Sunday, 22 January 2012

Love and Hate at Arisia (2012 Edition)

I was fortunate enough to attend the Arisia 2012 Science Fiction & Fantasy literary convention recently. I've been to many previous Arisia conventions and, as usual, it was a great time. In addition to a terrific literary schedule, Arisia also features plenty of media entertainment (often into the wee small hours of the night before and morning after), a top notch costuming track, and enough great shopping to beggar a far wealthier man than myself. All of these are good things.

This year, for the first time ever, Arisia featured a reading and a signing by Yours Truly. Note how I subtly imply that this fact comprises some kind of Big Deal (tm and patent pending). That's a literary technique called 'making stuff up.' Those of you in the audience who aspire to the fabulous lifestyle of a published author might want to take notes at this point.

Thanks to Martin Luther King Jr., Arisia is a 4 day convention. My reading was early on Friday and I spent most of the week leading up to what we shall henceforth refer to as 'The Event' worrying that no one would show up. I mean literally no one, I was more than half convinced that I would get lost on the way and not show up myself. I spent the remaining time that week practicing the passage I was going to read. To do this I had to do something risky. I had to read my own book. I've known a lot of creative people in my life and the main thing they always have in common is the answer to two simple questions: What is the least favorite thing you've ever done and what is the most favorite thing you have ever done? The answers are 'the thing I just finished is my least favorite and the thing I'm working on right now is my favorite.' I already knew my own answer to the second question, I'm about hip-deep into 'Monday and the Apocalypse Engine' and I am very excited about it. It's my favorite thing right now. What I didn't see coming was my answer to the first question.

I sat down to take a serious look at my own book for the first time since I finished it. A little perspective here, 'Monday and the Murdered Man' is getting great reviews, both from professional reviewers and casual readers. I have been thrilled and gratified all to heck and gone by all these positive reviews. Imagine my surprise when I discovered they were all totally off base. I wasn't gripped by the opening words, I wasn't amused by my own witty banter, and I wasn't happy. I discovered to my shock and chagrin that the book I have just completed was my least favorite of all (1) of my books.

In desperation, I turned to my friends who had read - and in some cases, edited - my book. Each of them assured me affectionately that I was crazy and quite possibly stupid as well and also that my book was just fine. I love my friends, truly I do. Thus heartened, I packed up my life into the new and improved Authormobile and headed into Boston for the show.

I only got a little lost which is pretty good for me and I got all checked in and registered in plenty of time for my reading. Kudos to the Arisia operations staff for an efficient and speedy process even with hundreds and hundreds of people arriving all at once. Incidentally, the registration line is a great place to meet people, everyone goes there ... sooner or later.

I was scheduled to read alongside Walter Hunt and Richard Stallman. At this point, Dear Reader, you may be asking yourself, 'Was Andy nervous and insecure reading alongside two people way more famous than he is?' The answer, Dear Reader, is 'You bet your ass I was.' But I acted all cool and calm, because that is what the cool and calm kids do.

I was up first and read my prepared piece. It went quite well. People laughed in the right places and applauded politely when I was done. Messrs. Stallman and Hunt read after me and there was some time left and I was encouraged to read more. I had not prepared more material which did not make me less nervous or insecure, but I soldiered on (authored on?) and read the next chapter. It went well too. Who would have guessed?

After the Event I had a few spare hours to wander around, meet people, shop at the dealer's room, and generally catch my breath before the midnight vampire panel where I was speaking. There is very little that is more fun than talking about vampires after midnight at a science fiction fantasy convention. My thanks to the other panelists and our great audience!

My signing was at 10am the next morning, so coffee was my friend and savior. I was seated next to the charming and talented Toni L.P. Kelner so I knew that even if no one came by I would have a good time. As it turned out, quite a few people visited and my first signing flew by. May all my future signings go nearly as well!

After the signing, I grabbed brunch with some friends and cruised the convention in a nerd herd until my 4pm panel on creating memorable characters in role playing games. This turned out to be not so much an opportunity for a few talking heads to share their accumulated wisdom and experience as a great conversation with 30 or 40 friends I hadn't met yet. I love it when that happens. I hope everyone else enjoyed it as much as I did.

Saturday night was a blur of parties and friends and good times that ended all too early. And yet, somehow I still didn't get enough sleep. I attended a panel on the new shape of the self-publishing market Sunday morning and spent the rest of the day generally slobbing around the convention. I told anyone who would stop and listen that I was wearing an 'Author' Hall Costume and that my book was my prop. This is the kind of thing I think is funny when I'm seriously sleep-deprived. Sunday night featured yet more parties and yet more hanging out with friends I don't see nearly often enough. The life of a professional author is hard, Dear Reader, but I persevere.

I got a late start on Monday (what else is new?) and was moving kind of slowly and a bit wobbly. I recovered in time for my last panel, a literary analysis of the Dark Lord in literature. Most of the audience were aspiring writers and they took a lot of notes and asked a lot of interesting and challenging questions. It was a great panel that really made the best of the format. It might well have been my favorite panel of the entire weekend. After that, there wasn't much to do other than have a celebratory drink with friends and wend my way back home to the Authorcave and back to bed.

Next stop Boskone 2012!

January 23, 2012
Chelmsford, MA

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