Monday, August 31, 2009

WorldCon Part IX - Gaiman Reads Doctorow

20:00 Saturday

I ditched the Masquerade after about 40 minutes. It was very well attended, more people than the other big room events: a thousand, maybe twice that many. The costumes were from good to excellent – like professional / movie quality. But I find the dual language deal tedious, though they prattled it well enough again. Mostly I left because I wanted to go to the “Gaiman Reads Doctorow” event.

Neil read one of Cory’s short stories, “The Right Book”. It was recorded live as part of a collection of short stories from Doctorow being read by various author / voice talents. This one’s about books into the future. The collection will be reprints except for one new story. The room was packed with a couple hundred people, probably more refugees from the Masquerade. Just after the recording started a baby started crying on the floor just to Neil’s right. The mother quickly exited with the child. Cory chuckled and said they’d fix it in the edits (which you can see they did, at about 21 seconds into the video). Neil rolled on and at the end the woman came back in and apologized and Mr. Gaiman was very gracious, saying that, since it was right at the beginning, that he really didn’t have any rhythm yet or anything anyway. Beforehand I saw Cory lingering in the hall, still wearing the NATTC pin from our walk that morning and he mentioned it when he saw me walking up. I told him he was welcome to take it off whenever it suited him – he said one day was what he wore things like that, so he had it on for the next session, too – not sure if it shows in the video at all.

They followed the reading with a Q&A; after that I hung in the room, listening to Neil and Cory chat with fans. Neil did a few autographs (although elsewhere he says he prefers not to after panels). I snapped a photo of his back as he said good-bye to Cory . Like a kid on a camping trip doesn’t want to go to bed, I didn’t want to leave. WorldCon is essentially over for me, tomorrow being a travel day, and a day to see a little more of Montreal as I quest for bagels. I got some bus directions from the Info Booth lady at the Palais on my way out.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

WorldCon Part 8: 1848 Chocolate !


I've tried a couple chocolate bars while here: fancy ones and big, 100 grams (so over 3 ounces for those of you not on the metric system). The first was by Dove, called "Dusk" or "Mi-Foncé", subtitled "Milk Chocolate with a hint of dark". Well, it's very good as milk chocolate, but I don't taste much darkness. The next one I tried is called "1848". The intrinsic packaging is all in French. "Noir Subtil" is prominent, but this dark isn't subtle, it's at least what we'd call semi-sweet. It's excellent. A close look gives a Cadbury France address in the fine print on the back. Also stamped on the front, post packaging, in English, is: "Fine Dark Chocolate". Indeed it is.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

WorldCon Part 6.5 -- Delta Con Parties and Montreal Rocks Out

Flashing back to Friday Night for a minute.

Sometime after 10:00 PM I stopped by the Delta hotel, walked there with a couple people unsure of the way -- I'd been there the night before for cake, so. There was elevator confusion when we got there, it crossed my mind that the Delta folks might not have realized what they were in for when they signed on as WorldCon's party hotel. After two false starts we arrived on the 28th floor. I stopped at the Japanese Party and ate a Montreal-style bagel with cream cheese and half a beer. Dinner. The bagel, as I'd heard, was definitely different from a NY-style bagel. Maybe they aren't boiled? Couldn't quite place the flavor: wood-fired oven? I will try to get some to take home on Sunday morning. Chatted a bit and then moved on to the UK party. Good cheese and crackers, odd cookies. The food hostess recommended the Victorian chutney -- tasted like my mom's homemade chili sauce; ok, but not on ham as they were having here.

Out in the hall rumors started that the hotel was throwing some people out, or closing down parties, or something. They were definitely curtailing elevator service to the 5th and 28th floors, the party floors. I "lifted" down to the lobby, time to wander back to my own neighborhood. As I exited the elevator around 11:45 PM it definitely looked like the Delta management had gotten more than they'd bargained for. A bunch of hotel employees in suits were monitoring elevator access, trying to look authoritative and a little bit tough, but mostly looking awkward and uncomfortable. Later we heard about fire code concerns and a possible few non-Con people crashing the parties; or maybe they just weren't wearing their badges?

