Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bonjour-hi! Worldcon report


For more detail on any of the photos, click on the shot to access the Flickr page and then click on "All Sizes."


Written Thursday, August 6

I caught an afternoon flight out of Orlando on Wednesday after a mostly sleepless night. Thunder rumbled as I dragged myself out of bed and I breakfasted to the sounds of a downpour outside. Fortunately the rains cleared up, leaving me with intermittent drizzle during my two-hour drive.

Anyone missing any of Orlando's roller coasters needn't have worried. We had a brief spate of turbulence that filled the cabin with screams, but the plane settled down for the rest of the flight. Several stuffed animals waved with glee in the air when we touched down in Toronto. Minnie Mouse and Stitch clearly had something on going near the front.

WestJet's seat back monitors included Mapquest graphics of our progress, in various zoom views. It gave me a chance to memorize Canada's 10 provinces and 3 territories (I've long memorized the states and in alphabetical order, thanks to this song). The plane icon remained unchanged, blowing up to the size of the Florida peninsula in the zoom-out view; and dark pink plane poop dots delineated our passage.

This marks the first time I've flown with a passport post-9/11. I didn't have to remove my shoes when connecting to the flight to Montreal, and the security officer recommended Montreal's beef jerky. Due to recent rules put in place, I had to reclaim my luggage at Toronto, go through two customs checkpoints (one before baggage, one after), and then place my suitcase on a new conveyor belt. (Note to self: Put it face-down next time, as per the directions I didn't catch.)

I took a cab to the Residences Universitaires UQAM and settled into a lovely dormitory with a kitchenette (fridge, 2 stovetop burners, plates & cups, sink) and a private bath. A convenience store is a couple of blocks away, where I picked up the fixings for dinner and future meals: a loaf of whole wheat bread, cheddar and harvati, sliced ham, spicy mustard, peanut butter, cranberry juice cocktail, Hershey's chocolate milk, and Nutella. As of this writing, the juice and chocolate milk are history.

Residences Universitaires UQAM, Room 427.

Kitchenette view.

Once I settled in I called Mary, or tried to, before I learned that one doesn't have to punch "011" first to call the States from Canada. Just a "1" suffices.

I got to bed early and got in a solid sleep with the help of earplugs. Tomorrow I have an early reading (moved up further, from 10 to 9:30 a.m.).

Anticipation is being held at the Palais des Congres de Montreal:

Two shots, taken at the Metro entrance side on Rue St. Urbain.

Below are views of the convention center's windows from inside...



... and from outside, taken from Pl. Riopelle:




The fountain beside the windows:


Registration on Thursday morning:


No waiting! But I hadn't seen the table registering program participants, so I went back a second time to get the envelope with my tent card and pretty participant ribbon.

After registering I found the Broad Universe fan table and put in a couple of hours. I brought CDs containing Covenant and Appetite, along with promotional flyers.

Thanks to Trish Wooldridge (sitting at right), who coordinated both the fan table and our Rapid Fire Reading.

My materials are over at left, about a foot in. The table sported more freebies as members arrived.

Rapid Fire Reading flyer. A last-minute program change placed the reading a half-hour earlier and in a different room. I helped get the word out on the BU Facebook page and listserv. Others painstakingly made handwritten changes on all the flyers.

The Exhibit Hall has free WiFi, and I discovered that my story "Hermit Crabs" joined several others from Electric Velocipede on the "recommended reading" list in The Year's Best Science Fiction, 26th Annual Edition. Congratulations to editor John Klima (who writes about it here), my literary roomies at EV, and everyone in the volume!

(Addendum on Aug. 10: More good news for EV would come later.)

Shots around the Exhibit Hall:

The art show, from a distance.

The next two shots show part of the science fiction phone card display.






Dealer room:


Part of the display of fan cover art:


Part of the fan gallery:


Freebies table:


David Hartwell's Three Rules of Fashion (followed by Corollaries):
1. To Dress in ignorance of Fashion is to Dress badly.
2. To Dress knowingly in Fashion is to become invisible.
3. To Dress knowingly in opposition to Fashion is to have your own style.


Faux Giant Steam Robot, manufactured for Season 2 of "Murdoch Mysteries." The glass cases contained various props.


I picked up dinner at the Palais (a wonderful salad place called Terra Verde) and had a chance to practice my French, most of which I'd forgotten. I'm sure my syntax is awful, but I gather my pronunciation is still pretty good.

And I kept thinking of a story my mother told me back when I was an adolescent. Somewhere, she and a girlfriend had encountered a small group of French sailors, who immediately started flirting with the women.

"We wanted them to go away," my mother said, "but we didn't know any French and they didn't know any English. All we could think of was Yiddish, so we kept saying, 'Gay avec!' And they wouldn't go away!"

