So, it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve also been a lot less active on twitter, there’s been 3 untitled and unfocused episodes that we’ve recorded and I haven’t edited, and I spent most of a Christmas party hiding in a room to get a way from the cacophony. I’ve been quite busy in my avoidance of doing much.
Good day, gentle readers! Today I’m finally bringing you my long overdue recap of the wonderful NerdCon; Stories 2015. This post is long and a bit ramble-y, so most I’ll sum it up at the top by saying that this was one of the best conventions I’ve ever been to, all of the presenters were amazing, and driving 3000 miles can give you a pinched nerve in your shoulder.
The first few days are road trip related, skip to the middle if you just want to read about NerdCon.
This story is brought to you by FLASH (NON)FICTION CHALLENGE: TELL A STORY FROM YOUR LIFE at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds. When I was younger, I used to be a bit of a drinker. This story, along with many others, is part of the reason why I’ve been sober for almost two years. –FY
Nothing says St Patrick’s day like a Dropkick Murphys show. A whole minivan’s worth of my friends scraped together enough money for tickets and enough money for a few bottles of liquor, but not enough to pay the outrages prices at the venue bar.
Nothing says St Patrick’s day like a bottle of Jameson, a bottle of Bailey’s, and a twelve pack of Guinness. When combined, they make one of two offensively named drinks, either the Irish Car Bomb, or the Belfast Bomber. Cultural sensitivity didn’t prevent me from downing three Car Bombs and four Bombers in the space of half an hour.
Somewhere around my fifth shot, I decided to play it smart. Outdoor shows mean smoking, smoking means dried contacts, dried out contacts mean pain. Glasses would just fall off my face and wind up broken on the ground. Smart meant blind. I could see well enough to tell a dog from a person, but that was about it.
By the time we drove to the venue, time dilation kicked in. We might have been in that minivan for fifteen minuted, or maybe fifteen hours, and I wouldn’t have known the difference if not for the glacial pace of the setting sun.
Somehow, I played sober enough to make it past the bouncers. We’ve stood through most of the first opening act when it dawns on me that I’ve consumed a large amount of liquid and my body is ready to be rid of it. This normally simple task is hindered by the fact that I can’t see and I’m wasted.
My friend LaRue offers to act as my guide for the long trek. I’ve since been to this venue sober and it’s less than one hundred yards across, but that night I walked over a mile to stand in line with the other concert goers that found themselves in the same state of needing relief.
Dusk fades about the time I make it to my large plastic stall. I break the seal. I drain the lizard. I do the euphemism of your choice for taking a long, satisfying piss. Reborn a new man, I emerge to darkness with nary a familiar face blur to be found.
I quickly realize I don’t have the attention span to wait him out, so I play a new game with the people around me called “Have you seen LaRue?”. Needless to say, no one was wining and I finally realized that stumbling around saying “I’m drunk, I’m blind, I can’t find my friend.” might not be leaving the best impression, especially with the guys in the bright Security shirts.
Time dilation starts fucking with me hardcore. Days pass, weeks pass, years of uninterrupted darkness. The first opener finishes their set and the second goes on stage. I’ve started mumbling “Seen LaRue?” and wandering off before the inevitable negative response or promise to keep an eye out for a stranger.
I turn, finding myself a few feet away from a hulking shadow.
A pause. The shadow tilts its head. “Can one really see oneself? Without a mirror, I mean.”
Apparently he’d been puking for the last long while in a port-a-potty. I couldn’t be mad, not when he self inflicted that kind of punishment.
We reunited with the rest of the group just before the headliner took the stage and we dispersed into the crowd. Before long I realized I didn’t actually know many of the Dropkick Murphys’ songs. Just one. Barroom Hero. Each song that came and went that wasn’t mine irritated me a little more. Still I pressed forward, every once in a while throwing an elbow to get deeper into the press of bodies.
Even at night, even in March, this was still Texas. Heat rolled off the ground. Heat rolled off the bodies sandwiched together. I hadn’t had a drop of water in hours. Lightheaded and wasted can be pretty similar, and it’s hard to notice you’re blacking out when the world’s a blur. I pitched forward, but the guy in front of me slammed me backwards into group of people that pressed me forward again. Tossed back and forth, like flotsam in a typhoon. Darkness.
I came to with stars overhead and a hand on each ass cheek. And a few hands on my shoulders, my back, and my legs. The dull roar of music still filled the air. I was crowdsurfing. They set me down where the crowd starts to thing, twenty yards or twenty miles from the stage.
Bravely, stupidly, I rejoin the press, fighting to get back to my original position before my song. Three rows from the stage, the heat overwhelms me and I find myself falling forward again, certain I’m going to die trampled under a legion of steel-toed boots.
Darkness. Cool air. Grasping hands. Crowdsurfing again. Two of my friends, having fought their way to me, grab my arms and drag me, meekly protesting, out of the venue. They’ve watched me fall twice, I’m not getting a third chance.
The band doesn’t play Barroom Hero until the second encore, while I’m staring down a slice of pepperoni pizza. I faintly hear it from the curb outside the venue. Darkness builds at the edge of my vison. I pitch forward, one last blackout before we head home for the night.
Nothing says St Patrick’s day like passing out face first in your food, missing the one song you actually came to see.
In other news: This weekend I had a pretty amazing time at Armadillocon.
