I should really start this at the beginning, with my arrival in New York and such, shouldn't I? Like, I should start with "first things first". So, yeah...
I had dinner with Chip Delany!
Well, OK, that was actually Friday night, so that didn't come first at all, but fuck it.
I had dinner with Chip Delany!
Sorry, I just needed to get that out of my system. It's just... you know... dinner with Chip Delany. And he was lovely. And I didn't entirely witter on pathetically like the fanboy I am. OK, so I didn't get round to telling him how he clued me in to Guy Davenport, or ask him about subjunctivity, or if he'd ever return to SF, or just how far he ever got with the sequel to Stars In My Pocket Like Grains of Sand (sorry, Phil... I know... but it just seemed a tiresome question to ask), or any of the other terribly literary chat I had Big Plans regarding. Hell, I barely even managed to tell him I was reading (and wowing over) Times Square Red, Times Square Blue. But that was because it was all just too damn enjoyable to sit and dine in a civilised manner with one of my all-time heroes. And, like, have him ask for my address (*eek*) so he could send me his comments after reading the copy of VELLUM I foisted upon him in best "I don't care if you even read it, I just offer my lame book as tribute at your feet" fashion. I think the point where I relaxed (a little) and thought, fuck it, let's just have some fucking dinner here -- maybe, possibly, connect rather than network, as he puts it in the aforesaid book of essays -- was when I spotted the three (four) big hoop earings in his left ear, adding a certain dash of the... piratical to the professorial gravitas of his eight-inch beard and black cane. Suddenly I had this glimpse of the Delany (I still can't quite think of him as Chip, not really; that would just be... forward) of his autobiography, of Nova and Babel-17, the Delany of all his writing, fiction or non-fiction, as much the artist as the academic, the Delany who loves hands big and rough, and nails well-bitten.
But I don't want to make this entirely a rave about a two-hour dinner on Friday night, so let's actually get on with the con.
Well, no. First things first. You know, Continental Airlines may well do direct flights between Glasgow and Newark but they're cheap bastards. I mean I wasn't bothered about seeing Cheaper By The Dozen 2 on the flight over but I was kinda tempted by Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on the way back, so it would have been nice to have screens that were more than a grey blur and sound that didn't cut out after ten minutes. And, I'm sorry; I can just about accept not serving alcohol as the complementary beverage, but filling a tiny glass half full of ice, and then covering that, and keeping the rest of the can for the next customer... that's just fucking stingy. I guess it's worth it for the direct flight, and waaaaay shorter time... but rationing out the fucking soft drinks is just plain cheap. Just saying.
Not that the dodginess of movies and drinks policy really bothered me, busy as I was reading my way through Gaiman's American Gods and realising, Oh, so that's why people keep comparing Vellum to the book, and also realising, much to my surprised amusement, that half of it was set in fucking Wisconsin. On relating this to Meester Minz I was met in turn by his surprised amusement: "What, you never read American Gods before that?!?! Seriously?!?!" Actually, I'd been kinda avoiding it from this terrible feeling that I'd end up up either cribbing from him or, worse, finding out he'd already told the story I wanted to.
Monday night was spent with Jim, his wife Sondi and John Klima. Beer and pizza, and a first glance at the smashing Electric Velocipede #10, which I'm going to post a BIG SODDING PICTURE of directly after I post this entry. Cause it's pretty. And it has neat shit in it. But then, of course it has; it's Electric Velocipede #10. So go buy it.
Tuesday: Hanging at Random House, lunch in the afternoon and karaoke in the evening. Tons of Random House folks bringing down the house. Fleetwood kicked it off by kicking out the jams. I did "Delilah" and it went on from there. Had a great time chatting with Tricia about Scott Walker after my attempt at "Jackie". La Gringa and Emperor Minz did some wild duets. I remember stripping to the waist at one point for "I Wanna Be Your Dog" which got some cheers, some laughs and some cries of "Give that man a burger!". By the end of the night Minz and I, blasted, were doing serious damage to our livers and serious damage to Black Sabbath's "Paranoid". It was a fucking scream, and it was good prep for Wiscon. We made it back to his place at about, oh, 2:30 in the morning. I'm just glad I didn't have to get up early for work, unlike me poor editor.
