Surviving Cons — Or A Mother’s Iniquity

*My older son, Robert, has a blog he rarely updates.  In fact, I think his last update was about a year ago.  He says that his life is not interesting enough, so he writes about his life in a parallel universe, which is much more fun.  This means, mostly reports from the Ultrabowl where teams such as the Colorado Cthulhus face the New Orleans Bone Dolls.  He has also written about the problem of hobo balloons infesting downtown and other, weirder things.  (No, trust me.)  Since (I suppose?) this requires a creative effort and he’s full up with college AND the Ninja Nun comic, you can see he wouldn’t update often.  However, his post on attending conventions, written before the Denver Worldcon in 08, remains one of my all time favorite ways of approaching cons.

Note that, as the son of a writer, Robert is hazy on the difference between SF cons and writer conferences.  Possibly, of course, because at sf cons he hung out with writers anyway.  Easy to get somewhat confused.  But other than that, it’s quite fun.

Today is the last day of the con and — argh — I’m not done with Noah’s Boy, partly because of course yesterday we ended up meeting with friends and fans and I didn’t run home to write between my panels, as I should have.  Truly, if we weren’t broke, I’d have got two nights at the hotel — which would have made it easier to work between things.  I’m now looking at G-d willing finishing tomorrow, and then doing the finale on Witchfinder on Tuesday (and I really AM sorry.)

Meanwhile, I got up late, and as I get ready to go out — Dan has a panel at 11 and I have a reading at noon — I find myself all out of words.  So I’m reposting Robert’s post on the lead up to Denvention 08.  Robert blogs here and has promised another Ultrabowl post next week.  And his Ninja Nun comics are here.”

G*d is a Pantser – By Robert A. Hoyt

Eventually, almost every writer comes to the conclusion that G*d is an author. It makes some sense, when one considers the nearly soap-opera-like setting many people, especially authors, seem to live in. Since the plot is moved along by the problems that the characters encounter and face, and humans in general come to a unanimous consensus that there are way too many problems around, we can make the safe extrapolation that whatever celestial plot we are taking part in is zooming along at a merry click.
And then it occurred to me that we are always assured that said plot is not going to go wrong. Most plotters can immediately see the problem, because no matter how carefully you plot it, stories come out the way you were expecting only if you were very lucky. And one could probably assume that, if we are to believe G*d can make the proverbial kidney stone even He can’t pass, in the form of free will and such, then by logical dictate we can assume that the universe could well be a technically demanding job even for the omnipotent. If you plotted it out ahead of time, when all you can do in the end is manipulate the circumstances around the characters and let them be themselves, the chance you’d end up where you were going would be infinitesimal. Given the assumption that you could see the future, you’d still be seeing all possible futures when the actions of the subjects were variable. This, I thought, presented a quandary, and I was not about to settle for the typical “C’est la vie” theological answer of its being a “mystery”.

And then, as I was watching McGyver, suddenly the mystery was solved. McGyver said that he didn’t plan things out in advance, because plans could go wrong… the very problem I had been pondering. Would it not be possible, then, that G*d solved the problem the same way McGyver does? I do not mean that on some higher plane, G*d is sitting there looking at earth and telling an angel “I need a paperclip, some bubblegum, and a fourth dimensional divine sphere”, but certainly a plan that you make up as you go along cannot go wrong. After all, if you aren’t certain what you are supposed to do next, then it’s hard for you not to do it according to plan; there isn’t a plan until you make one up, and then, of course, your actions in doing so almost necessarily assume you are going according to plan. Especially if we think of the universe as being, in a sense, a tremendous, complex game of solitaire, it’s impossible to know what cards are coming, but the skillful player excels in dealing with the cards as they come.
End conclusion? Our Author, who art in heaven, is in all likelihood a Pantser. He has a divine plan for you, certainly, but He might not know what it is yet. I was actually somewhat relieved upon coming to this conclusion, since it meant that the universe may be screwed up at times, but, if you take the long view, it’s awfully hard for it to go astray. Unfortunately, we probably ought to worry that, in the long view, history is also inexorably a story like “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”, and not like “Pride and Prejudice”, which would be a wonderful thing if not for the fact that we are the characters, and so ineffability is weighted towards our living in interesting times. Any historian can easily confirm that history is very rarely boring, and in fact has more sex and violence then a Brazilian soap opera.

