NOTE: Every year I write a Worldcon Diary for Challenger, a multiple Hugo nominee. Now that it has reached all its subscribers, I got editor Guy Lillian’s permission to run it here as well, since this was a very special Worldcon for me.
Chicon 7 Diary, 2012
Sunday, August 26: We drove up to Chicago from Cincinnati through five separate and distinct rainstorms, and finally arrived in late afternoon. The committee had given us a lovely suite on the 14th floor of the Hyatt (and the hotel had added a wonderful gift basket filled with goodies). We were directly (by maybe ten to twenty floors) below all those lovely party suites that were in constant use once the convention started.
We unpacked, went down to the main floor, and took a cab to our favorite Greek restaurant, the Greek Islands. This was the original, on Halsted Street, and little more than half the price of the branch that’s about two blocks from the Windycon hotel in the western suburbs. Wonderful meal, as always — mine never varies: saganaki, pastitsio, and dolmades — and then we returned to the hotel, where Carol finished unpacking and I set off to learn my way around the four subterranean levels where all the programming would take place.
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Monday, August 27: Met my cousin, Bob Hamburg, and his wife Glenda, in the lobby, got our car, and started off on the day’s Nostalgia Tour. Bob and I both grew up in Chicago — our fathers were in business together at one time — and we thought we’d like to re-visit our old haunts.
We took Lake Shore Drive north to Devon Avenue, passed through the Rogers Park area where Carol and I first lived when we got married and where Laura was born, then drove by the house Bob grew up in. Next we headed north to the houses Carol and I had owned before moving to Cincinnati. This was quite possibly the last look we’ll get at them; the last time we drove past them was 22 years ago.
They renamed a street or two, and it took us a few minutes to find our first house, which was at 3435 Old Mill Road in Highland Park, and since Laura was in the process of buying a house that month, I was flabbergasted by the difference in prices then and now. Our house was in a posh North Shore suburb — the same one Michael Jordan lived in — on almost two acres, on a private road, and consisted of 7 rooms, a completely finished basement with a wet bar, a balcony, a two-car sunken garage, and all the amenities — and we bought it for $32,000 back in 1967.
Our other house, the one where we raised most of our 23 champion collies from 1969 to 1976, was on a corner of Adlai Stevenson’s old estate in Libertyville. The house is 120 feet long, on five fenced acres. I couldn’t see the dog runs — they’ve built a huge privacy fence around most of it — but I did see that the corral for Laura’s horse is still standing.
We drove by a couple of shopping centers and parks, hit Carol’s favorite food store (Sunset Foods, the only one for 20 miles in any direction that delivered out in the upscale boonies), and on the way back to the hotel we stopped at a much-touted deli in Skokie called The Bagel, where we’d arranged to meet Joan Bledig. Great blintzes, and truly wonderful chopped liver.
When we got back to the hotel we found that some people were already arriving. The first ones we met were Luigi Petruzzelli — one of my Italian publishers — and his wife Marina, a delightful lady who spoke no English. Finally met Gio Clairval, who I’d recently collaborated with, and a handful of old friends. Carol and I had a snack at The Bistro at 151 — the hotel’s coffee shop — and then went back to the room, she to sleep, me to do the last writing I’d have a chance to do until the con was over.
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Tuesday, August 28: I met Luigi and Marina, Bob and Glenda, and Gio in the lobby, and we took a couple of cabs to the Field Museum, my favorite natural history museum in the world. Got to pay my respects to the Man-Eaters of Tsavo, Sue the Tyrannosaur, Carl Akeley’s battling elephants, Bushman the gorilla, and all the other exhibits, and Gio, who was born in Italy, lived in France, and now resides in Scotland, acted as Marina’s translator. We spent about five hours there, then returned to the hotel to greet our just-arrived dinner partners — Janis Ian and her partner Pat; and Lezli Robyn (who had finally gotten her marriage visa and arrived in the States four days earlier, after almost a year of bureaucratic hang-ups) and Jamie Driscoll, her fiancé.
The six of us were joined by Bob and Glenda, and took a pair of cabs to the Greek Islands, where Joan Bledig was waiting for us, and we had another magnificent Greek meal, then all went back to our suite to visit for a few hours.
