WorldCon is large and serious. There were a few costumes -- ball gowns, Klingons, and fuzzy ears -- but far fewer than I expected. In fact, I felt like I had to wear my own fuzzy orange ears just to help lighten the tone.
The panels and readings I attended, however, were excellent: Cory Doctorow, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Connie Willis read chapters from the books they're working on; Dr. Demento and David Malki (of www.wondermark.com) discussed humor and science-fiction; Jay Lake repeatedly threatened to sing during the Hugo Awards ceremony; and Stanley Schmidt, the editor of Analog, explained what he means by "hard science-fiction" and his philosophy for encouraging promising writers. I don't know if I'll ever succeed in selling a story to Analog, but I learned this week that I've been coming closer than I thought. In fact, when I met Stanley Schmidt at one of the evening parties, he even recognized my name from all the submissions I've sent him over the years. I think I'm still in shock from that. He's been the name written on rejection slips that keep me writing short stories (as opposed to switching entirely to novels) for the last eight years. A mere scribble of ink. Then, suddenly, he was a real human being, leading panels with giant audiences, surrounded by people, and terribly important. But when I had the chance to introduce myself to him... he already knew who I was. Maybe it's silly, but that small amount of recognition really means a lot.
The other high point came when I went to collect my left-over books from the dealers' room. (I sold half of the books I brought with me to the convention!) As the bookseller was handing me back my leftover copies, a young boy -- probably about twelve -- came over to compliment my ears. He transitioned from complimenting my ears to trying to acquire them rather quickly, but I insisted they weren't for sale. As a consolation, I offered the boy an "Otters In Space" bookmark. When he realized that I had copies of the book right there, he asked how much they cost. I could see from his expression that $6 was a little rich for his pockets, but he cleverly offered to trade me a bushy, stripey tail he had. Apparently, he'd already acquired an upgrade tail -- that better matched the ears he was wearing -- during the con, so he didn't want his old one any more. And given that I had ears but no tail, this seemed like a pretty good deal to me. We made the trade and he took off, but moments later he came rushing back for my autograph. I hope he enjoys the book, because he absolutely made my day. Best sale ever.
Now that the con is over, we have one more evening in the surreal land of flashy lights and machines-begging-us-to-gamble before making the long drive back to normal life. Being shy, I have mixed feelings about cons -- they're exciting but they're also overwhelming. Part of me is sad to see the con end, but I'm also looking forward to getting back to my quiet, animal-filled house where I can settle down to working as hard as I can at writing short stories that interest Stanley Schmidt and novels that interest random twelve-year-olds wearing fuzzy ears.