I didn't get a chance to finish writing about Philcon before the holidays, so here goes. When we woke up Sunday morning, The Gryphon was clearly not well. He told me that he had a sore throat, and he could barely talk. "Would you mind if I stayed home?" he asked.
The truth is, I would rather have had him with me, because I always love to spend time with him, and the weekends are our only real opportunity. I had to agree, though, that he should stay home and rest. After all, we had a long week coming up, including a trip to see my parents and the rest of my family for Thanksgiving. Since he didn't think he could go to Philcon and not talk, he thought he should stay home.
The Doodle Board, with an alien invasion of the Crowne Plaza.
Before I left for the day, he gave me a list of people who needed to be informed of various pieces of information. I left with plenty of time to meet up with The Game Designer, who had planned on having breakfast with myself and The Gryphon.
The first person I saw on my list was The Browncoat, who was sitting on a couch in the lobby, getting ready for the day. When I gave her the news, she told me to be sure to let others know, not to let the information end with her. I showed her my list, and she seemed to approve. I could tell she'd been having a rough weekend.
Next, I stopped into Ops to tell them about the situation, and they made a note of it. The editor of the Philicon Rocket said to wish him well and to thank him for getting her updates in a timely manner.
I tried then to call The Dormouse, who was going to be running a 10 a.m. game, but his phone wasn't on. By this time, it was nearly time to meet The Game Designer, so I headed for the lobby. When he saw me, he rushed to the restaurant entrance so that he could announce when I arrived, "You're late!"
As we entered the restaurant, I gave him The Gryphon's apologies for not making him. He joked, "Tell him I'll never forgive him unless he goes to Boskone." That's the SF convention in The Game Designer's neck of the woods. I promised to relay the message.
Two other guys joined us for breakfast, both gamers, and I'm sure that The Gryphon would have enjoyed meeting them. Still, they were very nice, and we had an interesting conversation about the differences between various conventions and the challenges with organizing them.
I excused myself as soon as I'd paid my check, because I had to try one last time to contact The Dormouse. I walked toward the Gaming area, figuring he'd probably be there by now. When I discovered he wasn't, I called him again. Turns out he was running late. Since I had to get upstairs to my panel, I stopped in at Ops again and apprised them of the situation. Carolyn promised to make a sign so that any prospective gamers would know to wait.
Stopping back just before I had to run up, I saw The Cheshire Cat and arranged to meet him after our respective panels. I owed him coffee, I told him, because I'd promised to get him some if he could convince The Pop Culture Junkie not to play a clip from the anime Frankenstein during Saturday night's "Bad Anime, Bad!!!" panel. I don't know who's influence convinced him mine, The Cheshire Cat's, or The Dormouse's but the bad anime panel had been blessedly Frankenstein-free.
My panel was called "Whose Brain Do We Like to Pick?" and was about what sources authors mine for ideas. My fellow panelists were Victoria Janssen (moderator), Jim Reichert, and Genevieve Iseult Eldredge.
As we settled in, we agreed that we didn't expect the panel to be huge, given the time and the subject. Before we got started, we chatted with our few audience members about what makes a good panel. One woman, who had short, curly hair and was wearing horn-rimmed glasses, said she hates it when panels don't address the topic they're supposed to address. She also hates it when panelists get into ugly arguments with each other, especially if they're off topic.
About four audience members had arrived by the starting time. We first introduced ourselves. Since The Gryphon wasn't there, I had no one to snap a picture, so I used the timer and tried to take one as people were introducing themselves. It didn't work terribly well, since I hadn't brought my Gorillapod.
(from left) me, Jim Reichart, and Victoria Janssen
(from left) me, Jim Reichart, Victoria Janssen and Genevieve Iseult Eldredge
I did notice somebody else in the audience taking a picture or two. Afterwards, she gave me her business card and told me she'd send me the pictures.
Then we panelists went down the row, each discussing how we find inspiration, as a writer. Everybody on the panel but me was a fiction writer, and they emphasized research, discussing how that can help to build an idea into a story. I added that, with poetry, research sometimes factors in afterwards, if you want to incorporate specifics, such as naming a flower rather than just saying "flower."
We all shared different methods of finding inspiration, ranging from taking a walk to listening to music to reading newspapers and clipping interesting articles. Jason Reichart had even brought a few articles he'd clipped because he felt they might lead to a story.
I was a little surprised we had enough to say on the topic to fill a whole hour, but we springboarded off each other to discuss topics like writing on a deadline, writing with no inspiration, and breaking through writer's block.
Afterwards, the audience member with curly hair and glases came up to me and took some extra Wild Violet postcards. She told me that this was the best panel she'd attended all weekend. In particular, she liked that we all got along so well and stayed on topic.