Sometime around midnight I took Lezli down to the lower levels to show her around, and especially to show her the route to the adjacent Illinois Center, which had perhaps a dozen cheap restaurants. On the way back we saw Gio sitting alone in the bar (which also served late-night snacks), visited with her for awhile, and watched in awe as she polished off the biggest shrimp cocktail I’ve ever seen.
Lezli left to join Jamie, Gio and I stuck around another hour, I ran into Drew and Yvonne MacDonald (she’s the famous Yvonne From Cincinnati, who’s been written up in fannish song and story), and finally I went up to the suite to grab ten or twelve winks.
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Wednesday, August 29: Went down to the dealers’ room — it didn’t open officially until Thursday — and signed a bunch of my Guest of Honor book, Win Some, Lose Some, as well as a couple of dozen copies of Stalking the Zombie. (It was a very strange month, in terms of publishing. Almost every small and medium press I’d ever worked with wanted a book for Chicon 7, and as a result I had eight new titles out for the convention, the two I just mentioned plus The Incarceration of Captain Nebula and Other Lost Futures, Masters of the Galaxy, Resnick Abroad, Resnick on the Loose, Resnick’s Menagerie, and With a Little More Help From My Friends. A 700-page second edition of ¬Mike Resnick — An Annotated Bibliography and Guide to His Work, by Adrienne Gormley and Fionna Kelleghan, didn’t quite make it to Worldcon, but will be out soon and will certainly be on sale at the San Antonio Worldcon next summer.
After saying hello to all the dealers, I went up to the lobby and hung out for a couple of hours, greeting old friends from the fan and pro communities. Laura. who was doing some last-minute paperwork prior to closing on her new house, showed up in midafternoon, so I escorted her to our suite — she had one of the bedrooms — and then, at 5:00, Laura, Carol and I went downstairs where we met Dave McCarty, Steven Silver, and the rest of the committee and guests for dinner. They took us to Fulton’s on the River, where I had one of the four or five finest meals in my experience: a thick, rich, lobster bisque, the first lobster thermidore I’ve had since gorging on it for a week on the Kenya Coast some 20 years ago (and this was better), and a large crème brulee for dessert. Got to chat a bit with Toastmaster John Scalzi, Fan Guest of Honor Peggy Rae Sapienza, Agent Guest of Honor Jane Frank, and family and representatives of Artist Guest of Honor Rowena Morrill (who unfortunately was in the hospital during Chicon). A fabulous restaurant, and it’s on our must-eat-at list next time we’re in or near Chicago’s Loop.
We also picked up our badges, and I added a 36th little Hugo Nominee pin to my collection. And we got our program books. I plan to cherish mine for a long time. Instead of the usual — one person writing a long appreciation of the Guest of Honor — this program book had five people writing a page or two apiece. Barry Malzberg wrote about my accomplishments as a short story writer; Kris Rusch praised my talents as an editor; Lezli Robyn wrote about my “Writer Children” and all the beginners I’ve helped; Guy Lillian wrote about me as a fan; and Laura wrote an absolutely hilarious (and, she claims, true) piece about growing up with me as a father. The program book also gave a complete bibliography of all my books, including cover photos and every re-sale of each, and a comprehensive list of all my short fiction. Gotta love any book that does all of that, and runs photos of me with the collies, with a rhino in Africa, with my Hugos, and (of course) with Carol.
Upon returning to the Hyatt I attended Cincinnati fan Bob Hess’s 50th birthday party (in Yvonne From Cincinnati’s room, of course), then hit the Kansas-City-in-2016 bid party, the Boston-in-2020 joke bid party, and a couple of others, and even got some long, serious backrubs from BJ Galler-Smith and Jo van Ekeren. I also ran into Lezli and Jamie, who had a hell of a tourist day: Museum of Science & Industry in the morning, Field Museum in the afternoon, and a Cubs game at Wrigley Field in the evening. She even came back with a ball, something I’ve never been able to do after maybe 100 trips to Comiskey Park, and another 30 to Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium. I also ran into George R. R. Martin, Phyllis Eisenstein, and a number of others that I’ve known since we were all starving writers in Chicago back in the 1960s.
