Rolling Whirlkon Report – Reno, NV – 20 AUG 2011

20 AUG 2011 – RENO, NV – 0230 HRS
The last 48 hours have been a big, fat blur. I’d wanted to do more updates more often, but the wireless at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center was so thoroughly crushed by the mass of people, I couldn’t get on. Plus, by the time I’ve gotten to my room each night, I’m so tired it’s almost not worth it to sit down and type anything up. But, since Day 3 is in the can, and there’s more to go tomorrow, I wanted to catch my breath and at least do an update.

Thursday…. was a true whirlwind evening. I went with Larry Correia and a bunch of other people to get dinner at the Claim Jumper restaurant down the street from the convention center. I had a nice, inexpensive burger — flame-broiled, just what I was craving after a day with so little protein. Then we went back to the convention, where we attended some of the “room parties” that were going on at the Atlantis hotel.

Now, room parties are rightfully ballyhooed as the highlight of any science fiction convention. They’re where you can meet the editors and the authors, swirling through a sea of fans, all without the scheduling constraints of the panel-laden day routine — and there is a mountain of food available. Thursday specifically I bounced around from the TOR Books suite (huge publisher) the Nightshade books suite (smaller publisher) and the SFWA suite — open to all members of the Science Fiction Writers of America (me) and SFWA’s member guests. Both TOR and Nightshade were packed to the gills, and I was only able to see and greet people I already knew, either from in-person (Utah people, and a few others) or from on-line, such as Codex.

I did meet Lou Anders, who is my collaborator and teacher Mike Resnick’s editor at Pyr books. Pyr is a smaller book publisher, but they’re growing, and they have the best covers and cover artists in the business! No joke. If you’ve not yet checked out Pyr before, you owe it to yourself to go and see those trade paperbacks for their covers alone. Just look at these stunning covers for one of Mike Resnick’s and one of Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s books:

Gorgeous stuff. And those aren’t even the best examples!

I’d interacted with Lou a little bit on-line, so I specifically went out of my way to find him, insert myself at an opportune moment to shake hands, mention Mike as the ‘connection,’ then play fan-boy by raving about Lou’s cover art — which is always superb. Speaking as someone getting a Bob Eggleton cover for an Analog story, it’s such an astounding thrill to get amazing artwork for one of your books or stories. Truly.

Sometime after talking to Lou I was set upon by a small pack of young writers from Utah who claimed to be following my blog — aigh, someone reads this thing?? — and who said they’d seen me at Life, The Universe, & Everything, in Provo earlier in the year.

I was rather embarrassed, frankly, because I am terrible with names and did not immediately recognize anyone — Charlie Holmberg and Co., I am sorry, you must forgive me, this is a terrible shortcoming on my part, which my wife is too well familiar with. It’s a lazy thing and I do need to find some tricks to work around it, especially now that I will be meeting more and more younger writers eager to jump into the mix. I owe you all that much.

Anyway, when the pandemonium of the TOR suite got to be too much — it was gross, so many bodies, so little ventilation — I took them up to the SFWA suite. The crowd was more manageable up there, and there were more and better places to sit and have a real conversation. I encouraged Charlie and Co. to do Writers of the Future (of course) and explained a bit more in-depth how I felt Writers of the Future, and some of the judges for Writers of the future, had proven invaluable in my young career as a science fiction writer. I really can’t say enough good about the Contest, or the people who participate in it as judges and mentors for the new crop(s) coming up.

It goes without saying that throughout the day I mingled with, sat and listened to panels with, had meals with, or otherwise chattered with many, many friends from prior conventions, including Analog author Alastair Mayer, Daily Science Fiction author Annie Bellet, writer and wife of Schlock Mercenary creator Howard Tayler, the lovely Sandra Tayler, and fantasy author Paul Genesse and his lovely wife Tammy.

Perhaps in another year or two, when I am making a little more money and my daughter is a bit older, we can all come to these things. Tammy and Paul and Sandra, Annie and Olivia totally say hello! Totally!

