World Fantasy Convention 2009, Part 2

Moving along here: on Thursday the 29th, I went to the Winchester Mystery House. Let’s save that for a post unto itself: it was fascinating. I’d read a lot about it, and I’d wanted to see it for a long time. Never did I dream that one day the World Fantasy Convention would be held in the same city! I couldn’t not take the opportunity to go there! I went on that Thursday morning before the Con got started. The hotel desk person was very helpful in giving me directions. She looked up bus stops and times on her computer.

By the way, I need to add here that the Fairmont Hotel yesterday sent a message to the WFC organizers that they asked be passed along to all the members — it was a note of appreciation for how nice the attendees of WFC were! I thought that was really cool. The Fairmont hosts a great many conventions. (The counterman in the restaurant across the street was telling me how they get quite a few famous people through there, people from all over the world.) And the staff made a point of telling us that often, guests treat them like servants, or don’t see them at all. But they were deeply impressed that the World Fantasy people looked them in the eye, said hi to them, chatted with them in elevators, smiled when they passed, and said “thank you.” Apparently these things are not common sense, not a matter of course! So there you have it: people in the fantasy industry are good folks! (I know I did all those things — I appreciate it when someone gives me directions in a strange city, or makes my bed, or washes my towels, or brings me more packets of coffee. . . .)

So anyway, I got up early and took a bus at around 8:00. I wasn’t at all sure I’d gotten on the right bus, because it came earlier than it was supposed to (which never happens in Niigata). But the driver was incredibly nice. I didn’t have two one-dollar bills for the fare, so he said, “Just ride for free.” He talked with me on the way, which I didn’t expect — Japanese drivers aren’t allowed to do that — and he told me exactly where to get off. He even made a special stop for me within a few hundred yards of the Winchester House!

On the way back, another TVA driver told me which bus to get on — very helpful. I did get the gritty San Jose experience when one customer had heated words with the driver about getting his free day pass, and even moreso when a young white male, in his late teens or early twenties, made an absolute jerk of himself by riding his bicycle at a very slow pace in the middle of the lane right in front of the bus. The bus couldn’t pass him. The driver was Hispanic, and I’m pretty sure it was a racial thing — although the cyclist was inconveniencing everyone on board, regardless of ethnicity. The driver never blew his cool. He just drove along at the pace the cyclist allowed him, and he didn’t respond to the faces the cyclist made at him or to the rude gestures. One time, at a traffic light, the driver waved to the cyclist in a gesture that conveyed, “Why don’t you step aboard the bus?” This went on for a good ten minutes. The other riders on the bus were just clucking their tongues and shaking their heads in exasperation. Finally, the obnoxious cyclist planted himself in front of the bus at an intersection while the light was green — blocking us, blocking every vehicle behind us — and kept making faces at the driver, adjusting his hat, adjusting his earphones, etc. The light turned yellow, and just as it was about to go red, the cyclist rode off and turned right, off the bus route. So we had to wait through the red light. That’s something you don’t see in Niigata.

I had a great time browsing through the dealers’ room back at the convention. Now that I’ve been there for several years, there are booksellers I know and enjoy catching up with. The wonderful couple who own Ygor’s Books graciously offered to sell Dragonfly for me again, so I turned over the five copies I’d brought along, and they wouldn’t take a cent of the revenue, though I offered them 50%. We ended up selling three of the copies, plus I signed one that someone bought from another dealer, and I signed one that a guy had brought along with him to the Con from home. [I also signed two copies of Fantasy & Science Fiction for an attendee — the ones with my stories in them, of course!]

I bought two Arthur Machen books in the dealers’ room. I’d been reading some of his work recently and really liking it, so I thought this was a good opportunity. (By the way, at one of the panels, I learned how to pronounce his name. It’s apparently pronounced “Macken” — it rhymes with “blacken.” These were scholars talking specifically about how to pronounce it, so I have every reason to believe that’s right.)

Thursday night, my reading was scheduled in the Market Street Foyer. That was kind of odd, since readings are usually scheduled in rooms. The foyer was basically a hallway — flared wide at that point, with a chandelier overhead. It was outside a big ballroom. As I understand it, the organizers’ thinking was that the foyer venue might help to draw in people who were just passing by. I honed and timed and practiced and practiced my reading, and I thought the delivery itself went extremely well. But I just had 9 people, including the sound lady and Eddie (my agent) — so really, 7 people who came of their own volition and didn’t know me. To be fair, my reading was opposite the Google Books settlement meeting. I’m sure that drew some people away.