And I had Yvonne From Cincinnati’s daughter solve a problem. I had invited all my Writer Children — well, those who were attending — to brunch on Sunday. But when I tried to make a reservation at the Bistro at 151, they explained that they didn’t take reservations for Sundays, because too many people reserved and then checked out without cancelling. But Yvonne From Cincinnati’s daughter is an executive at the Hyatt, so I explained my problem to her, and got a phone message the next morning that I had a guaranteed reservation for 15.
It’s nice to know people with clout.
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Thursday, August 30: This was the official start of the Worldcon, I dragged myself out of bed at 10:30 in the (ugh!) morning, took a quick shower and shave, and went down to the Bistro to have lunch with Leonid Korogodski, the publisher of Silverberry Press, which had just brought out Resnick’s Menagerie, a collection of 18 of my SF/animal stories (I had no idea I’d written that many; this started out as a little chapbook that kept growing and growing.) We spent a pleasant hour or so, and he later told me that he sold every copy he’d brought to the con, which always warms the cockles of a mercenary writer’s heart.
Carol, like me, has been going to cons for 49 years, has seen well over a thousand panels, and didn’t feel obligated to watch a bunch more, so while I was doing my performing seal act over the next few days, she and what I shall euphemistically call “the girls” went to the Art Institute, the Aquarium, took the boat ride down the Chicago River, and went shopping. She was always back in time to join me for dinner, and looked a lot fresher than I did as the con wore on.
The first panel of the day — well, of my day — was one on the science fiction scene in Europe. Nice broad topic. Only one problem: outside of me, the entire panel consisted of Luigi and two other Italians, charming and knowledgeable about the Italian scene, but pretty much limited to that . . . and while I’ve sold to something like fifteen or twenty European countries, I knew the audience wasn’t there to hear an American’s take on it — especially an American with agents in every country he sells, so I cut it short and we only used about 40 of our scheduled 90 minutes.
Next came Opening Ceremonies. The first guest to be interviewed by John Scalzi was Erle Korshak, the man who chaired the first Chicon and second Worldcon ever. To put it in perspective, Erle chaired Chicon I in 1940, 72 years ago!
I was next at bat. I gather the format was like some late-night interview show, but since I don’t watch television I’m just guessing. We exchanged some jokes and memories, and then I was followed by the other Guests of Honor or — in Rowena’s case — her stand-in. Whole thing took about 90 minutes, didn’t drag much, and seemed to please the audience.
I went right from Opening ceremonies to my reading. I drew a nice crowd, not quote SRO but it was a very large room. I read what had become Carol’s favorite of my humorous stories, featuring her favorite of my characters — Harry the Book, my Damon Runyonesque bookie who operates in a fantasy New York. The story, titled “The Evening Line”, will appear in Rip-Off, being published by Audible.com in both audio and print versions, and edited by Gardner Dozois. The conceit is that each story has to begin with a famous line from a public domain classic; I chose the opening line of Pride and Prejudice, which has been Carol’s favorite novel from the day I met her more than half a century ago. And then, to prove that I always was kinda good, I also read my first award-winning piece of fiction, “The Last Dog”, which I wrote and sold 35 years ago. Janis Ian and a few others were crying so hard they had to leave the room, he said with a satisfied smile.
Then it was dinnertime, and my friend and publisher Shahid Mahmud of Arc Manor Books took a bunch of us out to dinner. I’ve been editing the Stellar Guild line for him, a line that consists of a novella by a superstar combined with a novelette or novella set in the same universe and written by a protégé chosen by the star (not the editor), whose career gets a huge boost when he or she shares the cover with the star — and I’ll soon be editing Galaxy’s Edge magazine for Shahid as well. Eric and Lucille Flint were there, as well as Harry, Laura, and Rebecca Turtledove, Steve and Denise Leigh, and two protégés who will be doing Stellar Guild books with me in the next year or so — Lezli Robyn (and Jamie), and Janis Ian (and Pat).
