention stories popping up over the next couple months. Hopefully they'll be somewhat amusing, if not particularly timely.
Thirdly and lastly, the story.
My recent trip to Boston was, by and large, a lot of fun. The trip itself was made extra exciting by the fact that I was traveling through airport security without a form of government ID.
You see, just before the holiday season, I accidentally left my driver's licence at K-mart when returning a defective broom (It sounds like there's an interesting story there, but trust me, there isn't.) Afterward, K-mart called to tell me my licence was there, but because I went home for the holidays instead of rushing to their store to pick it up, K-mart decided to be helpful and drop my ID in the mail.
Of course I didn't find this out until three hours before my plane was supposed to leave for Boston. Making things even more lovely was the fact that they had mailed it out in the middle of the holiday post office crunch. And that they had mailed it to the wrong address.
Rather than take this opportunity to invent scathing new cusses and inflict them on the hapless K-mart employee, I took the high road with the hope that it will help me accumulate good karma. so that the next time I reincarnate I get to come back as something really cool.
For those of you who don't know, karma is like.... Well, you know how you can collect box tops, or Camel-cash or Kool-aid points and trade them in for prizes? I'm a little fuzzy on the concept, but I'm pretty sure that's what Karma is like. It's like Kool-Aid points for your soul. I want to collect enough Karma Points so that I get to reincarnate as Optimus Prime, Allyson Hannigan, or a glowing orb made entirely out of fluffy puppies and orgasms.
What was I talking about again...? Oh yeah. Boston....
Anyway, I made the trip with much anxiety, but no actual trouble. Despite my fears, they did not probe me in any unseemly ways. In fact, they tossed my luggage a lot less viciously than they normally do when I'm trying to play by the rules. Maybe I'll make a habit of leaving my
Out in Boston I met up with the publicity people from my UK publisher. They were a lovely crew and we shot a bunch of video interview footage. Among other things I told a joke about a gorilla, and attempted to speak with a Norwegian accent. The Gollancz marketing people were a blast, and I hope that had as good a time as I did....
I'm told that we might get to see some of that footage eventually on youtube, I'm told. If that happens, I'll post it up here....
We had a remarkably good turnout at Pandemonium books despite the bitter, bitter cold. I read a little and answered questions. I really enjoy doing Q&A, talking about writing and the world I've created.
However, one question caught me off guard as I'd never been asked it before. It was, "How cool is it to be you?" I didn't really have a good answer for that....
I also got to sign a book "To E-bay" which is something I've always wanted to do.
If you're interested in more details, an attendee posted up a blog about the signing HERE including several pictures of me. Yes, I know that the shirt I'm wearing to the signing is the same one I'm wearing in my author photo on the webpage. It's not a coincidence. The truth is, I only own one shirt.
I did not, as many of you speculated, get my ass handed to me at Catan. But that's only because we didn't actually get a chance to play. Two lovely people showed up and informed me that they actually worked on the computer version of Catan. One of them had a cool travel set of Catan with her, and I got the feeling that if we did get into it, I'd start off winning a game for fifty cents and the evening would end with me stark naked, owing each of them thousands of dollars.
The next day before I flew home, I went to the Boston aquarium. Where I formed the following opinions: penguins stink, seals are cool, fish are weird.
I also got to touch a sea anemone with my finger. And, no offence to the other cool things that happened out there, I have to say that that was, without a doubt, my favorite part of the trip....
So in half an hour or so I'm going to be getting into my car and driving up to Minneapolis for the Fantasy Matters convention I mentioned a while back.
I was pretty sure that by now, I'd be numb to the pre convention jitters. Over the years I've done a lot of public speaking in a lot of different venues. I've been a teacher for years, of course, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Teaching is a cakewalk compared to some of the other gigs I've had.
Hell, about a year ago I was the commencement speaker at the biggest high school in the state. That was scary. Going to another convention shouldn't be making me jittery. Improv comedy. That's hard. Preaching a sermon, singing in front of judges, live radio interviews. All of those are way more.... anxiousnessing than talking on a panel at a convention....