I walked out of the Delta and up past my hotel toward the outdoor rock festival behind it, below my hotel room window. A young woman with a security badge stopped me and I listened to several sentences in French before I interjected that I didn't understand her. She switched to accented but quite adequate English. She needed to check my "bag" (my backpack), and she told me "not that", pointing at the diet coke can still in my hand from the Delta. I guess there was no outside food or drink in the festival area. I found myself regretting that she was no longer speaking French to me as I dropped my can in a recycling receptical; these are plentiful in Montreal.

I walked into the music. The first stage was hard punk, a wall of fast guitars, angry drums and shouted lyrics. In French. The crowd was into it; one twenty-something girl with a bare midriff was horizontal above the packed crowd, body surfing 6 feet above the asphalt. Made me nervous. I walked on. The other stage still playing was hosting French reggae with a female singer: light black skin, purple sequins and 10 inch afro. Don't know what she was saying, but it was much more pleasant to my ears -- still edgy but melodic and swayable. I hung with them for a while. By 1:00 AM, back in my room, the street was quiet. (It was Les Franco Folies De Montreal)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

WorldCon Part 7 -- Creatures from El and Other Stories

Saturday, 13:30
Bought a snail with flowers on its back at Creatures from El. Lovely, weird stuff. It's made using a wire form underneath with an air dry resin/clay sculpted over it and then glazed. Definitely art.

14:00 Neil Gaiman Reading
Heard Neil read a story about a dying sun and time travel and a flea market in Florida (that's all one story, though I see how you might think it's more a'ready). Then he read a love letter. From a statue. A stalking statue (sorry, that's a bit of a spoiler).

15:30 How to Pitch Your Novel
Quite a few people turned up to hear some rather predictable advice. Still there were some useful tidbits:
- If a publisher asks to see the best parts of your novel, they really want chapters 1, 2 and 3, not 1, 17 and 42.
- Money, generally, flows to the writers, i.e. to the "talent", e.g. at a restaurant (per Mike Resnick, who is an author and publisher; the editors on the panel didn't feel quite so strongly about this).
- Ace/roc is a good imprint for urban fantasy -- they do want electronic copy. Seems to be trending toward electronic submission from paper.
- Who you know certainly helps and can be used a couple of connections away, i.e. friend of a friend
- Longer workshops are worthwhile: Odyssey, Clarion East/West, Lincoln City
- Write (duh.)
- "Writers Market" contains a lot of dead markets and obsolete leads (along with some live ones)
- Writer Beware at
- Novel minimum word counts these days are 75-85K words
- Interzone is a UK short story magazine
- Don't necessarily need to have published short stories to get a novel published; the editors felt the forms were different enough.
- Need to sell 20,000 copies of a hard copy novel to make it profitable
The rest, including most of the Q&A, was just too "Duh."

I also "volunteered" a little for this panel, just helped move the tables and route the microphone wires so that all 4 panelist could sit together -- just wasn't going to work with them all at one 6 foot table and most people were just kind of staring at the awkward situation.

17:00 "Analog"
This was a panel to talk about what makes an Analog magazine story an Analog story. I don't read it much. Apparently Analog stories solve problems. They have a reputation as more "hard" science fiction than Asimov's magazine stories, which are more emotional. Analog tends to link the cosmic and man.
Maybe it's in light of the inevitably depressing previous panel (on first novel publication), but this panel, 10 minutes in, seems not quite pompous, but maybe a bit capricius. Two things about Analog and Asimov's: They love to print new stories from prior authors and short stories from established novelists. The Analog editor did say he's looking for stories about social paradigm shifts (I have an idea in that area). Along these lines the panel discussed that maybe "everybody doesn't need a job anymore"; certainly we can feed and clothe everyone without all of us working 40+ hour weeks. Another tact: Every story has an original speculative idea. "Pursue the next idea in this story." (I've forgotten what they meant by that.). "Don't need a single tone in a story, especially in a longer story." "Don't always need a happy ending." "Show a link between the very large and the very intimate." "Gratuitous sex (or anything) is bad for Analog." Apparently "Emergence" was a very popular story, by David Palmer; also "The Coming Convergence" by Stanley Schmidt.
By this point I'd had enough writerly advice, and was glad the session was over. I don't plan to go to any more of those this time.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

WorldCon Part 6 -- Coraline to Cory

8/7/09 21:00
Friday (yes, it was a long day)

Melissa Auf der Maur joked, during her “Out of Our Minds” multimedia/rock show about being an opening act for Neil Gaiman’s presentation of Coraline, the movie. It was scheduled in the same room as OOOM, in the follow-on time slot. She was joking, but it was also clear that she, a genuine rock star, was being deferential to the literary genre rock star. Made her real.

