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Copyright 1997, 1998 by Leigh Kimmel
LoneStarCon 2, the 55th World Science Fiction Convention, was held in San Antonio over the Labor Day weekend. Although it did have some major problems, overall it was a very enjoyable convention.
Artists were also able to hang their art that day so that the art show would be ready as soon as the doors were opened. Here I ran into my first hassle of the con. This had been going on for a while, since I'd requested artist information several times over the past months and gotten no reply until just days before the con, too close to mail a packet or for me to get a check back to them for my hanging fees. However I was told that space would probably be available and I could pay at the con. When I got there, I discovered that word hadn't gotten through to the person in authority, so I might not get space after all. While the art show staff were trying to see if there was any space left, I consoled myself with the thought that I'm a writer first and an artist second, and if I didn't get to show my art, it wouldn't be an enormous loss. But space was found at the last minute (someone else had cancelled), and I was able to hang my things after all. The spaces were generously large, so I was able to get almost all of my current works up. And considering there were at least five hundred artists showing, it would have been really surprising if someone hadn't run into problems -- I just happened to be the unlucky one.
On Thursday things were relatively quiet, since the con didn't open until noon, at which time the doors to the dealers' room were opened. The anticipated crowd came pouring in, but they were mostly just looking the first day. In fact, several openly commented that they were making their first round of the dealer's room without money to see what was available before deciding what to buy.
I did get to two programming events -- the kaffeeklatch with Mike Resnick and the Speculations Magazine panel (the latter was recommended at the former, and since Mike Resnick recommended it specifically in response to my question, I figured it was best to show up). I was very glad that I'd called ahead to sign up for the kaffeeklatch with Mike Resnick, since it was well filled by the time signup began at the con.
For those unfamiliar with Speculations, it is a bimonthly semiprozine dedicated to writers, with extensive market reports and articles on writing. This year it was nominated for a Hugo, although it didn't win (yet it is in good company, since Mike Resnick has lost more Hugos than most people can imagine). Although Speculations is a paper magazine, it has a Website at http://www.speculations.com giving information on what it is and what it does.
Thursday evening the con suite finally opened, but in a very disorganized fashion with no food until late in the evening. The con suite was one of the most bogus things about this year's Worldcon. Perhaps I'm just spoiled by LAconIII's lavish con suite with programming of its own, but I think that a Worldcon should have its con suite open for more than just 5PM to midnight each evening. Some people were speculating that it was the result of a poorly-written or poorly-negotiated contract, by which the hotels and convention center were trying to force con-goers to purchase grossly over-priced food at their restaurants and the little buffet behind the dealers' room.
There were some very good parties on Thursday evening, including the Chicago in 2000 one. The Philedelphia in 2001 bid party was another big one, having a giant suite with a balcony on the 19th floor. FOSFA had a rather quiet party where some serious political and philosophical discussion was in progress.
In the early afternoon I went to my writers' workshop session. This was something we had to sign up for ahead of time, since each of the participants (three professionals in the field and three writers) were mailed copies of the manuscripts up for critique and thus had time to read and critique them before the convention. We had some very good discussions about various technical aspects of writing. I was glad to know that this year I had a story that I could probably fix without too much major change. If next year's Worldcon runs a similar writers' workshop, I would wholeheartedly recommend it for anyone who wants to bring their writing to a professional level.
Later that afternoon I went to the kaffeeklatch with Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hadyen. Patrick spent a lot of time talking about what he wanted for the Starlight 2 anthology, which he is still putting together. However there was also a little time for more general talk about the novel-publishing business. Both of them agreed that there is no longer a comfortable nitche for the "safe" formula novel, and that writers should concentrate on writing what they would want to read and making it the best novel they can write.
That evening we geared up for the Sime~Gen Party. It turned out to be quite a success, since both Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Jean Lorrah were in attendance. Jacqueline spent the first hour or two talking about the universe, the plans for the movie, and a little about the philosophy of writing. Later in the evening, Jean Lorrah read her new novella, which Jacqueline has OK'ed for submission to professional markets. While that was going on, I stood outside the door to the room and talked to people who were passing by, explaining the background of the S~G universe and what was going on. During that time we also got a surprising number of new sign-ups for First Farris, and many other people took fliers but did not fill them in (we can hope that they will later contact us with their pledges of support).
