Friday: I am up early, not because my flight is early, but because I cannot help it. On the flight to Denver the man next to me is reading McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales
, and I am tempted to start a conversation about it, except that I fear I will be unable to suppress the urge to rant about how much better most of the stories by genre writers are than the ones by the literary writers who seemed to view writing genre as a chance to do lazy work. On the Denver-to-L.A. flight I try to get some work done, but typing into the laptop from scribbled notes proves challenging. The man in the next seat offers me his tray table as a workspace. It turns out he is a writer too. Everyone I meet on this trip, it seems, is a writer.
This includes my friend Derrick, although he hasn't had any time to write since his second daughter Serena was born. He picks me up at the airport with Serena's older sister, Jordan, who at 2 1/2 is very shy and responds to all my attempts at conversation with a worried "Daddy?" I haven't seen Derrick since a flyby afternoon in Chicago three or four years ago; before that it was for his wedding up in San Francisco, which was memorable for a wicked sunburn, my first tuxedo, and my first (and so far only) visit to a strip club, for the bachelor party. Derrick and I were roommates in college--our first year, in the dorms, he lived next door to me and would walk into my room while I was playing music, dance an ironic dance, and then walk out.
Fatherhood has not changed him all that much. We drive aimlessly around L.A. for a bit--D's parents moved here when he went away to school, and though he is here for a visit with them, he does not know the city, and I have failed to provide directions. Also I have decided at the last minute that I need black Chuck Taylors to complete my ensemble for the banquet. Plans for the Museum of Jurassic Technology are abandoned, and we head up to Santa Monica for a quick shopping stop and a visit to the pier. I haven't been to L.A. (except the airport) since I was ten. The main culture shock is not the sun (although I keep my hood up most of the time so as not to horribly burn my bald head again) but the preponderance of outdoor malls, open lobbies, terraces, etc. These things exist in Minnesota but not in such numbers, as they are impractical for one-half to two-thirds of the year.
We are at a sushi restaurant near UCLA when my agent Shana texts me to ask where I am, as there is a reception about to start and I am supposed to be receiving a certificate and a pin. This is news to me, and there is no way we are going to get there now. Jordan spills OJ on herself and all three of us gorge ourselves on sushi, and then I say goodbye to D and his little girl and hand myself off to jennreese
. Jenn and her boyfriend Chris have graciously agreed to put me up for the night so that I won't bankrupt myself staying at the hotel. I've known Jenn for a while, but primarily in online- and convention-space, so it's a pleasure to talk to her about fiction and TV (Jenn writes both
), watch some "Dollhouse" (dissecting it along the way), and get a little better acquainted.
Saturday: After a bit of "Twin Peaks" on cable, during which Chris and I bond over some shared TV favorites, Jenn and Chris take me to their favorite breakfast place, More Than Waffles, where I wolf down an omelette, two Belgian waffles, a side of bacon, tea and tomato juice. It's a good thing I ate like a pig, because lunch just never happens. Jenn and Chris drop me at the hotel, where I'm able to check in early, and then I head over to the Luxe for the WGA brunch. There I find a crowd of folks, among them shsilver
, Shana, John Kessel, Jim Kelly, Sheila Williams, Mary Robinette Kowal, Gary Wolfe, and Amelia Beamer. I chat with Shana and hang out at the brunch for a while before heading off to be interviewed by Gary and Amelia. This turns out to be relatively painless, basically just a conversation about writing; I don't think I embarrass myself, but time will tell. Then it's picture time, where I try to smile my pasty best.
Next up, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. I have a signing at the Mysterious Galaxy
booth at 4, and I'm going to hang out with castellucci
until then. Cecil is hugely generous with her time, and seems to know everyone in the author's Green Room. Randomly, we run into pgtremblay
, at the festival to promote The Little Sleep
. We talk for a bit, and then I have to find the MG booth. The staff over there are awesome; I chat with them between trying to sell books (I am making an effort to be "on" all weekend, and it's starting to tire me out), as well as the other writers. This place is huge. They say 125,000 people attended last year, and I believe it. The UCLA campus is like a city in itself. They also say that it was 95 degrees earlier in the week, and I am grateful that it is a much more comfortable temperature today.
