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The Engineer

The Life and Times of Donald F. Simmons

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Convention Wrap-up

OK, need to post a few final Eastercon notes, and some Ad Astra stuff.

Ran into Cory Doctorow, fresh off of a ten hour flight from San Francisco. Fortunately he has better luck sleeping on airplanes than I do. Right before the Neil Gaiman GoH talk he was on a panel on Politics in Young Adult novels with China Meiville, which was great (and packed). It was noted by a panelist that the whole classification of "Young Adult" was a publishing industry invention to allow them to package Fantasy / SF / Anything Else under a single heading and sell it to parents and school who won't touch it otherwise.

The Neil Gaiman GoH talk at Eastercon was, of course, great. He started off saying that he had intended to do a reading from his current novel, The Cemetery Book, but looking at the printout as he came down the stairs he found it was all gibberish. His assistant went back to try printing it again, and in the meantime he read from a short story of his, Orange, which like all his best stories is brilliant and funny and more than a little wistful.

Talking about The Cemetery Book, it's The Jungle Book only the hero is raised in a cemetery by ghosts instead of in the jungle by animals. He first got the idea in his twenties, started writing it, and decided he wasn't good enough yet. Did Sandman, decided to try again, decided he wasn't good enough yet. Did American Gods, decided to try again, decided he wasn't good enough yet. He's writing it now, but not because he thinks he's good enough, but because he knows he's not getting any better. He did do a short reading from it (once he got a new printout), and it does sound quite good.

The big hall at Eastercon had been quite cold the entire con (this was a problem throughout the hotel), and this talk was the only time there were enough people in to to really warm it up.

The Arthur C. Clarke Memorial Panel included a guy who was Clarke's secretary for two years. Everyone on the panel admitted they were 2010 fans.

My only visit to the video room was for a showing of the 50th anniversary special of The Sky at Night (a astronomy show in Britain hosted by Patrick Moore for just over 50 years now). The showing was delayed due to the previous Gerry Anderson special being on a video tape that the guy running the room hadn't actually played in SIXTEEN YEARS and it gummed up the heads on the VCR.

Shana and I were sharing a hotel room that had a telephone in the bathroom but no hair dryer. Shana eventually found the hair dryer wired into a drawer in the desk. Also, Shana snores cutely (I knowowlfish, you were congested).

For an extra pound, you could get a full Eastercon membership for your stuffed animal, badge and all, and this seemed to be quite popular.

I took the Monday of the con off to do some sightseeing, and there wasn't much going on that day i was very interested in. Although I am sorry I missed the Closing Ceremonies, which apparently featured a gigantic stuffed pig that everyone had to pledge fealty to.

OK, Ad Astra!

I got back last Friday, the first day of Ad Astra, and was way too jet-lagged to do anything beside get some groceries and lie on the couch, but I made it in the next two days.

I had a lot of fun at AA this year. It helped that one of their guests was Howard Taylor, who writes an SF webcomic I really like, Schlock Mercenary. He's been posting a strip a day for going on eight years now without a break, which is something I can't say about any other web cartoonist I like out there (I praised him for this at his GoH talk). I got all his collections to date in the Dealer's Room and had him draw in each one, so I was happy, and he had my money.

There were a number of panels on the business of writing at AA this year (self marketing, stupid mistakes not to make when you submit a story, how to budget a household on an author's salary, etc.) and by my observation they were all very well attended, AA should do more stuff in this line. The Dealer's Room had a pretty good selection as well, I got some books, some Godzilla stuff, whatever the latest space histroy put out by Apogee Press was.

The Masquerade was the best they've had in years, 22 entries all told, and quite a number of very good ones. Kevin Brewer, who helps run the Anime North Masquerade, was the MC and did a very fine job, except for the bit when he dissed Sailor Mercury. There was also more room parties than last year, and more people seemed to be hanging out in the hotel bar instead of being closeted in the Green Room, so you got to see them.

For varied reasons I won't get into here (as I likely don't have the whole story), Ad Astra farmed out the running of the con suite to various different groups and cons this year. Anime North took the slot on Sunday from 2 PM to 8 PM, and we provided drinks, Pocky, and the contents of a shelf at a Japanese convenience store Eileen and Nancy stopped at. I figured we'd basically be running the Dead Dog into the evening, but all programming stopped at 3 PM on Sunday this year, as the Ballroom was being used for a fan wedding that evening. We got a rush at 3 PM for about two hours, and then everyone more or less just melted away, they were either going to the wedding, or just decided to go home, by 5:30 is was pretty dead and we got to pack up.

They were saying that total warm body attendance was about 500 over the weekend, which is certainly more than last year (which had a snowstorm immediately before the con, which hurt them a lot). That's good news, and i hope AA can start seriously bouncing back.

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Btw, just so you know, the feedback I got on AN's hosting of the ConSuite? Fabulous! People loved the pocky, the fun candy -- in some cases they said it gave them a chance to try things they hadn't even seen before -- and everyone was super nice. So I hope, despite, things petering out early, you may consider doing this again...

Don't get me wrong, I wasn't disappointed about it ending earlier than expected, it let me get home and catch up on much needed sleep.

Thanks for the feedback, if Ad Astra does this next year we'll consider doing it again.

LOL! Yes, I can imagine you'd want sleep with two cons in a row. But I'm glad that you felt it went well. And, of course, that you had what sounds like a great time in London...

Were you at the Merril thing a year or so back where an editor was complaining that much of the YA SF she sees today is YA but not, in her opinion SF - according to her, instead of stories where the moral is "get out there and explore! Make love to the universe!" she keeps seeing "SF" novels where the moral is "go home and try to get along better with your parents." I'll admit I haven't read enough of the subgenre to know if she's right. She also hated nuclear-armegeddon YA novels, which kind of horribly fascinated me in high school - in retrospect they were disaster-porn, which when you're an angsty teenager can be comforting.

Yeah, that was the Farah Mendlesohm event. She's made of awesome.

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