It was while contemplating this train of thought that it occurred to me that most writers eventually go to a writer’s convention. Since G*d is reputed to be everywhere at once, we can probably assume that transportation would not be a problem in His case. Granted, your standard writer goes to a convention to network, maybe pick up some pointers on writing, although it is not unusual for them to go just because they want to have a good time and see some old friends. In most cases, G*d probably wouldn’t find that necessary. He already has the ultimate network, for starters, and I wouldn’t imagine He needs many pointers. But let’s face it… what’s the point of making a world if you can’t play in it occasionally? Most writer’s conventions are a lot of fun, even if they’re nerve wracking and even if you do go for business.

So, next time you look around a convention, be on the lookout. Don’t worry if other conventions are going on at the same time, He’s probably attending both if He’s going at all. He’ll be the quirky bestseller who you can never quite remember the nametag of, although you’ll come away with the strange impression it said “Mr. Jaho Vah”, and subsequently determine He was Swedish on this basis (speculation as to G*d’s nationality ends there, although it might explain a lot if He eventually turned out to be American. I will say, however, that although it’s a lovely country, G*d is almost certainly not Canadian.). He’ll be the largish man who sits at the back of the inevitable “How to Build Convincing Worlds” panel, giggling occasionally in a strangely unnerving way. He may, perhaps, express slight disappointment with the angel food cake in the hospitality suite, and is adamantly certain He can do it better. He will know all the secret parties and show absolutely no problems with staying up all night during the convention. He will know all the editors and agents, perhaps hinting incredibly subtly at some shady events in their past that no one could possibly know about during casual conversation, until eventually they include Him in the dinner party out of self-defense. You can spot instantly whether you have also been included in this dinner party, because one member will order the fish and be very fond of the dinner rolls (if the restaurant did not serve either of these prior to your party’s arrival, this is another dead giveaway), and no matter how little of either you originally had you will need several doggy bags for what’s left over. Writers in attendance who have previously had careers that dropped dead will miraculously see them revived, and people who were previously condemned to the slush pile with good reason shall be healed.

This, however, raises an uncomfortable possibility that there will also be demonic intervention. It is well known that the darker side of the occult attempts to thwart all things that the almighty does, which may well include taking a vacation. This is why preparation is of the essence. Firstly, be aware of evil forces when you see them. Keep in mind that small press editors, animé fanatics and filkers rarely invade cons en mass or travel in groups. Perhaps mischievous little tricks like the guest of honor being unable to get a badge will give it away, or if nothing else, loud groups of people who manifest outside your door at three AM to torment the three hours you have allotted for sleep.

If demonic forces do invade the conference you are at, it is important to keep in mind the con-goers basic handbook for occult defense and survival, which I will include some excerpts from:

1: The basic field kit for a con-goer should consist of at least one standard bell, one book, and one candle (Your standard issue BBC. It is very rare that you will be able to see Monty python on this kit, however.) The bell can be of any description the user wishes, although a shop bell is not recommended unless one is fighting demonic influence in the dealer’s room. Religious books are preferred, although in most cases a Heinlein book or in a pinch even something by J.K. or J.R.R. can be used by a true believer. Care should be taken with pronunciation in versions of the bible written in the original Klingon, and throat lozenges are recommended. Sadly, Manga has not shown a great deal of potency although ones with higher age ratings may be used to amuse demons with short attention spans while you run away. For the candle, use your own discretion. Something suitably impressive is usually available in the dealer’s room. Flame throwers are effective, but you shall have to convince con authorities they do not work and put a big orange tag on them. NOTE: You should not include garlic, protective herbs, or silver bullets. In the first two cases because they have absolutely no effect on the forces of darkness, and the best usefulness you can expect out of them is they may be used to flavor you. Silver bullets would only be effective against werewolf demons, which are, unfortunately, a completely unconfirmed species. If you do choose any of the above, you should take the precaution of wearing a large, noticeable protective amulet. Not that this will do you any good, but it will make IDing your remains simpler.

