Last year (2014), I didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo because . . . frankly, I 1) had no new ideas, 2) wasn’t particularly enthused with the thought of doing it again, and 3) wasn’t sure NaNoWriMo had anything left to teach me.
And this year, I was in pretty much the same mindset. Until.
Three things occurred roughly simultaneously, then a fourth one happened that pushed me to the point where I am right now; i.e., considering doing NaNoWriMo again for 2015. I’m not 100% sure, mind you, but . . . there are processes that are . . . um, processing. In my brain.
Thing the First. I went to WorldCon, thoroughly enjoyed myself (other than the trips to and from the con, that is), and decided pretty much on the spur of some moment or other to go ahead and register not only for the 74th WorldCon in Kansas City, MO in 2016, but the 75th WorldCon, as well. That one’s in Helsinki, Finland, in 2017. I’m quite excited about both of those, actually. I’ve already registered for 74 and paid my dues and all that. I’m applying for a passport in about a month for the trip to Helsinki. I already have flight alerts for both trips set up so I can get good prices. Alternatively, I check the price of driving to Kansas City, MO each Monday to see if it’s more than the price of the flight. If not, I may just drive.
Thing the Second. A friend (Karl) happened to mention on Facebook that registration was open for Paradise Lost 6 Writers Workshop. Paradise Lost is only open to people who have participated in certain other workshops (Viable Paradise, Taos Toolbox), or who are a member of Codex Writers. I am both a graduate of Viable Paradise (in 2012) and a member of Codex Writers. So yay.
Once again, on the spur of some moment I wasn’t aware of until it had passed, I registered for it. It’s in San Antonio, TX in April of 2016. I already have a flight alert for the trip set up so I can get a good price. Alternatively, I check the price of driving to San Antonio, TX each Monday to see if it’s more than the price of the flight. If not, I may just drive.
Thing the Second-and-a-Halfth. When I registered, there was the option of registering for the workshop only or the critique track. For critique, you have to read some other people’s submissions and critique them, and submit something for critique yourself. The workshop is in April. On the spur of yet another moment, I threw caution to the wind and clicked on “critique track.”
Which means one thing: I better get my butt in a chair and my hands on a keyboard.
Thing the Third. I started reading — and very much enjoying — Debra Jess‘s wonderful book Blood Surfer: A Thunder City Novel. It’s an urban science fiction . . . fantasy . . . kind of a thing. Basically, super heroes plus romance. It’s very good, so far. I’m going slowly because I’m also reading another friend’s novel at the same time, this one for critique.
Thing the Fourth. A lot of my blog posts contain this phrase, but it is, nonetheless, true: so, I was in the shower . . .
So, I was in the shower and this . . . idea just popped into my head. Not quite fully formed, but my brain decided to dwell on it during my commute to work. And while I was at work. And on my drive home from work. And as I lay in bed that night waiting for sleep. And the next morning. And . . . well, you get the point. And then, this morning, after the spectre of NaNoWriMo had been broached by the Forum Writers (my standing Tuesday night critique group), my brain went into overdrive and I dictated many ideas into my little digital voice recorder on the way to work.
I won’t go into great and glorious detail on what the idea was, but I will give you the first sentence that was what popped into my head in the shower that morning: “Hero Man often wished the press had given him a more . . . well, magnificent name.”
That’s all you get. :)
I will, however, add that all this comes just two short weeks until November 1st, which leaves me very little time to actually plan out anything, which is where my reluctance to commit comes in. Also, my Apple MacBook died. With Scrivener on it. I write everything in Scrivener. So I need to get a new laptop, regardless.
- I keep meaning to post a write-up of what happened at the con. And I have started the posts. But I keep having interruptions. (Stupid work. Stupid real life.) But I’ll get to them. Eventually. Probably.
- Debra was in Viable Paradise with me in 2012.
- I listen to podcasts on the way to and from work. The one I listened to this morning happened to be a back episode of The Round Table Podcast during which the guys brainstormed and workshopped a superhero novel. If I believed in such things, I’d think this was the Universe sending me a strong message. Good thing I don’t believe in that sort of thing. :)
Perhaps you read my adventure going to WorldCon 73 in Spokane, WA. If not, go do that. I’ll wait.
