My boyfriend Donald and I attended Readercon at the Burlington Marriott Hotel this weekend (Burlington Massachusetts, not Burlington Vermont). Readercon is one of my favorite science fiction conventions, and I’ve gone every year since 2005, except for 2008 when I was at Clarion West. It has no art show, no masquerade (and very few people dressing up in funny costumes), no movie/TV/gaming-related content (not that there’s anything wrong with that!); and the only things they sell in the dealers’ room are books and magazines. (Well, Darrell Schweitzer does sell his ancient Roman coins, but that’s it!) Since my interest in sf cons is primarily books and writing, this suits me just fine. It’s a fairly small con, and most of the people who attend (though not all) are either writers, editors or publishers. So it’s very good for networking (which, as far as I’m concerned, is a fancy word for hanging out with old friends and meeting new ones–or at least it should be).
I had a wonderful time, as always, and got to catch up with a ton of people I don’t see very often, and I won’t try to name-check them all because I know I’ll forget important people (I mean that they’re important to me, not that I’m hoping they’ll buy my epic fantasy novel someday). However, I do want to mention that I got to see my friends from the New York City writers group Altered Fluid; a bunch of other friends from the Brotherhood Without Banners (the famous George R. R. Martin fan club); and several people from the Canadian science fiction scene, most of whom I was meeting for the first time. Also my Clarion West classmates Rajan Khanna and Theresa DeLucci (Raj is also a member of Altered Fluid), and our Week One instructor from Clarion West, author Paul Park.
For some reason, I attended more panels this year than at a typical Readercon. I’m not sure if this is because of a change in me, or a change in Readercon programming. There were definitely more program items that I thought would be interesting than there are in a typical year. One person commented to me that they thought the programming was less intellectual than usual. (I’m pretty sure they meant it as a compliment.) Unfortunately, I was often (though not always) disappointed in my expectation that the program items I attended would be interesting. I won’t say which ones were a let-down, but one thing I’ve learned over the years, attending cons, is that how interesting a panel will be depends more on who’s speaking than on the topic.
I also attended a “secret” room party (though not a very well-kept secret, it turned out), avoided drinking too much alcohol, and failed to avoid purchasing far too many books in the dealers’ room. And after I had been thinking of trying to use the library more often, and perhaps buy a Kindle to slow down my accumulation of heavy unread reading material. I got, among other titles, Guy Gavriel Kay’s latest novel (which I’ve been told is more classic Kay in the model of Tigana and The Lions of Al-Rassan, and not like his more recent The Last Light of the Sun). And The Desert Spear, the second novel in Peter Brett’s series (I got the first novel for free at a different convention, a couple years ago, and was surprised by how good it was.).
I also picked up an anthology of short fiction entitled Tails of Wonder and Imagination. Yes, you guessed it, an entire book of fantasy & science fiction stories about cats. I have to admit, I initially picked it up off the table to make fun of it. I also half-considered buying it for my sister Lisa, since she loves cats so much! But then I noticed that there were actually a lot of really good authors in the anthology: George R. R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Susanna Clarke … so, yes. I bought an entire book of short fiction about cats. At a science fiction convention.
I also have to thank my good friend Rene Walling from Canadian publisher Nanopress, for kindly offering to sell copies of the print chapbook of my story “Looking-Glass Milk” at his party on Saturday night, even though he had nothing to do with publishing it. He managed to sell nine copies, and is planning to take the other three I’d given him back to Canada to see if he can sell them at Canadian science fiction conventions (since I’m a Canadian writer and all!). So if you’re reading this from north of the border, and attend cons in Canada, look out for Rene from Nanopress, and see if he has any of my books left! (And check out the books he publishes: the press is very new, but they already have a short story collection by Canadian author Elisabeth Vonarburg, and an anthology featuring selected stories from the Aurora Awards, one of Canada’s major science fiction prizes.)
I would be remiss in failing to mention that at least two of the chapbook sales were directly due to my wonderful boyfriend Donald convincing people to buy copies. Thank you, Donald, and I promise not to follow through with my threat to write Domini slash, after all.
Looking back, I am sort of afraid that, when I was asked to autograph the chapbooks, I may have spelled someone’s name wrong. If so, I’m terribly sorry!
All in all, it was a great weekend, and if you’re a fantasy or science fiction writer or fan, and the Boston area isn’t too far away for you, I definitely encourage you to check out Readercon for yourself next year.