Monday, August 22, 2016

Preliminary Post Worldcon Blathering


I’m back on my couch, with my real computer, my cat making sleep apnea sound effects by my side and my wall of pillows behind my back. I have no idea how much typing will escape before I collapse, since I’ve been awake since 2am Central Standard time and it’s just starting to get dark in San Francisco, and I’m exhausted from airports, but I’m also energized by the con. 

Travel

Getting there was nerve-wracking. My airport shuttle arrived late, and the transmission was fading, especially after navigating the twisty hilly streets for the next passenger – who turned out to be an artist bound for Worldcon – I identified him by his Isaac Asimov book. Our stalwart Russian driver got it on the freeway, coaxed it into third gear and then drove us to the airport without ever downshifting into second; we arrived on time. And awake.

Then the stressful and humiliating and overstimulating air travel experience happened. Show them my socks! Stand in a scary line full of official warning notices! Put my ancient and cheap Asus (aka my traveling computer) in a bucket so everyone can laugh at it! Sit next to people potentially more bizarre than myself!

I never talk to people beside me on airplanes aside from “excuse me, I need to go to the restroom” so if you’ve ever sat next to me on a plane and received a disinterested “mmmmm” in response to your conversational overtures, that’s why.  I’m not plane phobic but flying stresses me out. Too many things to look at, way too crowded plus It’s physically uncomfortable, probably for most people. Even though at 5’7” I am perfectly average in height biometrics, my idiosyncratic spine doesn’t fit well in seats for the normally-spined, meaning that typically I arrive with my muscles in knots, and my head throbbing from the reconstituted air.

My width biometrics tend to stay within the allotted space, but I don’t typically begrudge people who encroach. At one point a person of largeness was seated next to me. I scootched all the way over toward the window and pointed my knees at the bulkhead to make room for him, and didn’t fuss about the low back strain or the involuntary physical contact (even though I hate that). I was prepared to sit there ignoring him all the way to Seattle … except he chose to speak, saying “they jam us in here like sardines, don’t they?” I suddenly developed a fierce loathing for him for including me in his "we" without my express permission, even though I didn’t say anything in reply, and I was ecstatic when the stewardess relocated him next to an empty.

My other interesting fellow passenger was wearing a parka with the hood up, even though it wasn't cold. I thought it was weird for a moment, then I heard her talk on her phone and realized she was probably Muslim, and I speculated she was probably wearing this dorky ski jacket to comply with her religious dress code while not scaring the other airplane passengers by wearing a scary hijab like the Muslim women I see in San Francisco. So I tried to be extra nice to her during the 3x I ended up having to get up and use the airplane restroom due to drinking a massive coffee on an empty stomach. Because unlike SF and Seattle and other (cough) places, KC doesn't put actual food between the gates and the airport security.


Food

Speaking of my stomach, it has been even more delicate and wimpy than normal this year. I went through some food poisoning back in March which made me swell up like a pregnant jigglypuff, and although I’ve been deflating gradually, I’m still kind of puffy and prone to getting the kind of bellyaches that prevent me from thinking about anything else. Especially when I consume evil things like cabbage or beans or aspirin or alcohol.

Yes, I ventured into the land of BBQ while sensitive to coleslaw, baked beans and beer. I usually have no problem avoiding beans, so I continued doing that. I like coleslaw and I ate it a couple times, but never more than a few bites. My only alcohol was a glass of Mikkeller Spontanpineapple, a 7.7% fruit beer from the Flying Saucer, and I drank very sparingly of its ambrosial tart sour heavenly dryness.

I did eat all kinds of meat: pulled pork and steak at my hotel, brisket from a food truck, a burger at the brewpub, and burnt ends from Jack Stack’s along with their spicy house sauce.  Kansas City BBQ sauce is an advanced topic and I won’t even pretend to understand it. I’m more of a teriyaki and tikka masala eater personally, but I admire the concept of well-cooked meat slathered in sweet-and-spicy sauce, and I ate it at every possible opportunity.

Just as soon as they develop vat-grown meat, I’ll switch. If someone brought me a live cow or pig and told me their life depended on my dinner order, I’d get cucumber sushi or a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup or some pesto and olive pizza. However, if it’s already dead and there’s nothing I can do about that fact, I’m gonna eat it. Especially if I happen to be in the midwest.

Hotel

I have very mixed feelings about my hotel. For one thing, it was far away from the convention, and there was no shuttle – just a free streetcar, across a wide and busy street, that dropped me 3 blocks downhill from the convention center.

And yet there was a great shower, and a very nice jacuzzi. The view was good. The food was heavenly and room service only took half an hour. The texture and rigidity of the bed was perfect. There was a bedside charging station for my family of devices, and a fridge that wasn’t all cluttered up with minibar monkeyjunk, and a nice big TV.  There was an openable window so I could smell and hear the city and breathe non HVACed air. 

I usually prefer my hotels to be ancient and haunted and close to the action, and the Westin certainly wasn’t. It wasn’t bad, though. It had a little mall and food court near a bunch of family-friendly amusements, perfect for conventioneers who decided to bring the spouse and kids along. 

