This weekend was my first World Science Fiction Convention, which was held in Chicago, and was thus named ChiCon_7. I debated about going, from money reasons to actual worth of time, but in the end the close proximity (6hr drive) and chance to meet at least a few online friends pushed me to give it a shot. To save money on hotel expenses, I slept at my Aunt’s new home, but I was so nervous about what to expect and how I was going to get there that I only slept for five hours.
I got to chat with Hugh Howey for a few minutes before breakfast, so that was cool. He’s a great guy and it was fun to see him in person. We’ve chatted for a few hours on podcasts and I’ve seen him enough on his video blogs to feel like I’ve already met him. After meeting him though I wandered around from panel to panel for the next twelve hours. It’s a good thing I had a big breakfast, though because by the end of the night I was stupid hungry… or maybe that should be hungry stupid, I don’t know, I was pretty extreme on both. I brought Triscuits and a Powerbar, but it wasn’t enough.
One of the main reasons for going was to record panels, so I did that, and am excited to share them with people. I’m planning a new podcast, so you’ll get to hear them when I announce that project. The problem with this though was that if I left to get food, I’d miss panels, and as I blogged prior to leaving, there were at least two can’t miss panels each session. If I had a hotel room, it may have been another story, as I likely would have taken a nap.
Just before the third to last panel, from 4:30-6pm, I read that the hours for the dealer room ended at 6, so I left my recorder on the panel table and skipped out to the dealer room to see what books and authors were there. Howard Taylor was busy selling his Schlock Mercenary comics. Lissa Price from Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s Moral Ambiguity in SF panel was busy signing her book and chatting with readers. Her book, Starters, looks really cool, btw, and I’m upset that I forgot to go back and buy a signed copy. There were book collectors selling rare and gently used books, but I had to make my way over to the Angry Robot Books table, where Editor, Lee Harris, and Marketing Manager for North America, Michael R. Underwood (also author of Geekomancy) were hanging out. It was nice to chat with them, though my brain was so deep friend in apple sauce that who knows if they felt the same about chatting with me. Thankfully, I heard a few other authors grumbling for forgiveness for their scatterbrains, so at least I wasn’t alone.
Thirty minutes later and I had five awesome books from Angry Robot Books (currently enjoying Book of Secrets by Chris Roberson). Back to my neglected panel and I felt like I had walked into a room after a fight had broken out. I missed why, and without knowing what had been introduced I sat there wanting to ask questions about the topic to help it get back off the ground, but couldn’t. People were walking out left and right, but I couldn’t because my mic was recording from the panelist’s table.
After that interesting experience, I went to two more panels, both great to take part in, and which will be awesome to share. Gene Wolfe was there, and in both the panels I recorded of him he was hilarious. Possibly more hilarious though was the last panel, hosted by Myke Cole, “Disaster Response in SF” (which now that I think about it, failed to mention what to do when one is participating in a disaster panel at a SF conference). Moving on. Myke’s panel was laugh-to-tears funny, maybe because people were loopy at that point. I had contemplated skipping it to get food, but I willed myself over there, and am so glad. See, that’s why I was so afraid to eat and miss out on a once in a lifetime experience.
So, after that panel, the gracious Elizabeth Bear, (whom Myke Cole affectionately calls “Bear,” and which I think is an awesome nickname, especially for a girl), signed my hardback of Clarkesworld Realms Vol. 1. I was embarrassed because I had never read any of her stuff, and after not eating for so long (and conveniently forgetting breath mints), did not really want to talk so close to her face. So, I leaned on my shy side, mumbled a “Congrats on your Hugo Nomination,” and thanked her.
After that I went to Daddy O’s for a much appreciated burger and steak fries, then met Bryan Thomas Schmidt at the bar and commenced actually meeting people. The isolated feeling while being surrounded by people in rushed crowds all day was unnerving, so this part of the evening was also much appreciated. As for the goal of creating real life relationships out of internet acquaintances, I guess I did all right. I would have loved another couple nights to see more people and meet multiple times to deepen the relationships, but there was only so much time.
Right now I’m struggling with being an aspiring author with nothing published, but all the people I actually met were extremely nice and humble. Cheers to all of you. This is a long post, so I’ve left out some other cool acquaintances: Matt Forbeck, Tom King, Tom Fowler, Kat Richardson, Brad Torgersen, Martha Wells, Kay Kenyon….
The idea that there were party rooms made me nervous because I don’t go to parties, and am not the kind of personality to present myself in the best light in that environment, but I went, and also did all right. I met a woman who seemed interested in my nametag. I said, “Oh, I’m Tim Ward. I’m a nobody,” to which BTS said, “No you’re not. You’re an author and a podcaster.” Yeah, yeah. Thanks, BTS, you’re right, but I still felt like a mighty nobody, and still do. I guess I have to bide my time until people have a reason to meet me, besides my charming smile.
I did all right chatting with Barb about Science Fiction books, and Brent Bowen of the Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing Podcast later joined the conversation. So thanks to those two for helping me not feel like a wallflower for an hour or so. Brent then introduced me to John Denardo of SF Signal, which was cool, and Jamie Todd Rubin, a short story SF writer (also cool).
Then, around 2:30 AM my voice went out and I decided to call it quits. There were still some authors at the bar, but I thought trying to use my voice would just have been more embarrassing than I could handle, especially at the end of that day. So, I had valet bring my car around, “Do you need directions, sir?” “No thanks, I have GPS” (famous last words). I took a risk on the GPS working well enough between buildings and bridges, but for about 30 minutes I drove in circles until my GPS worked long enough to get me the heck onto the freeway.
I then chose to drive straight home instead of an hour north to sleep at my Aunt’s empty home. It was kind of out of the way, and was terribly awkward the night before, so I chanced it. Am I really becoming less able in my “old” age to sleep in strange beds? Oh brother.
Well, around 4:30 I caught my eyes close, and decided to pull over to the Super 8. Apparently, I’m also too old to drive through the night. I ended up sleeping a few hours in the Super 8 parking lot because they only had smoking rooms and would have made me check out by 11 (if I’m going to pay to sleep, I’m too stingy to pay to sleep like that).
I woke up to a couple arguing about something before packing up and driving their U-Haul. Then, in Iowa, some jerk tried to run me off the road.
Welcome back to Iowa, hope you had a nice trip.
Thank you. I did, but it was surely a strange one. Did I mention the part where Brent Bowen and I talked to a girl with a reptilian contact on the half of her face painted like a zombie while a guy behind us puked into a recycling box? I leaned over to Brent and said, “Yeah, I’m not getting on the same elevator as that guy.”
To which, Brent likely thought, “Indeed. Welcome to your first World Science Fiction Convention.”
It was also good to meet Katie Daniels from the HolyWorlds.org forum, and I had a fun chat with BTS’s friends, Madison Woods, her mother, and Duke and Kim from Pen-L Publishing. Didn’t want to leave them out, as they were all really nice people.
I’m formulating a blog post on my website, timothycward.com, on Fake Hugo Awards to give to these people, so head over there in a day or so for that.