Monday, September 03, 2007

Lou & John's Unbogus Journey

I'm just 24 hours back from Nippon 2007, and yet I see my most excellent traveling companion, Mr John Picacio, has already beaten me to blogging by a whole day (my title above is a riff on his). So, feeling that I'm blogging belatedly, but with the advantage of my first full night's rest in a week, here is my end of our shared con experience:

John and I met in the Houston airport and lucked out with a three-seat middle row all to ourselves, so we talked most of the way to the Tokyo airport (I did manage to read half of Spook Country.More on that when I'm done.) As he points out in his post, this was a hit and run trip for us, just 72 hours on the ground, from Thursday night to Sunday morning. John was justly worried about getting his art show set up Thursday, so we were like bullets from the plane to the Narita Express train to the Minatomirai subway to the Pan Pacific Hotel to the convention center. Fortunately, Kevin Standlee's directions made the trip disproportionally easy given the distance traveled. The Narita Express, in fact, sadly constituted the totality of our tourism. But the Minatomirai subway drops you right into Queen's Arch, a huge shopping complex that connects directly to the Pan Pacific and the convention center.

After setting up the art show, we explored the convention, which was just shutting down. The center itself was wonderful (which is a good thing, since we never left it). First up was a special reception for the Hugo nominees thrown by the Heinlein Society and the very gracious David Silver, where the cluster of friendly faces helped get us into "con mood." Afterwards, however, we were struck by the lack of night life, but apparently that's not the done thing in Japan. No bar scene and not much of a party one, so after wandering aimlessly for a bit, we ended up in the ASFA suite, whose hospitality, sushi, and food was very much appreciated.

Friday is con proper, and that began when, before we'd ever entered the convention hall, John's friend and fan Takahiro Hirata, who presented him with gifts while I played Man Friday under a steadily accumulating mound of packaging and wrapping. I must say, I was pretty impressed all weekend with the degree to which John's work has already penetrated Japanese fandom.

Friday night was the Chesley Awards. It was my extreme honor, not only to be nominated, but to be accept on behalf of Stephan Martiniere and Dan Dos Santos, for Best Cover Illustration Hardback and Paperback respectively. I was particularly thrilled to accept for Stephan, as his win was for the magnificent cover he created for our Ian McDonald book, River of Gods.Irene Gallo took Best Art Director, and rightly so; it being honor enough to be nominated alongside of her.

It was wonderful to get some real time in with my good friend Paul Cornell, he of Doctor Who fame, and his lovely wife Caroline Symcox. They introduced me to the wonderful Jessica Langer, who happens to have Adam Roberts as her graduate adviser. (Can you imagine?) Spent quality time with Bob Eggleton and Marianne Plumridge. Also got to spend a little more time with Hugo-nominee Robert Charles Wilson and his wife Sharry (pictured left).

Highlights included the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of Japan reception (SFWJ), where the always elegant Grand Master Robert Silverberg spoke about a bit of the history of the SFWJ in relation to the SFWA, where I got to see all I saw of Ted Chiang (who is apparently even more of a superstar over there than he is here - as one fan told me "If Greg Egan is a god in Japan, Ted Chiang is a demigod.") It was also a great honor to meet Hiroshi Hayakawa, President & Chief Operating Officer of Hayakawa Publishing.

My panel experience was mixed. It was a shame that only three people showed up for our panel on "Remembering Robert Anton Wilson," given the profound influence that old sixties gonzo philosopher has had. One of them was Pat Cadigan, however, and her stories of RAW's influence on her own career made my time there well-spent. Meanwhile, my own annual Pyr panel was full, with a respectable-for-where-we-were 21 people in the room. It was hard to do the presentation without my authors in back of me, but it seemed and I'm told that it went well. All the catalogs disappeared, and I got to meet Professor Wu Yan, who teaches a course on science fiction at Beijing Normal University. He was glad to learn that my wife is Chinese, and hence we plan to travel to China regularly. Hopefully, I can visit him in Beijing at some point. Meanwhile, the panel wouldn't have happened at all if John Picacio hadn't devoted three frustrating hours to tracking down and assembling all the necessary equipment for his own presentation the hour earlier. Really, really grateful to John for doing what wasn't his job and shouldn't have been his responsibility. Finally, I had a well attended kaffeeklatsch, with about six enthusiastic folks. Thanks, ya'll. It was fun.

