On Saturday, we were determined to do as many panels as possible, but never go to a WorldCon expecting to actually do the things you were intending to do. It foils the best-laid plans.
Saturday morning, we went to the Con Suite to get a quick bite to eat for breakfast and some drinks to see us through the day (this is our second Worldcon, but it took until Friday evening for us to realize that food and drinks were available round-the-clock; not necessarily wholesome food and drinks, but food and drinks none the less). We then decided to drop by the dealer’s room and take in the art show (which we had only briefly popped into before, to check out Raya’s and Jaime Sims’s work). We saw George during his autograph sessions, ran into some of the members of the Brotherhood (after which I heard one person comment to another, as they were walking away, that they were going to give Terraprime grief over the fact that he may well be the only moderator on the board with short hair [not for long, muahaha!]).
Towards 11, we popped into the SF in the 50’s and 60’s, just to see Harlan Ellison and Robert Silverberg speak (Silverberg was at Interaction last year, but outside of a post-Hugos photo I never saw him). I recall some amusement from Ellison, though the precise details escape me.
At 11:30, we went to the convention center to take in a panel, Editing: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, featuring Peter S. Beagle, Laura Anne Gilman, Betsy Mitchell, and Tim Powers (as moderator). I noticed that just across the way, Jaime Sims, Simon R. Green, and Kurt Miller were holding forth on violence in comics, so I decided to go between the two of them as lulls took place. The editing panel had some great stories, from typos (‘he had a firm but genital grip’) to Christopher Lee being one of the most literate actors Peter Beagle ever knew, a detail which came out of Linda asking the panel about whether there were ever substantial differences between British and American editions due to the different publishing timeline and editorial process in the two areas (in brief, the answer was “yes”; especially more so in the past, when people like Lee could point out that sometimes a whole chapter might disappear). There was also a really funny story about a collaboration between three authors, who each worked on a part of the story, and then the “junior” author of the three did a “final polish” ... which became a complete rewrite, engendering hysterical phone calls to the editors. Oh, and there was a copy editor who changed a reference to a nightcap to a “postprandial brandy” because they thought it fit better—copy editors are not supposed to do that, and the author in question angrily called threatening bodily harm to everyone in the office.
The violence in comics panel was also quite interesting, although it was quite free-ranging. Jaime Sims was particularly good, since he was willing and able to argue his viewpoint, which was really quite nuanced and was in fact one in which he stated that he did think the level of violence in media could present a problem. I wish I didn’t have to choose between the two panels, but thats the story of the whole con—almost every time slot had great stuff in it.
At 1 PM, we waivered on what we were going to do. We snuck a listen at Eric Shanower’s reading, but as it turned out to be a short story rather than (as we had dearly hoped) a presentation of whatever he was working on for Age of Bronze, we decided to move on. Linda went to the Regency dancing event (I escorted her there and took a couple of pictures of the pretty gowns some of the women wore; we bumped into Tamara, a BWBer from Israel, there as well) while I went to see Harlan Ellison’s rant session. It was tremendous fun, even if it was largely consumed by Harlan retelling two or three of his more famous anecdotes (the main one being the tale of how he came to mail a dead gopher to a publisher) that I already knew; there’s something in his delivery which makes it all the funnier. Unfortunately, at the end of it Harlan decided that he wasn’t going to sign downstairs but was, instead, going to do it right outside of the room where he had ranted. This meant a certain level of disorganization, which was not helped by Ellison’s penchant of speaking at times for several minutes at a time with each person who came up with items to be signed. When all was said and done, Linda and I met up at the con suite, where we picked up snacks and more drinks while she gushed about how great the dance was (and about the pretty outfits on many girls as well as guys). It had, in fact, been scheduled as a 3-hour event, but she slipped out after about an hour and a half, since neither of us had known it would run so long and had scheduled our con suite meetup for around 2.15.
We slipped into the Works of Connie Willis panel at 2:30, moderated by Gardner Dozois and featuring Nancy Kress, Robert Silverberg, and others. It did not have the amusing anecdotes we had hoped for and so we slipped out again. Eventually we decided to go and volunteer for a couple of hours, and ended up helping out at the autographing station. We saw a number of writers come and go, such as Jerry Pournelle, Eric Shanower, Delia Sherman, William F. Wu, Michael Cassutt, David Hartwell, and more. We chatted about the events of the day with some of the other volunteers; when we mentioned how Ellison had moved his signing session, they remarked on the fact that he would no doubt happily sign for an hour or two and then either grow bored or realize he really can’t sign everything and take off.
At 5.30, we made our way to the Crafting the Whedon-verse panel, with Jane Espenson, Tim Minear and Loni Peristere. This turned out to be a highly entertaining panel about their various experiences in working with Joss Whedon on Buffy, Angel and Firefly. Among the amusing bits were an audience member coining the term ‘Josslings’ for Whedon’s various collaborators and Jane Espenson making a comment about fanfic where she said she found it too weird to read fanfic about the series she had worked on—except, and this was added after a brief pause, in the case of gay stories. No doubt she’s not the only one to appreciate those, judging by the audience reaction. The most interesting part of the panel, however, came at the end when Tim Minear showed 5 minutes of footage from a pilot for a new TV series he’s been working on. This was top secret stuff that he wasn’t actually supposed to unveil, and it looked pretty darn amazing. Very cool concept that I hope will make it all the way.