2: Stay away from Foci of evil. If you feel an irresistible urge to go watch the filking hour, take a few deep breaths, and look up train wrecks on YouTube. You will receive the same perverse satisfaction, but with less danger.

3. Know your way around the con hotel. Because nobody needs to run into the middle of the J.K. vs. J.R.R. pajama challenge panel when they’re looking for the exit.

4.No matter how great the urge, do not attempt anything you saw on Buffy the Vampire slayer on actual demons. You should not take advice on fighting the forces of darkness from a girl who apparently went to the afterlife primarily to unwind in between huge climactic battles.

5.Avoid being badly plotted. Most writers know exactly what I mean. Do not do anything that you would not write a character doing because it would be obviously stupid. Do not under any circumstances become the best friend of anyone, since there are fifty-fifty odds that you will die in a crucial battle with the con-demons if you do. Do not develop a love interest, and if you start to, find the section of the hotel which still has cold running water and use it.

And finally:

6. Do not do something to annoy someone who can crush your career like a bug on a semi truck’s windshield. Because the prospect of being out of work in this business is probably worse than facing Satan himself. You are planning to survive, so be as plastically jovial as you usually are with people you don’t like and who have power over you, so that they remember how nice you were even in a crisis. Certain editors and bestsellers are probably at least as powerful as G*d, so even if you run into Him, do not bet you are saved.

Above all, remember that if you do run into the almighty, the little touches make the difference. For Catholics, a cross in your Starfleet insignia may garner some favor, for Jews, perhaps a nice yarmulke with Klingon sayings. Since writers tend to work on a “share and share alike” system, and helping newbies is common, you could get some sympathy from our Heavenly Author and become one of the few writers who actually appears to have G*d on their side.

Major cons may attract more attention from the almighty, depending on how literally one takes “the first shall be last”. Keep in mind the above signs, and you should do fine. With a little preparation, you’ll be ready should Denvention turn out to be a religious experience.

Or, worst case scenario, a metaphysical warzone.

75 responses to “Surviving Cons — Or A Mother’s Iniquity

  1. “Any historian can easily confirm that history is very rarely boring, and in fact has more sex and violence then a Brazilian soap opera.”

    I read this sentence to my husband and he agreed wholeheartedly. Which makes it all the more amazing that my 7th grade Social Studies teacher managed to turn me off history so thoroughly that it took me decades of only getting my history through romances and alt-history military SF to get me to look at history again. I finally bought the Kindle version of Gibbons ‘Decline and Fall’ and I plan to dip into it when I don’t feel like any of the more recent stuff that I have on hand.

    • I forgot to mention that I liked the entire post by Robert.

      I didn’t notice G*d at last year’s WorldCon, but it was my very first convention, and He may have had something to do with my heading for my room and sleeping right after the Masquerade, rather than looking for the parties. I’m pretty sure that skipping the first night of parties is what saved me from con crud. 😉

    • I must be a dropped plotline. I appreciate the lack of violence, but the absence of sex has been rather bothersome.

      • every writer forgets a character now and then. Maybe you should remind Him by doing something highly entertaining?

        • Mebbe this is the argument for prayer?

          Our Author who art in Heaven,
          Hollowed is thy plot
          Give us this day our daily thread
          And forgive us our consistency errors as we forgive inconsistencies in others
          Thy story be done,
          Thy climax come
          With me surviving the ending.

  2. Raymond Jelli

    Um Sarah,

    Any chance I can plug my novella Occupy Innsmouth for some feedback? I can finally set it back to free for five days so it’ll cost only time for someone to look it over. Cthulhu sort of makes an appearance anyway so if you’re a fan of the mythos you might like or be disappointed.