I mentioned earlier I was impressed with the awareness of John Picacio among Japanese fandom, and I was equally impressed by the new inroads into same John made over the weekend. My one regret about the weekend is that the programming tracks were pretty segregated (at least mine were), with fewer Japanese fans in the audience than I was hoping for. However, my autograph session made up for that. It was opposite Michael Whelan's (who had a line a mile long) and my three or four signatures would have felt like a total washout if it wasn't for my new friend Hayato Kato, devoted science fiction reader (200-300 books a year) and sometimes reviewer for Hayakawa magazine. To my surprise and great pleasure, Hayato has read practically the entire Pyr list to date (though some books were read in their corresponding UK editions, which is just and good) and is a knowledgeable and enthusiastic reader of smart, literate SF. He's also quite a proselytizer for English language SF in Japan. (He told me Justina Robson was next on his list of authors to push. I recommended David Louis Edelman as well, which he has in his "to read" stack but hasn't reached yet.) But Hayato is a very nice guy. We talked the entire hour, and when I offered him my one copy of Fast Forward 1as a thank you, he informed me that he already had it. Meeting Hayato was one of the highlights of the whole con for me, and I hope I see him again at a con in the future. (He is pictured here with John Picacio.)

The Hugo reception was fantastic. I'd been disappointed that our hit and run trip didn't allow time to eat out more than once. And while that meal was fantastic for the company (Picacio, Cornell, Symcox, Langer), the sushi wasn't any better than what I could get in, say, Atlanta. So I was thrilled when the reception had some really fantastic sushi - included tuna as red as blood and as transparent as a Jolly Rancher candy. Which went fast. Also on hand was gourmet chocolate topped with real gold leaf, of which I probably ate a hundred.

As to the awards themselves, this will have to go down as my favorite ceremony of all time. Leaving aside the fact that this was my first time attending as a nominee, the Japanese put on a long, untranslated show in which my childhood hero Ultraman 1 (soon joined by three other Ultramen) engaged in harrowing martial arts combat with four fierce rubber monsters. I think the lack of an English language translation made it even better, and I don't think I'll ever forget it. Ultramen were also on hand during the awards ceremony itself, and Ultraman was also on the base - easily the coolest base in the entire history of the awards. I was totally fine with not winning until they unveiled it. One look, and rocket envy set in hard.

In all seriousness though, I was deeply honored to accept the award for Ian McDonald. Ian won Best Novelette for "The Djinn's Wife", originally published in Asimov's July 2006 issue. "The Djinn's Wife" is part of the future India milieu Ian created in his Hugo-nominated novel River of Gods, so this win, plus Stephan's aforementioned Chesley for the cover, is just more love for the incredible world that he's built. Cory Doctorow presented the award, and standing next to him and seeing him so sincerely beaming, I could tell that he was every bit as excited for Ian as I was. Ian would have been there himself, but that he is deep in development on an Irish version of Sesame Street (which, in my excitement I mistakenly referred to as The Muppet Show. I know the difference.) But if it had been anything but Jim Hensen Muppets, he would have been there. (Pictured left is co-host George Takei, Yours Truly, and Ian's beautiful Ultraman Hugo. Also, be sure to see Jay Lake's LiveJournal for some more great pictures from the show.)

A big congratulations to Steve Moffat for his Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation - Short Form for "The Girl in the Fireplace." This is his second Hugo in the category after last year's win with "The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances." As Moffat is penning some of the best episodes of Doctor Who in the series, hell, some of the best science fiction television period, I'm thrilled with the results. I fully expect him to be on the shortlist next year with "Blink," though Paul Cornell's absolutely perfect "Human Nature/The Family of Blood" will give him a run for his money and is my personal prediction for winner. Any future where both of these gentlemen write a good many more episodes for the Doctor is one I want to live in.

