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November 14, 1998
a year ago

Bujold Saturday at OryCon

Saturday started way, way too early.

We had to be back to the con by 11 a.m., because I really wanted to see the panel on how to kill off characters. Bujold's take on death and how she might approach it with some of, okay I'm being possessive here, but with some of my favorite characters was something I really wanted to know. So this meant we had to be back just before 11 a.m., if we were to make the walk from the hotel to the con. Which meant leaving Powells around 10:30. I called the bookstore and the answering machines said their hours were 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. everyday, and knowing there was no way on God's green earth I was going to be able to spend only an hour at Powells, I decided we had to be there at 9 a.m., which meant leaving the hotel at 8:30. This meant breakfast had to be at 8:15 or even 8 a.m. and this meant waking up had to be at 7:30 in the morning.

Way too early for a Con on Saturday.

We all managed to make it, though. Bryant arrived just as we arrived, Cass had already found a table. The breakfast there had hash browns, scrambled eggs, sausage and the usual assortment of cereals. There was even instant oatmeal. Coffee and juice and milk were as available as hot chocolate and envelopes, so I made my hot chocolate with coffee instead of water. Yum.

We all piled into the Range Rover and, but for the rattle in the overdrive case, it did just fine. We parked a bare 10 feet from the doors to Powells and found the coffee shop had no entrance from the outside. The only way in was through the bookstore. The bookstore itself opened five minutes after we arrived, so we streamed in the small crowd that had waited with us.

Powells, on-line, is a fairly impressive collection of new and used books. But the full extent of Powells truly is cannot be determined by lines electronic text, search engines, or even an endless listing of titles, authors, or prices. For the full impact, one has to go to the store. It covers a full city block, with multiple floors and layout that nearly requires the maps that are spread throughout the store. One has to experience what it's like to walk 50 yards of bookshelves at a time, where the shelves are stacked all the way to the ceiling. I started in the R's of the SF section and was just halfway through the S's (looking for Schmidt but distracted by everything else) when my first 45 minutes were up.

I checked the cafe at 9 a.m., as I came in. It turns out that the cafe is an area where you can read your to-be-purchases, and check them out in more detail. They even have a cart for rejects, so that they might be filed correctly, if one forgot where they came from. Neither VJ nor James were there, so I turned to my hunt after waiting a few minutes to see if they might show. I returned for a book at 9:30; but neither was there yet.

This didn't worry me, as I'd set things out so that I would visit a cafe every half-hour, and they could show up when they showed up. 9 a.m. on Saturday is a bit much for anyone to take. By 9:45, though, I was only through a letter and a half in the SF & F section and I had more books in my arms than I could easily carry. Not a good sign. I tried to only get used paper backs where I could, but even then, when one gets enough it can get costly. I decided then to just take them to the cafe and read them until people came. About five minutes after I settled myself with a double, tall mocha VJ showed up and introduced herself. That was very cool.

Really comfortable with women. I think, in part, it is that nearly 95 percent of the people I deal with on a daily basis are men. I've been pretty thoroughly taught the approved and appropriate ways to deal with, talk with, and be with men. I've never really had that much experience with interacting with women. Oddly enough I dreamed of women, and can sometimes be terribly and perfectly attracted to women. As Faber I sometimes dream of Caliah, the light, warm silk her skin, the firm muscle and soft curves of her over the steel of her strength, loving her expressiveness, eveness, and practicality. The love a living at the base of me, expressed in every caress, kiss and stroke. What really amuses me is that most women make me feel like clumsy idiot, gauche and awkward, unable to communicate in the ways they really want to be communicated with. As far from me as Fezzik is from a greyhound.

VJ was good, very good, and getting me to relax and be comfortable in her presence. That was really keen. We just sat and talked and it was fun. Eventually James showed up as well and the three of us did fine with an even, interesting conversation that got interesting enough that it was pretty hard for me to drag myself away at 10:30, when we had to get back to the hotel.

We need it, but forgot the badges in the room as we walked to the con. John John back and got them as my leg was still stuff enough to that the run would have been hard on it.

The panel was everything I hoped it would be. Death is treated in interesting ways by our society, and those treatments are often reflected by the written word. The event is often significant for characters that the author and reader care for and sometimes scenes in significant for those that aren't central to the story. The "shreddies" as Bujold called them. The other authors acknowledged that it was the same for them. Occasionally they've run into the feeling that a book without a body count is less well regarded than one with a significant body count. I'll admit that isn't one of my criterion, though I guess if I read a book that is about mercenary or military movements I'd be leery of battles that had no deaths.