  3. What?!? No Witchfinder? I was told there would be Witchfindering. I dressed up in my withcfinding clothes just for the occasion, see?

    Now I feel so much the fool. I shall now have to rush in where angels fear to tread. Or must I find a Russian to prank? The instructions are subject to interpretation.

  4. I really liked Robert’s schtick. Tell him so, please.

  5. That would explain the large, snickering gent I saw at Bubonicon . . . Or it may have GRRM.

  6. I am a con virgin– I see G-d in other places 😉 Nice post by the way–

  7. He’ll be the largish man who sits at the back of the inevitable “How to Build Convincing Worlds” panel, giggling occasionally in a strangely unnerving way.

    No, I’m not God. Except perhaps in a Mike V Smith sense.

  8. Remember, the infernal forces are legion. Satan is clearly a critic, while lesser demons probably act as publishers and editors.

  9. I finished reading ConVent a week or so ago, so I finally know what you’re all talking about. 🙂 (very amusing)

    PS – Go Luna Ticks! 😛

    • Weirdly, Robert and Kate come up with these independently, AFAICT. OTOH Kate “aunt Kate” to my kids and my kids are DANGEROUS in the same place. Robert and Kate discussing quantum mechanics actually glazed both my eyes and my husband’s eyes.

  10. Filkers: The Infamous All-Night Anime-Music-Video Panel at OryCon actually managed to stun the filkers — mainly due to them rolling in at 8AM and finding us still in the room. (Hey, the con scheduled us for two hours, but didn’t schedule anything else until 8AM the next day, so…. >:) )

    • Dorothy Grant

      Carpe audiovideum!

      I’ve snuggled up on some chairs in a borrowed trench coat and slept through chunks of anime nights like that… ah, college!

  11. Ha. I wrote a YA novel just like that — the kid goes off and has adventures, and winds up making an earthshattering choice about things that are bigger than him.

    I’ve sold fourteen copies. So, not exactly changing the zeitgeist.
    But then, maybe my writing’s just no good. 🙂

    • No– it takes some time to get noticed. My writing is okay, and it is taking me a long time to sell. I do notice that there are groups of reviewers who are looking for newbies and are writing nasty reviews. I had a bestseller that was doing really well until someone decided to give it the kabash.

      It went from ten books a month to one a month. I told a couple of my readers that it had been one-starred and they went back and wrote reviews that were much better; however, it never recovered.

      Just keep writing and keep putting out human wave–

    • “I’ve sold fourteen copies. So, not exactly changing the zeitgeist.”

      From little acorns mighty oak trees grow — but it takes quite a while.

      I am currently “re-reading” (listening to the audiobook again) Heinlein’s Have Spacesuit … and noticing elements of construction: A star-struck boy wins a second-hand spacesuit and entertains himself by refurbishing it … expanding in scope with each sequence. I have just finished his suicidal trek into the Plutonian night to plant a beacon which he doesn’t believe will do a bit of good, noting that Heinlein’s choice of pointless mundane chore — sticking to a task even when you don’t see a point to it — employs a challenge (endurance) with which all of the kids reading the book should be able to identify.

      Selling fourteen copies may not seem like much, but it is the first fourteen steps toward building an audience. Even if you never sell more, it is possible one of your fourteen readers will be inspired to follow in your footsteps and achieve more significant effect. You never know — a voyage to the Lesser Magellanic Cloud just might start with rebuilding a worn-out spacesuit in your garage.

    • Or maybe you need to give it time to catch on. Or maybe you don’t have it in ebooks — but if you DO, please post a link, because when I DO my linkfest, I’ll include it. Lots of parents here. And if you DON’T have it in ebooks, then why not?

      • DEFINITELY in ebooks — the “ noncontroversy” is how I discovered your blog, actually. They’ve never been anything but good to me, and so I haven’t bought into all the kvetching and whining.

        • Yeah. I’m an Amazon fangirl, both as buyer and seller, too.

        • Yea– I am a fan of amazon and smashwords too. I also use Amazon for shopping because I find that things I need are hard to find in my area (500 mg of Niacin for example).