Because I was involved in running the party, I really didn't get much chance to go to other parties on Friday night. I did get to the Chicago in 2000 party to pick up my collector's card and be present at the midnight drawing. I also did get down to the Art Reception in the art show very briefly, just enough to say hi to a few Chicago-area artists that I knew.
Saturday was another fairly busy day at the dealers' room, and I did get to several panels. The first was the one on agents, which included several practicing agents as well as writers. They were able to give a number of helpful pointers on chosing an agent and working with an agent. I took nearly three pages of notes, making it one of the most productive sessions I went to. In the afternoon I went to one called "Should I Sleep With the Editor?" which apparently was intended to be a serious panel on the dos and don'ts of professional conduct in the writing business. However Gardner Dozois immediately turned it into a side-splitting humorous panel by passing out sign-up sheets for time and location -- everybody signed up with totally silly things like "Countess Dracula," "Cthulhu" and "Lady Hamilton." However it was useful in relieving some tension by giving us all a good laugh. Afterward I went to a panel on worldbuilding which included some really good information on techniques and research strategies for creating a believable world that holds together. I also got to speak briefly to Walter Jon Williams afterward.
That evening I had been intending to wander the parties, but then I got a call from Danielle Dabbs, a writer friend of mine, to join her for the Hugo Ceremonies. So I hurried downstairs to meet Danielle. We got in just in time to get some reasonably good seats and settle in for the Hugos. Neal Barrett Jr.'s humorous beginning didn't quite meet with my or Danielle's tastes in humor, but once the actual awards began, I really enjoyed it. Mimosa won Best Fanzine, while Locus won Best Semiprozine. Gardner Dozois took the Best Professional Editor award. The biggest cheer went up when the Babylon 5 episode "Severed Dreams" won the Best Dramatic Presentation. J Michael Straczynski had some very moving and enlightening words to say in his acceptance speech about writing and the big questions in life.
When the Hugos were over, Danielle and I both agreed to wait for the stampeed to pass before leaving. That gave us a little extra time to talk about the philosophy of writing while we were waiting. Once we were satisfied that the worst of the crowd at the elevators was over, we headed out. Moments after we got on one of the elevators, a young man joined us and asked, "Have you heard the news?" Then he told us about Princess Diana's wreck. At the time, Dodi was already dead but Diana was holding onto life. We were both rather stunned as we made our way up to my room to drop off a camera for one of my roommates (it had gotten accidentally left in my bag). Then Danielle took me up to the SFWA suite, where we talked about writing some more. The time went before I realized it, and it was 2AM before I finally turned in for the night.
Sunday was another busy day for me, since I was having to work the dealer's room with way too little sleep. I also got to several good panels, including The Editor's Slushpile, in which Gardner Dozois, Ellen Datlow, Gordon Van Gelder and Anne Lesley Groell read some stuff that was so bad that it was funny. They also had some practical advice about how to rise above 90% of the submissions that they received. After that I went to the kaffeeklatch with Ellen Datlow. She opened the hour with some discussion of Omni Online and what she's trying to do with it. As the session drew near its end, I asked her about what the situation was with her fairy tale anthologies, and she talked about them for a while. After the kaffeeklatch was over, I went to the Day in the Life of an Editor panel, which was more about the professional duties of an editor, but did give some information on why editors are looking for what they want.
That evening we made the mistake of going to a Denny's that had incredibly slow service. By the time we finally got out of there, it was really too late to do many of the parties. I got to the Chicon 2000 thank-you party and turned in my cards to get a free conversion to an attending membership. I also visited the Bucconner party and another party where I talked briefly with some of the local SMOF's about the logistics of running a good party.
On Monday I spent most of my time in the dealer's room, helping people who were making their final purchases before leaving. I also went to the art show and checked out my art when it became painfully obvious that waiting any longer wasn't going to increase my chances of a sale. Then we boxed up the shop and got it loaded to head back north.
Copyright 1998 by Leigh Kimmel
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