<Elevator music: an all-pan-flute rendition of “Bingo Jed Had a Light On.”>
Back? Good. Now, allow me to relate my adventures coming home from said convention, also in the form of a story I shall call “The Boy What Were An Moran, Part Too [sic].”
But first! I suppose I should get a thing or two out of the way. I had fun in Spokane, in spite of the fact that there is pretty much literally a ring of fire surrounding the city. There were two days when the air quality sucked so egregiously that the con organizers told everyone to limit their outdoor activities. People were walking around wearing surgical masks. The area of the con (the Convention Center and Riverfront Park) could not have been more lovely and convenient, at least for me. I stayed in a Best Western right across the street, and all the activities I had planned were a short walk. The weather — ignoring the whole ‘ring of fire’ thing — was spectacular. I had a nice walk around the park on the last day of the con.
And now, without much further ado . . .
The Boy What Were An Moran, Part Too [sic]
You read Part Won [sic] of the story, so you know that the hapless protagonist, Gary (a.k.a. “The Boy Who Were an Moran”) foolishly left his photo ID at home — in the valet on the shelf in his closet back in Atlanta before flying to Spokane where he would desperately need it — when traveling by air. Not on purpose, but because he was so intent on making sure that he didn’t carry any extraneous cards along, he managed to leave that very important one. But that’s all in the past. As we learned in Part Won [sic], getting out of Atlanta wasn’t (much of) a problem. (This is called ‘foreshadowing.’)
Getting out of Spokane? An airport approximately 28 times smaller (in passengers per year) than Atlanta? Way easier, right? Wrong! Gary did the same thing, there, that he did in Atlanta. He approached the KTN queue and explained his situation. The patient, friendly TSA agent furrowed his brow and called his supervisor. When Mr. Supervisor-man finally responded some twenty minutes later, however, he was not impressed by Gary’s moranity [sic]. He kept asking Gary over and over if he had some form of photo ID, and obviously did not truly believe our hero’s response of, “No, sir, I’m sorry.” Mr. Supervisor-man gave Gary several suspicious side-eye glances. These failed to entice the Universe to cause his photo ID to miraculously appear in his wallet. He checked. Stupid Universe.
Mr. Supervisor-man then directed Gary to leave the TSA Pre™ line and get into the regular line with the rest of the unwashed public. Then he had to go through the whole explanation again with the patient, friendly TSA-woman in that line. It was like déjà vu all over again! It was like déjà vu all over again!
Gary ended up getting the full-body x-ray. And the post-x-ray pat down. And his bags searched. And he had to take off his shoes and belt. The many TSA agents who performed all these tasks were all very polite and professional, and Gary was good-natured about the whole thing. He tried joking a little with the nice, hard-working TSA agents.
“Do you have any sensitive areas where it’s painful to be touched?” asked the kind, young TSA agent wearing blue gloves.
“I guess we’ll find out,” answered Gary in a weak attempt at something vaguely resembling a thing that once had a heartfelt desire to someday be humor, but started drinking young and never really achieved its goals.
TSA: Not. Even. A. Smile.
“Just a tip,” Gary said to one of them, because learning is apparently not his thing, “don’t ever leave home without your photo ID.” Big, sheepish grin.
TSA: Not. Even. A. Smile.
“I’m going to change gloves,” said one agent. Gary said, “I would appreciate that.”
TSA: Not. Even. A. Smile.
Three strikes! You’re out!
Lesson: TSA doesn’t have a sense of humor. It’s in the handbook. It’s not even clear that they realize those are allowed aboard an airplane.
So Gary went back to just using ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ and smiling. A lot. And instantly doing anything they told him to do. A lot. And thanking them for doing it. A lot.
As an aside, the pat-down is nowhere near as intrusive as people make it out to be. Granted, Gary did have to re-tuck his shirt into his pants because the TSA agent ran his gloved hands along the inside of Gary’s pants’ waistband. The nice, patient TSA agents swabbed their gloves afterwards and put the swab into a machine that sniffed for explosives residue (one assumes).
As an aside within the aside, Gary was glad that the smoke particles wafting around in the air around Spokane didn’t count as explosives residue. That would have been . . . unpleasant.
They swabbed Gary’s backpack and carry-on luggage. They examined — and swabbed — every item in both of those. They opened literally everything and examined it, including his glasses cases (yes, plural), his Kindles (yes, plural), his laptop, his phone, and his digital voice recorder.
