In which I eat bugs for research.
As those who know me know, I'm not the most social of persons. At WFC last year I would have been content to attend panels and buy books, but Mark pushed me into socialising and buying people drinks and so on. Which is also entertaining, because I will admit, yes, that whatever socialisation I possess comes from the Society for Creative Anachronism and from fandom--which is why I am such a geek.
The advantage of socialising in geek circles is that it hugely reduces the occasions on which I lie awake reviewing every word, glance, and gesture I've made for social faux pas. Because mostly no one notices.
Anyway. It's been said that the lessons of Viable Paradise are time-release processes, that they unpack over months and years (like that friend of my husband who fell out of his chair laughing in Music Theory class because he'd just gotten a PDQ Bach joke).
The friendships also unpack. VPXers whom I didn't get to know during VP itself become acquaintances and friends over time spent online and at cons. The network expands, busy little spiders sticking strands to strands to strands.
That being the long way around of saying that I got to hang out with Dru, a damn fine roomie, and chat with Zak and Sharon--one of the WFC giveaways was the latest Realms of Fantasy, with Sharon's name on the cover!--and meet VPers of both single and double digits (or triple & quadruple if you use the Roman numerals). I missed the VP dinner, because of having no watch and no sense of time, but made the gathering in Zak and Sharon's hotel room, where I had a rather nice half-glass of mead. I met some of the Fighting Thirteens, and a fine bunch they are, and well-named.
I failed to buy drinks for either Tim Powers or Mary Robinette Kowal, though both of them came and went repeatedly to the table in the bar that the VPers had laid claim to, and Mr. Powers very kindly gave me the bullet points on how he does research, in quick bursts of knowledge between dashes back to the editors & publishers table.
I learned that from the back I can be mistaken for Sherwood Smith. I don't see the resemblance myself, but then I can't see me from the back. She also dresses with far more flair than I do--but I did get Lucy's okay on the clothes I brought, which were intended to look moar srs than the usual dressed-out-of-the-laundry-basket look that's all I can usually manage.
World Fantasy has a couple of distinct features.
One is the Giant Bag of Books that attendees are given, which they can then swap and trade as they wish (there's a swap table where you can leave your surplus, and would it surprise you at all to know that almost everyone who put books on there stacked them appropriately and tidily? and sorted by type, with all the zines and journals on one side and books on the other?)
One is that there's one giant autograph session where all the authors of whatever degree sit at tables with their names and whatever display they are inclined to put together, and sign books and chat. I was able to get books signed for friends by Sherwood Smith, Tim Powers, and Jane Lindskold (the next day), and thank Garth Nix for signing Zoe's book last year. Got books selfishly signed for myself from Elizabeth Lynn and Patricia McKillip, and found myself buying Elaine Isaak's new book The Eunuch's Heir, and Dan Wells' I Am Not a Serial Killer--he had a brilliant elevator pitch, I have to say.
On my last circuit (because I am utter pants at finding people in giant rooms) I spotted Lucy sitting among the others, with a name card in front of her, but I had nothing for her to autograph for me (sob!) This year the organisers made 'tent cards' (now I know what they're called, I feel so informed) for everyone. On the way out I picked up my owny-own tent card so I could pretend I was real. Or practice for being real, however one cares to phrase it. I'm going to have to think about what looked good on the tables. A good many authors don't seem to think about presentation at all.
Wandering past the bar I stopped to take a picture of some luminaries of Canadian genre publishing representing themselves as the three wise monkeys, and ended up going for dinner with their party, which expanded as it went. Janice had come out wearing the light dress she'd put on for the Edge party, and outside was chilly. Brian Hades was taking his jacket off for her, but I was carrying my sweater, and offered that, thus becoming part of the Janice Effect, which is that when she needs something she has only to look around to have it supplied--this was explained by Mr. Hades (the princess Errigenie in Willow Knot has a similar effect, so I understood). Someone (at the Edge party?) had been singing first-aid songs, and someone else had been captioning them, so two of the women were practicing the ASL(?) sign for internal bleeding, which I now know, though I'm not sure I'm doing it with the correct hand. A party where you learn the signs for emergency medicine simply has to be a great party.
At the Mexican restaurant, Brian Hades gave us the Cole's notes version of his grandfather's life story, which really should be a Great Canadian Novel, possibly by Robertson Davies. What can be better than a boy orphaned by a fire joining the circus to become a fire-eater and magician, travelling with Gypsies, riding the rails and eventually becoming a fireman?
Two young girls were going from table to table doing card tricks, and Janice taught one of them a trick with a knife (paging Michael Ondaatje for an obligatory CanLit ref) to add to her repertoire. (you can do it with a pencil, but there were knives on the table)
The menu had grasshoppers listed, with a parenthetical yes they are grasshoppers. Unlike the eels I had in Norfolk, the grasshoppers had no immediate research application, but how often does the chance come one's way? So I was one of the three at the table who ordered the grasshopper appetiser (I also had chicken soup, to soothe me in case the grasshoppers weirded me out.) You'll want to know, I expect?
So. They come in a bowl, with guacamole and thick nacho chips. They are fried in oil, and look like a bowl full of small brown bugs. The way of eating them is to dip the nacho in the guacamole, and scoop up grasshoppers with it. This triggered my squick somewhat, because clinging to the guacamole they look very bug-like. It was easier to spoon them than dip them.
Mostly they tasted of oil and salt. The texture was crunchy. They're cooked complete (well, imagine the labour of peeling or de-legging individual grasshoppers) but the legs of the smaller ones come off when they're stirred about, so there's a scatter of tiny legs clinging to the edge of the bowl, which was also slightly squicky. When I was able to examine some of the larger ones, they were quite brown except for the abdomen(?) which was paler, more greyish or greenish. I imagine that was the actual food-part.
There were a few moments when I thought 'I have bugs in my mouth' but generally I was more conscious of just how salty they were. I expect they'd be better with beer, if I liked beer. I ate about half the bowl, and took the rest away to eat cold the next morning, wrapped in a tortilla. They aren't bad cold, but I'd like to know what they taste like without the salt and oil.