From there, I headed down to the Gaming area, where I'd arranged to meet The Cheshire Cat and The Dormouse to get some coffee. Of course, The Dormouse was supposed to be running a game, so The Cheshire Cat and I had agreed to bring him coffee if he was in the middle of it. Sadly for him, no one had shown up (probably because of the short notice).
Batman also joined us. He was there as The Dormouse's guest for the day. Instead of me buying everyone coffee in the loby, as I'd offered, The Cheshire Cat suggested we go to the Con Suite and grab some coffee there. Along the way, I mentioned that I hoped we'd run into The Green Man, because I knew he was a Tim Powers fan, and I wanted to find out if there was anything he'd like me to ask Tim Powers when I interviewed him later in the day.
Just after I said that, The Cheshire Cat pointed and said, "There he is." Sure enough, The Green Man was walking across the hall, right in front of us. I called out to him and asked if he wanted to join us in the Con Suite for a while. He said sure.
As we were standing in the hallway, chatting, who else should walk by but Tim Powers! I took the opportunity to remind him that I planned to stop by his reading time slot at 1. He had told me that, since he doesn't do readings, he was just going to do signings instead. Perhaps, he'd suggested, we'd be able to talk at that time, if there weren't too many fans waiting for autographs.
Then, as we headed up to the Con Suite, we encountered a surreal sight: a skunk playing a piano while Eric S. Raymond listened. Raymond, by the way, is one of the most well-known spokesman for opensource software. He wrote the paper "The Cathedral and the Bazaar." Incidentally, the skunk actually didn't stink: he was good!
Upon arriving in the Con Suite, we looked for coffee. We found a half-devoured cake on the table. At first I thought it was left over from The Anthology Editor's book launch the night before, but when I asked, a curly-haired father wearing a black T-shirt and purple pants, whose boy and girl, about 7 and 8, were playing nearby, told us the cake was from a group birthday party, to honor anyone who had a birthday during Philcon.
Cake they had, but the only form of coffee was instant. I discussed the issue allowed with a bleary-eyed woman next to me, who suggested we try the Green Room instead. Our panelists badges, she assured us, would get us in with no problem. So we headed upstairs, along with The Cheshire Cat and The Dormouse, while The Green Man, presumably not interested in coffee, took a seat in the corner to wait.
Along the way, I chatted with the woman, who told me that one of her friends owns a small publishing company. We swapped business cards. After all, it can't hurt, right? Our coffee quest was successful, and while the woman enjoyed her coffee in the Green Room, the rest of us took ours back to the Con Suite.
We pulled up chairs around The Green Man, who was paging through a blank book he'd filled with some of his favorite poems. "Do you want me to read one?" he asked. I told him sure, as long as it was child appropriate. The two children were still playing nearby. After flipping through the pages for a while, The Green Man chose a poem by Yeats. The room hushed as a number of people gathered around to listen.
When he finished, a guy with long, frizzy gray hair said that he loved Yeats. He and I tried to remember one of our favorite Yeats poems, "The Cat and the Moon," reciting it in fragments. "Do you dance, Minnaloushe, do you dance?" I said that, if I ever have a male black cat, I'll name him Minnaloushe. Of course, as I type that, my white kitty, Luke, is lying on my lap, purring. Luke (yes, as in Skywalker) is a nice name, too.
After a relaxing chat, everyone but The Green Man checked out the Dealers' Room, where I bought several books, including two by Darrell Schweitzer, editor of Weird Tales. Turns out he also writes poetry in addition to fiction.
I headed upstairs to Executive Suite 623, where the Tim Powers reading was supposed to be held. A few people also showed. One distributed chocolate, which he said he was trying to give away before he headed home. After we'd waited a while, the editor of the Philcon Rocket came and told us that Tim Powers had moved to a table outside one of the ballrooms to do a signing.
We all headed downstairs. Along the way, I chatted with the guy who'd given us chocolate. He was a game designer, so I took his card to pass along to The Gryphon.
As soon as I neared the table, I could see Tim Powers was busy and it would be a bad time for an interview. So I waited in line with The Green Man, and when I got a chance, arranged to meet Tim Powers after his 2 p.m. panel. Since that room would be unoccupied afterwards, we figured we could talk there.
I looked at the schedule and decided to attend The Anthology Editor's reading at 2. Since I had a little time to kill until them, I headed for the nearby Gaming area. Sure enough, The Cheshire Cat, The Dormouse and Batman were gathered at a table, where The Cheshire Cat was talking over his ideas for his next panel, which unfortunately would coincide with the time I was supposed to meet with Tim Powers. The topic was "Making Money Off of Your Webcomic," and he found it slightly amusing he was on the panel, since he hasn't actively sought to make money off his two Web comic projects, A Miracle of Science and Afterlife Blues. But it sounded like he had some interesting thoughts to share, and I assured him that he would do well.
