Okay, so the Nebulas Weekend Trip was pretty good and a lot happened. I’m breaking it down into three posts: the first two on the general happenings, and a third that will be about the speech “honoring” Joanna Russ at the Nebulas, which I disliked intensely. More on why as soon as I get around to writing it up, but the condensed version was that it was like a primer on How to Suppress Women’s Writing.
But first, the fun stuff.
Wednesday dawned bright and excruciatingly early with a trip downtown. I had the brilliant notion of taking Megabus out to Chicago and Amtrak back because I didn’t feel like driving by myself (Jana went on her own trip to the bookbinding conference in Dallas and I wanted to get to Chicago a day early for workshops). All was comparatively well, for values of well, until the bathroom on the bus imploded and filled the bus with noxious fumes. This happened right outside Milwaukee and continued all the way into Chicago rush hour traffic. A woman sitting near me decided to pass the time with a very loud, expletive-laden fight with someone on the phone and I had trouble breathing due to the chemical cloud. It was…not fun. Unsurprisingly, I followed it up by getting slightly lost and walking a mile or so out of the way in the opposite direction from the hotel, hauling my luggage.
But I was rescued by a friendly Chicago jogger and repointed in the right direction and eventually arrived at the Palmer House unscathed (other than losing my water bottle somewhere along the way, which hardly counts). After that, the hotel was lovely, my room was comfy and I found a nice little pub around the corner, where the cute waitress flirted with me while plying me with mint tea and edibles. Then I went back to the room and had a wonderful hot bath, read Nnedi Okorafor’s The Shadow Seeker and went to bed early.
I spent most of the morning at the self-publishing workshop, listening to the first presenter. He was quite knowledgeable and I found the info he presented to be pretty valuable. But I needed a break after his session so I bailed and went to the Art Institute for a few hours. Once there, I got to see a good exhibit on Irish Art, ate lunch, looked at the miniatures and generally enjoyed myself wandering around.
Then it was back to the publicity portion of the self-pubbing workshop. The presenter for that one didn’t cover much that I didn’t already know so after an hour, I took off for an editing panel with Sheila Williams and Jacob Weisman. This was okay, but could have used a few more panelists for perspective (the third one was delayed in transit, I believe). After that, I headed back to the self-publishing workshop for another hour on costs and got some info which I think will come in handy. By then, I had burned out so I took off before it ended to go to dinner at Vermillion. Vermillion is my favorite Chicago eatery; it serves Indian/Latin American fusion cuisine and it is glorious. I got there early and was the only customer for a bit, which got me lots of staff attention until it began to fill up and I could get back to my reading (Carole Nelson Douglas’ Irene Adler books on my ereader for the reread).
I wandered back to the hotel to relax and do some story rewriting until the Welcome Reception started. I talked to Matthew Foster about Eugie, who I’d met a few times but I didn’t see a lot of other people I knew. Then Steven Silver (Nebula Event Organizer) stopped me and talked me into herding cats on the Baker & Taylor Tour the next day. I agreed to be tour monitor, chatted with some other SFWA folks and was sneaking off when Steven Gould and Laura Mixon showed up. I’d never met them in person so it was delightful to finally do so. Laura and I chatted for a bit and made breakfast plans for the next day. She also introduced me to a few more folks, after which I bailed to go sleep. (Full disclosure: I met a lot of people last weekend and I’m not always spectacular with names, so not being namechecked in this narrative is not significant. I’m sure you were wonderful and that I enjoyed whatever we talked about J).
Friday dawned early and lively with a field trip to Baker & Taylor Book Distributors. It was a small group, which made for easy cat-herding, and I chatted with writer Brenta Blevins and her husband while the tour bus driver took us off into the wilds of Illinois (the warehouse is about an hour and a half drive outside Chicago). Once we got there, and I tracked down the responsible parties for our tour, it was pretty interesting. They were very nice about answering questions and showing us some of the high points of print book distribution and I think we all learned a few new things about the process. We also had a good group with good questions who were willing to do lots of walking without complaining or getting lost. Other than some sandwich problems when we got back on the bus and tried to eat lunch, it was a good trip and I’m really glad I got to go on it. And we made it back into town in time for me to go find tea!
I like tea, preferably the fancy fruity high quality stuff. And I like munchies with my tea. I think afternoon tea is one of the finest elements of Western civilization and I try to partake of it whenever I can. That said, the Palmer House does have its own tea in their spectacular lobby, but for that I needed to make reservations 24 hours in advance and I had failed to plan that far ahead. But, conveniently enough, I had noticed the cafe Russian Tea Time around the corner, so I gave them a call and headed over. Their version of afternoon tea was pretty splendid: good music, yummy savories and sweet and a lot of caffeine. I had a fine time and was wired for sound by the time I left.
Which came in handy for our panel on Gender and Sexuality in SFF. This was lively and interesting, with a very engaged audience, and we probably could have filled a longer timeslot. We covered some general things about sexuality and gender, then specifics as they pertain to the field (lack of T representation, for example), then followed up with a short discussion on Asexuality.
I have no idea what I did after that. I probably chatted with folks in the hallway, then ran into the two things I’d been ignoring up until then: my level of exhaustion coupled with not having planned that well beforehand for those times when I actually was feeling social. Over the course of May, we moved my mother yet again and crammed all her remaining stuff into our house and dealt with all the attendant issues. I finished a complete novel draft and wrote an article, all while working full time under circumstances that are, shall we say, growing increasingly frustrating. All of this got done while dealing with other parts of my life. So I hit a wall for a bit, went to dinner on my own, came back, rested and went to the Nebula Reception.
The above, of course, makes what happened shortly after I arrived sound utterly improbable. I was meandering around the reception chatting with a few folks here and there when I ran into Cat Rambo, the new SFWA President. I’d met her a few years ago at World Con in Chicago while volunteering for SFWA and we interact occasionally online. None of which quite prepared for: “Hey, you want to meet Chris Kluwe?” Wait, that would be former Vikings player Chris Kluwe, hometown hero in my part of the Minneapple for speaking out against the marriage and voting amendments that we defeated a few short years back? “Sure, that would be lovely,” says I, knowing none of you would forgive me if I said no.
So I got to meet Chris Kluwe and embarrass him horribly by thanking him for all his efforts on our behalf. He actually looked down at the table and shuffled his feet. It was adorbz. He is quite cute in person, FYI, and built like a basketball player (I was expecting him to be broader and wider). At any rate, there was a certain amount of fanboying that kicked in as it registered that we had an actual pro athlete in attendance, one with his first science fiction novel out, so I took off as that kicked in and went to go check out the con tables. But hey, I can say I met my favorite Viking.
I talked with a number of other folks, including Cat, Lawrence M. Schoen, Sarah Pinkster and some other folks, and got in on the group photograph with the presentation check to the NIU Archives. Then I got a text from my spouse informing me that she’d won a big book award so I headed upstairs soon thereafter to congratulate her. And there was much rejoicing. :-)