Our ride got there a little late and the head table was already filled, but we had a very pleasant dinner sharing a huge wraparound booth with Eleanor Wood (my agent) and her son Justin Bell, plus Nancy Kress and Jack Skillingstead. Before dinner was over I’d signed Nancy to a Stellar Guild contract, where she joins Eric, Harry, me, Kevin Anderson, Mercedes Lackey, Bob Silverberg, and Larry Niven. Very nice food, fine company, and I got to tease Nancy about our forthcoming nude mud-rasslin’ match for the entire meal. Then, just before we left, Eleanor handed me a 28-book contract from Audible.com to sign and return to her before the end of the convention. Is it any wonder I enjoyed the meal?
We lingered in the restaurant for a few hours, and got back just in time for me to meet up with my screenplay collaborator, Harry Kloor — the only guy in history to get two PhD’s in two different sciences in the same calendar year. (So why is he wasting his time in Hollywood?) We chatted for a few minutes, he informed me that he was also producing a graphic novel based on my Widowmaker books, and then we went down to the bar area for a scheduled meeting with Steve Saffel of Titan Books.
When that broke up, Brad Torgersen and Laurie Tom, two of my Writer Children, spotted me and came over to say hello — and in Brad’s case, to return my house key. He was a two-day drive from the con, so I told him to spend the first night at our house, try not to steal my Hugos, leave his car in the driveway, and take the Megabus from Cincinnati to Chicago, then drive back to Cincinnati with Carol, Laura and me. (Laura also took the Megabus. I’ve heard so much about this thing that one of these days I really must try it out.) Anyway, I’d collaborated with Brad on three stories and Laurie on one during the previous few months, and they were both looking forward to seeing a copy of With a Little More Help From My Friends, which contained my collaborations with them, as well as with 19 others, some top pros like Harry and Nancy and Eric, some Writer Children like them.
CFG — my home club, the Cincinnati Fantasy Group — always has a hospitality suite at Worldcon, and Chicon was no exception. The SFWA suite was open too, as were bid suites/parties for London in 2014, Orlando in 2015, Spokane in 2015, Kansas City in 2016, and a few others, including a very nice party hosted by FenCon, a Dallas convention that had flown us down there a few years ago.
I returned to our suite for a break at about 3:30 AM, caught up on my e-mail and Facebook messages, realized that it was after 4:00 when I finished, and since I’d gotten up a bit earlier than usual, decided to go to bed. 4:00 AM is early for me, at home or at a convention, but as it turned out, it was the latest I’d go to bed for the rest of the convention.
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Friday, August 31: This was the Big Day — Guest of Honor speech day, which (I was told) was the way it finally hits home to you that you have indeed been given the highest honor the field has to offer.
I got up at 10:30 (again!), met with some guy who interviewed me for a local paper, made my way down to the lower levels at a quarter to noon, met up with Shahid Mahmud and Karen Haber (Mrs. Silverberg), and waited for Bob to get off his panel with Connie Willis at noon, at which point we raced out the front door and into Shahid’s waiting car.
Explanation: Bob and I grew up in Jewish neighborhoods — he in New York, me in Chicago — and became addicted to deli food. But we now live in areas that don’t have delis, so every Worldcon we make an appointment to have lunch at the best deli in that particular Worldcon’s city. The problem here was we were both very heavily scheduled, and were due back at 1:30 for our next obligations. Shahid got us there — since I’m a native, I directed him — and sure enough, Manny’s lived up to its billing. Bob assures me he loved his pastrami sandwich, and I had the best chopped liver I’ve ever experienced. I don’t remember what we had for desert, but we were back in Shahid’s car and racing for the Hyatt by 1:20, making it with three minutes to spare.
I should add that although Shahid is a publisher and publishers always pay, lunch was Bob’s treat, and Shahid just lucked out and got a free meal. Back at LACon 4, the 2006 Worldcon in Los Angeles, Bob had driven down from Oakland. The committee had asked him to emcee the Guest of Honor ceremonies, and he begged off, suggesting me. I agreed provided he’d pay for lunch at the deli. Well, the nearest good deli was maybe a dozen miles away, and at the last minute Karen took the car to go shopping, so while Bob paid maybe $25 for lunch for the pair of us, I paid $75 for cabfare…and based on that, I insisted that he owed me lunch in Chicago. (I forgot to ask during the intervening six years.)