Then it's time to find a shuttle, get back to the hotel, take a quick shower, and glam up. I'm wearing a fancy black t-shirt, black pants, black Chucks, and a sort of sand-colored sport coat. Also my Nebula nominee pin, which completes the ensemble. I think I look OK, but the main thing is that I am not going to spend the evening hating my shoes. I think I will never wear dress shoes again.Doselle
picks Shana and I up for the awards. There's some confusion getting there, as we need to drive to one part of the UCLA campus and get a permit, drive back and park, and then find our way to something called the Commons. We end up wandering into the banquet via the service entrance, a bit late. I chat a bit with Jim Kelly before we head in for dinner, and say hello to Paul Melko and his wife. Maryelizabeth Hart, the head of publicity for Mysterious Galaxy who set up the signing, is at our table, along with Mary E. Pearson, her husband, her film agent, and a regional rep for a publisher, I've forgotten which. Doselle tries to start up a drinking game based around certain science fiction keywords ("singularity" would have been a good one), but I am wary of drinking much lest I have to deliver yswilce
's speech. I have not written a speech for myself, as I do not expect to need one.
Janis Ian sings a version of "Seventeen" that is about finding a home in science fiction, and while I usually don't care for this sort of thing I find it funny and somewhat moving. Chuck Lorre also talks about his love for SF. The Norton is announced early on, and I'm glad I stayed sober because I end up having to give Ysa's speech. This goes fine, although apparently I have been pronouncing SFWA wrong forever, and do so again. Ysa's award is gorgeous, although they could not fit her entire title on it. (Yay Ysa!)
More awards are given--Grand Master, Solstice and Emeritus awards. Tim Powers presents a Solstice, posthumously, to Algis Budrys. Later on I will tell Tim about how I used to send all my stuff to Budrys at Tomorrow Magazine
, and how he would send me encouraging and instructive rejections. ("Your formatting is all wrong." "Well written, but didn't find the characters convincing.") Tim will say he was an unpaid editor, and that Lester Del Rey used to do the same thing for him, rejecting his manuscripts but pointing out all the things he needed to fix.
Back at the ceremony, more awards. I don't realize Jane Espenson is there until she presents the Bradbury for Joss, whose speech is pretty funny. Wil Wheaton, Shana points out, is at the table in front of us. John Kessel wins for "Pride and Prometheus," which makes me very happy. Then they are about to announce Best Novel. I am not nervous, I realize suddenly; I am terrified. Being nominated for a Nebula is a thrill and an honor in ways I can't express, but winning one at this stage in my career, for my first novel, is the most frightening thing I can imagine at this moment. I am, I confess, relieved when it does not happen. As I've said already, I can't think of anyone I'd rather lose to than Ms. Le Guin.
Before I can process anything we are back at the hotel, and Tim Powers is buying me a drink. This is a this-can't-be-happening sort of thing on a par with my being here at all, which I suppose is fitting. It gets weirder, as I have a long talk with Sheila Williams about short fiction and Tim Powers and I brainstorm '50s SF books and stories for Gary Wolfe to pitch for a project.
Eventually it is late, and despite the awesome people I've hung out with I am suddenly lonesome for my peeps. I head back to the hotel and try to sleep.
Sunday: I catch a Super Shuttle to the airport. The security line at LAX runs out of the airport and up the sidewalk halfway to the next terminal, but it moves pretty quickly. I have a window seat on the way to Phoenix, this time. It's a short flight. I read, and in the Phoenix airport I finish Bridge of Birds
, which is lovely. I keep my head down so the other people in the food court won't realize I'm weeping as I finish it.
The flight to Minneapolis is the only one of the four flights that sucks, for multiple reasons: they make me check my carry-on, which has been fine on three flights so far; there is considerable turbulence all the way through; I am tired and cranky; and I am seated next to the most annoying woman in the world. I survive. Life is good. It's not perfect, but it's good.