Freezing With Friends

This past weekend I poured tea, read aloud a very long short story, engaged in debate as to whether werewolves will ever have as much appeal as vampires, critiqued a wide variety of art, caught up with old friends and made a few new ones…

This past weekend I attended our local Science Fiction and Fantasy convention, Bubonicon.

My convention started with Jim and me arriving in time to grab our badges and head for the Opening Ceremonies. This is a very informal gathering that mostly serves to let everyone know the ground rules and to introduce the special guests. (This year they were writer Peter David, artist Sarah Clemens, and Toastmaster Mario Acevdo).

My reading was immediately after the Opening Ceremonies so, as soon as they ended, I dove out the door and trotted to where I thought I was supposed to go.

Except I was wrong… We then set out to find the Vista Norte room. Suddenly, I understood the warnings that had been dotted throughout Opening Ceremonies and had been hinted at by the condition of the parking area. The hotel wasn’t just undergoing renovation… It was nearly a wreck.

Finding the Vista Norte room turned out to involve going across the entire hotel, going past the registration desk, around a sharp bend, through a door usually closed, and into a narrow corridor (usually part of the food preparation area for the restaurant). This corridor was completely sealed off with taped-up sheets of black plastic, which made it really eerie.

Then we emerged in the foyer leading into what was normally a nice meeting room off the restaurant. However, with the corridor outside stripped to bare concrete, I had the feeling I was dodging into a furnished cave from the wilds.

Despite all this (and probably because Jim stood at the end of the corridor by the sharp bend and pointed people where they should go), I had a great turnout for my reading. In as many accents as I could muster, I read “The Drifter,” my 9,000 word contribution to the anthology A Girl’s Guide to Guns and Monsters.

Those of you who have done readings know that less than 50 minutes (which is what I had) is not much to read 9,000 words. I pulled it off (barely), took a few questions, and then dove back into the black-lined corridor, along the secret ways and into the main programming room for the panel “Bark at the Moon: the Howling of Wolves.”

This panel was also influenced by our hotel’s erratic hospitality.

The room was freezing cold! So much so that my hands were actually trembling – and I was wearing a long-sleeved denim coat over my tee shirt and jeans. However, there’s nothing like adversity to bond strangers and soon the panelists (which included Carrie Vaughn, Peter David, Suzy McKee Charnas, and Susan Krinard) warmed up the room with a heated discussion.

About half-way into our fifty minutes, a quiet man with an Allen wrench and wisdom beyond mortals came in and adjusted the temperature. Thus we were saved from hypothermia.

That ended my formal programming for the day, but began what’s my favorite part of conventions: catching up with friends – some of whom I didn’t know before that particular day.

I have a confession to make. I’m not a really good “power-networker.” I know writers who go to conventions specifically to butter up someone they think will do them good in the future. These people end up in some room party or at a table in the bar, trying to say all the right things, laughing hard at bad jokes, or otherwise doing whatever it is they think will advance their career by making them popular with the Big Shot of the Moment.

I’ve never managed this. What I like is visiting. These visits may be with other writers (New Mexico has a disproportionately high number of professional SF/F writers), but they also may be with “just” a fan. I’ve been attending Bubonicon most years since 1994 and many of the regular attendees are people I’ve enjoyed getting to know over the years.

But I like meeting people I’ve never met before. No. They don’t have to have read anything I wrote. They might be Kit, the cute young lady dressed very convincingly as a sort of steampunk Oliver Twist. (She looked about ten, but when you talked to her she was clearly all of her nineteen years.) Or the friend of a friend who hadn’t been to a Bubonicon since he’d been the age of twelve and was now returning with a whole new perspective.

And I’ll admit to a weakness for the young people I’ve had the pleasure of watching grow – not just up, but in complexity and ideas and goals. There are my Los Alamos girls – Tori, Melissa, Dominique, and Rowan.

I met them first when they were fifteen, and they hold the unique place of being the first people I know of to come to an event to actually meet me. I’m glad I didn’t disappoint them, because I’ve really liked getting to know them better over the past ten years.

There are Jennifer and Jacob from Portales, a brother and sister I first met waiting quietly in line for a costume contest display. They made such convincing Tolkienesque elves I had to stop and reassure myself that – even face to face, practically nose to nose – they weren’t the real thing. I’ve enjoyed watching them since. They often do “paired costumes.” As an anime fan, I was awed by their depiction (with the help of two friends) of Vash and associates from Trigun. Jacob’s depiction of Jareth the Goblin King from Labyrinth was great too.