For those of you that don’t know, Armadillocon is a SFF literary convention in Austin Texas. They’ve got an excellent writer’s workshop, a wide number of panels covering the business of writing for a living and dealing with social issues, and a chance to meet with authors, editors, and publishers. There’ve been quite a few other write-ups, but here’s the highlights of my weekend.
Marshall Ryan Maresca put on an amazing workshop this year. I got a chance to meet several published authors, several aspiring authors in the area, and generally have a great time. Special thanks to Marshall for putting the workshop on, Martha Wells and Rebecca Schwarz for leading my little critique group, everyone for taking the time to read and give feedback on my story (which felt like a hit, though definitely needs some work), Steven Brust for allowing me to mumble at him about how much I loved the Taltos books, Stina Leicht for being a fount of clever, Derek Johnson for some of the best advice on what not to do, and Ken Liu for an authorial Silent Bob. (by which I mean, during several of the workshop discussions he would sit and listen to different camps go back and forth on a point, then drop some poignant remark that effectively tied up and closed out the conversation)
It was well worth my time, inspiring, and I’d suggest that if you’re an aspiring author and find yourself in Texas next summer, you should sign up.
I scheduled myself from early morning until late into the night each day of the con. The panels covered topics from Research to Humor to Feminism to Silkpunk to Lovecraft to the Hugos and everything in between.
I learned so much, but my biggest takeaways were:
- Learn to be ok with failure and rejection
- You won’t know how good you are until you try
- Listen to others, especially if you are writing from their view point
- Talk to people after panels. You’ll make new friends.
Side note: If you ever get a chance to see a panel with Marguerite Reed or Justin Landon, it will be worth your time. If you get a chance to see a panel with Marguerite and Justin, it will be worth skipping out on something else that’s worth your time.
Another awesome thing that happened occurred while I was hanging out at the bar, downing a ginger beer and conversing with a few of the authors about life, writing plans, and the like, when someone brought up food. I mentioned that I was fine, as I’d had a grand total of three candy bars since that morning and should be able to grab something once I got home around 11pm. Fortunately for me, they insisted that I not starve myself to see more panels and we wound up at the hotel’s restaurant. So, a big thanks Derek, Gwen, Stina, Marguerite, and Marshall for letting the new kid tag along and break bread with you. The conversations were delightful, silly, and made me feel at home. Someday I hope to be able to do the same for someone just starting out (and to hang out with you all again). You folks rule.
I had a great time, learned quite a lot, and made new friends! All in all, a great experience.
I seem to have caught the con bug. Next stop: Nerdcon!
(but for now, back to the word mines)
— Fred Y.
Chunk Wendig posted a challenge last Friday. A non-fiction essay, no more than 1000 words, about why we write.
The short answer is: I write because I have stories in my head and I write because of a life long love of reading. See, there we go, all nice and wrapped up in less than fifty words.
But… that’s not the whole story, not really. For the whole story, we have to go back in time almost thirty years, and you’ll have to indulge me in accepting the truth of the memoir. (Events happened mostly like this, but we’re relying on my rather shaky remembrances)
When people ask me what my first real memory is, I tell them about a nightmare that I had when I was three or four. My parents read me to me every night since I learned to crawl, and that night was no exception. The book of the night was the classic story ‘The Three Little Pigs’. I listened raptly to the tale of a hungry wolf and three brother’s attempt to escape him. I was spellbound, but I felt a dark seed worm its way into my imagination. For you see, I was an anxious child, and preschool was only a few weeks away.
That night, I dreamt of my first day of school, but the wolf followed close. When we were let out for recess, spread far and wide, the wolf attacked and I ran and I ran, but the other kids ran faster. I was almost at the schoolhouse door when I saw the look of terror on the teacher’s face, the same instant I felt the wolf’s shadow fall over me. She slammed the door, sacrificing me to save the other children.
I woke up screaming.
My cries disturbed my parents, so my father came in to check on me. In between wailing sobs, I told him what was wrong. He smiled sympathetically, telling me there was nothing to fear, that it was a dream, and a story. Just a story. He wrapped me up in a bear hug. Nothing could comfort me. So he told me a new story, one of heffalumps and woozles that fought wolves and protected young children.
I calmed down. I went back to sleep. I learned the protective power of stories.
I tell people that’s my first memory because it’s a good one, but my first memory is of a plate shattering just a little too close to my head, thrown by one of my parents at the wall I happened to be cowering against as they fought. I’m positive they didn’t know I was there until I screamed in terror.
Many people have had it worse than I did. I always knew I was loved. They never blamed me for what they were going through. But they fought. Constantly. Come to think of it, that might explain why I grew up with mostly plastic cups. But I digress. This is just a variation on the same old story, kid has a not so spectacular home life, kid escapes into books.
And escape I did. I read voraciously. My parents learned to fear the scholastic book-fair. My mom got a job at a book store, mostly so she could bring me home stacks of stripped books because they couldn’t afford to keep up with my reading habit. I almost got run over while walking home in fifth grade, reading the collected Dragonlance Chronicles.
Time passed, and I realized these books did more than help me escape. They taught me the basics of learning (Imagine having to explain to your eight year old that he needed to look for context clues to figure out what “disemboweled” meant). They taught me to face my fears. They taught me to question.
I write to bring my fears into the open. I write to adventure into the unknown. I write to raise questions. I write because I can’t not write.
There are undiscovered worlds out there, waiting for us to find them. Technology and society are growing in changing in ways we can never predict. We need new tales, new interpretations, new voices.
I write because I’m sitting with the world around a campfire, telling tales to keep the shadows at bay.