As another aside within the aside, Gary was glad he didn’t have anything embarrassing in his possessions, because all of this was all out in the open. The friendly, kind TSA agents asked him if he wanted the search done privately, but he said, “Nah, it’s fine.”
They did all of this very efficiently and quickly, and put things back . . . roughly where they had been.
After that, our intrepid, photo-ID-less traveler was allowed to continue on his way! Since he didn’t have a hotel or convention registration to look forward to for the rest of the trip, everything would be smooth sailing, right? (This is called ‘foreshadowing.’)
That morning, he had given himself an extra half-hour to get through the Spokane airport. The hotel clerk the night before when he had scheduled his taxi said, “It’s a really small airport. I’ve gotten there thirty minutes before my flight and made it with plenty of time to spare.” He still gave himself nearly an hour and twenty minutes. He was glad he did! Because by the time all of the above festivities were done, Gary made it to the gate literally just as they called A-zone boarding, and he walked directly from the TSA not-quite-a-strip-search onto the plane. Alas, he had intended to use the extra time to buy a Coke Zero (nectar of the gods) and some snacks for the flights. Oh, well.
We should take another moment, here, and exposit a bit of Gary’s family background, giving away some of what is to come. His mother and he share something that they call ‘the heebie-jeebies.’ It’s when one gets so tired that no position is comfortable. Sitting? Uncomfortable! Reclining? Uncomfortable! Standing? Uncomfortable! Lying down? Uncomfortable! You simply must move. You simply cannot remain still another second. The compulsion to just get the hell up and move the hell around is very nearly unignorable. We now return you to your regular storytime, already in progress.
The flight from Spokane to Las Vegas is only like two hours. Maybe two and a half, being generous. And even though Southwest Airlines has a policy of no assigned seats so one can sit wherever one wants, Gary blithely ignored this (because he’s used to flying Delta, who does assign seats) and went all the way to the back of the plane and took a window seat even though he prefers the aisle seat. Why? Because he didn’t want to have to get up to let people past him. (Did you notice the foreshadowing that time? Because, frankly, it was pretty darned blatant, and we’re getting tired of pointing it out. In fact, you’re on your own from here on out.)
About an hour into the two(ish)-hour flight, Gary had a truly epic attack of the heebie-jeebies.
A comedian once remarked that airline seats are designed for twelve-year-old, anorexic, Japanese school girls.
Our intrepid hero has exactly not that physique. He is rather round. He is sufficiently beyond twelve. He is not Japanese. Although that particular quality is not necessary to the argument at hand, it does parallel the remark of the comedian, thereby creating a satisfying feeling of completion to the comparison. (Yet another literary trick.)
It should be noted here that the couple who seated themselves in the aisle and middle seats to Gary’s right had promptly both fallen fast asleep as soon as the plane began to move. There may have been snoring and/or drool. When the heebie-jeebies hit, there was literally nowhere to go. He could not stand in place, nor could he find a comfortable position. He fidgeted and bounced his knees and squirmed like a two-year-old on cocaine. He tried distracting mental games. Nothing worked.
In addition to the diminutive dimensions of an airline seat, the materials used to construct same are not made for comfort. Gary began to sweat because of the constant fidgeting and the heat-retaining material from which the chair is constructed. The more he fidgeted, the worse he sweated. The more he sweated, the more uncomfortable he became. But then, at last! The couple awoke when a flight attendant came around with snacks, and Gary took the opportunity to ask to get up to visit the restroom.
If airline seats are designed for twelve-year-old, anorexic, Japanese school girls, the restrooms are designed for their four-year-old, equally anorexic sisters. Or, quite possibly, for members of some alien species that do not in any way resemble humans. Perhaps the blue water in the toilet is some form of alien nutrient. Gary moistened a paper towel (in the sink, not in the aforementioned blue nutrient solution) and used it to cool down his face and neck, which helped slightly to ease the heebie-jeebies. He returned to his seat.
The rest of the flight passed in moderate discomfort because Gary had sweated through all of his clothing, including his socks. He had also sweated through the seatbelt. He felt a certain sense of chagrin at this, and mentally apologized to the next hapless individual who had to sit in seat 21A.