Wednesday: Lunch with Howard Morhaim out in Brooklyn Heights, followed by coffee out on the promenade. Man, that place is niiiiiiiice. I seemed to spend a lot of Wiscon chatting to people who turned out to stay, or have stayed, in either Brooklyn or the East Village (like Lauren McLaughlin, who I tip my hat to for kindly allowing me to cadge an hour or two in her smoking room in the Madison Concourse and therefore drink free White Russians and smoke simultaneously) and therfore had to suffer my continual comparisons with the West End of Glasgow and enthusing over how One Day If I Am Rich And Famous I Will Live in New York (For Some Of The Year).
Thursday: We were lucky, Minz and I, in comparison to everyone else who came to Wiscon, it seems. We got on our train for Newark International at Princeton Junction and had it pull out of the station just at the point where power went down for the whole Northern Corridor, between DC and NY. We had to get off our train and drive to the airport. As I say, we were lucky though. We made our flight and after a minor delay in Milwaukee still made it to the hotel bang on time for the opening of the Governor's Club (and with our luggage) unlike many who had horror stories about their travel disasters, to put it mildly.
And... well... after that it all gets kinda blurry. Actually it gets a lot blurry. Last thing I remember is sitting chatting to Geoff Ryman and some of the Ratbastards in the Governor's Club at about, I think, 9:00. I was spotted at 11:30 by John Scalzi in the elevator and he tells me I had a White Russian in my hand with ice still in it, so I must've been in the lobby (the Governor's Club closing at 10:30). Reputedly the exchange went along the lines of:
John: "Hi, Hal, how you doing?"
Me: "I'm fucked."
There are rumours about me getting, um, a bit, um, over-friendly. I can only hope these aren't true, or that any apparent freshness was just misunderstood Celtic exuberance, or simply cringe with embarassment and apologise to anyone and everyone I might have bothered with my drunken libido and impulse-control issues.
The last time I was spotted Thursday night was outside the hotel, smoking at 1:30 in the morning, then staggering away bedwards with a weeble-like sway, which was a matter of much concern to those who saw me (they obviously don't know me well enough). I am however a resilient soul and can always make it home -- if not to my actual bed then at least to the extremely comfortable floor beside my bed, the perfect place for my editor to trip over me when he arrives back from meeting his old college mates to find me sprawled there unconscious. Upon a gentle nudge, with a few incoherent mumbles and uncoordinated stumbles, I managed to navigate my way to the bathroom and to bed. Hell, I even woke up at 9:30 in the morning, in time for breakfast in the Governor's Club.
So, really, I wasn't that drunk.
But if anyone has information pertaining to the whereabouts of Hal Duncan between 9:00 and 1:30 on Thursday night, please -- no, on second thoughts I'm not sure I want to know.
Friday, Friday, Friday: Bumped into Elizabeth Bear on the way to lunch at Dotties with aforesaid Scalzi. A skirmish round the Dealer's Room. Hellos to various people I met at WFC. Jeremy Lassen in a suit. When and where did I bump into Scott Westerfeld and Justine Larbaleister? Or Gwenda Bond and Christopher Rowe? Or Gavin Grant and Kelly Link? Or the thousand other folks I might have met on Thursday night, or not as the case may be? Maybe I was just too busy asking "Do you know what I did last night?" to keep track of the information. Maybe it's just that the problem with cons is that after the first night it all starts to blend into one long "hey there, how ya doin?!" with only a few selected moments in sharp relief. Like the quivering lip as I waited for Delany in the lobby and time passed and he didn't show and we realised his plane must be late and couldn't get in contact with him. The sad-hearted acceptance that it was always too good to be true as we headed out to the delayed-but-kept reservation. The childlike joy when the message came through that he'd gone straight to the restaurant because of the late flight and was waiting there for us. What else do I remember? The 6:30 conversation with Ben Rosenbaum.