As I arrived at the executive suite for The Anthology Editor's reading, one older gentleman was already there. Two more showed while we were waiting for her. When she arrived, I told her that I would have to leave early for another commitment but would stay as long as I could.
She read both from her new book and from an upcoming book project about vampires, and because the audience was so small, she sat close to us, in a chair. It was like story time, except the stories were considerably darker than those you might hear in a children's library.
While she read, a thin guy in the front row busily worked on some sort of intricate craft, involving taking things out of a plastic container and manipulating small objects..
I got to hear two entire stories before waving good-bye and ducking out of the room. The panel in Crystal Ballroom Two, "The Devil Is in the Details," was just winding up. I walked next door and let Ops know that I'd be interviewing Tim Powers for Wild Violet in that room. Then, I simply waited for people to clear out so that we could talk. A book dealer, who had made a prior arrangement, brought in a stack of book, which Tim Powers signed during our initial discussion.
Instead of going through most of the questions I'd written ahead of time, I directed the discussion around topics he'd addressed in his key note speech, since he brought up interesting thoughts about the differences between SF and mainstream fiction, as well as about his writing process. His wife entered about halfway through the interview and sat quietly, listening to us as we talked. We had a nice discussion, and when I notified him that we'd hit the half-hour mark, he told me we could extend the conversation a little longer. We talked for about ten more minutes, and I thanked him for his time.
Before he left, because I've had issues in the past with getting photos after the fact, I took a quick snapshot of him. He did, however, point me towards a Web site where he says they have a good photo of him that I can probably get permission to use.
Afterwards, I met up with The Cheshire Cat, The Dormouse and Batman, and we discussed the possibility of going to dinner. While we were standing around, trying to figure out what to do, The Cheshire Cat and I agreed that The Dormouse should be the leader. Normally, either The Cheshire Cat or I step up and lead the group, so The Dormouse seemed a little hesitant at first. But as soon as he realized that we really meant it and were going to follow him on a path of his choosing, he made a quick decision: we would go up to the Anime room, where the final anime panel was ending, and find out who wanted to join us for dinner.
I guessed, correctly, that the anime panel would still be going, despite the fact that it was supposed to be over at 4. Remembering that The Dormouse had bought a Dr. Who laser screwdriver in the Dealers' Room, I suggested that he might have to zap The Pop Culture Junkie with it in order to force him to stop the panel.
Despite my efforts to egg him on, and even though he'd actually removed the laser screwdriver from his bag, The Dormouse didn't forcibly end the panel. Instead, we stood in the back of the room, making snarky comments, until all the audience members had quietly snuck out, and the only people left were the panelists!
The Dormouse asked who'd like to go to dinner, and most everyone agreed to come, once we got the equipment put away. This took quite a while, since the anime panels rely on showing video clips, all on equipment The Pop Culture Junkie provides. While we were waiting, I ran into the guy who'd been engaged in a mysterious activity during The Anthology Editor's reading. Turns out he was a friend of hers and had been making her a beautiful pair of beaded earrings.
Finally, close to 5:30 or so, we had gathered all the equipment and settled on a restaurant: Chili's. We split up into several cars and made our separate ways. The Cheshire Cat, who was beginning to yawn, excused himself and drove home, fearing that he'd fall asleep on the road if he had dinner first. Batman also parted ways with us, leaving The Dormouse, me, The Pop Culture Junkie, Robert Fenelon, and all three voice actors: Amy Howard Wilson and Dave Wilson III (who's taken to calling me "cousin," due to our last names), along with Kris Nelson.
As if they knew we were going to be boisterous, they set us at two conjoined tables in a little nook, separated by a hallway from the rest of the restaurant. The Pop Culture Junkie was last to arrive and, when he did, took a seat on the end.
The dinner conversation was wide-ranging and silly, encompassing everything from our commentary on SF series to voice acting stories to funny personal stories. In particular, Robert Fenelon and The Pop Culture Junkie traded stories back and forth, almost as if they were in a story competition. Since they were at opposite ends of the table, it was a little bit like watching a ping-pong match. Those of us in the middle made asides, often in funny voices or accents.
In the ultimate compliment, Amy Howard Wilson liked so much the way I said, "Oh, noooo!" in response to one story that she insisted I record an MP3 of it. She wants to use it as an error sound on her computer, she says. I've recorded it twice, just for fun. You can listen to it in the players below and download the WAV file by right-clicking on the links below.
The panel is over when the audience leaves.