Tuesday, August 12, 2008

WorldCon 2008 / Denvention3 Report

Back from the 66th World Science Fiction Convention, appropriately exhausted and inspired, as always. This con was both bigger and smaller than previous. Bigger in that the convention center is HUGE, so that even staying next door in the Hyatt Regency necessitated a 10 minute walk from lobby to panels. And smaller in that attendance is estimated at around 3,500. (Possible explanations floating around include the economy and the fact that as a smaller city, Denver has a smaller pool of locals to draw from while the high gas prices may be discouraging out-of-town-ers.)

This was a different con for me for several reasons - one, I actually managed to get talked into leaving it for a whole day. It's almost impossible to get me "off-campus" for more than the span of a good meal, but this time I was afforded an opportunity I simply couldn't refuse (details below). And second, in honor of Ian McDonald's Hugo nomination in specific, and our four nominations in the combined Hugo/Campbell ballot altogether in general, we (we being Pyr) threw our first party! Which, in itself, necessitated a lot of running around off-campus and setting up, adding to the sense of being away.

That being said, I had my usual blast. Highlights include (but are not limited to):

Wed night: A "Dressy Dinner" at Luca D'Italia with "Mike Resnick's bellydancers" - Linda Donahue and Julia Mandala - plus Baen head honcho Toni Weisskopf, SF&F author John Moore and new JABberwocky agent Eddie Schneider. Wonderful food, wonderful wine, wonderful company. In fact, the wine was so good I'm going to put it's name here so I can find it later. I heartily recommend a bottle of Ruffino Chianti Classico Reserva "Ducale Oro."

Thursday: A private tour of NORAD, the underground complex 2,000 ft below Cheyenne Mountain better known as the North American Aerospace Defense Command. This was the offer that was too good to refuse mentioned above. The tour was arranged by Lt. Colonel (retired)Brain "Bear" Lihani and conducted by Lt. Ryan Lally, and came about like this. Jeff Carlson wrote a wonderful novel called Plague Year. Christina Lihani read it and loved it. The Lihani's then arranged to bring Jeff and a score of other science fiction writers (plus this lucky editor) out to the secret underground installation that has featured in science fiction literature and movies for decades (Wargames jokes weren't as plentiful as you'd think, Stargate references abounded). So, who got the golden tickets?

* Kevin J. Anderson, bestselling author of Metal Swarm and a Colorado Springs local
* Robert Charles Wilson, Hugo and Aurora Award-winning author of Spin
* His wife, Sharry Wilson
* Yours Truly, Lou Anders, Editorial Director of Pyr Books
* John Joseph Adams, editor of anthologies Wastelands and Seeds of Change
* Robert J. Sawyer, bestselling author of Rollback
* His wife, Carolyn Clink, award-winning poet
* Jeff Carlson, author of the internationally acclaimed thriller Plague Year
* His wife, Diana Carlson
* Walter Jon Williams, bestselling author of Implied Spaces and a member of the Homeland Security anti-terrorism SIGMA think tank
* His wife Kathy Hedges
* David J. Williams, author of The Mirrored Heavens
* Jeremy F. Lewis, author of Staked
* Sean Williams, bestselling author of Earth Ascendant
* Blake Charlton, author of The Spellwright
* Paolo Bacigalupi, award-winning author of Pump Six and Other Stories
* Erin Cashier, a first-place winner of the Writers of the Future contest
* David Marusek, author of Counting Heads
* Annalee Newitz, senior editor with io9.com
* USAF Lt. Colonel "Bear" Lihani
* His wife, Christina Lihani, avid SF reader
* and their friends Ed and Darcy (last names unknown at this time)

I was in the SUV with Jeff and Diane Carlson, Sean Williams, Paolo Bacigalupi, David Marusek, and Annalee Newitz (whose report for io9.com is up here). I must confess I enjoyed the ride there as much as the tour itself, given the company. As to NORAD, it's smaller than I thought and less self-sustaining. They say they can only go 30 days without outside supplies,and while I see on Annalee's report this has already been contested - whatever the classified number of days is it isn't the years that Doctor Strangelove had in mind spending there in the company of old generals and beautiful women. And while the whole complex is amazing - 2,000 ft below Cheyenne Mountain - it's not so much a cave as it is a giant multi-story box, on hundreds of one thousand pound metal springs, in a cave. With the actual command center under a giant concrete dome to protect it from shifts in the ceiling. We didn't get in there, unfortunately, as something top secret, or at least middlingly secret, occurred to keep us out. In a way, that was kind of cool in itself, as I'd been wondering how "top secret" a top secret base could be that had a gift shop. And by way of consolation, Lt. Lally got us into the life support command center, where we were shown how the airconditioning and water for the base worked (and where the civilian contractor on duty was reading Chuck Palahniuk's Rant. (The editor in me couldn't resist asking him how he was enjoying it. The answer is "very much although it's pretty extreme stuff.")

Dinner afterwards at Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta's house was equally wonderful. As was the house, which is castle-shaped and fantasy-themed, and ranks as the coolest SF author's pad I've been in since Harlan Ellison's. Anyway, the base was amazing and the Lihani's, the Carlsons, and the Anderson/Moesta's are all much to be praised. Thank you all for a day I'll remember the rest of my life.

