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August 15th, 2009

Anticipation, Recollected in Tranquillity

 As everyone else has been saying, it was lovely, exhausting, and lots of fun.  I heard horror stories of workshop sections showing up to discuss manuscripts, only to find that the hotel had double-booked the room, of programming times and places changed without notice, of parties shut down and coffee undelivered to the Green Room, of programming items thinly attended or not attended at all.  Two French authors, scheduled on Thursday, sat in an empty room for 15 minutes before giving up and going out to find a friend to drown their disappointment with.  And I only got 2 auditors, one 10year old Canadian boy and one middle-aged Aussie gent, for my talk on YA fantasy.  Which, I found out later, was supposed to be a reading, although that's not what it said on the program. 

Never mind, we enjoyed ourselves very much, and passed around book lists and talked about librarians and Eragon vs. The Lord of the Rings and fairy tales and Australian writers and parted with expressions of mutual esteem.

Friday and Saturday were my heavily scheduled days, with many panels upon which I said many things, none of which I remember.  What I do remember was the memorial for Charles Brown, which was funny and sad and moving--with a distinct bias (as is appropriate to the honoree) towards funny.  Robert Silverberg talked about the shoe wars, in which Charlie insisted that shoes be removed when entering his house, and Bob refused to.  Connie Willis talked about driving Charlie to Nogales, and threatening to tie him to the roof of the car.  Jonathan Strahan spoke eloquently of his championing of new writers and new ideas, of the work he'd done to keep the field growing and welcoming to newcomers, of his power, and how he'd done his best to use it for the good.  Although I wasn't one of his intimates, it was odd and uncomfortable not seeing him, flamboyant in a Hawaian shirt, holding forth at the pre-Hugo reception or puttering down the long halls of the Palais de Congres in a scooter.

The other event highlight was the International Awards Ceremony, which was the Worldcon's nod towards the other fantastic-fiction communities of the world.  I was there to accept the 2008  (not a typo) Seiun Award in behalf of Alice Sheldon, who had won for the Japanese translation of Brightness Falls Through the Air.   It was a big hall, so perhaps there were actually more people there than it appeared.  No awards were actually presented (except the Seiun, to its American recepients), but there were recapitulations of awards from France, China, and Poland, accompanied with pictures of the winning book jackets and authors.  The Seiun award consisted (for living recipients) of a gigantic furoshiki (part of the Japanese idom for a big story, which is what SF is) and a stainless-steel spatula set into a black base shaped like an overturned flower-pot or fez.  The spatula is a spatula, not just something that looks like a spatula, and is part of another idiom or perhaps joke which the otherwise eloquent Mr. Hirai was unable to translate.  There's a scroll, too, in Japanese.  I gave it all back to him at the end of the ceremony, so he could send it to Jeff Smith, Alice Sheldon's literary executor, and went to join the WFA judges for a celebratory drink at the Delta.

The best part of the con, as is always the case, was seeing people we don't see otherwise.  In this instance, it was mostly the French contingent--writers, bande dessinee authors and publishers--who were eager to meet their Francophone audience.  We'd met some of them in Glasgow and in Nantes, and were eager to pursue the friendship, so there were two lovely bi-lingual dinners, one in a Thai restaurant in Chinatown, the other at a steak place in Old Montreal.  I got to meet Lionel Davoust, who wrote "L'Ile close" (think "No Exit," only with an island) which will appear in Interfictions 2.  He's a complete cupcake, very sympathique and kind about my ungrammatical French.  We ate steak and lobster with Ann Guero, who writes wonderful and exciting bd's as Ange, and the Bargalonne editor Olivier Dombret.  I can't quite remember what we talked about--rather a lot of wine was consumed that night, and many languages spoken--but I do remember it was fun and interesting, and touched on writing and travel and love.

We saw and talked to many other people, of course--if I start trying to list them all, I'll surely forget someone, and I don't want to leave anyone out.  The best thing about being in this business for a long time is the number and quality of the people I know and love.  It's a great joy to introduce young writers to old hands, to watch the new guard coming in and settling down and adding their fresh perspectives to the great and endless conversation that is speculative fiction.  It's why I keep going to cons, really.  It's why I love being part of this community.

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