Friday…. The morning “Walk with the Stars!” went well. I was finally able to meet my roommate Larry’s editor at Baen Books, editor and owner Toni Weisskopf. She’s a relentless enthusiast about military personnel — small wonder, given Baen’s huge number of military readers, as well as authors — so myself and Ethan Skarstedt (Army National Guard, and collaborator with Brandon Sanderson) were able to talk a little bit about the highs (and lows) of our different experiences. Toni generously offered to send some Baen books to our units, which I will be doing (definitely!) because I’ve had to help two platoons get ramped up to go out the door this summer, and I’d love to send those troops some reading material while they’re over in the sand box.

Needless to say, Toni was every bit the down-to-earth Peach I’d heard she is, and it was nice to finally make her acquaintance.

She and award-winner Nancy Kress were on a panel together discussing Hard Science Fiction, about which they had some pretty different opinions. I enjoyed that one enormously, because I’m an Analog author and that’s a big part of what we do in that magazine: write fiction that adheres as closely as possible to known science, with a tweak or two just to look at a thing from a different perspective, or to propose (or solve) a special problem.

I also enjoyed the SIGMA panel with Larry Niven, David Brin, bestseller John Hemry (Jack Campbell) and Analog author Chuck Gannon. Brin was positively evangelizing about technology, and how best to save civilization — SIGMA being a group that “think tanks” solutions to current national and world issues, but from the science fiction writer perspective. I can see why Brin gets speaking appearances. He knows how to excite a crowd, hold a crowd, and talk people around to his point of view.

During the second hour I stood up and asked them all what they thought a new Analog author could do to try and get more teens and tweens reading science-based fiction (as opposed to fantasy, which currently dominates) and David Brin shoutted, “What is your name??” I said my name, and David said to the (very large) crowd, “In a few years this man will bury us, he is the future of science fiction!!” He was messing with me of course — but in a very nice way — and proceeded to spend quite a bit of time answering my question, because he seemed to feel was an important one. Because all of the older writers worry that the kids don’t read sci-fi anymore. The crowd for this panel was very into it too, so the two hours went by quickly.

I hope to meet David at one of the parties before I leave, so I can shake his hand and tell him how much I enjoyed that panel. It was a good one.

Analog/Asimov’s room party was rather crushing: lots and lots and lots of people packed into a too-small space. I was set upon for the second night in a row by aspiring writers, so I sat down and gave them the same spiel I gave the first group the night before: Writers of the Future is the way to go, great money, you get noticed, you’re only competing with peers, not old pros, and I told them the story about how my non-winner story got me in with Stan Schmidt at Analog, et cetera.

The SFWA suite — which Analog and Asimov’s take over one night per WorldCon — was littered with copies of the magazines, with the Analog copies specifically being September 2011 which has my biolog and my second sale to Stan in it, so it felt very much like “my” party in that sense. It was rather neat meeting people like award-winner Connie Willis and being able to lean over to the bar, pluck a copy of the magazine, and flip right to my biolog. “Look, Nancy, this is me!” Too much fun.

I signed a few copies for some aspiring writers — all Utah people — and spent the night mingling and mixing with all the Analog and Asimov’s writers I’d only ever known on-line, or by reputation. Jerry Oltion officially pinned myself, Alastair Mayer, and Juliette Wade into the Analog MAFIA, which used to stand for Men Appearing Frequently In Analog, but we need to figure out a new acronym because we’ve got women in the magazine too. I have the pin on as I write this — I’m in the ‘family’ at last!

I also got to talk to Stan Schmidt for a minute about the cover art that Bob Eggleton has on display at the art show. I of course gushed and gushed and gushed (again) that it’s a gorgeous painting, it’s a thrill and an honor to have the cover and an Egglton piece, etc. Stan was smiling ear to ear and declared, “This is why I love bringing on new writers!” So I think we were both mutually enthused, though perhaps for different reasons. Either way, I feel like I owe Stan big time for making my first WorldCon an extra-special WorldCon. Much, much fun.

I wanted to stay around SFWA suite to the wee hours, but the suite was abominably crowded, stiflingly warm, and I was getting too tired to keep up with the mad noise.

