Inhuman Swill : Science Fiction : Page 20
            

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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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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Inclined to hurry

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Boy, if this doesn't get me writing faster on the novel, nothing will!

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BoobGrab™

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Harlan Ellison™, increasingly irrelevant for years, is now entirely so, as his trademark grope of Connie Willis at Saturday's Hugo Awards ceremony demonstrated.

I would have mentioned this in my upcoming Worldcon report, but I didn't want to gloss over the incident in the course of recording all the good things that happened in Anaheim. This was definitely not one of them.

Harlan Ellison™ was one of my heroes as an angry young college student. I had somehow managed to overlook him until I ran across a copy of Shatterday between my junior and senior years of high school. When I started college, I discovered to my delight why a good university library kicked ass over my local bookstore—more volumes of Harlan Ellison™ than you could shake a fist at. I was sometimes ambivalent about his fiction, but his essays rarely failed to move me. Their articulate rage and vivid conveyance of a forceful personality—practically a force of nature—thrilled me beyond reason. I read everything I could lay my hands on, and I'd be lying if I denied that Ellison's rhetorical style wielded a huge influence on my own later writings about Mormonism. * 

I can still clearly recall the moment when one of the earliest big cracks in my young worldview appeared. It was a Harlan Ellison™ essay in which he spat vitriol all over the LDS Church for its decisive role in defeating the Equal Rights Amendment. I felt that I respected women, but until that moment I had never critically considered the objections to the ERA that I had been spoon-fed at home and from the pulpit. If one of my intellectual heroes disapproved of my people, what did that say about me? Was I really as good, thoughtful, and respectful a person as I believed I was?

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ShunnCast #24

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Epidode #24 of "ShunnCast" is now available, in which the soft tissues of the male body are held up for examination and misidentification, revenge is thereby extracted, and a terrible and uncommon sin is revealed to be not so uncommon after all. Plus, frontier prophet weds double sets of sisters!

http://www.shunn.net/podcast?id=24

See also [info]shunncast.

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Ground zero for zombies

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A more full report of last evening's reading with [info]matociquala will have to wait until I'm less frantic at the office, but I will commend to your attention one photo by the Slushgod (my wife likes it) and one tale of zombie visitation by [info]nick_kaufmann.

Back to work!

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Just a quick reminder that I will be reading with Elizabeth Bear a/k/a [info]matociquala this evening at Manhattan's KGB Bar at 7:00 pm. Doors open 6:30 pm. Admission is free!

Details

KGB is at 85 East 4th Street, near Second Avenue.

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ShunnCast #23

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Epidode #23 of "ShunnCast" is now available, in which the propriety of Debussy is called into question, an impertinent hooker preempts Oingo Boingo, and the merits of harvesting one's own Christmas tree are put to the test and found wanting. (And a happy birthday to me!)

http://www.shunn.net/podcast?id=23

See also [info]shunncast.


And if you have the inclination, my appearance this past Saturday on "Hour of the Wolf" can be heard here.
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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

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William Shunn

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