So at 1:30 I sat down in solitary splendor at an autographing table, and opposite me were my daughter and perhaps 20 good friends. The reason: my Guest of Honor book, Win Some, Lose Some, contained all 30 of my Hugo-nominated short fiction pieces, winners and losers both — and each story was introduced by a different dignitary within the field, all of them long-time friends.
And for 90 minutes, without a let-up, we autographed copy after copy after copy of that 600-page book. I wanted to get all my “introducers” to inscribe my own copy to me, but we were so busy and the line was so endless that I had to wait until the signing period was over before I could get my copy signed. I was told we signed something like 130 books in 90 minutes . . . and it was not an inexpensive book. A very flattering way to start the day’s programming.
Then I went over to Off World Designs, where Doug Klauba, the cover artist for Stalking the Zombie, and I spent 45 minutes signing t-shirts bearing reproductions of the cover art (and take my word for it, nothing is harder to sign than t-shirts.) When that was over, I did a 45-minute signing at Larry Smith’s table, with no belly dancers to attract buyers for the first time since Chicon 6 in 2000.
Then, at 4:30, BJ Galler-Smith and I climbed onto the stage, and she interviewed me for an hour and a half.
We had dinner with Luigi and Marina Petruzzelli, Gio Clairval, a pair of Luigi’s Italian friends, plus Lezli and Jamie. I’ll be damned if I can remember what we had, so it clearly was neither superb nor terrible.
Then, at 9:00, it was time for my speech. Laura had apologized earlier in the day for missing it, but she had a dinner obligation with her editor/publisher, Betsy Wollheim, who has been publishing her delightful series of comic fantasies (which bear titles like Disappearing Nightly, Dopplegangsters, Unsympathetic Magic, Vamparazzi, Polterheist, and the like.) Then I found out that Random House had invited just about every member of SFWA for a four-hour boat ride on Lake Michigan. Then the committee announced that the Moebius Theatre Group (which I fondly remember from when they produced Warp and its sequels 40 years ago) would be performing a live play starting at 8:30. I remember mentioning at dinner that at such time as I outnumbered the audience I was calling off the speech.
Turns out that I drew a pretty nice crowd anyway, maybe 400 to 500. I never use a prepared text, I just talk . . . and Carol had told me that I should do funny reminiscences rather than serious/pedantic commentary, so that’s what I did, and — I have it on video disk, thanks to Allen Batson — the audience laughed its collective ass off for 75 minutes, and I even sneaked in a couple of serious (if brief) observations.
Gave a podcast interview back in the suite, then went around to the parties — Tor’s was jammed, as usual — with Luigi, Harry Kloor, Writer Child Brennan Harvey, and a couple of others. I ran into Ruhan Zhao, who’s been instrumental in helping me sell to China, and also saw Kay Kenyon, one of my more accomplished Writer Children, with whom I had promised to have a business discussion, so she and I went down to the bar and spoke for an hour. Then it was back to the parties, but around 2:20 I wended my way back to the room, where Carol was happily reading her Nook, and climbed into bed, unheard-of at prior Worldcons. Part of it was that they worked me very hard at this con (not that I didn’t enjoy every minute of it), long days broken only by business meals; but in truth, the other part is that I just can’t do as many back-to-back-to-back 20-hour days at 70 as I could at 35 and 40.
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Saturday, September 1: Another seemingly endless and yet totally delightful day. Woke up at 9:30 AM (double ugh with yogurt on it!), took a shower while Carol thoughtfully made some coffee, and then at 10:30 I spent an hour signing Stalking the Zombie and the British import, Masters of the Galaxy, at Bob Garcia’s American Fantasy Press table, then made my way over to the Bistro for lunch with my Chinese friends. There was Ruhan Zhao, and his son Muxing (who is going to become one of my Writer Children; this kid — I think he’s still in grammar school — is writing stories that are better than 90% of what I find in the better slush piles.) I also met Wu Yan, who is the head of the biggest science fiction society in China, and I finally met Meizi Wang, the lovely girl who is my translator for the short stories I sell to ¬¬SF World, the Chinese magazine with a circulation of 500,000 per issue. I also gave both Ruhan and Wu Yan a list of all the books I have not yet sold to China, and since I seem to be reasonably popular there, hopefully some good will come of it.
