Inhuman Swill : Page 101
Why is my blog called Inhuman Swill? Because you can unscramble the pieces to make William Shunn.


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How Superman should have ended:

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More useful travel hints

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When you get back from a trip, check the mousetraps immediately. Don't wait a couple of days.

I waited a couple of days. One of the mousetraps, way back underneath a large piece of furniture, was, ahem, occupied. It had flipped over in the process of snapping, and said occupant was, er, stuck to the floor.

Let's just say that disposing of that little installation and cleaning up after it was not the most fun I've had in recent memory.

Well, at least we didn't have a roach bomb explode on us, like some of our fellow Astorians apparently did.

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Worldcon Saturday and Sunday

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Laura rolled out of bed remarkably early to go for a 17-mile run along the ocean shore, starting at Huntington Beach (part of her marathon training regimen). I took my sweet time getting up, making it down to Starbuck's by maybe 9:30. I sat and chatted with Jim Minz there for a few minutes, then with Brian and Trevor.

Road construction and detours thwarted Laura's attempts to drive back from the beach, but she did make it back in one piece. (And as someone who probably couldn't run half a mile even if a bear were chasing me, I have to say that I am constantly amazed by her ability to run long distances, and proud of her dedication to her training, and I can't wait to see her run the Chicago Marathon.) After a panel or two, we met Cory Doctorow for lunch, and though Alice was unfortunately stuck in traffic and couldn't join us, we had a delightful time of it.

Another panel or two in the afternoon, then a nap, and it was time to join Jim Minz's dinner expedition to Thai Nakorn in Garden Grove. Boy, does Jim have an unerring sense of direction toward excellent Thai food! Our group (and sadly I will leave out a couple of people whose names I've forgotten) included, besides Jim, Laura and I, [info]jlassen and Jason Williams of Night Shade Books, Chris Cohen, and Craig Engler. I intended to eat a very mild plate thanks to some stomach problems, but the cornucopia of great dishes that descended upon the table quickly overcame my resolution not to join in the general sharing. Jeremy and I swapped stories of our harrowing encounters with various North American governments. It was a great time.

Laura and I cut out of dinner a little early with Chris and Craig and sped back to the convention center for the Hugos. We were a little late to the ceremony, arriving just as the Seiun Award presentation was beginning. There were some nice surprises during the ceremony, including David Hartwell's win for best profession editor, and Robert Charles Wilson's win for best novel for Spin (which you should still read immediately if you haven't yet). Disappointing that Cory's "I, Robot" didn't win for best novelette, but one couldn't really argue with an award for Peter S. Beagle.

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I like my size the way it is

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Remember how collective action killed the tag back in the late '90s? I'd like to kill another annoying Web practice from that era that seems to be making a resurgence: sites that resize your browser.

I'm sorry, but I've deliberately chosen browser dimensions that fit the way I work with my computer. If I surf to your site and suddenly my multiply-tabbed Firefox browser resizes itself to 800x600 pixels, I'm going to get so annoyed at having to fix this that I'm going to leave your site and never come back.

Come on, it's the Web. If you can't build a site that people can comfortably view no matter their browser dimensions, you should either 1) go back to design school, 2) put your content in a popup instead, or 3) just fucking live with it, chump.

I would cite examples, but I don't want 1) to hurt any feelings unnecessarily or 2) reward any of those sites with extra hits. If I were Stephen Colbert, I would put JavaScript-ed resizing on notice.

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Gordon and I pulled Laura out of the panel she was attending, and Laura immediately got on the phone with Shana. Turns out Ella had, according to Dan the Dogwalker, a terrible ear infection, and that she yelped when her ear was touched. She had also, according to Shana, beshat the entire apartment a couple of times over. As Laura flipped back and forth between consulting with Shana and consulting with Dan and calling our vet back in New York, Paul Melko happened along with a group headed for lunch. Laura forced Gordon and me to join the lunch group and leave the dog-worrying to her.

(And it all worked out fine. Our friend Colin readily agreed to drive Ella and Shana into the city, and [info]steelbrassnwood picked them up again. Everyone involved has our immense thanks for helping take such good care of our dog while we were away.)

Our lunch group accreted more and more members as we rolled from the convention center to the Hilton restaurant. Along the way we ran into Cory Doctorow, who had been messaging me about having lunch Saturday. Cory had been scheduled to sign at the Asimov's/Analog at the same time I was the day before, but partway through had to rush off to take a call. We'd crossed paths a couple of times since and been unsuccessful arranging a time to hang out. This time, though, I confirmed in passing that Saturday lunch would work fine. Then I was dragged along by the gravitational well of the Friday lunch group.

I can't remember the names of everyone at our lunch table, but by the time we reached the Hilton there were over a dozen of us, and more people kept showing up, requiring chairs to be wedged in ever closer together. There was Paul Melko, Paolo and Anjula Bacigalupi, Craig Engler, Blake Charlton (whose upcoming novel Spellwright sounds utterly fascinating), Stephen Eley of Escape Pod, and many, many others whose names and faces I woefully find myself unable to shake out of medium-term memory.

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Worldcon Friday morning

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For a change of scenery, Laura and I went over to Hilton for breakfast. It was a touch better than at the Marriott. Then it was upstairs to the Lido rooms for my hour-long 10:00 am reading. But on the way we ran into—surprise!—our friend Gordon, who had mentioned something Wednesday about wanting to come down from L.A. to the con for the day but not being sure he could. It was very cool of him.

There were maybe eight or nine folks in the audience. Laura and Gordon, of course, and Scott Edelman and Paul Melko, plus a few folks I didn't know. What I read was an unpublished novelette called "Not of This Fold," a near-future story about Mormon missionaries assigned to a large space station at L2. A woman in the audience kept smiling at different missionary references, so I assumed she was or once had been Mormon. Partway through I began to realize that I was in trouble. I was feeling a little emotional, and was very worried that I would get to the climax and choke up. Well, that's just what happened, but I think it was only ten or fifteen seconds before I got it together enough to finish the last few pages. (Scott dropped me a very nice note about the story later, and Melko kept giving me shit about it the rest of the weekend—which of course means he was being supportive. )

After the reading, the woman introduced herself as Diane. She said she was ex-Mormon, a podcast listener, and also the girlfriend of John Barnes—and that she had missed the John Barnes reading next door to hear mine. Good thing she liked the story!

Paul and I both wanted to say hello to John Barnes, so with Laura and Gordon we hung around outside the reading rooms waiting for him to finish signing books for the dealers with wheeled carts who seemed to keep appearing from nowhere, as if summoned by sympathetic magic, to replenish the line. I told him that his novel Mother of Storms had been the reading that got me through the physical upheaval of moving from Utah to Seattle to New York in 1995, shedding my Mormon beliefs along the way. Barnes joked that I was abandoning wives in cities across America as I went.

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Poop art

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Sprinkle Brigade features a liberal helping of dog poop photos, artistically presented in, more or less, found tableaux. Rudy Giuliani would not be amused. If you wouldn't either, don't complain that you weren't warned.

Thanks to Laura for this one!

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Time for a new prescription

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I thought I'd received email from Oingo Boingo, so I opened it excitedly.

Then I realized it was from "Online Bingo."

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Worldcon Thursday

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Laura and I got up reasonably early Thursday. We were just sitting down at our table in the Marriott restaurant when something hit me in the back of the head. I looked down. A sugar packet lay on the floor at my feet. I looked around. Scott Edelman, Hurler of Sweets™, looking innocent, was sitting at a table in a nearby section a couple of feet higher than ours, behind a low wall. We went to the wall and said hello. Scott introduced us to his tablemate, Robert Silverberg, and we proceeded to have a pleasant little conversation over the wall with the tops of Scott's and I-Can't-Quite-Bring-Myself-to-Call-Him-Bob's heads. Eyes, but no mouths. And me mostly tongue-tied, being a Silverberg worshipper. (Who isn't?)

Before they left the restaurant, Scott and "Bob" (okay, I'll call him that) stopped by our table and we were able to have a conversation with their entire heads. "Bob" told us how he grew his goatee in 1957 after seeing a priest sporting one at Christmas mass. (Why he went to Christmas mass as a Jew was hinted at but left tantalizingly unexplained.) He told us he had worn his ever since. The goatee will turn 50 next year. Then we all took pictures of one another. (Laura took the one of Scott and Bob.)

While Laura ran some errands, I went to a panel Bob was on, "Creating Believable Aliens." I slipped out a little early to get to the dealers room for my scheduled hour autographing (and hopefully helping to sell a subscription or two) at the Asimov's/Analog table. On the way I ran into Brenda Cooper and Toby Buckell, two of my Blue Heaven bandmates. Then I stopped at a nearby table where John Kessel and Jim Kelly were signing copies of their slipstream anthology, Feeling Very Strange. I said hello, bought a copy, and had them personalize it. John Kessel wrote: Handsome, smart. I hate you.

I didn't sign many autographs at the Asimov's/Analog table, but a couple I did were memorable. One fellow had not only a copy of the April/May 2006 Asimov's but also one of my most obscure little publications, "Celestial Mechanics" in the March 1996 F&SF. (Not that the magazine is obscure, but that story sure is.) Also, a very nice fellow named John Remy stopped by and introduced himself as a podcast listener, an aspiring SF writer, a returned missionary, and a recovering Mormon. Laura had been out distributing little William Shunn postcards around the con, and John had me sign the back of one for his wife Jana, with whom he produces a podcast called "An Atheist's Prayer." He promised to attend my kaffeeklatsch the next day.

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Worldcon Wednesday

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So I keep putting off my Worldcon report because I'm busy and it seems so daunting. So I'll break it up by day.

So Wednesday, after landing at LAX, Laura and I rented a car and negotiated the freeways to Anaheim without too terribly much difficulty. We managed to get checked in and parked at the Marriott fairly quickly—and yes, in that order—and then we met Craig Engler and Scott Edelman for a rather late lunch by the hotel pool. Just before our food arrived, though, Craig was summoned away by a Battlestar Galactica–related phone call with the New York Times, and his Turkey "Off the Rack" Sandwich went uneaten, except by flies, at least for as long as I sat there.

Lunch was enlivened by the sight of Robert Reed flexing by the adjacent pool.

Sadly, Laura and I both had to abandon Scott at the lunch table before Craig returned, since I had a panel at 4:00 pm. Laura left first, and after wrangling with Scott over the check (I lost) I joined her. We raced over to the convention center—me decked out in the clothes Laura chose for me—picked up our badges in the Green Room, and ran into [info]tnh outside our panel. She commiserated with me about having to serve as moderator, and kindly examined the list of other panelists to tell me what she knew about each.

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William Shunn