Sunday, April 13, 2008

Potlatch part three

The rest of the workshop, with a break for Thai food.
The post-disaster story was structurally sound, so comments were mostly about surface detail, using more sensory detail and more nuts-and-bolts (rivets?) to bring the bleak and barely-subsistence level existence across to the reader. A point that had only occurred to me on the 3d reading was whether the nomads wandering the Polluted wore any clothes, since they didn't appear to have time or resources for either weaving or tanning skins (plus the ecology seemed to be humans and insects, no birds or other mammals, so no skins except human, which I think are pretty fragile). If they had no clothes or cloth, then the clothed man and the cloth-bundled baby represented a substantial boost in personal wealth, because cloth is damned useful if you're a gatherer. That came up in discussion, as did the social structure of the small nomadic groups, based on lions and/or baboons. Nobody else mentioned the setting as being overexposed, or overdone, so the story must have been strong enough to carry it.
The ambiguous ending line was added after previous workshop crits said the ending was too harsh without it, but one of the Potlatch critiquers was sure it meant they had died anyway. I wasn't sure, but I'm okay with uncertainty and ambiguity, so didn't feel the need to decide for myself.

The best friends story got strong crit on two grounds: the resolution happening offstage, and the science being handwavium. Fortunately, one of the instructors was knowledgeable about biology and came up with some potential fixes to make the deadly planet believable if still hand-wavy. A longish letter at the end of the story was unanimously scrapped; it was another response to previous workshop crits, but created more problems than it solved, or rather, intensified the existing problem of major story elements happening offstage.
I was a bit pleased to learn that the story had originally been envisioned from the mother's pov (the author being a young mother, imagining facing a terrible choice about her child's future) because I'd seen what I thought were traces of that pov.

Afterwards there was some general chat about Clarion, both instructors having been at Clarion and Potlatch having long-held ties with Clarion West. I ended up in Hospitality chatting about Viable Paradise, though I'd just missed the semi-scheduled Viable Paradise discussion.

So that was the programmed thing that I did at Potlatch. Other things that happened:
Lynn and Tony have a bird-feeder that attempts to be squirrel-proof. Sitting and reading Friday morning, I watched a squirrel perform rhythmic gymnastics while hanging under the feeder, buckteeth scraping at the remainder of the seed-lump behind the bars. Eventually I opened the door and spoke to it, since gesticulating through the window wasn't effective. As Lynn and I left the house the next morning, grey squirrels frisked merrily about on the roadway. A bald eagle skidded out of the sky, scraped across the tarmac, and climbed again, limp grey fur hanging from its talons. We cheered.
Bart was shop-monkey for Elise Matthesen, a position that has DESTINY hanging over it (go, Avocado!) and oversaw the earring haiku challenge. He was inducted into the mysteries of naming earrings via the (bonsai?) Recombinant Title Generator, and enthusiastically promoted haiku during his tenure.
Not having pierced ears, I resisted this for a time, and then overcompensated by writing two tanka (because tanka come in pairs and so do earrings) for the title 'Tiger Waltz'. I won't quote them here, because theoretically they may be part of the haiku challenge chapbook someday. I thought they weren't bad, though they took me ages.
Elise told us one of the secrets of selling jewelry at conventions. But I can't tell you, because it's a secret. She also recited one of her performance poems, a sly and funny piece about tanks and babies and other penis-substitutes, and told us about the time Maya Angelou crashed her birthday party.
Evan discovered the rarity of M-size t-shirts at conventions. He and I helped sort and stack the Potlatch shirts, and there was only one M, which was already spoken for. Fortunately the L wasn't too big on him. We lingered in the Dealers' room, learned about the difficulties of small independent bookshops, and got some amazing deals on books (though not without a melancholy tinge).
Also melancholy and amazing was the stack of books on a table beside Registration, the remaining library of late fan Anita Rowland: Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen, Robertson Davies, craft and comic books, a diversity that said I'd missed the chance to know an interesting person, and could only make do with her gift of books.
Seattle doesn't have Powells, but is still thick with dangerous bookshops. I fell among bad companions (Mac, Medievalist, and others) and was led astray into Twice-Sold Tales, where I found a copy of The Lisle Letters (the abridged version, not the multi-volume complete edition) for only $10 and full of tasty Elizabethan prose and domestic detail, oh, and politickal manoeuvres. And Medievalist gave me a book--the Huntington Library's book on the Ellesmere Canterbury Tales. It's lovely, with full-colour repros of the pilgrim portrait pages and, most book-geekily delightful, of the endpapers (endparchments?) stained and mended and tattered.
All available VPers and sympathisers in the hotel bar made a pact to be at least halfway through a current or new work by the time VPXII arrived. This was sworn in chocolate, so it must be binding.
What else? Friday night there was a quest for bubble tea. It was achieved, but I didn't partake, because bubble tea falls, for me, just in the wrong part of the solid-viscous-liquid range. I rather like tomato juice if I don't think about it, but. So I had a barley tea, pleasant though a bit earnest, and regretted not having the hot ginger milk, because, ginger! I had that the next day and it was good.

I travelled to and from Seattle on the Clipper, taking advantage of a half-price coupon from the previous year, when storms delayed the sailing for a few hours and forced a long and roundabout route sheltering between islands. This return sailing was only a little rough, and passengers were encouraged to stay in their seats and wait for the staff to come to them, not go trotting about fetching themselves tea and other hot drinks.
An unexpected pleasure was the chance to just sit and read, first on the Clipper coming over, because the nearest sockets weren't the right kind for my laptop, and later on Friday morning, while Tony napped, because it was too early to show up for the convention.
I finished reading The Wizard Hunters, by Martha Wells, and was just knocked over by the worldbuilding and the tidy way it was laid in. I finally read Deep Secret, by Diane Wynne Jones, a book that had taken some time for me to get into, because I didn't get on with the first narrator. Oh, and finished Across the Wall, by Garth Nix. That must be the most concentrated bout of reading I've done for some time.
Last time I was over for Potlatch, Lynn had to lend me a dufflebag to hold the books and fabric I'd bought. So this year I brought it back empty. But then I bought books, and took books from the giveaway table. So she had to lend me the dufflebag again, because I had more books than would fit into the Potlatch totebag (Cthulhu memorial con bag). Apparently I have no self-control.
Fortunately, I discovered that Elise also likes odd notebooks, so I can cull my collection and send them to her, hurrah! I just found a great lenticular cover with spiders on it.

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