At 1:00 I had a panel on “Magical Musicals”. The musical theatre is one of my passions, and the only person in science fiction who I will freely grant knows (far) more about the subject than I do is Laura Frankos, Harry Turtledove’s wife, who has written a wonderful book on it. More to the point, Laura and I have been trading bootleg videos of plays in performance for years, and both have huge collections. The Female Person From Colorado (yclept Connie Willis) was also on the panel, as were Rich Lynch and Leah Zeldes. Lots of fun, and I think Laura and I named a lot of SF and fantasy musicals that most people didn’t know existed. (Like what, I hear you ask. Like Dandelion Wine, which was so poor it never made it to Broadway; or Charlie and Algernon, based on “Flowers for Algernon”, which was a short-lived flop both in England and then in America. And a number of successes that most people don’t realize are fantasies, like Assassins and Follies, until you point out the fantastic elements.)
Then came the panel that everyone is still talking about, that’s up on You Tube and Facebook and is the most popular panel I ever experienced at a Worldcon — and the only one to receive a 5-minute standing ovation. It was titled “The Secret History of Science Fiction”, the panelists were the current Guest of Honor (me), and four previous Guests of Honor (Bob Silverberg, Joe Haldeman, George R. R. Martin, and Gardner Dozois), and all we did was tell funny (make that hilarious) and frequently salacious stories about previous conventions. I think there may have been minimally more stories about the 1968 BayCon than any other, though we covered the peanut butter costume, the skinny dipping, the Male Chauvinist Pig Award, the lime jello, the origin of the Hugo Losers Party, and every other legend that one or more of us experienced. We could have done another three hours without slowing down, but most of us had 4:30 panels to get to.
And at 4:30, I hosted a slide show I had put together for the con, titled “Baby Photos”. I described it — accurately, I think — as photos of beardless and braless young wannabe writers, juxtaposed to photos of the wrinkled, decrepit, incontinent writers we became. 120 photos with my descriptions, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. I still have the CD, so I can do it again at some regional con.
At 6:00 — and you’ll notice that again I’d been on the go or onstage since 10:30 in the morning — we had another business dinner, this time with our friends Bill Schafer, Yanni Kuznia and Tim Holt of Subterranean Press. Bill has published four of my books in the past three years, including The Incarceration of Captain Nebula for Chicon, and has been running Lucifer Jones stories (my favorite of my characters) three or four times a year for four or five years, and he also badgers me into turning out an almost-annual African novella. It was a pleasant meal, and when it was over Carol and I had to attend the masquerade. We’d been told that emcee Jan Howard Finder was going to say some nice things about the costumes we did in the 1970s, and we thought it would be rude not to be there. Just as well we went. The first two rows were reserved for all the Guests of Honor and Special Guests; we were the only two to show up.
I have to say that Worldcon masquerades have changed from the 125 to 150 costumes we had to compete against. There were only 25 costumes, and three of them were in the Children’s Division. I think the serious costuming has migrated to DragonCon and ComicCon.
I hit the Baen party, and visited with a number of friends in the SFWA and CFG suites, but again, it was forcibly impressed upon me that I can’t get by on 4 hours’ sleep a night at a Worldcon the way I used to — one or two nights, sure; but not night after night after night — and again I gave up the ghost at 3:00 AM, which as readers of my Worldcon diaries know has been an aberration prior to 2012.
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Sunday, September 2: Sunday began with the 11:00 AM brunch I hosted for my Writer Children. We got a totally secluded area of the restaurant. Invited were Lezli Robyn, Kay Kenyon, Brad Torgersen, Brennan Harvey, Laurie Tom, Nick DiChario, Gio Clairval, BJ Galler-Smith, Janis Ian, Toby Buckell, Ron Collins, and Laura (my real writer child, who just turned 50 and probably resents being considered a child), plus Carol, of course. Ron went into the emergency room with some bug the night before and didn’t make it, but I’ve spoken to him since and he’s doing fine. Anyway, these were all writers I helped, collaborated with (well, except for Laura), bought from, introduced to editors and agents, and “adopted”. There are another ten or eleven who didn’t make it to Chicon, but it made more sense to spend a few hundred dollars on the brunch than spending it throwing a party where I wouldn’t know two-thirds of the attendees. Everyone else gorged on the huge buffet; I had 6 cups of coffee and tried to wake up.
