Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Readercon Recap

As I wrote in a previous blog post, Readercon 21 was the official book launch for my anthology Is Anybody Out There? which I co-edited with Nick Gevers for Daw Books.

When I saw the programming schedule for the convention I became quite apprehensive: the book launch was scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on Friday, July 9. I repeat: a Friday afternoon -- a workday, following a three-day holiday weekend. When I shared my concern earlier that Friday with contributing author Paul Di Filippo, he essentially told me to have faith: he said the Thursday evening panels were well attended and Fridays have historically been well-attended at Readercon as well.

I had flown the JetBlue red-eye direct from San Jose to Boston, leaving at 9:10 p.m. Thursday evening and arriving in Boston around 5:30 a.m. Friday -- a five-and-a-half-hour flight, but the loss of an entire night. By the time I arrived at the Marriott and checked in, it was nearly 7:00 a.m. Shortly after arriving, I made my way to the convention area, and posted flyers that I had printed to advertise the book launch. I taped these to a couple con tabletops, spread them across the tops of three hallway console tables, and placed the remaining flyers in the freebie handouts section. I knew that con attendees would arrive Friday afternoon -- and most likely head straight for the dealers room; I wanted to catch their attention in time for the event.

I arrived at the meeting room for the book launch about fifteen minutes early. A panel was still in session, so at the 1:55 p.m. mark I opened the door and gave the panelists the "time" sign. With me in the hallway were a dozen other people whom I assumed --  hoped! -- were also waiting for the book launch. And if all twelve actually attended the launch, then I would be satisfied.

Well, by the time the event actually started, there were more than fifty people in the audience -- and standing room only. (I did a quick headcount and stopped after fifty, though there were still others in the audience.) What was even more rewarding to me, as the organizer and moderator of this event, was the fact that only one person walked out of the panel (at about the fifteen-minute mark) before it ended.

In addition to me and author Paul Di Filippo, contributing authors Yves Meynard and James Morrow were also present.1

I spoke a bit about the genesis of Is Anybody Out There? -- from conception to publication took approximately three years. Then the authors each spoke in turn on the inspiration for their stories. Yves, in particular, told of a story he had had in mind for years, but he knew something was missing -- and he was unable to get a handle on the overall framework of the story. That is, until Nick and I requested from him a story on the Fermi Paradox, and then Yves hit on that missing piece. So he thanked Nick and me for inviting him to contribute to this anthology, which enabled him to complete a years-old story.

I then asked each author to read a small selection from their story; I began with James Morrow, who read from "The Vampires of Paradox." He introduced his main character, Dr. Donald Kreigar, and the task that Abbot Articulus set before him. About five or so minutes into his reading, Jim reached under the table and -- surprising us all (myself included) -- brought forth a purplish brainlike thing with long tentacles, which he perched upon his shoulder as a visual representation of the parasitic cacodaemons in his story. Great bouts of laughter ensued. Once the audience and other panelists regained their composure, Jim finished his reading. Author R. B. Wood, in the audience, snapped this photo of Jim with the purplish tentacled brainlike thing upon his shoulder; but, unfortunately, the distance was too great for the iPhone camera.2 Besides, you simply had to be there to have enjoyed the moment.

James Morrow may have been a hard act to follow, but not for Yves Meynard and Paul Di Filippo! Both authors did their stories justice. In "Good News from Antares," Yves read about the meeting between Gerrard, the story's protagonist, and Exben the Antarean, the fictional character from Gerrard's early novels. In Paul's story, "Galaxy of Mirrors," the main character, Fayard Avouris, had suffered a nervous breakdown; to recoup his "intellectual pep and sense of wonder," he takes a cruise aboard a luxury starliner -- which leads to the story's galaxy-spanning discovery.

With only minutes to spare, the event ended with post-panel discussions and the procuring of autographs. Given the number of positive comments I later received throughout the convention, I declare the book launch for Is Anybody Out There? at Readercon 21 a rousing success.

* * * *

I specifically wanted to focus on the Readercon book launch in this blog post, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention a few other points at this time.