Neil gave an informative and entertaining introduction to Coraline. He answered a handful of questions, with much more information than was queried for. Good stuff, although he did manage to, toward the end of a very long answer to a short question from a cute young girl, oh, probably 8 years old and I’m guessing she stopped paying attention to the answer by then, drop an F-bomb. Oh, yes, I do – couldn’t at first – remember the question: “Where’d you get the idea for Coraline?” And he told about Holly, his daughter, making up stories and him looking at the shops for Gothic horror for 5 year olds and having to write it himself. But he can’t remember about the buttons for eyes and would need a time/space machine for that and, long story not so long, spilled the beans to his earlier self to jot a note about the buttons idea, but “F----“, now it’s tainted.
They had technical difficulties with the blue-ray player and since I’d seen what I came for (Neil live), I exited.


9:00 AM “Stroll with the Stars” or “Promenade avec les étoiles”
A group met outside the convention center each morning to take a walk around part of Montreal , I only went to this on Saturday, in large part because Cory Doctorow was scheduled to walk. We met at the fountain at Place Jean-Paul-Riopelle on the west end of the center. A star of the table tennis world also happened to be at the walk, Larry Hodges. Larry is also a science fiction author; he’s had several short stories published and is nearing completion on his first novel. I mostly chatted with him on the walk. The weather was very pleasant and we mostly strolled through Montreal ’s Chinatown district. At the end I talked a bit with Cory and took his picture with Larry, and Larry took a picture of me and Cory and I took a picture of someone else and Cory and Larry did one of his party tricks with a ping pong ball, levitating the ball in a stream of his breath, although it was difficult in the outdoor breeze. I gave Cory and Larry each an NATTC club pin. Cory ended up wearing his all day. Cory gave Larry his “Strolling with the Stars” pin. I may send a photo in to the national table tennis magazine (for which Larry used to be the editor). I then walked with Cory to his next session: autograph signing.

10:00 AM Cory Doctorow Signing

(Alright Mr. Ben McT., Cory told me he’s not much into playing sports, but he might like to try his hands at house fly catching, so perhaps if there is such a league, and it seems like a sci-fi kind of thing, then he may have been signing with the premier fly catching league’s Jupiter United squad, I don’t know. Actually, it was autographing again). I walked into the signing area with him and got on the back of the short line that had already formed there, awaiting his appearance. He wore the NATTC pin while signing (he had a moderate line the whole hour, I checked back, and snapped a picture). I think he appreciated being asked to sign a printout of the first pages of Makers, his new novel currently being serialized pre-publication on He also signed Little Brother for me.

Aside: “In what world is that considered dry?” I asked myself after washing my hands and being obliged to use the air dryer – no paper towels available. Even the “Blast” dryer with its high velocity air force (and 80 dB sound) after 20 seconds was still visibly, tactilely, if-not-quite-drippingly, wet. The “what world” part struck me as apropos, here at a sci-fi convention. Perhaps I’m easily amused at the moment.