There’s Hilary. And Shannon. And the silent twins. And Amanda.

Hmm… I’m running on. How about I continue this wandering next week? I can talk about tea. And authors who game… Yes. Why don’t I?

9 Responses to “Freezing With Friends”

  1. Alan Robson Says:

    Strange you should say that…

    This weekend was the New Zealand national SF convention (Au Contraire) which I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s currently nearly 1.30am here, and in a couple of hours Robin and I are going to the airport to fly to Melbourne for Aussiecon 4, this year’s world convention.

    I like conventions — who knows what you will see and who you will meet? That’s most of the fun. And you and I first met at a convention mumbley mumble years ago. I’m sure that proves something or other.


  2. Debbie Says:

    I’m really sorry I missed it this year, but Michael Buble in Las Vegas was quite wonderful. Still, I missed the chance to catch up with everyone I don’t see on a regular basis. I have to admit, I don’t miss the cold rooms!

  3. Paul Says:

    I’ve never attended a Bubonicon, but now I wish I had (maybe someday I will). Sounds like a good one. Lots of activities, lots of interesting people. Just one question — what about the opening mention of your pouring tea? There has to be a story there.

  4. Julie Says:

    I’ve been to one science fiction/fantasy convention, which was around 1979. It was TONS of fun. Haven’t had the chance to get to another one, though I’d like to someday.
    And for the record, though there are vampire stories I really like a lot, I like werewolves better than vampires. Love Carrie Vaughn’s stories. I’m going to see if I can find a copy of “A Girl’s Guide to Guns and Monsters”; I have consistently LOVED each and every one of your books, Jane, so I know I’ll love your story. The additional benefit is that I may just come across another author whose work I love but don’t know yet. Yee-ha!

  5. Heteromeles Says:

    Sounds like a fun time!

    Back in my geeky school days, I had this class in environmental biophysics (there’s something to use in scrabble!). Neat class, about reasons why stone floors feel colder than rugs and so forth. One of the great concepts was “thermal inertia,” and oh yes, conventions are all exercises in thermal inertia.

    See it takes time to cool down a huge space, and people are generally hot (in all senses). So before the convention, the engineers crank up the AC to get that big ol’ volume of air cold. They know it’s going to warm up, and they know that once it’s hot, it’s too late to try to cool it down. That’s thermal inertia, and a good reason to keep a sweater in the morning and a cold drink in the afternoon.

  6. Tori Says:

    As soon as I saw the title of this post I knew it had to be about Bubonicon. 😉 In the audience of the wolves/werewolves panel Dominique, Hilary and I huddled together for warmth.

    Every time we bravely ventured down the corridor to the Vista Norte room someone would comment it looked like a horror movie set. If Bubonicon WAS a horror movie, a slasher would plunge through that black plastic. As it was, Dominique still screamed a bit when a woman unexpected came out the stairway door.

    To comment readers: “The Drifter” was excellent and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in strong female characters in fantasy. I’m not particularly a fan of Westerns, but the Old West setting in this story made it really unique.

    One other great thing about Bubonicon that Jane did not mention is that the vast majority of the authors there are indeed happy to converse with “just fans” and are really quite friendly! Partially that’s the individuals, but partially it’s just the laid-back, friendly non-elitist vibe of New Mexico’s largest science fiction and fantasy convention.

  7. janelindskold Says:

    Alan — Dare I say it? Fifteen years ago. 1995. I loved New Zealand, but I loved the fans even more.

    During our visit, y’all were so friendly. I remember being hauled outside so everyone could be sure I saw the Southern Cross in the clear night sky. And after the con, various people made themselves available as tour guides.

    I really enjoyed the other comments, but “heteromeles” I must quibble — as others who attend Bubonicon can tell you, this hotel has serious temperature control issues. We’re all old-hands at convention centers, but this place is unique. I’m hoping they fix whatever is wrong when they finish the remodel. It’s crazy to need to dress for winter in August — and makes planning outfits really tought.

    Paul — I’ll be talking more about the tea next week… Promise!

  8. Patrick Doris Says:

    I would love to hear more of your convention experience

  9. heteromeles Says:

    I can imagine, and if I go to Bubonicon, I’ll definitely dress in about 14 layers.

    Still, it’s sounds like they’re giving the kid (whoever’s running the HVAC system), the keys to the oil tanker, and telling him that steering it is nooooo problem at all! Then they run. Either that or someone’s faking an engineer by walking around with a multitool and trying not to look scared.

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