Yes, Gary had become That Guy No One Wants To Have To Sit Next To™. But it wasn’t like it was a choice. Well, technically, it was a choice, because of the whole ‘no assigned seating’ thing. But we’ve covered that.
Finally, the plane landed in Las Vegas. Temperature outside: 105° Fahrenheit. (105 – 32 / 1.8)° Celsius. Do your own math.
The plane landed and attached to a gate at the far end of the C concourse (C-12). The connecting flight to Atlanta was at the far end of the B concourse (B-16). Because of course it was. Gary had approximately two hours, but he didn’t know that, because he was exhausted from the unrelenting heebie-jeebies, wet with sweat, and tired from lack of sleep and therefore unable to do time math in his head and he wasn’t sure whether Las Vegas was even in the same time zone as Spokane, and he had turned his phone on Airplane mode and then forgotten to take it off, so it kept saying it was one time when actually it was an hour later, but he was adding two hours . . . and math is hard.
In short, by the time Gary made it off the plane, he firmly believed he had only thirty-five minutes to make it all the way across the airport instead of the hour and thirty-five minutes it actually was.
In another completely unsurprising aside, we will now explain that the Las Vegas airport, thanks to it being Freaking Hot° W outside, was about 80° to 82° F inside. Add to this that the entire square footage of the airport is designed to bleed the very last cent from trapped travelers by enticing them to GAMBLE GAMBLE GAMBLE, thereby reducing the usable walkways to about 1/3 the size of every other airport Gary has ever seen, and you get a very slow, impeded, annoying, uncomfortable trek across the entire expanse of airport. Behind slow people who likely had approximately twenty-six hours (judging by their walking speed) to get to their gate. And Gary had only had breakfast, and that was some seven hours ago. And he had had nothing to drink since then except the approximately three drops of liquid in the ice-filled plastic half-cup of beverage the flight attendants served during the heebie-jeebie-inducing flight.
In short, Gary “ran” “pell-mell” through the “airport” trying to make it to the gate before the connecting flight began boarding.
He made it! With three minutes to spare! Only . . . no plane was at the gate. And people were blithely sitting around reading instead of boarding the non-existent plane. Had it already left? Oh, crap! Had he, in fact, missed the flight?
No. Time math. Is hard. He finally remembered to turn off airplane mode on his phone and discovered he had an entire hour! Whew! He remembered passing a Wendy’s and went to get a burger, fries, and a Coke Zero (nectar of the gods). He sat at the gate to inhale his food. Normally, this would be a cool-down period. But the
airportcasino was > 80 degrees. He soaked through his clothes again. Ugh!
When, at last, the plane for Atlanta boarded, Gary was (finally) smart! He sat on an aisle! In row four! He took his shoes off! He had the remnants of his
Coke Zeronectar! The flight (more than four whopping hours) went with only minor heebie-jeebies, but since Gary was sitting on the aisle, this time, he was able to stand with impunity and move around! Sure, he sweated through his clothes (and seatbelt) again, but at this point, damp clothing was de rigeur! We hear it’s all the rage in Paris next year!
Finally! The plane descended slightly from the sky! Gary’s ears began to pop! He knew he was almost home! He could get off the miserable aircraft and wallow in the sweet, sweet bliss of a car blasting air conditioning, and then sleep in his own bed with his own damned pillow!
The plane landed. It taxied along the runway! It was within sight of the gate! And then . . .
Gary was annoyed when the plane taxied to a complete stop. Outside, many flashing lights split the night sky. Ambulances. EMTs. Firetrucks. Police. Probably other things. It was very festive.
The pilot came on and told the passengers that the plane directly in front of them — a Delta™ plane — was being towed by a hydraulic tow-tractor when a catastrophic malfunction occurred. In short, the tow-tractor spewed highly toxic hydraulic fluid in giant arcs all over the place, contaminating the entire area! It was very festive.
Gary and the other passengers had to sit on the plane and wait. With little to no air conditioning, no water, and no bathroom (they were not allowed to get out of their seats) until things were cleared up.