Friday, August 14, 2009

WorldCon Part 5 -- Out of Our Minds

8/7/2009 Cont’d
Went along to the “Out of Our Minds” multimedia presentation by Melissa Auf der Maur. Turned out to be an incredibly personable experience. She’s a first time WorldCon-ner (any ‘Con, I’d guess) and still a bit uncomfortable with sci-fi ultra geeks but she marched through technical difficulties and played electric bass solo, clearly missing her drummer. She also showed the film and the music video (unfinished at this point) and played 3 songs while a video montage of the black & white (and red!) comic interspersed with her live on the big screens. She told us some behind the scenes details, like that the Ford Taurus was demolished but the old truck was barely scratched, and that she had never played solo w/just her voice and bass for a live audience and that she was nervous – had been practicing in her living room. She was rewarded with a warm ovation and plenty of fans, now and future. She stayed on stage, chatting afterwards with a bunch of folks that came up; and she handed out buttons and stopped for photos. Of course her being an attractive woman wasn’t lost on this crowd, but she signed autographs and was very cordial. She gave a lot of her self, and the people left wanting more.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

WorldCon, Part IV -- The Neil Gaiman Signing

Friday, still. Started to listen to Connie Willis, Charles Stross, Cory Doctorow reading but it turned into SRO (Standing Room Only) so I gave up my seat between Connie's introducing herself and setting up the formant and her starting to read. Just as well, the 4:00 PM signing line for Neil Gaiman had started, even with pre-allocated tickets. (I picked one up about 9:40 am, thankfully no line for that and earlier than the warned 10:00 am which conflicted with my first panel today), so I was early, about 3:45 but already 140 people back in the line (the guy collecting tickets mentioned the count a couple people before me -- there were still 6 dozen people behind me). And it took an hour and a half to get to Mssr. Gaiman, I had boned up on my signing etiquette and already had my limit 2 items tagged with the dedication name and had eaten, etc. and had something to read with me and met the people near me on line, so it wasn't too dreadfully boring. Neil was astoundingly patient and listened to my prattle about Caralyn's name often being gotten wrong, just like Coraline and I ended up very pleased with the mouse doodle on Coraline and the headstone doodle on The Graveyard Book. Hey, I just realized (okay, I'm a little slow), that he put "CHIP" on the headstone, like I'm R.I.P. -- Not quite yet, Buddy!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

WorldCon Diaries, Part 3

Sitting outside a lecture room for the 10:00 am panel, reading Little Brother, when Cory Doctorow walks by – not a big coincidence, he’s on the 10 am panel, still he nods and says “hi” and it’s a little surreal.

The panel is “Intellectual Property and Creative Commons ”, not a whole lot here that I’m not already aware of, but it’s fresh to hear it straight from people who are pioneering it. Doctorow suggests googling “model creative commons license” for a sample, but I didn’t find anything better than just going to

New Media Panel
Cory Doctorow mentioned mixing Skype (internet based telephone calling) with digital music such that while skyping with his wife, he can hear the music, but she can’t – and he can work and listen and chat, and she can work and chat – without the music, something they can do while he’s traveling but not while he’s home.

Cory Doctorow at both these first two panels, after 30 or 45 minutes, adjusted from a normal seated posture to a cross-legged, “Indian-style” (is that “Native American-style now, or just politically incorrect to attribute to any cultural designation?), still in a regular chair. Nice to have young joints.

Steven R. Boyett was also on the panel, he has a new book, I guess and one (Ariel) coming back into print; he’s also a podcast DJ for exercise music, etc. He’s kind of a “modern man”, as opposed to Neil’s more “renaissance man”, who was also on the panel, but seemed a little cranky – or maybe he was just being obstinately retro; he was still entertaining and the largest presence on the panel, the Con’s “rock star”. He looked dead tired even though this is only the second day of the convention. All the panelists held their own, though, even Melissa Auf der Maur, who apparently is a legitimate rock star. I’m not sure from what group(s), but one of the songs is in Rock Band (the videogame). Tobias Buckell, another panelist, is a NY Times best selling author and Ellen Kushner, from NPR and more, moderated. Melissa was clearly a bit out of her element, not knowing much about sci-fi literature, comics or the internet – but she knew music and film and was very open about it. She’s also a native of Montreal, and went to high school with one of the audience members, so provided some local “color” (including her long red hair).