The rest of the evening was spent with the aforementioned Cornell and Moffat, as well as their wives Caroline Symcox and Sue Vertue (wonderful person and producer of Coupling, among other things), and friend Jessica Langer. And by the rest of the evening I mean 3:45 am. Moffat, it turns out, has his head on straight where Batman is concerned, as if I needed further proof of his genius. That's Picacio, Moffat and Vertue pictured left, at the Hugo Loser's Party, along with Moffat's award. And lots more chocolate. Below that is Yours Truly with Paul Cornell, whose had such a good time he promises to come to this year's World Fantasy Convention as well.

Meanwhile, a shout out to Karen Jones, Michael Whelan, Ellen Datlow, Greg Ketter, Kelly Link, Gavin Grant, Paul Melko, Gay Haldeman, Marc Zicree (whose Star Trek: New Voyages episode he kindly gave me on disc and which I'm dying to see), Geoffrey Landis, Mary Turzillo, Jay Lake, Karen Haber and anyone else I've missed. You all made for a wonderful, wonderful time.

Jump to 5:45 am. I woke up 2 hours after I went to sleep, whereupon John and I had a nice leisurely breakfast with Bob Eggleton and Marianne Plumridge (I will so miss the nato), then made a final pass to say goodbye before breaking down his art show, catching the subway to the train to the plane to the USA.

And that was it. Japan in 72 hours. A most excellent adventure, and one I'll remember for the rest of my life.

And now, for your viewing pleasure (and via Chris Roberson via Gavin Grant and Kelly Link), we present -- Ultraman @ the Hugo Ceremony:


jaylake said...

There's a couple of very good photos of you in the sets Adrienne took, which is where I got what I posted. You were looking great. It was good to see you and John there.

John Picacio said...

(Note: I sent this in a minute ago, and it didn't show up on your comments, so one more try. Apologies if this shows up twice.) Yeah, you really covered the bases with this one. Nice job! Great report. It really was an unforgetable trip, wasn't it? I'm so glad we did it. One thing we both should have mentioned was the hospitality of David Silver who invited us to the Heinlein Society party on Thursday evening. I think that was the first time you and I felt like we were grounded in familiar faces. Nice shindig, wasn't it? And then once that filled up a bit, we moved on to the ASFA suite, I believe. But yeah, it wasn't the usual late-night convention bar scene we're so used to....different culture, different was an awesome time nonetheless.

Lou Anders said...

Eeep. I am so jetlagged - I was racking my brains to remember what we did when we landed. I'll add in the Heinlein party in a moment.

And Jay - thank you very much. Sorry we didn't see more of you, but as you broke our record for short stays...

Anonymous said...

Hi Lou,

Blogger ate up my post; sorry if this is repeated.

That was definitely the highlight of the con talking with you and John. It's kind of you not to say I deprived you of the precious time for rest.;-p

I know I'm a big fan of science fiction with good tastes, but 200-300 books a year are too much for me; I may buy that many but more than a half of them end up in cold sleep indefinitely to my shame. And I do own most of the Pyr lineup (who can resist the superb covers?), you are too fast to put out the new ones.

I have an idea to propose regarding Japanese authors. Will mail you soon.

- hayato

Lou Anders said...

Hi Hayato - great to hear from you!
I remember Harlan Ellison saying once , whenever someone asked him about his library, "Have you read all these books?" he always replied, "Hell no, who wants a library full of books they've already read?"

You did not deprive me at all. I was very, very happy to talk with you. Looking forward to the email.

dave hutchinson said...

Sounds like an extraordinary trip. I always meant to do it myself, one day, but it's a long way and very expensive.
I just finished Spook Country. I'll be interested to see what you think.

Lou Anders said...

Halfway and loving it. But was primed by about a half dozen Gibson podcasts the week prior.

Shaun Farrell said...

Thanks for the report, Lou. You didn't podcast while you were there!! We'll have to correct that next year. :-)

Lou Anders said...

Most definitely.

Jessica Strider said...

Glad to hear you liked Japan, what little you were able to see anyway. The train ride from Narita's quite nice and fairly typical of Japan, if that's any consolation.

As for Japanese people not going out drinking, well, I think it's something normally done with co-workers, and as you all pay the same fee at the end of the night regardless of how much you eat or drink you're probably better off not trying it (I've seen people get stiffed with a hundred dollar tab).

Anyway, sounds like you had a wonderful trip.

Lou Anders said...

Yes. We got just enough of a taste to both really, really want to go back.