          • Ha! I’m currently doing everything in my power to figure out how to move to one of those places!

            • Well my hubby has a job, and I write. We have to live closer to a good doctor, but that was our only requirement. I have been lucky in the doctor stuff.

              • I’m an overeducated admin geek, and looking. I love Texas, but unfortunately, classic Texas allergies (“cedar fever,” etc) DON’T love my wife’s lungs.

                • Well– we don’t have cedar in NV. But we are getting the rabid Californicators who can’t live in their State because they ruined it. Plus they are trying to ruin the Western States. You might try Utah– (I hear Idaho is having the same problem with CA’ers as we are)–

                  • I lived in ID as a kid and loved it. Southern Utah’s quite nice, too. My real goal, if I can pull it off, is Juneau — I like salt air and LOTS of rain.

          • Well, I realized recently, that other than museums (I still would like to be in walking distance of those) the reasons I used to like living in urban areas are mostly gone. I can get any book, watch any movie, and learn anything, wherever I am.

            Mostly? Thank you Amazon.

            • Oh yes– and Netflix… that was inspired. Plus I can watch the stuff I like and am not forced to watch PC TV shows.

            • This is one reason I’m waiting anxiously for teleportation booths. I can live anywhere, but be in Washington, DC, in an instant. Or Denver, or Atlanta, or Chicago, or wherever. I can visit the museums I want to see, go back a second time without having to spend two days driving, and still enjoy the sedate life of living either in the least populated areas of the West, or in a very small town, where I can make a small but significant difference.

  12. (I’ll check out Occupy Innsmouth, that sounds fun. Speaking of which, wouldn’t mind a plug for Malik the Pawn, either. 😀 )

  13. I must confess to being somewhat curious as to the nature of Brazilian soap operas.

    • I’ll put the Neapolitan Angevins up against any telenovela (or the Borgias, for that matter) that ever lived.

      • Yes, but please, if you ever have the power to do these as series, don’t do the Tudors BS where they made Henry VIII much younger and more attractive and played fast and loose with history — as well as using a style of cutting that made the story incoherent.

        Because if you do, we can’t be friends anymore.

        • My wife and I went to see a movie about King Ludwig of Bavaria. It was very well done, very close to the truth, and had some AMAZING photography. I think the title was “Ludwig, the Last King of Bavaria”, but I wouldn’t swear to it.

        • Back in the late 70s, early 80s the Beloved Spouse & I stumbled into the most marvelous incoherently cut TV mini-series, featuring Frank Finlay (several years before his performance as Porthos for Richard Lester) as Casanova. With the MC delirious and imprisoned, the program jumped somewhat at random between his past, present and future.

          It is not a story-telling mechanism I recommend, but it can work. For anybody able to find it (or his later performance as Abraham van Helsing opposite Louis Jourdan’s Count Dracula) it is very rewarding drama.

      • The problem is that no producer would sign off on, oh, the True Men of the Svorzas, or “Florence: Scandal on the Po.” They’d say it was too over-done and exaggerated. 🙂

        Imagine trying to do historical fiction about Rudolph II Hapsburg! He’s too odd (and Odd).

        • Actually, my wife and I are in the early stages of tag-teaming a novel about the Neapolitan Succession War, and our dedicated afterward is going to be “no, really, this shit HAPPENED. Including the guy who killed so many people that nobody in Rome would grant him absolution, and he had to do penetential pilgrimage to the ‘underworld’ in Ireland.”

        • I have long found it strange that there have been no film studies of Charles Martel of Frederick of Prussia, to name but two.

          I would think Sean Bean as Uhtred of Bebbanburg would be a natural, even if he has already portrayed another of Bernard Cornwell’s creations.

          • Not Frederick – they’d spend way too much time on his sexuality or lack there of and not enough on his backstabbing, warfare, and politics. And who would play Maria Theresa?

        • Robin Roberts

          I found the Borgias series with Jeremy Irons disappointing.