About twenty minutes in, the airport messaged the pilots to allow the passengers water and bathroom. Meanwhile, ten more planes had landed and were waiting behind Gary’s plane. No more planes would be allowed to land until the toxic spill had been cleaned. When the airport finally got their ducks in a row, they decided to re-route the waiting planes on the ground around the contaminated area and put them at alternate gates. All connecting flights were being held so Gary’s fellow passengers would not be stuck in Atlanta overnight. But since Gary’s plane was first in line behind the Delta flight, it meant they would be last getting re-routed. How festive!
It took, all total, about an hour to get everything rerouted.
To make a long story very slightly less annoying, he finally made it to baggage claim, his ride home, and his own bed and his own damned pillow.
And so he
lived happily ever afterslept the sleep of a dead, exhausted, sweat-damp, heebie-jeebied-out thing.
We hope you enjoyed the second story as much as the first. If you enjoyed either one, of course.
The Moral of the Story: Flying sucks.
As a final coda, I was not kidding — I mean, I was joking and making light, but I was not actually making anything up — about how nice, professional, and helpful the TSA agents were. All joking aside, I actually went to their website and filled out a form complimenting the agents in both airports for doing their jobs efficiently, competently, and with a minimum of attitude, and not making me feel any more like an idiot than I already did. I imagine they get very few such comments, what with people being people, and refusing to accept responsibility for their own actions (such as leaving their photo ID in a valet on the shelf in their closet in Atlanta when they’re desperately going to need it).
- “Jet Airliner” by Steve Miller Band. See, it’s kind of like a theme for the post . . .
- I apologize profusely for putting Johnny Cash’s song “Ring of Fire” in your head. Really. No, really.
OK, I don’t. Because it’s a great song, and you should have it in your head more often. Like now.
- Gary decided that he did not need his AAA card, Zoo Atlanta membership card, insurance cards, Costco membership card, Sam’s Club membership card, Barnes and Noble card, or the credit card he uses exclusively online. Or so he thought! In the press of time to get packed, he took all the cards out and only put back in the ones that were on his aforementioned two-page checklist. Photo ID wasn’t on that.
It is now. :)
- Two by two, hands of blue! Aieeeeeee!
- He is, in fact, sufficiently beyond four times twelve.
- Whatever scale you like. F, C, K, A . . . knock yourself out.
- Have we mentioned that Gary is, at this point, unable to do time-math in his head?
- This is one way Gary and his mother can occasionally stave off the heebie-jeebies. If their feet are comfortable, the rest of the body follows suit. Usually.
- In both the ATL and GEG airports, TSA specifically asked if Gary had his CostCo card on his person (after him saying, specifically, that he only had two credit cards). Apparently, a CostCo card can serve as sufficient photo ID. Remember this useful piece of information!
- It’s a Firefly reference.
Here’s a little story I wrote called, “The Boy Who Were an Moran.” [sic]
The Boy Who Were an Moran [sic]
Gary woke up on the day he was supposed to fly out of Atlanta to Spokane for WorldCon 73 and instantly tore both his corneas. Oh, no! He then had to sleep an extra hour so he could use his eyes at all. What a day for this to happen!
Then, Atlanta traffic was spectacularly horrendous, so the 45-minute drive (his housemate drove him) to the airport — the busiest in the world! — turned into an hour and a half. As each second ticked on the clock, Gary could feel the missed flight! But there was nothing he could do because teleportation is inconveniently still impossible.
He made it to the airport — the busiest in the world! — just barely in time to make it through check-in. He had noticed on the drive to the airport — the busiest in the world! — that his Known Traveler Number had not made it onto the tickets he had printed out the night before when he did early check-in while he was packing.
While we’re at it, let’s take a moment to mention that Gary made a two-page checklist for packing that he meticulously followed. To. The. Letter. [This is called ‘foreboding.’]
He made it to the SouthWest Airlines desk in the airport — the busiest in the world! — and informed the polite ticketing agent that he needed a printed ticket with his TKN on it.
The polite agent asked for his photo ID.
I should interject, here, that, on Gary’s aforementioned (and foreboding) two-page checklist which he followed to the letter were ‘wallet’ and ‘cash.’ [This is called ‘establishing a pattern.’]
Gary reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. He thumbed past his Coin card, his Discover card, his Visa ATM card . . . and that was all the cards that were in his wallet! Oh, no!
He pulled them out and looked at them again. Tragically, none of them had magically changed into a driver’s license. How, he wondered furiously, was that fair? Didn’t the Universe know he needed his photo ID?
