Let’s start with the ceremony!
This was a delight. It was fun to be treated special and given an award and just the belle of the ball for a day! Of course, it was apparently pretty quickly that this award ceremony wasn’t really for us. It was for the Scientologists. This was their party, for them to say to each other “Look at us! We’re helping these people at the start of their career, and supporting the arts! We are doing good in the world.” And good on them for it! They are helping new artists, and contributing to the SFF world in a meaningful way. They can have as big a party they want to celebrate that, it’s their money. I didn’t mind at all being the excuse for that. It kinda felt what I imagine being a unicorn for a couple would feel like? The experience is primarily about them, but they couldn’t have it without me facilitating, and I’m happy to serve that role to bring them that. Of course that’s probably my super-idealized fantasy of unicorning. But /shrug. I got the literary-award equivalent of that fantasy, so I’m happy. :)
While listening to others give their acceptance speeches it dawned on me that you can only really thank two people – the first person you thank, who everyone notices for being first. And the last person, who stays lingering in the silence after. Everyone in between kinda gets lost in the blur. That’s not to say that they’re unappreciated, but the first and last are the true places of prominence. So I quickly edited my acceptance speech at the table in order to shuffle the Scientologists into the middle and thank my writer’s group and peers that week on the ends. You can see it here.
Afterwards there was partying back at the hotel bar!
The next day was a multi-hour class on how to Sell Sell Sell. Which, to be practical, was probably useful. You could tell they were trying to get us to do a lot of promotion. TBH, I’m not putting in a lot of work for something that doesn’t pay royalties. For every extra copy I sell, I get an extra $0.00. So the only book signing/promotion opportunities I took were the ones I wanted to do for the joy of doing them. The Tattered Cover in Denver, because that’s a rite of passage for all Denver authors. :) And the Broadway Book Mall, a small independent store that has been a cornerstone of the Denver SF community for decades. It was an honor to be at both.
They did talk about “always dressing professional” in that class, “unless you have A Look. Like Gaiman.” Everyone knows he always wears black leather, regardless of the situation, but that is his Look. It can be good to have a distinct visual Look. And I figured “hell, I already do the Goth thing, I can make that my Look.” So boom. I guess now whenever I’m doing Authorial stuff, I shall be Goth!
After that class we were “treated” to a show just for us winners & our guests. First there was an audio drama of Hubbard’s short “The Death Flyer.” The story itself is mildly bad. They had us read it before we arrived in LA, and it’s literally just “There’s a ghost train that recreates it’s crash on the anniversary of its crash. But it was all a dream!” With purple prose and one-dimensional wooden characters. BUT! The people doing the audio drama were SUPER into it, which I guess you would be for any story written by your messiah. They added all the emotion and interest that was lacking from the story. It was actually pretty enjoyable, they did a great job! I saw in person just how a good actor can save a bad script.
Right after that we got to listen to the world’s worst stand-up comic. The guy was ancient, and apparently ran with Sinatra’s Rat Pack back in the day. Allow me to set the stage.
The Scientologists are really out of touch. They seem painfully unaware of the shibboleth of modern society, such as the not knowing one doesn’t refer to south-east Asia as “the Orient.” A couple of our winners were from Spanish-speaking countries, and one of them brought a lot of her family out to see her shine at this great moment! So when the comic opened by welcoming the audience in Spanish, I was very pleasantly surprised. I had not expected this sort of deliberate racial inclusiveness, this was awesome! Then his next lines were (paraphrased) ‘That’s all the Spanish I know. That’s all that my maid taught me before I sent her back to Guatemala. To have our kid.” Holy fuck.
The whole set was that bad, basically non-stop stuff that someone with the unthinking racism and sexism of the 50s era would find funny. It was awful. One person walked out, and I really should have, but I was so pissed I hate-watched the whole thing. OMG.
Anyway, that was the nadir of the week. It did give us something to bond over though. And as far as nadirs go, it could be much worse. But, wow. How can one be that out of touch? I mean… thinking back on it, I certainly didn’t go up and tell the comic, or anyone in the Scientologist camp, about how distasteful that was. Neither did any of my fellow winners. I guess if no one tells you, how can you be expected to know? But yeesh! Isn’t that what TV and movies are for?
Back to good stuff! For the rest of this post I’m just gonna talk about the people I met, because that’s really what it was about for me. And cuz this blog is kinda like a semi-diary thing for me. Probably the rest is boring for everyone who isn’t me, feel free to stop here. ^^ Most of these pics are lifted from the WotF website. They got great photographers.
Tim Powers, as said earlier, is a witty, kindly grandfather. Which also means he can be bad-ass protective sometimes. After our 24-hour stories, two were randomly picked to be critiqued by the whole group. As one can probably imagine, having a story critiqued is much like having you sexual technique analyzed and critiqued. It’s a very vulnerable and private thing. By this point I had forgotten we were being filmed all the time. Tim hadn’t. As the first critique started to quietly walked to the back of the room, laid hands upon the cameraperson, and said “You do not record this part.” The camera person complied and all was well, while our esteem of Tim skyrocketed.
Rob Sawyer gave an hour long presentation on how publishers will attempt to grab all your rights and screw you as much and as hard as they can. He warned us about what to look out for, and what to never sign away. He was very impassioned the whole time. It was my favorite of the guest-lecturer presentations, and very valuable. Kick-ass.
