Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Cthulhu, fajitas and my third and fourth vertebrae: or, things no one cares about but me.

So, after a largely uneventful ride on a Chinatown bus, I got into Boston late Saturday night. The bus, in true CB fashion, picked us up at a random corner in midtown (marked only by a sign outside a newsstand) and dropped us off on an equally random corner in Boston. I lived in Boston for years--hell, I was born there--but thanks to some trick of genetics, habit, or a bad burger ingested in London way back in my carnivorous day, I have an uncanny knack for forgetting. I can wipe the details of a place from my mind inside a week, easy, and I've been gone from Boston for over a year. In other words, I didn't recognize a thing when I got off the bus. I asked the driver where we were, and he responded, "Okay, bye-bye!" Which I guess is all the direction you get when you're paying something like $0.10 per mile to travel. Eventually, I sorted myself out. End Worldcon Weekend Chapter One. Sunday dawned cool and clear, thank sassafrass, and I headed off to the Con, where I hastily picked up my registration materials and shuffled off to the Exotic Mythologies panel. The panel itself was a great idea--there really is a lot of lazy, redundant writing going on in spec fiction these days, and the whole western-European-hero-quest schtick has been done to death. (Clearly, lots of people like imagining a world with little- to no- ethnic/historical diversity, which is a shame, not only because there are so many ancient and even relatively modern mythologies from all over the world that would make great contributions to spec fiction, but also because, well, this sentence has gotten to be so long I've forgotten my other point. You've already forgotten the first one, haven't you?) Unfortunately, there really wasn't enough time to explore the issue, the moderator kept cutting panelists off in the middle of good points, and the only people who would come to a panel on non-western myth are people who are already interested in the issue, so they were pretty much preaching to the choir. Still, I walked away with a few new must-reads: Anne Harris's new book Inventing Memory, H. Rider Haggard's Nada the Lily (I know, not new, but new to me) and Suzanne Alles Blom's Inca: The Scarlett Fringe. (I picked up a copy of L.A. Bank's "urban" vamp novel Minion, too, which I plan to read tonight before bed, since it's a pretty slim volume.) Then I went to a panel called "The New Weird," and it flew by, though it seemed nobody could peg anything but China Mieville as "new weird." I went to a few more panels, but they all became a blur after that. End Worldcon Chapter Two. My sweetness-and-light friend came all the way up from Philly to join me in the afternoon, and we wandered around the art show when we realized the panels really weren't all that, er, necessary, shall we say. The art show was a mix of fantastic and banal talent and themes. I collected a whole grip of bidness cards that I now need to sift through--Michael Lavoie, an illustrator with a talent for drawing ghoulies that make my skin crawl, Omar and Sheila Rayyan, whose talents I wish I could afford, this guy, who not only has pictures of what looks like a demonically-possessed Valerie Bertinelli, but who does a whole bunch of other stuff, too, and Martha Plotz, a "fiber artist," who gets respect for coolest bidness card design--each was unique and hand-drawn, and since I took a card that I have no intention of using to buy goods because the card itself was so pretty, I'll plug her work here. We spent a few hours shopping the dealer halls (where they had these crazy Cthulhu slippers and stuffed dolls that I thought were cute, but overpriced), eating, and arguing with the Hynes Convention Center catering staff, because this crazy woman at the register was convinced I had a steak fajita when all I had was beans, and I finally had to stick my damn fingers in the beans to prove I wasn't trying to scam them, silly cow. As it turned out, it was a good thing she was being such a witch, because SAL friend looked at the receipt and discovered they had tacked an extra $5 onto the bill for no reason, so they were in fact trying to scam us. Argh. Evil at work. We got our money back. End Chapter Three. When we finally got around to the much-anticipated Masquerade, we were enormously impressed, firstly because you don't realize just how many people attend these things until they are all crammed velvet-clad elbow-to-mock light-saber into a giant auditorium, and secondly, because the participants clearly worked really hard on their costumes, and not just because there would be a $500 prize at the end. Much respect and my sympathies to the woman whose act, Inside the Mind, involved sliding across the stage, face down on a skateboard, boobs dragging the ground, dressed as a turtle with the Discworld on its back. I was afraid she was gonna lose a nipple for a minute there, but she pulled through just fine, and the costume was very cool. The kids in the junior division were hilarious, too, and the winner, Death of rats, was adorable, despite being dressed up as, well, Death of rats. That's no easy feat, folks, to be cute as a skeletal rat. We had to cut out early to make our crazy-overbooked Chinatown bus back to the city, so if anybody knows who won the adult division, I'd be much obliged for information. We rolled into Chinatown around 3:30 in the morning, bleary eyed and in need of chiropratic services (which, incidentally, we probably could have gotten in the area, even at that hour, had we looked hard enough). The cab uptown rang in at $16.10, more than what we paid to get back to NYC from Boston. Oh well. Beats the subway. End Four. Overall, it was much as I expected it to be, and plenty of fun. I didn't really feel totally isolated, as I had feared, nor did I make any new friends, but hey, I was there for about 4 hours. I wish I could have stayed longer, gone to a party or three, and had more money. I would definitely go again. Next year, Worldcon is in Glasgow, so I need to start saving now. Okay, really I just want an excuse to go to Glasgow, because I love boys in dresses, and this Worldcon didn't have nearly enough men in kilts. From the Noreascon blog. Fortunately for me, I worked today (yay, holiday pay!) so I am well on my way to Glasgow. Until then, back to the daily grind. End.


