in Blog, Books, Writing Craft

Arisia 2015

Importing this post from LJ; please excuse the markup.

I hadn’t been to Arisia in… possibly a decade? I know the last time I went it was at the Ziggurat/Q-bert Hotel/the terrible Hyatt in Cambridge, and there was a snowpocalypse that weekend, and we drove home to Watertown in that. At that time, I promised I wouldn’t go back until it was not at that hotel. That took five years or so, and at that time I wasn’t attending many conventions besides LARP ones.

But this year, the delightful Phoebe R. had a show, Mrs. Hawking, going up on Friday night, and having read the script, I really wanted to see it performed. Plus, N.K. Jemisin, whose work I enjoy, was the author GOH, and I thought she would have some interesting things to say. And, of course, there’s the fact that nearly all my friends go — the ones that aren’t doing Mystery Hunt, that is.

So I bought a membership very last minute, and went! I had an amazing time, too. There was some concern that I wouldn’t be able to make it to the con in time for Mrs. Hawking, but I was able to work remotely from the hotel on Friday afternoon, so that worked out well.

Things wot I did:

– A long-ish wait in the registration line with my roomie natbudin on Friday night, in which I ran into approximately everyone I knew, ever.

– Went to Mrs. Hawking, which was wonderful to see staged, especially the action scenes. Things like the scene at the club — where Mrs. Hawking uses a knife as a step to climb up into the rafters — worked surprisingly well with the set. (I suppose not that surprising, since the set was basically a deconstructed jungle gym). If I have any complaints, it’s that the sound wasn’t great, and I ended up having to move to the front rows to hear better.

– Attended the “Tricksters of All Trades” panel on Friday night, with Jemisin, Andrea Hairston, Daniel José Older, Vikki Ciaffone, and Catt Kingsgrave. What an entertaining panel! A lot of it was Older and Hairston talking about Yoruba gods and Santeria orisha who were tricksters, like Eshu and Elegba. This was fine with me, since they were clearly very excited about the topic, and brought that to the table. It succeeded in making me want to read Older’s new book, Half-Resurrection Blues, if nothing else! Jemisin talked about the tricksters in the Inheritance trilogy — primarily Sieh — and very obligingly told us all to cover our ears at the right point if we didn’t want to be spoiled on The Awakened Kingdoms. (I’m making my way through The Broken Kingdoms right now).

– Went to Tess’ Friday night party — sadly, never made it to laura47‘s — which was mostly WPI grads and related folks. I talked with Brian E., who was wearing a great Earthforce uniform, about the Elder Scrolls for a while (“are you in the Morrowind camp, the Skyrim camp, or the wrong camp?”) and to hanasaseru about Cottington Woods. I drank moscato and a Dark & Stormy that was mostly rum; sprrwhwk showed up later in the evening, and we ended the evening chatting in his room, drinking most of a bottle of Templeton Rye — the favorite drink of Al Capone, I’m told!

– I spent most of Saturday with the worst hangover of my life — and blind, because I had thrown out my disposable contacts before I realized I’d forgotten to bring my glasses or any other pairs with me 🙁 As a result I went to very few events, but in the afternoon, I was able to catch up with juldea, who had a similar prescription to me, and used the same brand of disposables, and gave me some of hers.

– I did stop in at the “Avoiding Culturefail” panel, but I ended up feeling so sick I had to leave. It didn’t help that the room was approximately 300 degrees, I couldn’t see the panelists, and they kept talking not about how to avoid culturefail in writing SFF, but the ethnic makeup of the U.S. post-WWII. While that could be an interesting topic, a) that wasn’t what the panel was about, and b) it wasn’t.

– Able to see and feeling half-human, I went to Jemisin’s reading at 4pm. She had three unpublished pieces in the world of the Inheritance trilogy she could read, and she let the audience vote on which — one from the POV of Glee (Oree’s daughter), one from the POV of Nahadoth, and one from the POV of… a character I haven’t met yet. Well, since I’m not far enough along in The Broken Kingdoms that I wanted spoilers about Oree or her offspring, I voted for Naha, and so did most of the audience. So we listened to a really cool piece, set before The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (I think? Time is wibbly-wobbly if you’re a god), which was about him being convinced to fight back against the Arameri.

I had questions I wanted to ask about the piece in the Q&A, but unfortunately, we were subjected instead to inane questions like, “What do you think the future of books is?” (To which Jemisin replied, “… could you be a little more specific?”) and “Why did you decide to write this piece?” (“For the same reason I write anything?”)

– A Codex dinner was planned, but fell through; I ended up having drinks at the bar with John Murphy, Joy Marchand and her husband, and the aforementioned Kevin (who it is uncanny to hear called “Kellan.” I will never get used to calling friends by their pen names). I tried to convince Joy to come to Intercon or Festival, as she was interested in trying out LARP; John told us about the “Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That” anime panel, which apparently went pretty far off the rails, and didn’t actually discuss short series, like it had promised to. Instead we gave him some of our suggestions — Baccano, Spice & Wolf, Madoka, and of course I had to mention Hellsing and Gankutsuou 🙂

– I went to PMRP’s gender-swapped radio play of “Space Seed,” the famous classic Trek episode that introduced Khan. It was delightful — nothing like gender reversal to really make it clear how creepy 1960s sexism was! Adria–who I know from NPCing Shadows of Amun, and who most people know for being on The Quest — played Spock, and was delightful in that role. Liz Salazar (I think that was her name?) who played Khan was amazing too, as was the gentleman who played the unfortunate historical officer Khan seduces.

– I browsed the art show, since the dealer’s room wasn’t open that late on Saturday night. I especially liked the photography series of cosplayers/costumers in costume and in street clothes. I also really enjoyed the exhibit for the artist GOH, Lee Moyer, who I did not realize had done the cover for The Broken Kingdoms and for one of the Kushiel books. And, apparently, several Lovecraft collections; there were a few HPL-with-tentacles portraits. If I had $375, I would have taken one home! I also enjoyed his series of gender-swapped classic author pinups (i.e. Miss Carroll, Miss Dumas).

– While in the art show, I noticed a guy dressed in what I noticed immediately was cavalier-era garb (I guessed 1620s at first). This is impressive, because while Arisia has a lot of cosplay, most of it (that isn’t re-creation) tends towards the medieval or steampunk; the cavalier era doesn’t get a lot of love. I asked him about it, and he told me he was part of the Salem Trayned Band, a re-enactment group of one of the first civilian militias in the U.S., dating to around 1630. I missed their pike demonstration, alas, but I saw him later on the “So You Think You Can Write A Fight” panel.

I turned in early on Sunday, due to my severe lack of sleep the night before, and was up, feeling mostly human, at 9am the next day…

– The first panel I made it out to on Sunday was the end of the “So You Think You Can Write A Fight” discussion, where audience members read fight scenes they had written, and the panelists critiqued them. Among the panelists I recognized not only Uncle Jim (who I expected), but also aforementioned re-enactor (Mark Millman?), giving advice on halberds, and Gie, who I knew not as an editor for an SFF erotica magazine (which she apparently is!) but as someone I played Masquerade with, back in the day. To me she will always be the Assamite cheerleader who wanted to be a Toreador. Who also, apparently, knows a lot about martial arts and writes lesbian vampire pr0n.

– I ran into John Murphy again at this panel, and together we ended up going to “Tales from the Slush Pile,” held in a room which was entirely too small for its popularity. Gie was on this panel, as well as Joy Marchand, Cecilia Tan, Joy Crelin, Hildy Silverman, and Inanna Arthen. Since many of these editors dealt in erotica, a lot of the examples of terribleness from the slush pile were bad smut. Although, kudos to Gie for pointing out that sometimes the line between ridiculous and hot is paper-thin.

– I spent some time in my room writing after this. I wanted to prep for my 4pm event (more on that in a minute), but I happened to look at the writing prompts for this week’s round of the Codex flash contest, and one of them sparked an idea for a short piece in the world of Lioness, telling the story of how Yfre ended up accused of treason and nearly hanged. The prompt in question was “someone has made a terrible mistake and someone else must pay for it,” which is pretty much the definition of what happened to Yfre. I knew I couldn’t make it 750 words without ruining it, however, so I was in no hurry to finish that day. Which is fine, because nevacarusoand Nat came back to the room around then, and we ended up chatting about various things.

– I headed off at 4pm to my final event of the con — the pitch session with Nora Jemisin, which I had to sign up for ahead of time. To be fair, this was really more of a practice pitch session — as she pointed out, she’s not an agent or an editor, and her agent is pretty much not taking new clients. (I did query her already!) So I got my ten minutes with her, pitching G&F. My pitch came in under five minutes, which was the perfect length, and she said she was intrigued by it, but offered suggestions for making it better. One of the best pieces of advice she gave me was when I asked how to deal with the fact that there are two protagonists, but trying to focus on both in a query letter comes out muddled. She suggested I send the Serevic-focused one to male agents, and the Mirasa-focused one to female agents — because everyone wants to read a story with a character of their own gender. I had never thought of doing that before, but it makes perfect sense.

I mentioned I was also a VP grad, and we chatted very briefly about that. (I asked her if The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was her submission piece; she told me it was actually The Killing Moon, it just took a lot longer to sell).

All in all, she was cordial and complimentary of my pitch, which left me a bit reeling! I tried not to be too much of a fangirl, but I did tell her in parting how much I enjoyed her work.

And that was the end of the con for me! I had to go home Sunday night because someone was coming to my house the next day to fix my central vac. Also it’s pretty much all I feel up for writing, because I have come down with a cold and feel like my head is stuffed with cotton.