Saturday, March 29, 2008

Potlatch, late and from the outskirts

Since the Avocado has picked up the task of being entertaining about Potlatch, I can maunder with a clear conscience. Thanks, Bart!
The thing is that if you asked me to define the essential function or the engine of an sf convention, I would say 'the panels'. Clearly that isn't so for everyone. Some would say 'hospitality', or 'the dealers' room', or 'the video programming' (okay, that one is rather dated now). But for me it's always been the panels, perhaps because they match up in my mind with the lectures at a university, which are what 'university' is, back to the time when universities had no formal buildings, only lecturers.
Potlatch has one track of programming, and a track of readings, of which I attended ... none. So in that sense, I didn't attend Potlatch this year. I was in the vicinity of Potlatch, and I had a membership, but what I did was hang out with people, acquire books, and eat a lot of Japanese food.
Okay, and attended the writing workshop. That was the most directly con-related activity.

The hotel: Hotel Deca, and it's very Art Deco indeed. You could film noir there, and probably someone has. It is a tower, and makes a good landmark for navigating. Hospitality was on the top floor, with a panoramic view obstructed only by another tower.

People I got to hang out with: Lynn and Tony were my wonderful hosts and pickup and dropoff and decompressing at the end of the day people. I was able to visit Lynn's place of work, marvelously neo-Gothic cloisters on the outside, carpets and computers on the inside. At the con, I met up with Evan at Registration, Elise in the Dealers' Room, and in rapid succession, Bart, Mac, and Lisa. When Lynn found me in the ballroom, she commented that I was with a group of 'Barbara-sized people' and while I'd hesitate to claim the dimensions in my own name, it was true that the lot of us who were standing together (almost in a row, to make it all more-so) were within a couple of inches of the same height. (Lynn's quite a bit taller than me, and her hair is longer.)
There was going out for Japanese food and Indian food and bubble tea, and there was exploring of bookshops, and there was acquiring a bagful of books, even though I'd meant to return Lynn's extra bag to her (it was full of fabric when I borrowed it last year, and this year it was full of books). I discovered that Bart and Elise and Lynn all know about technical aspects of airplanes and flight, which was entertaining to listen to. And that I should swallow my food completely before listening to Bart once he gets going, or at least be sure that someone at the table can do the Heimlich.

Writing workshop: two sessions were scheduled, because of the high number of applicants, so when I received the stories for critting, I found out that instead of L. Timmel DuChamp and Jay Lake, the instructors would be Suzy McKee Charnas and Mary Rosenblum. Which was cool, because I was already familiar with Charnas, and liked The Vampire Tapestry since reading "The Ancient Mind at Work" of the stories in Omni (a while back, obviously).
And a darned good thing there were two sessions, because I'd managed to forget any previous mention of the scheduling, and while the workshops were supposedly occurring (Friday, before the programming), I was at a local Indian restaurant (Jewel of India?) with Evan and random people met in the hospitality suite, eating really excellent food. The enjoyment was tempered, about 6:15 pm, by my finding the workshop info (at last!) in the program book, and realising that I had missed it, or rather, that it was ending in 15 minutes.
People who know me may not be surprised to discover that what I was really bothered about was the idea of the other attendees waiting for me fruitlessly, and having wasted the effort of writing crits of my story. Agghh, guilt! I tried blaming the layout of the program book, but it was a rearguard action, valiantly fought but not terribly effective.
Saturday morning, waiting in the lobby for people who had spoken vaguely of breakfast the night before, I unburdened myself to a concom member, and learned that one session (mine!) had been rescheduled, because Suzy had been either delayed or exhausted by her trip. So it would be Saturday at 10 am, in the Isabella suite.
Immense relief followed. Nobody was cursing my name and considering me unreliable and uncommitted. Whoof. There was even time for breakfast.
The stories: four in all. Mine, slightly revised since Nick's comments, was "Climbing Boys", because I figured it needed more work than Chimps, which is pretty straightforward. The others were:
"The Other City", a post-disaster wasteland setting, with wandering foragers outside a walled city of doctrinal and genetic purity, searching for the mythical city without walls, where they could live in safety. Focus on a young woman of the Polluted, and a man cast out of the walled city. Writing was quite competent and smooth and I thought it would be best marketed to literary magazines, because sf readers will have seen so much of it before. It reminded me most of the movie Glen and Randa, though I don't suppose the writer had ever seen that one.
"Best Friends Forever", where the focus is on two little girls, best friends facing separation because Earth is being evacuated. Again, solid writing, and the child's eye view pretty well handled, though it wavered, and I wasn't surprised to learn that it had originally been conceived as being from the mother's pov.
"The Old Man and the Island", a reporter follows up on an abandoned story about a mysterious and possibly deadly recluse on the northwest coast, discovering a grim tale of cannibalistic rites and stolen power. I think. This story was the most challenging, because it was assorted compelling ideas and images, tossed into a bag and shaken. When I learned that it had started life as a radio script, many things made more sense (the plot wasn't one of them, though).

More later. Dinner right now.

No comments: