Hippoi Athanatoi

WorldCon: Day 5

This one was intended to be finished days ago, but since we didn’t go home straight after the con (we’re in Las Vegas at the moment), we still aren’t fully caught up on everything.

Somehow, despite getting just four hours of sleep, we actually woke up pretty easily at 8 am for our last day at the WorldCon. We had to get up early to check out, and to try to catch some final panels.

We started off with a quick raid of the consuite. We had only discovered on Saturday (typical) that it actually offers stuff that resembles real food for breakfast, and that they had tons of free sodas, water bottles, etc on offer, not just party snacks. It really takes a few years to learn to be a con pro.

Armed with some food-like items, we checked out the suite used for the parties, to see if we were needed. It was pretty quiet there and the clean up had only just sort of started, so we excused ourselves to catch some panels. Elio went to the Science Fiction of the 70s & 80s panel with George, and I desperately wished for a way to split myself into at least two pieces as I had several panels I wanted to see. There was the Shakespeare & Science Fiction, which I mostly wanted to catch as it featured Sarah Monette (author of the excellent Melusine), and there was the What Is It About Buffy panel with, among others, Jane Espenson. We started out by heading off to check the Shakespeare panel, though we found the room still full of what we from a distance took for a filking group. Turns out it was a Catholic Mass, heh. I decided to do the Buffy panel instead, and to head over to the other one towards the end.

The Buffy panel was quite interesting, though I was sad to see that Peter S. Beagle was no longer on it. The panel participants discussed how and why they were drawn into watching Buffy, and then they delved more deeply into what they felt were the aspects of the show that made it work. I took a lot of notes (for the first time during this con, so there my record is worse than last time around, and now I know better than to promise to myself that next con I will see lots of panels), and found that many interesting points were made. It was, for example, noted that the show’s mingling of comedy, drama and suspense was unusual, since even most good shows only tend to mingle two of these on a regular basis. On Buffy, you also never quite knew when to expect what, as there was no formula for when to use which emotion. One of the panel participants suggested that this is why you have the spoilers and no-spoilers camps among the Buffy fans. Those who like spoilers prefer the kind of stories that we usually get today, where you know roughly what you will be feeling in the next five minutes. Those who are anti-spoilers, on the other hand, like being blindsided in the way that a non-formulaic show like Buffy can manage.

On the SF in the 70’s and 80’s, the discussion was fairly wide-ranging. The rise of epic fantasy—a genre that was considered for a long time to be a fluke, that could contain Tolkien and nothign else—featured the tale of Stephen R. Donaldson’s persistence in sending his first Thomas Covenant novel to all the publishes in the market, collecting rejections from all of them, and starting up again from the top of the list until Lester del Ray (and “evil little man”, according to Jim Frenkel) decided to give it a go. Del Rey apparently worked a lot on Donaldson’s writing, which must have been an ordeal (as Linda reminded me, Donaldson has said that he and del Ray had problems) since Jim Frenkel recounted a story in which he saw a copy of del Rey’s editorial remarks to an author which was absolutely crushing and which Frenkel opined probably set the writer back several years developmentally. GRRM discussed the SF of the period and Star Wars, noting that many SF authors thought that now at least they’d become rich and famous (“They love Wookies, so they’ll go out and read Philip K. Dick. Which did not in fact prove to be the case”), and he pointed out that many fantasy authors seem to have done the same thing with the Harry Potter madness. GRRM also discussed the rise of cyberpunk, a genre which he feels was a dead-end path as far as the continuing success of SF was concerned. GRRM clearly feels that some “sensawunda” and escapism is involved in the best SF literature, and vintage cyberpunk—with its relentless corporate-owned dystopias—didn’t serve that (“When you go on vacation, you go to Maui, not Newark,” to paraphrase roughly).

After the Buffy panel, I popped over to the Shakespeare panel. It was still going on, and I caught may be 10 minutes of it. Some interesting points were made in regards to books vs plays. Monette, I believe, suggested that a book has to leave the reader fewer options for interpretation, or they just slip away from the main path of the story. A play, on the other hand, uses the intermediary of the actor to select one interpretation of the story to present to the audience. I wish I had been able to see it all, as it sounded quite interesting. Afterwards, I approached Monette briefly, just to say how much I had liked Melusine.

Once I had caught up with Elio again (he had been off to the dealer’s room to check if I had won by bid on the gorgeous necklace we found in the art show, but sadly I hadn’t), we ended up being stuck in the book raffle for much too long without winning anything in the end. Given the outcome, I would have preferred being at Naomi Novik’s reading, but it would have sucked to miss one of the nice prizes too.

Following the end of the raffle, we spent time at the dealer’s room again. We had held off on purchasing too much earlier since markdowns on Sunday are common, and we did find quite a few nice bargains. Lots of paperbacks for Elio (mostly Vance) and also a hardcover of Kay’s A Song for Arbonne. That leaves only Tigana and the Fionavar Tapestry to get in hardcover, and though one dealer had these the former went for $60 and the latter for $200 a piece. I should have bought the paperbacks of Louise Cooper’s Indigo series that I came across, as I am sure I could have resold those at a decent price, and I was also very tempted to get a nice-looking hardcover of Tarr’s Lord of the Two Lands. But we had a lot of stuff to pick up from Elio’s parents in Las Vegas anyway, so our luggage will likely be stuffed as it is. But I do wish I could just have gone on an uninhibited shopping spree at the dealer’s room, picking up books, jewellery and costume accessories.

Afterwards, we went to spend our last hours hanging out with people on the various open decks at the hotel. It was all very emo to see people for the last time in a long time, and at that point I wished the con could have gone on for another week, as long as I just got half a day or so to rest my legs a bit. All in all, we had a wonderful time, and I am so very glad that I was persuaded to come. Next year’s con, alas, is pretty much impossible for us (I won’t say never again, but the odds are abysmal) unless teleportation is invented sometime soon (and we get another book deal to cover the costs ;), but perhaps some other opportunities to meet at least some of the BwB closer to home will come along.

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