After this panel, it was time to get changed for the Hugos and for the parties. The former, alas, turned out to be a bit of a downer. Connie Willis was, of course, very entertaining, and Silverberg’s story about GRRM and “the Big One” quite amusing, but the end results less so given the outcome for AFfC. The reasons for this may be many, but I think the fact that it was published three years late and that there’s probably an appreciable backlash against fantasy right now due to its great success in the last five years are among them. One notable event that I (Elio) have to comment on was the “groping incident”, in which Harlan Ellison grabbed at Connie Willis’s breast during a schtick in which Ellison decided to play at being a baby to Connie Willis’s scolding mother figure. It was such a strange thing to see that I figured it was either part of a prepared act or, perhaps, simply a sign of a close and comfortable friendship. According to Kevin A. Murphy, however, this is not the case (I cite him for two reasons: he’s the first person to actually say they spoke directly with Connie about this—PNH and others have been working at this issue through third parties—and because Linda and I met him at the Wild Cards reception on Thursday and he was quite amusing). Harlan has since apologized, although perhaps not as plainly as some might have wished. I don’t consider myself an apologist when I note that I agree with him 100% about the inexcusable nature of what he did, and I disagree with the manner in which he delivered this statement. As some have said, there’s a bit of a vaudevillian shuck-and-jive going on, which Ellison simply seems unwilling to get away from—this is a matter of sufficient gravity to receive a fully serious, heartfelt remark from him. No doubt it is hard for a proud man such as Ellison to get out of old ways, he really needs to make the effort right now.
Now, my viewpoint on all this is that Harlan has built this persona, and everyone knows what the persona is. The fans who read him read him as much for the persona as for the brilliance of his short fiction and essays. So some of the shock—about how rude Harlan was throughout the convention, such as in his rant session—just seems utterly naive. Harlan wouldn’t be famous if he _weren’t_ a rude little man, full of energy and ready to send bile at anyone and everyone. Now, that said, while his rudeness is part of his public persona, sexual assault, groping, and what have you are manifestly not. This act was not par for the course, except in the broader context of his being quite thoughtless towards others in general. Again, he has apologized, and he’s made it plain that he considers the act utterly inexcusable. Finally, though, the thing I need to say is that Ellison is an extremely influential personage in the SF genre, even if his best work is receeding behind him (the same might be said of other writers, such as Ursula Le Guin or Robert Silverberg). He absolutely deserved his Grand Master Award, and I see no reason for why the Worldcon could not add a similar sort of special accolade—he is not only important in the genre, but he is, after all, an L.A.-native author and so in some ways closely associated with LASFS (which as I understand it is the fanbody we have to thank in large part for this excellent Worldcon). While others disagree about Harlan’s merits as a writer, I find it impossible to really give the argument that “the Big One” is the only thing that really matters. Short stories are what the genre as we know it was born out of, and short stories are where most of its luminaries made their mark. I can remember a lot more Harlan Ellison short stories than I can remember Best Novel hugo award winners, I’m pretty sure, and I suspect I’m far from the only one out there.
Following the end of the Hugos, the why’s and wherefore’s of the result were argued endlessly. Randyll Tarly was invoked feverently. It did not, however, put much of a damper on the post-Awards party. At some points, it was absolutely the largest party going on, with the most booze, the best-looking ladies and gentlemen, and the greatest noise level. Excellent all around, and we’d like to thank everyone who made it possible—Lodey, Erik, Ro, CoC, Dub and Mya, Aegon, X-Ray, Bronn Stone, Lany, Jon Targaryen, and on and on and on. We had had plans to check out other parties as well, but only managed to do a few quick trips, as the draw of the BwB party was simply too great.
Oh, of course, somewhere in the middle of all this there was the trivia contest, which I did win (the only prize, as far as I’m aware, is the glory, but it also meant I didn’t have to streak the con naked as I in a foolish moment had claimed I would do if I lost). Maltaran came in second, Jon Targaryen third, and Mormont and Linda tied for fourth. Daj had some hard questions (though I missed a ten pointer regarding maester’s chains), and his map question was brilliant—he printed out the map and blacked out the names of all the sites, and numbered 20 of them which had to all be named at 10 points apiece. Brilliant was also the final question: “What would Randyll Tarly do?” Heh. Linda got the most points for that one. ;)
Linda and I did not get to bed until 4 AM, since Linda of course wanted to be part of the lineup for that very special picture with George, intended to prove to Silverberg that you don’t need “the Big One” to be surrounded by piles of beautiful women (you can seeone picture at the end of the post linked above at William Lexner’s/StegoKing’s review blog—which, despite his irrational dislike of Ellison’s work (heh), is really excellent reading and shall likely get him nominated for an award of his own one of these days). I got the privilege of helping with the photography, but I suspect DaveAx got the best shots, though, since he gamely hopped onto a dresser, heh.
The party went on into the wee hours, after we left. Tales I heard included discovering just what a Scotsman wore under his kilt, a llama incident, a silly person about my height trying to pick a fight with the Mountain that Reads (as we call the towering Ser Sean), and many efforts to quiet down the part and/or close it down. As other, tamer parties closed around 2 AM, the BwB kept on going strong, attracting more and more guests. Good fun, and we’re only sad that we missed the full run of it, not being as skilled as others are at staying up so very late.