He informed the polite agent that he did not have his photo ID. She, surprisingly, did not have a problem with this. She gave him his tickets and sent him on his way.
Chastising himself bitterly with every step, he made his way to the TSA area of the airport — Have I mentioned that it’s the busiest in the world? The line was very, very, very long. So long, in fact, that he felt his stomach and other internal organs sink into his lower abdomen. His flight would leave in only 40 minutes! He didn’t have time for this!
Wielding his tickets, he swallowed hard and got in the TSA Pre™ line anyway. It wouldn’t hurt to at least try, right?
The polite TSA agent asked him for his photo ID. Gary explained what had happened and added that his license was sitting in his closet in the valet where he had apparently put it after making very sure that his wallet contained credit cards and money. Which were on his two-page checklist, right before where ‘driver’s license’ wasn’t.
She said, “Do you have any other form of Id with a picture on it? Passport?” He shook his head “no.” He similarly shook his head “no” for all her follow-up questions. For he had also left home without his insurance cards (they were (presumably) with his driver’s license), library card, ZooAtlanta membership card, Barnes & Noble card, CostCo card, two other credit cards, and a Sam’s Club card — which is the only other card he owns that has his photo on it. A 15-year-old photo, but a photo nevertheless.
“I’ll get my supervisor,” she explained, and did just that by calling for one on the PA. Gary waited patiently (really!) while ten, fifteen, twenty people were processed through the short line.
Finally, a supervisor came over! He asked the same questions the polite TSA Pre™ agent had asked, and Gary answered as before. He added, “I have a credit card and a debit card, my phone, and business cards.”
As it turns out, the debit card and credit card were enough! He was allowed through! He didn’t have to remove his shoes or take his laptop out of his bag, but did have to go through the “Naked X-Ray” device because he wears shoes with giant metal springs in the heels.
He made it to the gate with only minutes to spare, and boarded without incident! Whew!
Thanks to the adrenaline rush of thinking he was going to miss his flight, Gary had no time to eat more than the breakfast his housemate had made, and that had been a full two hours before. He started to feel a little shaky. The snacks the airline provided were barely enough.
Looking at his flight itinerary, Gary noticed that he would have only a few minutes at Denver to make it from whatever gate he arrived at to whatever gate his connecting flight would depart from. His internal organs sank again! In the Atlanta airport — the busiest in the world! — this almost always means running pell-mell through the airport from gate A1 to Z99 only to arrive, winded, at the departing gate with no time to spare. When would he get lunch?
Just before landing, the flight attendant announced that the gate for Spokane was only a few gates away! Hurray! He’d have time — barely! — to get lunch before boarding. If, that is, nothing went wrong.
He found a McDonald’s in the airport and ordered, and made it back to his gate literally two minutes into the boarding process. Only . . . the plane wasn’t boarding.
In fact, the plane wasn’t even at the gate. In fact, the gate had moved.
All the way across the airport!
With all the other passengers waiting patiently (really!) for the flight to arrive, Gary high-tailed it across the airport to the new gate, only to find out the flight had been delayed by one hour! Plenty of time to eat his lunch!
Practically everyone on the flight was headed to WorldCon. He spoke briefly with some other passengers about that, and got some advice on how to get from the airport to the vicinity of the con hotel.
He made it to his hotel (address: on the two-page checklist) without any problems, after having a nice conversation with the cab driver about all the fires around Spokane.
He gave the polite clerk at the hotel desk his information (on the two-page checklist), and they asked . . . for his photo ID.
He explained what had happened and they looked up his name. And didn’t find it. They looked up his reservation number (on the two-page checklist). And didn’t find it. They looked up other information that he gave. And didn’t find it.
The polite clerk’s manager asked if it was possible the reservation was under a different name. [This is also called ‘foreboding.’] Gary said, “No, I’m sure it’s not.” He then spelled his name meticulously, since he often gets called Greg Anderson, Perry Hendrickson, and about a hundred other incorrect names on a routine basis.
Finally, he used his phone to email the reservation information he had received from the hotel chain to the polite manager. Meanwhile, the polite clerk took his information again and issued another reservation.
As Gary was leaving the check-in desk for the elevator, the polite manager returned and said, “I found your reservation number under the name ‘William Hubbard.’ Do you know a ‘William Hubbard’?”