I learn that Bujold began her books in the post-Vietnam era and actually had been pushing, then, against anti-military sentiment. It turns out she also worked for more than a decade in a hospital and sewn nurses having to deal with death day in and day out with care and compassion. She was amazed by their capacity and that was reflected in her writing of certain characters. She also, however, portrayed very thoroughly the cost and sacrifice of war. One number of the audience said that they admired her compassionate approach to death. I was reminded, deeply, of an epilogue to Shards of Honor that involved a crew out identifying the abandoned dead of a space battle of horrifying magnitude.

I was very impressed.

The change between back and "Ask Doctor Genius" was pretty profound; but in excellent comic break. "Send in the Clones" brought in very little guy had already thought of or heard discussed elsewhere, though Bujold brought up the interesting moral puzzle of who are the real parents or relatives of a bio-engineered person? That when one simply knows that a clone is a person (no moral dilemma in that) in their own right, the real puzzle is how they fit into the society around them. As much a puzzle of the society as those going to the trouble of creating a genetic copy.

The 2 p.m. Bujold reading was put in a tiny room with no sound system. It was a really bad setup. We managed to get there early enough for seat, but many people were not so lucky. The two passages she bread were wonderful and from her next book Terms of Engagement, which is a direct sequel to Komarr. It's both a break in length and a break in tone, as it's more a comedy of manners. They were two great passages about Mark's next economic venture. After that we took a break to wander through the dealers' room. I had to get Bujold's collection of short stories and a copy of Gaiman's Smoke and Mirrors as well as a hair stick. One woman had a table full of wooden implements for all kinds of textile work as well as the hair sticks, all made from hardwoods and polished to a dark gleam. She also warned me that my hair was likely to be much stronger than the stick, which was not a bad thing to know.

The screen writing panel with Steve Barnes, Stephen R. Boyette, Chris Bunch, and Steve Perry was supposed to also have Diane Duane; but she never showed up at the Con much less the other panel she was scheduled to attend. The panel was very interesting, cynical, bitter and very cutting in its humor. Good information included that one out of very hundred scripts actually is bought, and of those hundred one out of every hundred is actually turned into a movie. Each script that makes it usually has half a dozen credited writers and that many, again, uncredited. The easiest type of script to sell is a romantic comedy, as all other types cycle in and out, depending on popularity. Also, to even have a chance at selling a script, script writers have to live in L.A. and go to hundreds of meetings.

Eventually, it was weird to hear all the panelists tell of really awful experiences. That even even-keeled, cheerful Steve Barnes had to move away and out of the atmosphere in L.A. because it was killing him. Perry was dry and a matter-of-fact about the nature of the business. Boyette was flamboyantly profane and colorful enough that I looked for him specifically, later.

Carl and I then decided to sit in the line for Bujold's first signing. The line went all along one wall, curving around the dealers' rooms, filled with people who loved Bujold's writing. The conversations were interesting as were the titles people had brought to be signed. Mostly Falling Free, which was the first book she wrote, Barryar, Mirror Dance, and Memory. I've considered the other three books as her strongest. They seem to be the most focused in the series, and play upon central themes that characterize the book clearly. A few also brought The Spirit Ring, as it was her one published fantasy novel. The line moved fairly quickly, since it was so long they limited each person to two books, which a few people pushed to three. I had her sign the epilogue of Barryar because it's still my favorite portrait of Miles with Cordelia still firmly in the picture.

Stephen Boyette's reading did not disappoint. The first was a pamphlet that he had written and forgotten from the viewpoint of the man in L.A. who had flown in his lawnchair by attaching helium balloons to the metal frame and brought along a BB gun to shoot the balloons when he wanted to go down. The writing was thickly textured with common language, deeply detailed descriptions, richly colored and gorgeous with what it brought to the mind's eye. I should ask him where I can get a copy. The second reading was from his new book Treks Not Taken, a collection of stories written in the styles of various authors. His Melville satire had me laughing so hard I almost cried. He promised he'd do the full piece at NorWesCon in April in full regalia and with full support. It is a great reason to go to NorWesCon in the spring. I definitely looked forward to that.

The Guest of Honor Interview was filled with interesting tidbits and comments from Lois, starting with the infamous question, "How do you get your ideas?" She said she had two answers to that question, and in a hostile interview situation the favorite answer was, "How do you stop yourself from having ideas?"

The more thoughtful answer stems from the idea that everything brings ideas. Something I've certainly found true. That every bit of life, of living, can be turned into material for writing. That even in the midst of a crisis, for her, there was a process in the background, detached and aware, taking notes for future writing. She commented that it was an odd wave seeing things, but to echo her autobiography, it means nothing is wasted.

I enjoyed the whole interview.

Afterwards everyone met for a badly waited and somewhat too expensive dinner. It was, however, timely enough for everyone to get good seats at the SF version of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" It left me breathless with laughter and hands sore from clapping. The walk back to the hotel was cool and quiet, and sleep was very easy after all that.

Brought to you by Dragon System's Point & Speak.

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