Inhuman Swill : Writing

My weekend in Baltimore got off to a portentous start Friday afternoon when, after having dragged my luggage seven or eight blocks from the train station, the woman at the Thrifty rental counter told me I would not be able to return my pre-reserved car to that location on Monday owing to their closure for the Memorial Day holiday. I would have to return it Tuesday or else take it to their BWI Airport location instead.

I grumbled, but I didn't have much recourse.

When I reached my hotel in Cockeysville, a mile or two from the con, and hauled my bags to my room, I found the door to my room standing open. I called the front desk and insisted that I be moved to another room. "Yes," I said, "I'm sure you're right, it was just a mistake made by housekeeping, but I still want a new room. I've lived in New York City for twelve years. I'm a little paranoid about things like that."

I hung out in my new room until late in the evening, working on a review that was due to Sci Fi Weekly. I made my 10:00 pm panel ("Liar's Panel on How to Get Published") fine, and had a good time, but had to get back to the hotel to finish my review before bed. On the way I stopped at a Giant supermarket to pick up some beer. Since I would be driving back and forth to the con I didn't figure on doing any drinking there, but I definitely wanted a few cold ones in the fridge in my suite for the end of each day. What I learned at the supermarket is that beer is only sold in liquor stores in Maryland—and the liquor stores were all closed. I did manage to purchase a few apples, though.

On Saturday morning I recorded and edited a quick podcast in my hotel room. Then I was on a panel that afternoon about "High-Tech Ways to Promote Yourself," at which the other panelists spent a lot of time and energy trashing the idea of podcasting. I'm sorry, what part of "high-tech" did we not read in the panel description? I had a lovely dinner with Scott Edelman that evening, though, before crashing in my room. I was beginning to succumb to some kind of throat and chest congestion.

Sunday's breakfast was at a nearby IHOP (Stuffed Garden Crepes = good!), though I sat hungry in the car in the parking lot beforehand to hear the end of an NPR interview with Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, and Darryl Pitt about Michael Brecker's final recording, Pilgrimage. At noon I was on a panel about "Podcasting and Music" at which I had almost nothing to contribute. (Everyone else on the panel did actual music-based podcasts.) A happier time was had at the "Solo Podcasting" panel, which was well-moderated and at which everyone was able to contibute equally. That evening I drove into Baltimore to have dinner with a couple of former New Yorker friends who moved last year to Maryland. We had a terrific meal and a wonderful chat, but I crawled into bed that night with a worsening cough.

Monday morning my throat was sore enough that I was worried about my ability to read at 10:00 am. I packed most all my stuff, then set about revising one of the stories I wanted to read that morning. After checking out of the con and scoring a scanty breakfast (water, coffee, and a muffin), I hit the con. Three folks showed up for my reading, including the estimable [info]jamietr, Elaine Brennan of Nippon 2007 English Language Programming (with a timely reminder for me to fill out my Worldcon Participant Questionnaire!), and Eric Sorenson, the fellow who used to provide hilarious parody lyrics of LDS hymns to my web site under the name Stephen Sondheim Smith.

What the audience lacked in size it made up in enthusiasm; I think my two stories went over pretty well. I read "Timesink" first, a story which will appear in a future issue of Electric Velocipede, and second I read the humorous unsold piece, "Care and Feeding of Your Piano," that I had revised that morning. (Laptops are wonderful things.)

After the reading, I immediately had to rush to an 11:00 am panel on "Voice Acting and Public Speaking." This panel featured no less than nine podcasters, and at the first opportunity I laid the groundwork for an early escape: "Before I address the question, I want to apologize for the fact that I'm going to have to jump out of this panel at 11:30. I have a car rental problem that can only be dealt with then, and I tell you this because, one, I don't want to seem rude, and two, I've always wanted to be applauded for leaving a panel."

This was a good panel too, at least as much as I was able to stay for, and when I did exit it was to a huge round of applause. I looked back over my shoulder and saw that [info]cinemafreak was holding up a hand-lettered APPLAUSE sign. It was a good note on which to exit the con.

Because that's what I was doing. I had examined maps and timetables and charts and schedules of all sort online the evening before, and I had come to the conclusion that the only way I could guarantee being able to a) drive my rental car the thirty miles to the Thrifty facility near BWI, b) catch the free shuttle to the airport terminal, c) catch the light rail from the airport into Baltimore, d) transfer to the light rail spur that connects with Baltimore Penn Station, and e) make my reserved coach seat on the correct train home to New York, would be to leave the con at 11:30 am.