More to follow soon — please watch this space!



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11 Responses to “World Fantasy Convention 2009, Part 2”

  1. Jedibabe Says:

    Welcome home Fred! Good to have you back “on site”. Glad you had a good trip.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thanks, Jedibabe! I’m champing at the bit to get more installments of the report up here, but I’ve just been frightfully busy–it’s not easy leaving for a week in the middle of the school term! But very soon. . . .

  2. Rich Heinz Says:

    Interesting: Machen’s name is pronounced correctly (auf Deutsch.) But I’ll bet anything you had been using the pronunciation of our beloved Greek professor, talking about the sainted “Professor J. Gresham (May-chen.)”

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Rich, you are absolutely right! I was pronouncing it with the same internal sounds as the name “Rachel.” So was the panelist who brought it up–that was the way he’d always pronounced it, too.

  3. Another fantasy writer Says:

    Apparently, I’ve always pronounced it correctly–perhaps due to my having taken two years of German in high school, maybe?

  4. I see you know the way to San Jose Says:

    Whilst I, with little command of my one language, would, upon seeing the name, have pronounced it “auf Deutsch” and I dunno who the dude even iz.

  5. fsdthreshold Says:

    There’s something I’m not buying about this “German” thread. Machen in German (I’m talking about the verb, as in Wir machen eine Reise) is pronounced “MAH-ken,” with that little throat-clearing sound on the ch. My point about Arthur Machen’s name is that it’s (reportedly) pronounced with a short a (unlike the German “ah”) and a hard “ck” — again, the panelist said it rhymes with “blacken.”

    The things one argues about on-line, eh? 🙂

    • I see you know the way to San Jose Says:

      Allow me to correct meself: I would, upon seeing the name, NOT rhyme it with “blacken” as the panelist said. I dunno who that means I agree with, only that, in my mind, I silenty hear “MAH-ken” with that infamous German hack.

    • Tim in Germany Says:

      Since the conversation has turned to infamous German hacks, I thought I’d weigh in with a couple eurocents.

      I don’t actually know Arthur Machen, but the fact that everyone else here does makes me think I’d better get my hands (und Augen) on some soon.

      Meanwhile, I’m still having trouble getting past the image of Fred reading for seven people. That sucks. I gave the only noteworthy reading of my short-lived fiction writing career for eleven people in the back room of a foul-smelling seaside restaurant in Slovenia. And there was no earth shattering legal wrangle scheduled opposite my fifteen minutes.

      Anyway, I remember how awful that felt, so I’d just like to put in a hopeful word… Here’s hoping that two or three of Fred’s seven were so impressed they’re going to make some noise in the publishing world on his behalf.

  6. I see you know the way to San Jose Says:

    My good ranger (Tim): I, too, was shattered by the notion of only seven people listening to a reading from Fred.
    Proof, as Mr. Stephenson said of his daily khakis slacks: Many are called, but few are chosen.

  7. Chris Says:

    I am fascinated at the Google process. Scripps Oceanography recently had a little sign up indicating part of their collection was out being scanned by Google. This is an amazing time when complete libraries may one day be online. But also a bit scary for the authors no doubt.

    One of the projects I heard of recently in my life in digital printing was the concept of “on-demand books”. There’s a manufacturer that makes a “book making machine” called “Espresso”. One merely orders the book and it makes it for you while you wait from digital content. (Apparently Google even got one of these machines in their campus offices for the employees to play with!)

    Some day your local “bookstore” might be as small as a coffee shop that has on-line browsing and if you want to buy a book you tell the nice computer what you want and by the time you finish your coffee and scone you have a paperback to take home “hot off the press”.

    I assume this is for us trogs who don’t buy an e-reader first.

    Weird, weird days.

    On the up-side, however, I recently hooked up on a project here at work that is for book papers (I even learned that textbook publishers prefer book paper of a specific thickness to hit targets of “ppi” –pages per inch–, there’s an organization that establishes this for textbooks here in the U.S.!)

    On the downside, sadly, the other half of the project is for “direct mail”. So if all goes well I can feel like I’m working doing “The Lord’s Work” in service of books while I sell my soul in support of direct mail (love books, but hate direct mail with a vicious, vicious passion…but I suppose one has to pay for heaven with a bit of time in hell. No free lunches.)

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