At 9/07/2004 07:21:00 AM, Blogger deborah said...

Wow, thanks for sharing. I must admit that genre has escaped me only because I felt no connection to the text/content. This is why I think your chapter two is very interesting and relevant. So they concluded that there needs to be more variety in characters which include all ethnicities?

At 9/07/2004 09:12:00 PM, Blogger callalillies said...

I've gotta get those books. I agree, there is a dire need to have diverse/multi-ethnic characters. I think there's a template out there for certain genres. Shame.

At 9/07/2004 10:02:00 PM, Blogger Sid said...

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At 9/08/2004 01:49:00 PM, Blogger Sid said...

Many spec fiction writers recycle the same tired themes. They act as if the only mythological realm in the world is medieval europe. It's completely boring. As you no doubt know, there are far older, and frankly, more interesting histories/societies/mythologies. But it seems most fanstasy writers are either too lazy to do the research to get it right or just don't care. Part of the problem is the readership--writers won't write what they can't sell, and readers won't buy what they think they won't like or relate to, and most of the readers are white, and its really friggin' hard to get white readers (outside literary fiction, and even including it, really) to read books that don't feature white protagonists (and yet I went through 20 years in schools teaching books with nothing but white characters, and I'm not supposed to complain, or want ethnic studies programs, grrrrr). One of the points made during the panel was about the book I mentioned called Nada the Lily, which is about a hero fallling in love with a Zulu princess. When the book was first published many years ago, the cover featured a white, blonde Nada. So sad. But the panelists also pointed out that there is a problem with the publishers--being too PC (one writer (white) who wrote a book featuring a black hero was initially told by publishers they wouldn't run the book, but when they found out she was married to a black man, they said it was okay) or just not taking risks.

So the books I mentioned in the last post (the anne harris book features sumerians), plus books by Nalo Hopkinson (caribbean-canadian, featuring themes of afro-caribbean myth), octavia butler (african-american, and very often featuring black heroines and multicultural casts) tananarive due (horror mostly), her husband stephen barnes, and others write outside the box, but more often than not their work is shoved into the "ethnic interest" sections, which of course is the last place they should be because often the "ethnic" people are already alienated by sci-fi! It's a catch-22.

Okay, sorry, end geek report.

At 9/08/2004 01:54:00 PM, Blogger Sid said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 9/09/2004 10:26:00 PM, Blogger Bijan C. Bayne said...

I'm a Boston native too. Keep up the good blogs. As for ADD and the like, I doubt there was a definition for this before there was a public school system.



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