Friday - Walk with the Stars: Paul Cornell, John Picacio, Steven H. Segal and Yours Truly. Organized by Steven's father Stu as an attempt to get SF fans to take some moderate excersize (a leisurely early morning stroll before the convention doors opened), I didn't now what to expect. We were astounded as spread out as things were that anyone felt they needed to volunteer for more walking, and grateful to have such a HUGE GROUP join us, plan on doing this every year if the wonderful Stu Segal will continue the tradition. Enjoyed talking to Alvaro Zinos-Amaro and others. I wish we could have walked longer and met you all, but only Paul Cornell actually managed to shake hands with every single person in the crowd. I don't even know what he's running for, but he has my vote. Anyway, I loved the Stroll with the Stars and if it continues (officially or unofficially), it will join the Kaffeeklatsch as my favorite type of programming.

Now we interrupt this blog to offer a huge thanks to Alexis Glynn Latner, Paolo Bacigalupi and Jetse de Vries for help in acquiring booze and other supplies for the Pyr party, without whom there wouldn't have been a Pyr party. And thanks to Prometheans Jill Maxick, Amy Greenan, and Lynn Pasquale as well, for purchasing such cool decorations, crafting such wonderful posters and invitations, and mailing all of the above to the hotel. The chocolate footballs (what we Americans call soccer balls) were Jill's inspiration, as was the whole Brazilian theme.

Brazilian theme, you say? Why yes. We hired an actual bartender, to serve the capirinas, the official drink of Brazil, and decorated with a Brazilian flag, , jungle-themed streamers, pictures of jungle animals. And scores of plastic frogs all over the tables. With Brazilian music supplied by Mr McDonald himself.

I cover the party quite extensively over on the Pyr blog, with pictures!, so I won't say more here, except that it was wonderfully well-attended and the folks in attendance made it worth every bit of the effort.

Saturday - Hugo reception. Not as swank as in Japan, and I was amused by the co-ed restroom in the green room. Also too nervous for my guys to really eat or drink. But always very nice to be in the room at all.

Hugos themselves. Enormously happy for Stephan Martiniere on his win for Best Artist. Enormously proud of David Louis Edelman for coming in second in the nomination round, third on the final ballot for the John W. Campbell Best New Writer award. As to my own nomination, it's wonderful just to be in such company. A heartfelt congratulations to all the winners and nominees.

Sunday - The panel "Trends in Science Fiction". Was supposed to be me, Daniel Abraham and Charles Stross. Was just me, walking into a room of about a hundred people all there to see Charlie. Enormous gratitude to Walter Jon Williams, who allowed himself to be dragged onstage, for what I hope proved to be a fun panel after all.

Other highlights included a long conversation with Kristine Kathryn Rusch, dinner with Paul Cornell and Caroline Symcox, and lots of time in the company of George Mann, Mark Newton, and Christian Dunn of Solaris Books. And Ginjer Buchanan is just good people. Also really enjoyed meeting Mario Acevedo, really sorry I missed the Eos party. Even more sorry I had to pass on the lunch with Jack Skillingstead and Nancy Kress. And Rani, I promise we'll talk more next time. Promise!

All in all, I had a marvelous convention, but found being gone one day and having to spend most of the next day on the party incredibly stressful - as I had about 18 meetings, panels, interviews etc... to cram into the remaining 3 days, and I wouldn't recommend that to anyone. But the con, yeah, I'd recommend it. Thanks everyone for making this roving Brigadoon as wonderful as always.


Stephenson said...

Sounds like a great time, wish I could have been there! Congrats on the party, I want one of those pint glasses...

JW said...

Lou --

Only a picture of a cat with poor grammatical constructions superimposed over it can truly express how great that con report was. If only such a thing existed.

Rene said...

It sounds like it was a blast, party stress and all. Glad it went off so well and the caparinas were delicious.

Walk with the stars sounds fun. Actually, it all sounds fun. You can't go wrong with plastic frogs. And congratulations to all the Pyr nominees, not least of all yourself. :)

Lou Anders said...

Sorry Stephenson - only one glass left and it's mine!
JW - let me know if you find the right cat.
Rene - thanks. I hope Stroll with the Stars is a permanent addition.

Tim Akers said...

My dad grew up in Colorado Springs, and I went back there every summer for however many years. In fact, I was there visiting family just before the con. And in all that time, I've never visited Cheyenne Mtn, or been up Pikes Peak, or any of that. I probably should, you know? Maybe next time. Or the next. Or something.

Shake hands! Smile! Keep walking!

Alvaro Zinos-Amaro said...


It was great to talk to you for a bit at WorldCon -- and you did a fantastic job as the lone performing monkey (before plucking WJW from the audience to help out) during that last panel :-)

I've pre-ordered Fast Forward 2, and thanks also for recommending Josephmallozzi’s Weblog, another cool site. You helped make con fun and memorable.


Lou Anders said...

Tim - it was such an ongoing thing I was afraid to break tradition. We'll catch up at WFC, though, right?

Alvaro - thank you. I hope we have a chance to talk again soon at another con.

Tim Akers said...

Uh...not sure I'm making Calgary this year. Again. Fail. We'll see, though. I want to go, it's just a matter of getting things to line up.

Lou Anders said...

Oh man.