Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Norwescon 34

I'm back from Norwescon 34, where I was guest of honor representing Pyr as Spotlight Publisher. This was my first time at a Norwescon, my first time in Seattle, and only my second time in the Northwest (though I used to live in California). And I have to say I was very, very impressed with everything and everybody. The convention had an estimated attendance of around 3600 people, and was held April 21-24 at SeaTac, WA, in the same hotel it's been in for two decades (the DoubleTree Hotel Seattle Airport). The long-running association made for a very smooth con.

I flew in Thursday with my whole family and hit the ground running. In the green room, we bumped into Mary Robinette Kowal, who did an impromptu shadow puppet show for my six year old son, then at the opening Banquet, my son was thrilled to win a pair of Star Wars chopsticks in the raffle. (They only raffled two sets. Most of the other items raffled were Pyr books, which wouldn't have thrilled him as much to win, as his daddy has a basement full of same). At the opening ceremonies, the convention also presented me with a very nice plague in appreciation for contributions to "liturature." The plaque is beautiful, and while they've offered to correct the misspelling, honestly, folks, is perfect the way it is!

Then it was to the art show reception, where I had a lovely conversation with Artist Guest of Honor Kinuko Y. Craft's husband, and caught up with old friend Todd Lockwood. Todd built his art show display this year around the gorgeous-beyond-words cover illustration he did for the Pyr edition of Tom Lloyd's The Stormcaller. I've seen it in person before, but it never fails to take my breath away. Todd is also just an awesome guy, and it's always a pleasure to hang with him.

9pm Thursday was my first panel - "The Best of Steampunk Then and Now" - moderated by Eileen Gunn, and with Mark Teppo, Diana Vick, and Chalire Hummel. I was impressed with how well attended it was for an evening panel, and hope we did some good clarifying just what steampunk is and isn't, should be and shouldn't. 

I'll pause and say a con has never worked me harder than Norwescon did, but as it had been eight long months since this stage-loving, egomaniacal, book promoter has been in front of an audience, that was just what the doctor ordered. What I heard from the other guests was that the con works you hard but takes good care of you, and I can testify that's the case. So let me stop and give a shout out to Dawn Marie Pares, my wrangler, who really made the show. She met me every morning with a decaf skinny vanilla latte, met me before every panel (often with tea), and made sure that while I was being taken care of, my family was too. Here she is with her husband, Matt Youngmark, author of the Choose Your Own Adventure-style zombie novel, Zombocalypse Now. Dawn Marie, you were fantastic! It was wonderful to meet you and you made the con. I'm back to having to get my own coffee and figuring out where I'm supposed to be on my own, and the degree to which you spoiled me is becoming apparent. 

Then Thurdsay ended with a visit to the Party with the Small Press, where I hooked up with my friend and author Sam Sykes (of Tome of the Undergates and Black Halo fame). Here are Sam and posing by the display of Pyr books in the lobby. Not pictured, Sam and I staying up until 3:30am. Also not pictured, the drunk in the hall who woke me up at 4am. Also not pictured, my children, two hours out of their time zone, waking me up at 5am. Never to be pictured, Lou on 1.5 intermittent hours sleep, getting up to start a grueling day of being witty and "on."

Sword of Fire and Sea: The Chaos Knight, Book OneFriday I had panels at 11am, Noon, and 3pm, with the Lifetime Member's Dinner at 5pm (and what good food for a con-hosted banquet!), then the Philip K. Dick awards at 7pm, and a 10pm "Geek Geek Don't Tell Me" game-show style panel. Cat Rambo has posted "Notes from the Year’s Best Fantasy and Science Fiction 2010 Panel," a list of recommendations from the panelists, who in addition to Yours Truly included Brenda Cooper, Gordon Van Gelder, Cat, and Sam Sykes. But it was the "Marketing for Writers Panel" and the "Editing the Novel" panels later that afternoon where I really started to get a feel for how well attended panels at Norwescon is. I think one room was crammed to bursting with around 70-80 folks. The panels here too seemed to be more relevant/less frivolous than some con panels I've attended. Friday also saw the arrival of Erin Hoffman, game designer and author of the forthcoming novel Sword of Fire and Sea, and her husband Jay Ridler. Erin somehow managed to avoid being photographed, so here's the cover of her book.