"Gay avec" means "Go away" in Yiddish. In French "avec" means "with." Combine that with "gay" as in Gay Paree and you get the picture my mother described of French sailors pestering a couple of young ladies who allegedly kept trying to shoo them off.

The short walk to and from UQAM took me past Chinatown.

Main gate.

The inscription reads, "Pang Tin Neon 1984" and also credits engineers.

Graffiti just outside Chinatown.

Dragon mural.



Side gate.

Storefront just outside Chinatown.

Chinatown street.

Bas-relief panorama. The shots below go from left to right.





Written Saturday, August 8

I had my 9:30 a.m. stint at the Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading on Friday, which meant setting my alarm. The dorm is quiet, which is a good thing; but the streets outside the dorm are not. If I was lucky I got three hours of sleep amidst sirens, trucks, shouting, honking, and a boom box here and there. During what little sleep I got, I dreamt I was at the RFR, trying to read. But the text I held was not what I had written, several words were shaded in different colors to the point of illegibility, and some were in French.

My first scheduled item of the convention.

Fortunately, my actual reading went much better than my dream. After putting in some more time at the table, I headed to the SFWA Suite to volunteer there.

The walk to the Delta Hotel (otherwise known as the "party hotel") gave me a chance to catch more of Montreal on pixel.

Commerce building:



Victoria Square:




The last of the three Victoria pictures is a composite. Lightening the statue enough to show detail washed out the sky. I superimposed the lightened statue on the original shot.

The Analog/Asimov's party occurred at 9 p.m., and the laid-back, relatively quiet SFWA Suite became what I overheard someone describe as "a subway car during rush hour." Add in dozens of simultaneous conversations, raising the decibel level to a dull roar.







In the last shot from the party, Edward Willet holds the 2009 Aurora Award for best long-form work in English, for Marseguro. (I met Ed when we sat next to each other at autograph tables during Denvention last year.) Established in 1991, the Aurora Awards include six professional awards (three English and three French), three fan awards, and the artistic achievement award (open to both professionals and fans).

Asimov's editor Sheila Williams and staff made terrific preparations for the party. Unfortunately, the suite was not on a "party floor," and we drew the attention of hotel personnel and however many people had called hotel personnel to complain about the noise. Soon we were all being ushered out of the room and herded toward already overburdened elevators, what with a slate of parties already in progress.

Eventually I took the stairwell to the lobby and made the roughly one-mile jaunt back to the dorm. With no early events on my schedule for today, I had a joyous reunion with my earplugs and got in some blessed sleep.

During my SFWA volunteer stint today I helped move operations to the con suite area, where we set up our new home and were back in business. (August 10 addendum: The SFWA suite was closed again on Sunday, from what I heard and for reasons I don't know.)

Written Sunday, August 9

When I wasn't hanging out at Worldcon, I was out admiring Montreal's fabulous facades:


A detailed look at the faces:






The Worldcon program includes more than a thousand events. My initial run through it reduced that to 85 that interested me, in addition to the ones I'm scheduled for. Further reduction brought that down to 24.

So far I've gotten to two. Some conventions are panel conventions for me; some become hanging-out conventions. This has been a hanging-out convention. Yesterday's panels: "Metered Poetry & Rhyme in Science Fiction and Fantasy" and "The Asimov's Story," in addition to my scheduled "The Poetry Slam: Free Verse or Structured" (Worldcon has an awesome poetry program this year.) The slam became a round-robin reading that began small and then grew, which wasn't bad considering that we were scheduled opposite the masquerade.

Costumes caught earlier in the day:


We dispersed after poetry to different bars and whatnot. Geoffrey Landis and I headed toward the Hotel InterContinental across the street from the Palais. The InterContinental caught my interest especially because it serves absinthe.


It's probably been at least six months since I've had hard liquor, but I've long been curious about absinthe, much beloved by the likes of Toulouse Lautrec, Vincent Van Gogh, and Paul Cezanne. Made with wormwood, it's been touted as pretty strong and ultimately poisonous stuff. At the bar I'd spoken with one person who'd been afraid to try it and with another who had downed two glasses of absinthe and one of scotch by the time I arrived and who remained upright and articulate.

I wasn't going to leave until I'd gotten my hands on a glass.


You can see a bit of absinthe at the bottom. Initial volume was around three fingers' worth. Apparently today's methods make the stuff non-poisonous (or considerably less poisonous).

The glass comes topped with the leaf-shaped silver flatware depicted on the chalkboard and a sugar cube atop that, plus the small carafe of water visible to the left. If one chooses, one can pour water over the cube to sweeten the absinthe, but that is optional. I took a small initial sip and chose to drink it straight up.