Brandon Sanderson gave a guest presentation as well. At the end of that day there was a barbeque for all the winners and their guests, as well as any of the judges and guest presenters that wished to come. I was sitting with Erin and her family when mother-fuckin’ Brandon Sanderson pulled up a chair and sat down to chat with us for an hour! It was freakin’ awesome. Erin’s mother is such a big fan that as soon as he sat down she stood up and walked away so she could quietly freakout and compose herself again. :) Brandon was fantastic to talk to.
Here’s the wonderful writer peers I met!
Cole is a gentle soul, extremely compassionate and empathic. But he can lay down serious smackdowns when he needs to, doing serious weight lifting and martial training. That’s probably why the kids at the rehab & detention facility where he works respect the hell out of him. He’s the one in front.
Jeremy is basically exactly the person I’d want teaching me history when I was in high school. Collected, thoughtful, and very knowledgeable. A damn cool dude, and I’ll be seeing with him again when I room with him at WorldCon in a few months!
When I first met Jon I was put off by him. First, the visual aesthetic of short blond hair and white skin reminds me of the 50s, and I’m not a fan, but obviously that’s not his fault. Plus it looks good on him. More to the point–there’s only room for one clean-cut office-drone-passing white guy in any given group! What’s he doing, trying to step on my turf? But I was won over very quickly by his eminent reasonableness, commitment to fairness, and being a solid good person at all times. We are now buds. Basically I guess he’s like my WotF equivalent of Pushin.
(Not sure if I mentioned Pushin before, but I was always kinda wierded out and put off by Pushin. I don’t like the aesthetic, and I just don’t get it. Then a lover of mine got a Pushin bathmat. I have poor circulation in my extremities, so walking on a non-carpeted floor in my bare feet, as one has to in a bathroom, is so cold that it’s painful for me. The Pushin bathmat saved me from that pain. Me and Pushin are friends now. ^^)
Natalka is Canadian, former Goth, and had heard of the rationalist movement! Also a pleasure to talk to, I get the feeling she has a lot of things to talk about once you can get into her circle of trust. She totally strikes me as the sort of person who’d be like “Yeah, I had to kill a man once. Fucker shouldn’t have tried to kidnap my dog. Let’s go moose-spotting!”
Vida came from the Philippines, and had quite a few /forehead moments with the previously-mentioned out-of-touch contingent who didn’t realize that there’s, you know, cities and stuff over there. The low-level stoicism of putting up with that sort of thing constantly gave her a very Daria vibe. :)
Erin was my biggest partner in crime. We spent a bunch of time together, both stressed a lot over our 24 hour stories, and man, she’s just the best! Plus she has a very soft visual aesthetic that just feels warm to look at.
Amy is just a ton of fun, and not at all what I expected from a Texas Mormon! She was often out front, leading the charge to the next thing we’re doing. It was great to have her around, and I didn’t even realize she wasn’t drinking when she was hanging with us at the bar. She has enough personality to not need alcohol! O_O
I didn’t get to spend much time with the illustrators, as the writers and illustrators were basically kept in two separate camps as we went through two separate workshops. They didn’t even mix the groups at the ceremony! That being said, we did manage to mix some, especially at the hotel bar.
Alana is the artist that drew the illustration for my story. She’s cool, and seems very excited about the future. I also LOVE the color pallete she uses for herself, it makes her look like a walking piece of Victorian art.
Sidney is the most chill mother fucker I’ve ever met in my life. You know how cool guys don’t look at explosions? Sidney wouldn’t even bother to walk away from an explosion. She’d be like “Hey, there’s an explosion. That’s cool. I’ma chill here unless someone tells me I gotta move.” She’s the one that told the Scientologists she wouldn’t be wearing a dress, and then just didn’t wear one. I am in awe of her cool.
Bruce is super put-together and professional. He wins my award for Most “Has His Shit Together” Person. While still being very personable! He has that hat as part of his look. To the point that he even has a very fancy black version of it that matched his tuxedo. :)
Duncan is talented and fun. He’s the illustrator who was most like the writers, and spent the most time with us. And by “most like the writers” I mean “extroverted.” Which is crazy, I’ve never thought of writers as an extroverted bunch. UNTIL I met illustrators. They totally blew my stereotypes, cuz I figured as visual artists they’d all be super outgoing and social butterflies. Turns out, they just want to stay with their tablets and paint all day and never look up or talk (for the most part). It was hard getting most of them to talk or open up! Except for Duncan. Maybe it’s the expat thing. :)
OK, Jazmen and Other Duncan were the two most aesthetically compelling people there. I thought they were visually interesting at first, and took their photos, but it turns out that it’s not a visual thing, because the photos don’t capture it at all. Jazmen is the living incarnation of the super-shy girl in every anime. All the writers think she just fell out of an anime last month or something. The body language, the clothing, the voice, the demeanor. One person swore she saw Jazmen dashing out the hotel door with a piece of toast in her mouth. And Duncan, her friend, looks and acts like someone who came out of a Dating Sim. He’s fucking gorgeous, and with long hair pulled back, except where it cascades down at his temples. He dresses in turn-of-the-century finery, and speaks rather formally. They were such perfect representations of their genres that I thought they were a couple, but I guess they’re just really good friends. Anyway, pictures don’t do them justice. Which, I think, is a sign of true aesthetic mastery. Something like that shouldn’t be capturable in a still image. To get the true impact one really has to be in their physical presence, with the full bandwidth that only real world proximity can accommodate. It’s almost as if people are complex, many-layered things which can’t be reduced to a picture and a few sentences. Which really puts the lie to this whole blog post. So, thanks guys, for breaking my post. >:(
But also <3
Anyway, that’s everything, I think I’m done with WotF posts. Huzzah!