Thunderstorm and Other KC Delights

I was pleased to witness an authentic midwestern thunderstorm, with lighting and clouds. None of my lightning pictures came out, but there was enough lightning for a scrub photographer like me to think I actually had a chance of capturing some. This storm was accompanied by swift strong winds that cleared all items from the desk, and an overpowering ozone smell, and clouds, fog, rain and San Francisco temperatures. I loved it! 

KC is on the border between the midwest and the south. Most of the background music I heard in places was country, but usually it was the good stuff, with twanginess and haunted-sounding voices.
My parents came from Arkansas and Texas, and a lot of things about the south feel very familiar, like the accents, and the sweet tea (I’m still addicted to that stuff but I’ve switched to the sugarless kind). At the same time, a lot of things about the south feel very oppressive, like those noisy yet invisible cicadas beneath all that greenery, waiting to pounce on me and drag me into some kudzu-coated hell if I’m caught doing anything excessively Californian. 

Reading For The Last Several Days

Song of the Red Feather – written (and illustrated) by Jo Vasquez
               The life of a raptor, similar to Raptor Red. Short and poetic and fun.

How to Train Your Dragon – Cressida Cowell
I started reading this on my phone but it didn’t work, given the heavily illustrated nature of it, which played out much better on my Kindle Fire. Different from the movie in that the dragon is brattier and whinier (and more valiant too), and the young Vikings are more pugnacious and punklike. Some very nice midgrade writing too.

Robert Sheckley Mega Pack
I’ve been reading this compilation of stories off and on forever and I finally finished it. I found a nice review on some other guy’s blog so I’m going to link it right here.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
               Since the hotel made me pay $10 a day for wifi (eyeroll) I downloaded a bunch of things onto my Kindle just because I could, resulting in a few “Oh yeah, I already read that one” moments. This one is about the sole survivor of a mass murder, who has grown up into a layabout goth, solving a real crime. I like Flynn (also wrote Gone Girl) because (a) she mocks darkness; and (b) she writes women characters that can be evil, or slatternly, or unvirtuous. It’s adult-ish but not too far away from the YA ballpark, a mystery slash thriller, with a lot of humor.

Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie
               Just started it. I hope Glokta is back! I love Glokta!

Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin
               I don’t typically like to do the fangirl thing, since I was disappointed by several nerd celebrities during my young adulthood (I’m looking at you, David Prowse). And everyone in the community usually rolls their eyes at me when I fangirl over GRRM, since he’s been one of us long before he got popular with the mainstream. I waited in his line, though, which was well-managed and orderly and efficient, and got him to sign my … 1982 copy of Fevre Dream.  Because I bought it in 1982, I believe it’s a 1st edition, although it doesn’t specifically state as much, and it sure isn’t mint, with a  well-loved cover, and I reread some of my favorite passages while waiting in line.
               And he blinked. “Fevre Dream!” he exclaimed as he scrawled his name. I replied it was one of my favorites. He muttered something about how Fevre Dream should be made into a movie, and I enthusiastically agreed. Thus accomplishing my main reason for getting an autograph – reinforcing in his mind that Fevre Dream deserves a movie. If enough of us do that, someday there will be a movie.
               Fevre Dream is a story about broken windows and evil. In the Southern US, during slave days, live some vampires, who find it very convenient to feast on slaves as well as plantation owners, and the technologically proficient and paladinlike vampire who tries to stop them, accompanied by an ugly old riverboat captain. The broken windows part has to do with the government, by accepting the legality of slavery, opened the door for pretty much every other evil thing one can think of.
               And you know, I’ve still got a crush on Joshua York. Lestat, Sparkly Eddie, pfft. None of those guys can hold a candle to Joshua York.

The Phoenix and the Carpet by E. Nesbit
               Working on my E. Nesbit megapack. The same kids from Five Children and It encounter a magical phoenix and a flying carpet – highjinks ensue. I read most of these when I was younger and I’m pleased to see that the Suck Fairy has barely touched them.
[The Suck Fairy is a File 770 concept; it visits the books you loved as a child and worsens them, so that when you revisit them in your grownup years you are appalled by all the sloppiness and cliché and -isms and poor role models and general incompetence.]

and

One Sunny Night by Charon Dunn
               Just because I could. It was sitting there on my Kindle, shimmering in its colorful cover, and one morning I was sitting in the Marriott’s bar staring at a cool fountain while pouring a cappucino into my face and I just started reading it, because I could. It seemed just like a real book next to all the other real books (even though I don’t quite think of it as real yet, since nobody except me has read it – or if anyone actually has read it, they’re diplomatically avoiding saying anything until my cult following shows up, which should happen any day now).
               It actually held up well, although I did spot two words I probably should have edited out. I sat there for several minutes engrossed in it, even though I’ve read it before (a lot).
               I would rather have written a book that I am pleased with that nobody reads than a bestseller that I don’t like.

Coming up next: the actual Worldcon. And the Hugos and stuff.



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