All of which I did. Whew!

I was about an hour north of Baltimore on the train when Paul Fischer, head of the Balticon new media programming track, called me, concerned that he hadn't seen me at all at the con. Ha ha ha ha ha! If only he knew.

Holy cow! In news of the entirely unexpected, I learned this morning that "Inclination" is a finalist for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short science fiction! Here's the full list of finalists, including many friends and other very familiar names:

Congratulations especially to Blue Heaven cohort Paolo, and to LJers [info]14theditch and [info]ianmcdonald. And a big hearty slap on the back to [info]paulmelko, who just keeps getting nominated for every award I do. Paul, that's so annoying cool!

Laura wielded her camera at the Nebula ceremony to caption more of the hotties of science fiction. Here, f'rinstance, [info]paulmelko and I pose with novella victor James Patrick Kelly:

William Shunn, James Patrick Kelly, Paul Melko

Didn't Melko look fine in that tux? Too bad it didn't distract Jim enough to let me grab the Lucite and run.

ShunnCast #46

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Epidode #46 of "ShunnCast" is now available, in which Bill reads his first published professional short story, "From Our Point of View We Had Moved to the Left," on WBAI 99.5 FM's "Hour of the Wolf."

See also [info]shunncast.

So Laura and I spent last weekend in Chicago. Saturday was a long, long day of looking at apartments, some of which were very tempting and which we had to reluctantly conclude were not right for us. The most tempting of them all was a giant four-bedroom apartment on the second floor of a graystone on a large lot-and-a-half. It was a steal for the price, but still about $300 over our budget.

After dinner with the in-laws who had generously and heroically driven us around the city all day, Laura and I headed north to arrive in time for dessert with at Ysabeau Wilce's fabulous and humongoid apartment, where we also crossed paths with Paul Witcover of [info]theinferior4 fame. No dueling blogs ensued, but Guitar Hero II was played. We shout, shout, shout at the devil!

We were nervous about our prospects upon restarting the hunt Sunday morning. If we didn't find something that day, Laura would have to make a solo hunting trip back alone. Fortunately, the second place we saw Sunday morning was perfect. First floor of a greystone in Humboldt Park, good neighbors in the building, El stops convenient, nice communal yard for the dog, friendly landlord, only $100 over our budget, and best of all two blocks away from TASTEE FREEZ! Oh, dear. I have shed 17 pounds in the past two months through brute willpower, but now I fear their return is incipient.

But we have a place to live! Now the only thing to worry about is the moving itself.

Welcomed Brook and Julia West to New York City this morning, and despite a kerfluffle which involved their cab speeding away with their walking sticks still in the trunk, followed by a hey-it-coulda-been-far-less-helpful call to 311, I think they got settled in well. Brook and Julia are in town to receive the Service to SFWA Award at this week's Nebula Awards Weekend, and Derryl Murphy spearheaded the effort to get them here from Salt Lake City to accept in person. I knew Brook and Julia when I lived in Utah, and hadn't seen them in 12 years or so. Such great people. I hope they have a great visit here.

So, the Nebula Awards Weekend kicks off tomorrow, and I am trying just to relax, go with the flow, and have fun. The internets are a great help to me in not getting too invested in the outcome. I never know from one day to the next if I am supposed to feel worse about being a white male American writer, a logrolling vote trader, or a representative of the entrenched regressive old-school badly written skiffy boy-story movement. Am I supposed to be more embarrassed about the Nebula nomination or the Hugo nomination? Is it a double blessing, a double curse, or do the two just cancel each other out? Inquiring minds need to know.

I wish we could all just be writers, writing the best stories we know how, and none of the rest was important.

ShunnCast #45

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Epidode #45 of "ShunnCast" is now available, in which Bill reads the third and concluding part of his Hugo and Nebula Award-nominated novella "Inclination." Plus, special violence, sex, profanity and music episode!

See also [info]shunncast.

Raise your hand if you're planning to attend Nebula Awards Weekend in New York next month.

ShunnCast #44

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Epidode #44 of "ShunnCast" is now available, in which Bill reads the second of three parts of his Hugo and Nebula Award-nominated novella "Inclination."

See also [info]shunncast.

Aurally inclined

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The complete text of "Inclination" is now available in three downloadable audio files, read by the author, at:

ShunnCast #43

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Epidode #43 of "ShunnCast" is now available, in which Bill reads the first of three parts of his Hugo and Nebula Award-nominated novella "Inclination."

See also [info]shunncast.

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