Back in 1981 I had the smoothest brandy I'd ever tasted, at the Dvin Hotel in Yerevan, Armenia. The Dvin's "house drink" was five-star Naidi brandy with a champagne chaser. Last I checked, one can't get Naidi outside the country; the closest thing to it is three-star Ararat brandy. And once you've tasted Naidi, Ararat doesn't come close.

Nothing I've tasted since has ever come close to that -- until absinthe. Exceedingly smooth and licorice-flavored, absinthe begins with an almost candy-like taste. It takes about a second for the sip to kick in, and kick it does. One does not drink this stuff quickly. I may have been able to walk a straight line back to the dorm, but my lips were still numb. The Impressionists chose well what drink to get blotto on.

At the bar I talked with Christina, who had come to the convention from Vancouver. Her father is an artist. She showed me a picture of a gorgeous seascape he'd done, describing how he can look at the beach and see many colors that she does not.

We also talked about the awesome UBC anthropology museum (which I had visited in 1982) and Wreck Beach, a nude beach accessible from the museum by descending about 200 widely-spaced log steps through dense foliage. Back then, I hadn't realized I'd chanced upon a nude beach until about three steps from the sand, when the foliage parted and I got an eyeful. I'd been feeling sorry for myself because I'd forgotten to bring a swimsuit, so I rejoiced that I didn't need one and proceeded to comply with the (fully optional) undress code. (My poem "Wreck Beach" appears in Sonny Wainwright's Stage V: A Journal Through Illness, Acacia Books, 1984.)

Nowadays, Christina said, condos are being planned that would overlook the beach.

Still buzzed, I dropped into bed around 1 a.m. and enjoyed a good earplug-fortified sleep.

My scheduled events today included the Science Fiction Writers' Workshop, where Lawrence Schoen and I provided pro input on three manuscripts after the participants critiqued each other's work. Lawrence and I agreed that the three writers sitting opposite us gave superb feedback, and each story contained exciting bits. That said, we all found plenty that could use improvement, which had been the aim of the exercise. Thanks to everyone who participated and to Oz Drummond et al., who coordinated the workshop sessions and brought chocolate!

Thanks also to the volunteers staffing Con Ops for some quick problem-solving. I tend to get to places ridiculously early when I can and arrived at the Royer conference room a half hour before the workshop -- in time to see someone from the International Symposium on Phototropic Prokaryotes salting laptops throughout the place and claiming they now "owned" the floor. The closest Anticipation staff, those who put together the convention newsletter Voyageur, pointed me to Con Ops. Urgent phone calls ensued, followed by direct involvement of hotel staff as workshop participants arrived. We proceeded to get comfy in lounge chairs outside Royer until we got the signal to relocate to a suite that was roomier than Royer, received natural light, and offered a much better work surface. So there.

Following the workshop I put in time at the Broad Universe table and then headed to the autograph tables a short walk away in the Exhibit Hall.

Elissa at the Autograph Table

A panorama of the dealer room:


I don't know who was being interviewed by the press here:

Press Interview

After yet another awesome dinner salad at Terra Verde, I joined the Hugos Ceremony waiting line, which extended to its vanishing point in both directions.


Two awards in particular got extra-loud cheers from me. The first came before the actual Hugos were given. The Forrest J. Ackerman Big Heart Award, given to "selfless fans who are known for their selfless deeds -- each one of whom has a spirit of big-heartedness," this year went to Andrew Porter. I first met Andy in 1975, when I was 16, after Moshe Feder (then a slushpile reader at Fantastic, now an editor at Tor) introduced me to the New York City fandom group Fistfa.

My second big cheer went up for John Klima and Electric Velocipede, which won the Hugo for Best Fanzine. I feel extraordinarily lucky to have landed stories in three publications last year that have now received awards: an IPPY Silver Medal for Riffing on Strings, a Bram Stoker Award for Unspeakable Horror, and now a Hugo for EV.

2009 Hugo Winners
Hugo Award winners.

Voyageur Newsletter Hugo Winners Edition
As soon as the ceremony was over, Voyageur staff were on hand to distribute the voting results.

More photos around town from earlier:








This distant church came into view during my walks back to the dorm.

Here are two exterior shots of Residences Universitaires UQAM:



Written Monday, August 10

Just prior to my Kaffeeklatsch and later as I returned to the dorm, I had the great pleasure of meeting Deborah Kolodji, president of the Science Fiction Poetry Association and editor of Amaze: The Cinquain Journal. In addition to Worldcon, Deb had gone to a haiku conference in Ottawa. We'd gotten to know each other a bit through SFPA and on Facebook, so it was a treat meeting her face to face.