Shit, it's starting already. I'm losing all my words... what's the word for when something makes you nervous? Is there such a word? There has to be....
Hell, by noon tomorrow I'll be speaking like a... Labrador? What does that even mean? Fuck. Now my knack for clever analogies has crapped-out as well. Soon I'll be reduced to grunts, rude gestures, and scratching crude sketches in the dirt with a stick....
The reason for my anxiety is this. Neil Gaiman is going to be at this convention. I'm finally going to meet him.
Now over the last year or so, I've met a lot of important people. Big people. Agents. Editors. Movers. Shakers. Authors that I've read for years. Luckily, it's been a slow progression so that I was never especially overwhelmed at any point.
A couple weeks before my book came out I had dinner with Tad Williams when he was in the area doing a signing. And the strange thing is, I was cool with it. He was just a guy. I should have been a little freaked-out, but I wasn't.
But Gaiman. His writing is beyond the pale. Dude is mythic and I am seriously nervous. I'm worried that when I meet him I'm going to try to be witty and I'll just spaz out instead. It'll be like a Muppet having a seizure. A Muppet with bad language skills.
I'm guessing it would pretty much be like Grover on methamphetamine. With tourettes.
Somewhere between this:
Oh Deviantart... is there anything you don't have an illustration for?
Personal to Mr. Gaiman: If you read this, please do not call the police. I won't visit spazzyMuppet death upon you. Neither will I scalp you and wear your hair like a little hat. You have my word as a fellow fantasy author. I promise. Pinky swear.
Okay, time to get on the road. Got a long drive ahead of me tonight.
I've been back from Wiscon for two days, and I'm finally caught up on my sleep and my e-mail.
For those of you who don't know, Wiscon is a bit of a rarity. It's a feminist Sci-fi convention.
What does that mean? Several things...
The paneling is slightly different:
When I went to Norwescon, they had a panel titled: "Where Have All the Great Monster Movies Gone?" Wiscon had a panel titled: "The Role of Women and Ethnic Minorities in Stargate."
There is a lean toward issues of race, class and gender at Wiscon, but it's just a lean. It's not the only thing that happens there. Wiscon still has panels on writing good high fantasy, the science of dark matter, and artificial intelligence. The difference is that at Wiscon the AI panel will be more likely to discuss the gender of the AI, and what that implies about society.
The people that attend are slightly different:
At Wiscon you have less of the extreme freaky fans with borderline social dysfunction. This is nice.
However, there is a corresponding rise of Wiscon attendees with graduate degrees. Which, in a way, means they just have a different flavor of social dysfunction.
In practical terms this means that at Wiscon you'll have fewer people standing too close to you, interrupting you when you speak, or following you around explaining why Squire of Gothosis personally, very important to them. The trade off is that people at Wiscon are more likely to use words like, "hermeneutic," and "appropriation" and "trope."
I score this as a point for Wiscon, as I kinda like the word trope.
The activities are slightly different:
There is less filking and yiffing, more discoursing and unpacking of social constructs.
Simply said, at Wiscon, there's less geeking, and more speaking.
The amount of drinking and hobnobbing at the parties are roughly equal.
You'll see fewer people in costume at Wiscon. In fact, it wasn't until the very last day that I saw my requisite catgirl. Costumes are still there, but they tend to be more reserved, or designed along challenging gender rolls. Which is a fancy way of saying that there's a fair amount of cross-dressing. Though honestly, I saw a fair share of that at Norwescon too.
I'm not saying that I like one scene more than the other. I'm just pointing out the differences. Personally, I just like being around people who are doing what makes them happiest. If you're a woman who wants to dress up like a Klingon, fine. If you're a guy who wants to wear a red sequined evening dress, also fine. You want to do both, it's all cool with me, baby. Get down with your freaky self.
There, now we're all on the same page about Wiscon. Next post I'll give y'all the list of surrealness that happened while I was down there....