And now... the Philip K. Dick Awards. The Philip K. Dick Award ar presented annually with the support of the Philip K. Dick Trust for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States.  The award is sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society and the Philip K. Dick Trust and the award ceremony is sponsored by the NorthWest Science Fiction Society. 

I was on hand to read a selection from the novel, The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack, by Mark Hodder, and, as it happened, to accept the award on his behalf when he won. The ceremony was streamed with a video feed, so Mark, awake at 5am in Spain, was able to listen to a live feed of the ceremony. His reaction: "OMG OMG OMG! Are you kidding me!!!! Cannot believe it! Seriously, I'm dumbstruck … And over the moon!!!" As was I. Mark and I were both so unprepared for this that neither of us thought he might need to send me an acceptance speech! But obviously, we are thrilled. I'm pictured here accepting the award from award administrator and Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction editor/publisher Gordon Van Gelder.

Here is the full ceremony.  I read the excerpt at 27 minutes, 20 seconds in and accept at 50 minutes, 20 seconds in.

That evening ended with friends old and new, as all great evenings do.

Saturday was another heavy day of panels, including the very enjoyable "Trends in Urban Fantasy" with Kat Richardson and Jim Butcher, and the very-well attended A/V presentation I always give at cons, "Pyr Books Presents..." in which a great deal of never-before-seen artwork from our forthcoming season(s) was exhibited. Sandwiched around this was a lunch with Duane Wilkins of University Bookstore and Gordon Van Gelder, and a dinner with Erik Mona of Paizo.

Then Saturday night, I was excited to learn, Norwescon throws a party in your honor! The "Spotlight Publisher Party" was amazing - with a paid bar, a huge spread of food, and several hundred Pyr books scattered about the room as gifts to the attendees. (We aren't fools: they were all first-in-series books, and I'm proud to say, not a one of them were left by midnight). Here is a picture from the party of Todd Lockwood and Programming Director SunnyJim Morgan.

Then Sunday was a final panel in the AM, and I was cut loose to explore Seattle with my family. Thanks to Rob Stewart, who not only arranged my travel to the con, but also got my family passes to the Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum and to the Star Wars: Where Magic Meets Imagination exhibit at the Pacific Science Center. The Battlestar Galactica exhibit at the former was great, and the Star Wars exhibit at the later was amazing. In fact, I was looking at this original model of the Millenium Falcon when the Hugo Awards nominations were announced. Obviously, I'm honored to be nominated in the category of Best Professional Editor, Long Form for a fifth year running and thrilled with Ian McDonald's nomination for The Dervish House in the category of Best Novel.

Then it was a good seafood dinner at Ivar's Acres of Clams and back to the hotel, where I stopped in at the dead dog to thank the organizers for a magnificent con experience. Norwescon was just amazing, and what made it so was the professionalism and warmth of Dawn Marie, Sunnijim, Rob, Les Howle, Kevin Black, and many more tireless volunteers. Thanks SeaTac for a fantastic convention experience. Rob, good luck with that zombie, buddy!



Aidan Moher said...

The drunk who woke you up at 4am was Sykes, wasn't it?

Diana Vick said...

Yes, even for a Thursday we had good crowd for that panel. I wish we could have done it for an even larger audience though because I think it ended up being a pretty good one. Thanks!

G.Robin Smith said...

I saw Mr. Anders at several of his panels and, despite the jet lag and many appearances, he was always "on", generous and polite. This blog is an excellent example of his professional and personable character. He has much to be proud of in Pyr's works (Congrats on the PKDick award and Hugo nomination!) Pyr has much to be proud of in Mr. Anders. And NWCon has everything to be proud of for providing another stellar experience.
I am delighted to have been a panelist for so many years and look forward to NWC 35. Thank you, Mr. Anders and all the rest of the Guests, Staff and Fans. G.Robin Smith

Lou Anders said...

Thank you very much for the kind words. The convention really was wonderful.

Norwescon said...

Here is just Mr.Anders reading

Anonymous said...

I think it's awesome how, when gently taking them to task for misspelling "literature," you referred to their "plaque" as a "plague".

Ah, editorial humor, you are the finest of all God's treasures. :)

Great seeing you at the con, Lou!

--Erik Mona

Lou Anders said...

Thanks for that link, Norwescon.
Erik - ha.