Saturday: Christ knows, frankly. When was the panel on the animal companion? I remember feeling a bit rough and picking at lunch, talking about genre and children's fic with Gary K. Wolfe and Pat Murphy and Veronica Schanoes and Helen Pilinovsky and Sharon whose second name I can't fucking remember despite the fact that I absolutely fucking adore her hard-smokin', straight-talkin', sheer fucking attitude and wit and goddamnit we were on the same plane back from WFC after a late night conversation and I should fucking well remember it. *gah*! I remember a fine meal with later in the evening with Gary Wolfe and Jeremy Lassen. I remember arriving back at the Ratbastards karaoke evening, the Scalzi and Rosenbaum strip-tease, Christopher Barzak with my editor as one of his backing dancers, Jeremy singing "Big Balls", me stealing a beer from someone's hand as a prop for "The Piano Has Been Drinking". The room parties.
Oh yes, and of course Chris Brazak introduced me to Terri Windling and Midori Snyder, which was cool, as I found out then that the new issue of The Journal of Mythic Arts is now online, with my essay on "Tales of Death and Rebirth in World Myth and Mythic Fiction": The Tomb and The Womb. It covers everything from Inanna to Buffy, you know, so go read it. Or just look at the gorgeous illustrations Midori Snyder found for it. (The one of Hypnos and Thanatos as two pretty-boys lying arm-in-arm is, needless to say, my favourite) It also has a whole bundle of other goodies to say the least -- fiction by Jane Yolen, Alan De Niro, Karen Joy Fowler. All round goddamn good stuff. Actually, chatting to Midori on Sunday about art and religion was another of the highlights of Wiscon for me. OK, so the fine wine, incredible tapas, and the company of Gavin Grant and Kelly Link, Terri Windling and, of course, the Emperor Minz had a lot to do with making that last night of the convention not have, you know, that horrible last night of the convention feel.
Which, yes, brings us to Sunday, and sitting in an abandoned room post-party chatting to Roger Range and Alex With No Last Name On His Badge who I was bumming cigarette papers off, and, let's see, yes, you were there, and you were there, and you were there, and then we were outside, because they kicked us out, and I was chatting with Sharon again just like I was chatting to her and Veronica and Gary Wolfe and Richard Chedwyk and Erzebet YellowBoy and Catherynne M. Vallente and Ekaterina Sedia only that was earlier in the night or earlier in the con, some other time when we were just hanging at that bench outside the revolving doors where you sit and the smokers one by one come out, and you shoot the breeze, and then someone leaves and someone else comes and the chat changes and it stays the same and every so often you leave and head for the dealers room or a panel where Scott and Justine and Gwenda have press-ganged you in as one of their plants to ask a question in complete gibberish only you fail miserably by being far too comprehensible but it's still a hoot because you have Christopher Rowe stepping up in a total parody of worst audience excesses to say "I have, well, it's not so much a question as a comment... it's in seven parts", only for Scott Westerfeld to point and shout "Scalzi! Get him!" whereupon John Scalzi tackles Christopher Rowe on this absurdist theatre of a panel where the discussion of the "Death of the Panel" leads to the beginning of a revolution, a revolution, I say, in bringing the UK concept of Free Beer For Panel Participants to the US, and then you head out for a Bloody Mary and end up sitting in the bar chatting to Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette and others and others on the Friday afternoon, and you all head off to see Chip Delany interview Joanna Russ on the Sunday, then it's up the Governor's Club where Geoff Ryman is wearing his Tiptree tiara, so you get him to sign the copy of Air you bought in the Dealer's Room just like you do to Alan De Niro with his new collection, Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead, and Jay Lake has you sign his copy of Vellum and you end up talking about the Neo-Victorian vibe in some modern fantasy, and you're sitting there thinking, man, I love conventions, man, I love this convention, man, I fucking love fucking Wiscon.
So... yeah. That's all clear then, right?