No. No, he did not.
The polite manager said she would fix it and not to worry.
After stowing his luggage in his room, Gary walked to the convention center to register for WorldCon and get his badge.
You know what’s coming. I think it’s obvious at this point.
Turns out that although the TSA and Best Western were OK with not having a photo ID because you stupidly left it in the valet on the shelf in your closet in Atlanta before flying to Spokane where you would desperately need it, WorldCon is not. He was directed to leave the very short registration line and stand in the much, much longer ‘Problems’ line. Another polite waiter-in-line suggested that if they Googled his name and it came up with his picture — which it most certainly would — that should be proof enough. Gary clung to this possibility.
But it also turns out that when you explain the situation — how you left your photo ID in the valet on the shelf in your closet back in Atlanta before flying to Spokane where you would desperately need it — and they call up your information and ask you to give them your address and it matches, that’s enough to get your registration card! Sweet!
The Moral of the Story: Put ‘photo ID’ on your stupid two-page checklist.
Stay tuned for the next, exciting episode of ‘The Boy Who Were an Moran [sic]’ in which Gary tries to maneuver his way through a week without needing his photo ID because he stupidly left it in the valet on the shelf in his closet in Atlanta before flying to Spokane where he would desperately need it.
I know, I know. WorldCon was, like, a month and a half ago, and here I am just now posting about it. Frankly, it’s because I’ve been unsure what to say. I’m a little conflicted.
On the whole, the experience was awesome. It was much more enjoyable on several levels than my usual alternative, which was Dragon*Con, here in Atlanta, GA. I mean, any person you randomly meet at WorldCon is most likely a writer, whether published (self- or traditionally) or aspiring. And that’s just neat. :)
Now, don’t get me wrong: Dragon*Con is awesome and enjoyable for what it is.
It’s also 50,000 people shoulder-to-shoulder in sweltering heat and stifling humidity1, all trying to get from point A to point B in the thirty minutes between events. (50,000 is a conservative estimate.)
Dragon*Con is a geek con. Pretty much everyone there is a geek about something, be it writing, Star Trek, Japanese anime, conspiracy theories, ghosts, skepticism, <insert TV show or movie name here>, <insert actor or actress name here>, roleplaying, gaming, costuming, et-freaking-cetera. Stop any random person at Dragon*Con and chances are high that they will get you.
That said, I am interested primarily in writing, but also podcasting and skeptical topics. The Skeptic, Podcasting, and Writing Tracks are three of the thirty-one tracks.
The writing track is held at the Hyatt. In the basement. Of the basement. Down a long hall. And then in another basement. Underneath and between the two main towers. In a total of about ten rooms.2 A lot of the content is geared toward first-time writers. A lot of the rest of it is . . . how shall I phrase this? “Repetitive.” As in, it’s the same writers in the same panels in the same rooms as last year. And the year before. And the year before.
I’ve enjoyed Dragon*Con since 2007, when I went for the first time. But each year, it seemed like something was missing. I found myself . . . wanting something that they weren’t providing. (See “wrong convention” above.)</digression>
WorldCon, on the other hand, was eighteen simultaneous tracks over the same four days. All. About. Writing. Yes, much of it was geared toward beginning writers. And a good bit of it was hero-worship. Of writers. With less than 1/10th of the attendance of Dragon*Con.
In other words, it is a writers’ con. A readers’ con. A publishers’ con. An agents’ con. It’s where the creators and producers go to meet and mingle.
And that’s partly why I’m conflicted.
Seven members of my local writers’ group went on the trip. Three of my Viable Paradise classmates were also in attendance. I hung out with each of them a little. And while I was with them, I mingled and chatted. I talked with other writers. I met people like David Marusek and Lawrence Schoen and Vylar Kaftan. Reconnected briefly with VP instructors Elizabeth Bear, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Steven Gould, and Steven Brust. I got a guest sticker for the SFWA suite through one of my VP friends and was able to hang around in the room with writers whose names most people reading this would recognize. I went to the Codex breakfast and met a couple of people there.
Common wisdom is that WorldCon is really two cons going on at the same time and place. There’s the con everyone sees — the one in the program; the one that’s scheduled — and the one that happens in between the panels and the readings. And it’s the second one that really matters.