Charles Stross was one of the Guests of Honor at Readercon this year (Nalo Hopkinson being the other GOH). In yet another previous blog post -- entitled "On Her Majesty's Occult Service" -- I wrote at length about meeting Charlie Stross in 2002, and then working with him on all three "Laundry Files" novels: The Atrocity Archives (2004) and The Jennifer Morgue (2006) from Golden Gryphon Press, and The Fuller Memorandum (July 2010) from Ace Books. As a GOH, Charlie had a full con schedule -- I particularly enjoyed the panel "Orders—and Chapters—of Magnitude," which dealt with "ever-greater scales of space, time, and human evolution" and also focused on Stross's story "Palimpsest."3 But regardless of how busy Charlie was, we still managed to chat for about an hour and a half in the hotel lobby late Saturday afternoon. Charlie then left with Feòrag (whom I finally got to meet), for a quick bite to eat before his next panel.

Around 6:15 p.m. I joined Jacob and Rina Weisman and Bernie Goodman (Tachyon Publications), Rick Wilber, Robert Freeman Wexler, and Rebecca McNulty for a fine dinner at Legal Seafood restaurant. A good time was had by all. And we even talked business, too. A group of people together at dinnertime always makes for a great con.

Last but certainly not least, I chatted at length with Douglas Cohen, editor of Realms of Fantasy, about the current state of the magazine.  I've been copyediting Realms for a year now, since the October 2009 issue, and I gotta tell you, I am continually knocked out by the quality of the short stories. The forthcoming October 2010 issue has one of the best group of stories yet.

There were some con panels and discussions I missed that I had planned on attending, but that's all part of the experience. I did hand off a novel submission to a (small press) publisher, who shall remain nameless, on behalf of the novel's author, who also shall remain nameless, and now he and I wait, and hope that the publisher expresses an interest in the book. One of these days I hope to have some positive news to report on this project.


1 Contributing author Alex Irvine ("The Word He Was Looking for Was Hello") had planned to attend Readercon and participate in the book launch but on July 8 he emailed me that, regretfully, he would be unable to attend. Well, we missed you at the con, Alex, but we understand, what with the new baby and all.

2 My thanks to R. B. Wood for a) blogging about the book launch, and b) allowing me to repost the James Morrow photo on my own blog. You can view the rest of R. B.'s iPhone photos taken during the book launch here.

3 Charlie Stross's story "Palimpsest" was originally published in his short fiction collection Wireless (2009) from Ace Books. If you're into short stories (well, in this case, a novella) that span millennia, then I would like to recommend "Understanding Space and Time" -- a story that would have fit nicely in this Readercon 21 panel -- by Alastair Reynolds. The story was first published as a 400-copy limited edition chapbook by the Birmingham Science Fiction Group for Novacon 35, November 11-13, 2005, to commemorate Alastair Reynolds's Guest of Honor appearance. I later included the story in Al's Zima Blue and Other Stories (2006), which I edited for Night Shade Books. This collection was published in three editions: limited edition hardcover, trade hardcover, and trade paperback. Unfortunately, all three editions are out of print, but you should be able to find this title in the secondary market. A highly recommended story (particularly if you are a fan of Elton John). And you may also read my blog post about working with Al on Zima Blue.

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  1. Glad it was a big success, Marty! To my great annoyance, "Is Anybody Out There?" has not appeared in either of the Powells stores I frequent in the Portland-Beaverton area, but I'll be ordering one tomorrow!

    By the way, that's a long flight, hope you got some rest!

  2. Hi, Mahesh,

    Well, I sent out a tweet noting that Powell's Books didn't carry the anthology, so maybe they'll feel shamed into doing so, soon! Regardless, thanks for the extra effort in ordering a copy.

    Yes, the red-eye to Boston was a long flight; I can't sleep on the plane, and then I get terribly antsy during the final two hours -- but I still prefer a nonstop flight.

    - marty

  3. Saw the tweet! Excellent. I was pretty surprised it wasn't there, and I'd checked on it twice. Well, no matter, have been looking forward to the anthology, so will definitely be ordering one tomorrow.

    Yeah, I'm with you on the nonstop flight. I can sleep on a plane, but it's pretty unpleasant.