After the brunch, I went off at 1:30 to a truly dull panel on why pros write for fanzines, or which pros write for fanzines, or which fanzines pros write for, or some such. It featured Andy Porter, Dick Smith, and myself. Bob Silverberg was supposed to be on it too, but he had the brains to be a no-show.
Then at 3:00 I did my “official” autographing session, and found myself signing right next to Jack McDevitt. We have The Cassandra Project, a reasonably major collaboration coming out from Ace in November, and it was nice to be able to chat with him while we both signed for seemingly endless lines of fans. His line petered out after 83 minutes; mine made it 85, and I teased him mercilessly about that for the final five minutes of the session.
Then I popped over to Shahid’s Arc Manor table. He’d reprinted the first three Lucifer Jones books (Adventures, Exploits, and Encounters), as well as the re-titled Shaggy B.E.M. Stories (which is now Bug-Eyed Monsters and Bimbos), and was selling a bunch of my Farthest Star titles for Ralph Roberts, who had to cancel out at the last minute.
After an hour at Shahid’s, I met Carol, Eleanor Wood, her son and his fiancé, and we walked a short block to the Palm restaurant in the Swissotel (spelled right). After Fulton’s on the River and The Greek Islands, it was the best meal I’d had in a couple of months: lobster bisque, veal parmesan, and a chocolate pastry. The Hyatt has an upscale restaurant, Stetson’s, where a few publishers took us at Chicon 6 back in 2000, but it closed for renovations two days before the con officially started — not the best foresight in the world.
After dinner we went picked up Shahid and Laura and went to the Hugo Reception. Theoretically I could only take one guest for myself and one for Lou Anders (he was stuck with his publisher, Pyr Books, at DragonCon, and I was accepting for him if he won), but that was ridiculous. The Hugo Reception is always filled with the same un-nominated crowd, and this year was no exception. I got permission in advance from the committee to bring my extra guests, but we could have walked right in anyway, just as everyone else was doing.
After a few minutes we were ushered to our reserved seating area, John Scalzi stepped out, and the Hugo ceremony was under way. John made a truly fine Toastmaster, and the committee had the brains to get rid of a two-decade-long tradition that slowed the ceremony down and did nothing to enhance it: they eliminated the guest presenters and let the Toastmaster, who is theoretically chosen for his or her wit, do all the talking and hand out all the awards. Lou lost Best Editor, Long Form, to Laura’s editor, Betsy Wollheim; and my story, “The Homecoming”, lost to Ken Liu’s “The Paper Menagerie”. I couldn’t be upset about it; Ken is a wonderful young man, and he wrote exactly the story I would have written were I a Chinese-American writing on that particular subject. I think the biggest surprise of the night was that the bestselling novel — not just fantasy novel – of the year came in fifth, though George R. R. Martin did get a Hugo in a different category.
John moved the ceremony right along, and while I didn’t put a timer on it, it felt like we got through it in a reasonable 90 minutes or so.
I hit the Hugo Losers Party, then went up to George Martin’s catered invite-only party, spent some time visiting up with Gardner Dozois and the Female Person From Colorado, stopped by CFG a couple of times, made it to the SFWA suite, and wound up back in our own suite at 1:30. I checked e-mail and Facebook, found I’d developed a second wind from somewhere, and went back to the parties for another couple of hours and enjoyed the hell out of it, and also got three story assignments for upcoming anthologies . . . but again, I was in bed and asleep before 3:30.
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Monday, September 3: Last day of the con, and another early (well, for me) day. Got up around 9:30, showered and injected coffee into a vein, then ran a program item that showed DVDs of five short movies that had been made from my stories, mostly by film school students: “Metal Tears” (from “Robots Don’t Cry”); “Neutral Ground” (from “Neutral Ground”); “The Faith Machine” (from “Article of Faith”); “His Award-Winning Science Fiction Movie” (from “His Award-Winning Science Fiction Story”); and “Do Not Take the Name of the Lord in Vain” (from The Branch). It was the last-named that got the producer-director excommunicated from his church and thrown out of his country (Andorra) for 15 years.