Oh, it should be noted that the halls were decorated with rubenesque women overflowing their PVC corsets, brocaid corsets, spandex corsets, and so forth. Tons of ample cleavage on display. It was kind of hard to keep my eyes to myself. Just had to say it, OK? I honestly did my best. But wow. This convention definitely lives up to WorldCon’s general reputation as the place where people come to let it all hang out. Mike Resnick says it was far, far more bawdy in the old days. Nothing over-the-line like that here in Reno, but it was definitely “naughty dress up costume night” for a lot of the fans, who loved to parade through the crowds.

I haven’t looked at the schedule for tomorrow. I am too tired.

Otherwise, shitty casino food tastes like shitty casino food. Dinner last night at the Claim Jumper was far, far better. But at least the company was good.

Oh, and because they had 900 copies of my Analog laying around in the SFWA suite, I filched a few. Stan, I hope you don’t mind.



12 thoughts on “Rolling Whirlkon Report – Reno, NV – 20 AUG 2011

  1. Oh look at that, you even linked my Facebook! Don’t worry about the names, I would have been shocked if you had recalled mine after what . . . six months? Chatting with you in the SFWA suite was one of the highlights of my trip, so thanks again!

    I got a chance to meet Ethan briefly–he was in the kafeeklatch (however you spell it) with Lou Anders (and I agree, his choice in covers is astounding). Never did make it to a Walk with the Stars, but I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    Unfortunately I didn’t have my Kindle with me at the Tor party, or I would have had you sign it, too! I’ll be sure to catch you at LTUE, though, pen ready.

  2. I was with Charlie and Co, and you’d never met me before, so that’s at least one more face you don’t have to feel bad about not knowing. 😉 I’d like to echo Charlie and say thanks for taking us up to the SFWA suite. Being able to breathe made talking to people a lot easier!

  3. Wow, I’ve never been called part of “Charlie and Co,” but I guess I can handle that. One day though, Charlie, we will be “Adam and friends,” so watch out!

    Thanks for talking to us, Brad. I loved the SFWA suite and getting to meet people there, and it makes you feel so distinguished to have a sticker on your badge. Hopefully we’ll get to run into you again soon.

    And yeah, went to a panel with Lou Anders. Pyr sounds like my kind of publishing house.

  4. In the writing group hierarchy, it’s technically “Nathan and Co.,” but now Chuck’s never going to let me live this down. 😀

    I’ve already spammed you on facebook, but thanks again for all you do to help us. We need it. Badly.

    And yes, we still all blog-stalk you. And best of luck with Josh and Jabberwalkie agency.

  5. Dito to everything said by “[somebody] and co.” It was great to meet you, and awesome to get a bit of a boost. Good luck, and I’m sure we’ll bump into each other sometime in the future. Just don’t be offended when I can’t remember your name. I suffer from the same ailments that you previously mentioned.

  6. I’m glad you found the SFWA suite both valuable and enjoyable. And I truly enjoy meeting the local Utah up-and-comers who are working their way towards publication. Whatever I can do to help — because so many have helped me — is worth it for me. Even if it’s just to keep encouraging everybody to set and make goals, like entering Writers of the Future every quarter.

  7. Pyr does gorgeous work. And if you write non-Dragons fantasy or especially alt-history steampunk or Weird Western, then Pyr is definitely worth looking into. Lou’s worked hard to turn Pyr into perhaps the premiere small press in the genre, right there with Nightshade Books, and I was pleased to see him win the Hugo.

    And no problem about the SFWA suite. It was the sensible option, compared to the crushing asphyxia that was TOR suite. I am just glad you feel the con was valuable. I never had the guts to do WorldCon before I was published.

  8. Yup, things are aligning nicely for me. Blog-stalking? Hah! You’re cracking me up. When good things happen, here is where I like to announce them first, so stay tuned. And it was a pleasure meeting you.

  9. If you’re doing CONduit or LTUE in 2012, I should be there. No problem about names — that’s why they’re great about giving us all badges. (he he) As noted about, it’s nice to make your acquaintence. All of you, in fact.

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