Every year a new design for the Hugo Award base is chosen by competition and revealed at the award ceremony. This year's base elicited gasps of admiration from all of us. In this first shot the winning designer, Seattle-based artist Dave Howell, stands by his creation.


This special display Hugo sat in the Exhibit Hall on Monday. The base represents an asteroid, with the plaque orbiting granite. The Hugo rocket lifts off from a depression in the stone. Inside the depression, rocket flames in the shape of the Canadian maple leaf can be seen in multiple layers, suspended in clear polyurethane.




Last night's ceremony also saw the unveiling of the Hugo Awards logo, designed by Jeremy Kratz of Little Rock, AR. You can see it on the Voyageur newsletter, above.

More shots from the Exhibit Hall include the graffiti wall:


The Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association (MonSFFA):


And "Taral at Home," a photographic reproduction. Taral Wayne was Fan Guest of Honor at Anticipation and a Hugo nominee for Best Fan Artist.


David Hartwell gives a guided tour of his ties. Hartwell was this year's Editor Guest of Honour.

David Hartwell on Fashion

Guest of Honour Neil Gaiman signs autographs. Gaiman's The Graveyard Book won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

Neil Gaiman

After one last salad at Terra Verde I returned to the dorm and reserved a cab pickup for three in the morning on Tuesday, to make sure I get to the airport the recommended three hours before my 7 a.m. flight time. Montreal to Toronto to Orlando and then a two-hour drive home.

Written Tuesday, August 11

Typing this now at Trudeau Airport in Montreal at 3:34 a.m., with a large black Tim Hortons coffee on the table. Turns out the WestJet desk doesn't open until 5 a.m., even though I was told to show up three hours prior to takeoff. Then again, I don't have to worry about getting here on time.

I left most of a bottle of mustard, most of a bottle of peanut butter, and not much Nutella in the fridge, with a note to staff alerting them to the leftovers. I didn't want to throw those out, especially since UQAM has receptacles in the hallway for recycling bottles and plastics. Maybe someone can use the food.

Instead of sleeping (trust me, I tried), I wrote three poems, one article, and outlined (in the vaguest sense of the word) a story idea. During the convention I'd scribbled notes for another story idea and a poem cycle. How much of all that will see fruition is anyone's guess. Having done with the business of showering, eating, and packing, I lay down and tried to fall asleep -- my alarm set for 2 a.m. -- only to have yet another idea and subvocalizations pop into my head. Whereupon I dove for my journal notebook and pen and wrote until I was satisfied and ready to try giving sleep another go. Rinse, lather, repeat.

Here at Tim Hortons I ordered an extra large coffee. The menu says "Extra Large" in English, "T-Grande" in French. My sleep-deprived brain guessed at "Trop" rather than "Tres," so I ended up ordering a "too large coffee." The cashier hesitated, then said, "You're English. Just practicing, right?"

The people in Montreal are very kind.

4 a.m., Wednesday, August 12

How tired was I? I slept without earplugs on a plane full of children.

First I napped during the short 1.5-hour hop from Montreal to Toronto. The plane from Toronto to Orlando had the longest pre-board I have ever seen, the one where families with children are boarded first. Lots of children.

Once we were all settled in around 10:30 a.m., flight attendant Matt called out, "So, are you all ready for Orlando?"

A smattering of answers followed.

Matt (smiling): That's pitiful.

Passengers: Yaaaaaaaaay!

Matt then asked for a show of hands. "How many are going to Disney World? How many are going to Universal Studios?"

Then he gave us all the safety speech -- the one covering seatbelts, emergency exit doors, oxygen masks, and flotation devices -- in rhymed couplets, a la Dr. Seuss. We gave him a resounding round of applause. I love WestJet.

We were over North Carolina when I awoke from my nap. After landing, I changed my Canadian back to U.S. dollars and still got down to baggage claim before the carousel fired up. My suitcase was something like the fourth bag to come out. Driving weather was near-perfect, with only a smattering of rain as I neared home. I picked up the mail that had collected in my P.O. Box and noticed my lawn is a jungle again. I greeted Mary and Daisy (Mary told me Enterprise was on; Daisy meowed), got some green beans into my system while watching the re-run, and collapsed into bed.

Cover for Deviations: Covenant, Second EditionCover for Deviations: Appetite

Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.)
Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite
Free downloads of both volumes here.

Go to to access Covenant and Appetite in even more formats!

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.


Anonymous Annette Bowman said...


I am on the BU list but not a member. I was at World Con also and stayed at the same hostel. I love your photographs! I also took a photo of the graffiti snake up the fire escape because I thought it was very well done.

I will link to your blog!

8:06 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home