That took from 10:30 to 1:30. Then I had a panel with four of my collaborators on what it was like for them to collaborate with the Guest of Honor. There were Brad Torgersen (3 stories), Lezli Robyn (7 stories), Eric Flint (a story, 3 co-edited anthologies, 3 years co-editing Jim Baen’s Universe, and a novel under contract but not yet started), and Harry Kloor (a screenplay, and, it turns out, a graphic novel adaptation of my Widwmaker novels). It went smoothly enough, especially when I got Eric and Brad talking about collaborations they’ve done with people other than me, and at 3:00 PM the last panel of the last day was finished.
But I wasn’t. Carol and I then had to attend closing ceremonies, where I got the distinct impression that Chicago is already bidding again for 2022. We had planned to help Lezli celebrate her birthday at Navy Pier, and Carol — a Ferris wheel junkie — was really looking forward to riding the big one there, but she came down with a mild version of the same bug that had hit Ron Collins and Gio Clairval, and we stayed in the hotel and had room service send up our dinners.
I had three boxes of books to take home, and no room in the trunk what with Laura’s and Brad’s luggage in addition to ours, so I imposed on fellow Cincinnatian Debbie Oakes to carry them home in her car and deliver them to us at the weekly Wednesday CFG dinner in two days.
There wasn’t much in the way of parties, but I was too exhausted to visit most of them anyway, so I spent a couple of hours in the bar with BJ and Lezli and anyone else who stopped by (and thank goodness the bar didn’t insist that we teetotalers buy drinks!) and another hour at CFG, and I think I was in bed before 2:30.
I really do think my hours were compromised by the exhausting schedule. I’m writing this at 5:30 AM on September 24, and this’ll be the 8th or 9th night in a row I’ve been writing past 5:00. (Of course, I’m sleeping til midafternoon each day too.) I suppose I’ll know for sure next year when I’m back to maybe 3 panels, a reading, a kaffeeklatsch and a signing spread over five days.
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Tuesday, September 4: Carol, Laura, Brad and I piled into the car. I drove the first 2-1/2 hours, to LaFayette, and Brad drove the last 3, to Cincinnati. We dropped Laura off, then went home, where Brad — who does computer support for a living (until the writing gets too lucrative, which we all hope is soon) — fixed everything that was wrong with Carol’s laptop and transferred all the data and programs from my beat-up XP to my brand-new Dell tower with Windows 7 and made it work mostly like XP, which is the best system Microsoft ever made (so of course they continue to “improve” it to the disgust of most users).
And while Carol was unpacking and laundering and puttering, and Brad was computering, I had a little time to do some reflecting. I remember our first Worldcon — the 1963 Discon — as vividly as if it occurred just last month. I remember seeing giants like Isaac Asimov handing out Hugos to other giants like Jack Vance and Phil Dick, and I remember wondering, if I worked my tail off and improved my craft for the next 20 or 30 years, if someone, somewhere would let me touch one. As I write these words I can stand up, walk 20 feet, and touch a bunch of them.
I remember that Murray Leinster was the Guest of Honor, and that because of that honor, which had been bestowed only on the tallest of our giants, on people like Heinlein and Campbell and Clarke and Doc Smith and Asimov — Williamson wouldn’t gain that honor for another 14 years, and it would be 23 mire years before it would be given to Bradbury — I felt compelled almost to whisper their names in awe.
Well, I was very young and very impressionable. These days young is another union, but I’m still very impressionable, and I’m still in awe of the accomplishments of our field’s giants, even though most of them have become my good friends. I occasionally get the feeling that there’s been a terrible mistake, that of course I didn’t really win all those Hugos, and surely they read off the wrong name when they announced that I was to be the Chicon Guest of Honor . . . but until someone shows up to explain that there have indeed been a series of embarrassing blunders (and probably even after that happens), I remain the happiest science fiction writer in the world, I love what I do, l love all the professional and fannish friends I’ve made, I love my life, I’m proud as hell that I was Chicon’s Guest of Honor, and I wish there was a way to thank everyone who has helped to make it possible. I suppose the closest I can come is to keep writing the best stories I can, and I plan to start another one the second I e-mail this diary to Guy Lillian for Challenger 36.