14:30 (let’s see, that’s 2:30 PM)
Lebanese for lunch at the food court in the mall adjoining my hotel and between it and the Palais. Lebanese seemed like very unusual ethnic fare for a food court until I realized that it has a French heritage so is likely right at home in Montreal. I had falafel on pita bread, it was probably good but I don’t think chipsters like falafel. Had ham & egg croissant from another food court stand earlier for breakfast – it seemed French, too, rather than getting the English muffin version.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Canadian Astronauts, Nobel Economists

Continuing my WorldCon diaries, there were some pretty prestigious performers:

20:00 (That’s 8:00 pm)

Canadian Astronaut and Member of Parliament, Mark Garneau, gave the keynote for the opening ceremonies. He mentioned Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, a book I read once upon a time after another ebullient recommendation. I don’t remember it much at all, other than that it wasn’t my favorite.

The entertainer was Sabrina Argonier, a contortionist in a hula hoop, a very strong hula hoop, she was all over inside and out of that thing, on the ground and suspended in the air. The “Guests of Honor” were introduced, including Élisabeth Vonarburg who’s birthday apparently is today and Neil Gaiman, who gave a three minute impromptu prepared speech.

Paul Krugman and Charles Stross in Conversation.

This started out with the “where’s my flying car?” discussion, but included some other interesting points, like that the “Military Industrial Complex” has been supplanted, or joined, by the “Communications Complex”: telcos and intelligence agencies and what not. Another was that somewhere in the past 30 – 50 years people getting rich switched methodology from “Wealth Creation” (Carnegie, Rockefeller, etc.) to “Wealth Concentration” (Warren Buffet, Bernie Madoff, etc.)

Walked on the street from the Palais des Congres to the Delta Centreville Hotel and a party for Vonarburg (let there be cake). “What’s this knot of 20 or so people out front of the Intercontinental Hotel?” I asked myself enroute. “Oh, there’s Neil Gaiman (so it’s his crowd); and he’s doing introductions! ‘This is Karen Somebody, Karen, this is So-and-so.’ Poor lucky bastard (meaning Neil).”

Monday, August 10, 2009

Winging to WorldCon

I plan to run a series of my notes from my trip to WorldCon / Anticipation – the big Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention winding up today in Montreal (yes, in Canada ). I had very limited access to the Internet while there, so I jotted notes in a Moleskine pad, so they are from a few days ago, maybe next time I’ll be set up to live blog it.

Flying to the 67th WorldCon, Anticipation, in Montreal . Hopefully building some good karma – but did feel a bit like I was in a David Sedaris skit – was asked to switch my 6B aisle seat for a bulkhead seat up front, 1C, so that a couple could sit together. No problem for me, just want to arrive safe & close to on schedule (unlike these folks) -- lots to do and see this weekend. 15 minutes late boarding….

Finished the first “Part” of Cory Doctorow’s Makers novel serialization. Only printed 2 parts – already wish I’d printed more. Not so unsettling as Little Brother, more energizing/provoking like Dan Pink’s Free Agent Nation or Dave Winer’s ventures. Still on the plane. Need to pee.

First panel: John M. Ford (Apparently known as “Mike” in everyday life). A few folks lingered before the prior panel finished, but it really started filling about now. I guess it was to be expected; Neil Gaiman sheduled (I missed the “c” on purpose there, as one of the, I guess, locals, was saying it that way just now). Novels of interest: Final Reflection, a Star Trek book, from the Klingon POV; How Much for Just the Planet, another Star Trek story. Web of Angels, arguably the first cyberpunk book. The Final Tax wreckless Eric (My notes fail me here – get used to it). From the End of the Twentieth Century short stories; Heat of Fusion.

Pastiche: Green Eggs and Ham in Casa Blanca, apparently written in a comment on Patrick Neilsen Hayden’s Making Light blog.

They ended a bit early, some thought only an hour was scheduled but ‘twas 90 minutes so the after 60 part was Q&A and ad hoc, until an audience member stepped to the mic and told Ford’s bar joke: “Werner Heisenberg, Kurt Godel and Noam Chomsky walk into a bar…” The end of the joke was declared the final word.

Afterthought: the room was full, 200+ people and all the seats, okay 90%, were bad – because it was a flat room with crowded, orthogonal rows of connected chairs. More than one row back and there were heads in your way. The panel was in the same chairs as the audience. Either a dais or bar height chairs and tables would have cured it – or 180 fewer people.