Saturday, September 7, 2013

LoneStarCon--My Second Worldcon

I need to write this blog post before the entire con blurs together in my memory.  Just like last year, Worldcon was exciting, wonderful, a bit intimidating, and it flew by way too fast.  I had met quite a few people last year, and it was nice to see how many of them actually remembered me.  Having the likes of Bud Sparhawk and David Brin casually say, "Oh, hi Jay.  How have you been?" is still a bit of a thrill!

I flew out of Philly this year because it was around $100 less expensive than Newark.  I ended up flying into Houston and picking up a connecting flight to San Antonio.  Fortunately, my friend Lisa Montoya had also flown into Houston and was on the same flight to San Antonio, so we sat together and talked the whole way there.  San Antonio is a gorgeous city, by the way, and I would love to go there again some time.

We arrived at the hotel around 6 pm on Thursday and, after check in, went in search of some quick food.  The mall adjacent to the hotel had a food court, so we just grabbed something there.  I had a gyro platter, if it matters!  From there we went exploring, trying to get our bearings.  The con was spread out over two hotels and a convention center, and we knew the Riverwalk was going to be our primary source of food.  It was a bit confusing and it took a while for us to get it all sorted out.  Luckily, Lisa has a better internal GPS than I do.  After a bit of exploring, we went up to the party floors and searched for the SFWA suite.  We hit a couple of parties along the way.  One of the first people I bumped into in the SFWA suite was Arlen Andrews, who gave me my Analog Mafia pin.  (For those unfamiliar with the Mafia, the idea started as a joke with some of the Analog writers, and Arlen came up with the idea that it stood for "makes appearances frequently in Analog," created pins, and started distributing them.)  We later bumped into Fred Lerner and spent quite a while talking with him over a beer or two.

Friday started with two rapid fire meals.  First was breakfast with the Codex writers group.  Upwards of 40 Codex members attended, way too many to meet everyone personally.  I very much enjoyed talking to as many members as I could get to.  It was nice to see Alastair Mayer, a fellow member who I had met last year at Chicon.  I also met Michelle Muenzler, who later became a source of delicious cookies and a recipe I need to try very soon.  After breakfast, I bumped into Jamie Todd Rubin.  Before the con we had planned to have lunch together on Friday, but we decided to attend the SIGMA panel first.  While we were there, we added Trevor Quachri to our lunch plans.  The three of us wandered the Riverwalk for a bit before settling in for lunch at a Mexican restaurant.  Lunch with the editor of Analog is never dull, of course, and we decided to make our three-man lunch a yearly tradition.  After lunch, Jamie and I sat down over a couple of beers and chatted.  Jamie is a rather outgoing and friendly guy, with all the social skills that I lack, so he acted as a magnet for people who came and went, allowing me the opportunity to meet and talk with a lot of interesting people.  Lisa joined us at some point and the three of us decided to go out and seek a good Texas steak dinner.  We found a place called The Saltgrass Steakhouse and enjoyed an amazingly delicious meal.  Afterwards, we headed up to the SFWA suite to join the Analog/Asimov's party.  I bumped into Stan Schmidt there and invited him to lunch on Sunday.  I talked to several very interesting people while there and also set up a Saturday dinner with Bryan Thomas Schmidt.  Later in the evening I bumped into Arlen again and spent a good two hours talking with him.  He's a fascinating man who has been involved with a number of government and private space enterprises, not least of which was the DCX.  He had a lot to say about SIGMA and government's role in space exploration.  I think I could have spent the entire weekend talking to him and still have a lot more to learn from him.

Saturday was a bit slower paced.  Lisa and I grabbed some pizza at the food court and went to explore the vendor's area.  I got to sit in THE captain's chair from the Star Trek set and bumped into a real live Dalek.  I'm drawing a blank on the rest of the afternoon; perhaps we just spent the whole time drooling over books and geeky t-shirts, or maybe did more exploring of the convention center and Riverwalk.  Maybe we had a few drinks.  Around 6 pm or so, Lisa and I met up with Bryan Thomas Schmidt and headed off to an Italian restaurant on the Riverwalk.  Bryan is always a lot of fun to hang around with.  We spent the evening discussing the SF industry and joking around.  After dinner, we explored a few of the party suites.  We found out that Japan is making a bid for the 2017 Worldcon, so we spent a while in their party enjoying plum wine, sake, rice crackers, and pocky.  I am SO voting for Japan when the time comes!  From there we hit the Kansas City 2016 party, where we enjoyed a very strong drink called devil's cream soda.  We also bumped into a very interesting Norwegian man who has been attending Worldcons since 1985 and claims that, if he attends the next three, he will have attended exactly half of all the Worldcons that have ever happened.

Sunday morning started with a walk to the Alamo, which was only a couple of blocks from the hotel.  I would have been embarrassed going to San Antonio and not stopping by to see it!  Afterwards, I went down to the Riverwalk with Stan Schmidt and enjoyed a quiet lunch discussing science fiction and writing with one of the giants of the field.  After lunch I met up with Lisa and we walked over to the vendors area to make our purchases.  I picked up a geeky t-shirt that requires you to know integral calculus and science fiction fandom in order to get the joke.  Around that time I started feeling overly chilly.  Not sure whether it was excessive air conditioning, tiredness, or the start of a cold (con crud, as we call it), I took it easy for the afternoon, warming up in the heat of the late Texas summer.  Dinner was at a Mexican restaurant near the hotel with Jamie and Lisa, and we decided that this year we would skip the Hugo ceremony and instead follow the action from the bar.  We met up with Alvaro Zinos-Amaro and a few others and had an interesting discussion that started with Asimov's famous thiotimoline piece.  Bud Sparhawk joined us for a while and shared all sorts of interesting stories.  The highlight of the night was hearing that Stan had won the Hugo for best editor (short form) and had also received a special achievement award.  Our table jumped up, shouted, and exchanged high fives.  We probably scared the rest of the bar patrons!  By the end of the Hugos, we were all dragging.  Sleep is not high on the priority list at cons, and it showed.  I was still feeling a little off my game, still wondering if I was getting sick, so we skipped the parties for the night and went to bed.

Monday started early; Lisa and I both had to catch a flight to Houston in the morning.  We checked out and took a cab to the airport.  The flight home was uneventful, unlike last year when I ended up sitting right next to Trevor by random good luck.  I managed to grab a REAL cheesesteak in Philly before catching a bus up to Allentown, where my parents picked me up and brought me home around midnight.  That gave me just enough time to shower, get to bed, and get ready for the first day of school.  The beginning of the school year kept me busy the rest of the week, which is why I'm only now getting around to posting this blog entry!

Next year's Worldcon is in London.  I'd love to go, but it falls in mid-late August and, with Gabby preparing to leave for college around that time, I don't want to risk missing some important event with her.  I might end up going to NASFiC in Detroit, though, since it's earlier in the summer.  And who knows; Gabby and I have been dying to hit a DragonCon one of these years.  Next year may be the year.