And it’s that second one that I feel like I mostly missed out on.
Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t miss it for lack of desire or trying. I did go to several parties, including the Tor party, at which were a number of well-known writers, none of whom I actually spoke to because it was crowded and they were surrounded by many, many people.
But outside doing stuff with people I already knew? Outside that, I felt like an outsider. Now, once again, I must stress this: this is just me. This has nothing to do with the other people there, every single one of whom I talked to was unbelievably welcoming, warm, and friendly.
I think it’s Impostor Syndrome, which I’ve spoken about before. I’m using it here in a more literal sense. I felt like everyone else there deserved to be where they were, but I was a pretender. Especially in the SFWA suite, where, although I had a guest sticker, I felt like every single published author who came into the room took one look at me and thought, “Wannabe. What’s he doing in here?”
Silly, isn’t it? It literally could not be farther from the truth. Everyone I spoke to was, as I said, warm, friendly, and welcoming. Whatever feelings of inadequacy I had are entirely in my own head. But knowing this and believing it are . . . different things. :)
I have found that if other people approach me, I’m fine. If someone comes up to me and starts a conversation, I’m much more relaxed about it. It’s basically how I know almost everyone I know — because they initiated the contact, or we were thrown into a situation where contact was facilitated.
I want to get over this. I need to get over this. I would love to walk up to Jim Butcher or Kat Richardson or Ilona Andrews3 at a party and say, “Hi, I’m Gary Henderson, and I really love your books and I want to be you when I grow up,” (OK, maybe not that last part . . .) and have it continue beyond that without that awkward, “OK, now what do I say?” moment. Or to strike up a conversation with someone random and just get to know them.
In effect, I am an introvert desperately wishing he could be an extrovert and not knowing how to go about it. :) Is that even something you can change?
WorldCon was awesome. But it was also very frustrating. Not because of anyone else, but because of me. I felt like everyone else there made contacts and got to know people and had a better experience than I did. And I know it’s no one’s fault but mine, and that’s another layer of the frustration. (Frustration, it turns out, is like an onion. Who knew?)
So that’s pretty much why I haven’t talked about it, yet, in a nutshell (onions and now nuts; my frustration is tasty, at least). Because saying, “Yeah, it was great!” is both true and misleading. Saying, “I had a lot of fun!” is an honest answer and a white lie at the same time.
So I guess I have a personal goal for 2014, don’t I?
And all of that being said, I had the most fun of the con hanging out with the people I went with, playing Cards Against Humanity for several hours in the food court of the mall. Having dinner at the rotating Chart House Restaurant atop the Tower of the Americas. Having breakfast in an un-air-conditioned little hole-in-the-wall restaurant (The Oasis Café) a few blocks from the hotel. Or in the mall at the IHOP. Or at the horrendously overpriced hotel restaurant buffet. At the Hugos, clapping and cheering like mad when the winners were announced.
And that’s the unvarnished, unqualified truth.
And at Dragon*Con, I always have the most fun hanging out with people I know.
And when I got together with friends at the Romance Writers of America conference4 in Atlanta a couple of months ago, that was the whole point, as well.
Is there an extrovert pill? <goes looking> :)
- This is the point where a lot of people would make some snarky comment about the ha-ha unwashed stupid geeks who ha-ha are so socially inept, they don’t ha-ha know that they have to take showers! Well, to those people, I say, “Shove it.” Dragon*Con is no smellier than any other unbelievably hot, humid place in summer where 50,000+ people are packed like sardines. So get over it. I have never been offended even once by anyone’s body odor at Dragon*Con. I have, however, been deeply offended by the constant harping on it by people who don’t know any better. Yes, this hits a nerve, why do you ask?
- You may be getting the impression that I’m suggesting that the Writing Track is being hidden away in a sub-sub-sub basement in windowless rooms in purpose, like it’s some sort of afterthought. I would never imply such a thing. Never.
- Ilona Andrews is a husband-and-wife duo who write as one person, but I didn’t know how to convey that without a footnote, which, hey, look! :)
- Just to clarify, I did not attend the conference, but visited the venue for the purpose of reconnecting with some Viable Paradise friends. And there’s nothing wrong with attending the RWA conference; I’m just not a romance writer and would have felt very out of place, indeed.