Saturday, August 20, 2011

On the road again: Renovation (WorldCon), Reno, day 4

One thing you have to love about casino towns is the ability to get breakfast at any time of the day or night.

I slept as late as my obligations would permit, then caught up on work before showering and heading out. First stop was the Baen upcoming books panel, where Publisher Toni gave me the mic to talk about the paperback of Children No More, The Wild Side, and the upcoming No Going Back. The audience was great, as always, so the talk was fun, as was the rest of the slide show.

By the time the panel ended, we were past due for breakfast and lunch, so we found the casino diner that was still serving breakfast. That meal is always best in the early afternoon, so I quite enjoyed it.

Three of us headed out shortly thereafter to a local theater to catch Fright Night. I'll post my review of it in a later entry.

More work filled the time until we cabbed over to the other con hotel for the Hugo awards. I've gone to this ceremony at every WorldCon I've attended, which is all but about five of them since 1978, and I've always found it a touching celebration of the SF community. Of course, like so many other writers, I've also always imagined myself receiving one, but now, four books and somewhere around a dozen and a half stories into my SF writing career, I don't expect that will ever happen.

You can find the winners at many places online, including on the con's site, so I won't list them here. My congratulations to them all; well done, folks.

We were lucky to share a cab back to the hotel before most of the fans had made the trek, so access to the parties was easy and quick. After a few stops, though, I reached my social limit and returned to my room. Lest the melancholy of not being anywhere near the writer I had hoped I would be overtake me entirely and lead me to more self-pitying whining, I'll stop this entry and focus elsewhere.

Friday, August 19, 2011

On the road again: Renovation (WorldCon), Reno, day 3

After a very late night, I woke from two hours of sleep to do a work phone meeting and a bunch of work email. I then crashed for a few more hours and felt much better getting out of bed the second time.

Work, lunch, and then to Tim Powers' Guest of Honor speech. Its structure in many ways was like that of his novels, appearing to wander a bit here and there but ultimately proving to be a coherent and thought-provoking whole. His main thesis was that he wanted to look at the world from the fantastic angle, as opposed to the "stick to what is possible" approach of mainstream fiction, and that in this more fantastic perspective there is great value. I completely agree.

The next several hours went to the dealers' room, where I browsed the best selection of books of any WorldCon in recent memory, talked to multiple booksellers, and signed all the books of mine that I spotted. Wandering through books is always relaxing for me, so I quite enjoyed the time there.

Dinner was a Baen gathering that Publisher Toni hosted at a local steakhouse. Our table included several other Baen writers: Lois McMaster Bujold, Eric Flint, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, Chuck Gannon, and Walter Hunt. I quite enjoyed talking with all of them and getting to know them a bit more.

After some time in a local pub with Griffin and Jerry (I'm a cheap bar date: one Diet Coke will do me), I played eight minutes of blackjack, won a little money, and retired to work and then to sleep.

Along the way, I completely forgot to finish and post this blog entry, which is why it's late. Sorry.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

On the road again: Renovation (WorldCon), Reno, day 2

Verbal snapshots from a mostly work-filled day here at WorldCon.

The blackout curtains at the hotel are superb. The only visible light is the glow of the dehumidifier. All hotels should have to meet this standard.

On the way into the dealer's room, this vending machine:

As opposed to those useless single-purpose spoons? I'm never going to be content with a regular spoon again.

In the dealer's room, Sally Kibbee said to me something all writers like to hear: "Don't just stand there with your hands in your pockets. Sign books!"

Watching the Chesley awards ceremony, I was struck by how much passion so many in SF have for every aspect of the field. It's quite heartening.

While cruising the art show in the evening, the best line of the day, from a mother to her balloon-sword-wielding daughter: "No en garde in the art show, dear."

Words to live by.

At the Texas in 2013 party, brisket on white bread with Salt Lick's sauce. Yum.

After finishing my work, I spent a few very late-night hours in the poker room. Three other people at the table knew what they were doing, but fortunately for us, six did not. Won a little, had some fun, and enjoyed the people watching.

I time-shift entirely too easily. Despite what the timestamp on this entry says, it's 4:30 in the morning here. I have a work call in three and a half hours, but I can blame only myself for trading a few hours of sleep for the same time at poker.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

On the road again: Renovation (WorldCon), Reno, day 1

Fun facts and lessons from a day of travel, work, and convention going:

Getting up at 4:00 a.m. sucks.

Leaving the house at 4:30 a.m. sucks.

Doing the above on 80 minutes of sleep sucks worse.

I still can't sleep on planes, but I can doze and make horrible noises when startled. I don't believe others near me appreciated the sounds. I don't blame them.

People will call me about email they sent three hours ago or chide me if I happen to talk to them before I have responded to the email--even if I was on a plane during most of those hours. A bit frustrating.

John Picacio did a panel today which the program book said was going to show his process in refining a real cover in progress. I went because he's a friend and, more importantly, an awesome artist. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the cover he was planning to discuss was the one for No Going Back. If you wanted to see his sketch work and his current polished revision--still to undergo more changes--you should have been there. It's very cool work indeed.

The hotel is smooth at upselling food. The cheap place couldn't take four of us for dinner, but the more expensive steakhouse could. The food there, fortunately, was good, as was the company, though I fear I talked too much.

Spokane is bidding for the 2015 Worldcon, which made me sad because of what I'd heard about that city. When I visited their bid party, though, they made a pretty good case for the place. Dunno.

I can't keep up with work without extraordinary effort. No news there, but I was foolishly hoping today would be different.

25.5 hours awake is enough. I'm crashing.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Geer Street Garden

The other night, a group of us tried out this new Durham restaurant. We'd eaten Chef Andy Magowan's fine food at his previous restaurant, Piedmont, which he no longer owns, and so we trusted the meal would be good.

It was.

The food is simple and leans heavily on locally sourced ingredients, a combination that goes well with the building, a former gas station. Most of the seating is outside, but fortunately for us, the evening we were there was perfect for dining outdoors.

You won't find much fancy here, but everything we tasted was delicious. One particularly tasty mess I have to recommend is "The Pile," an amazing looking mixture of French fries, fried chicken, jalapenos, and melted cheese. Think game-day food done wonderfully and all mixed in one dish.

In keeping with the emphasis on simple food, the costs are more than reasonable. The tab for five of us--and we ate a lot of the menu, as well as multiple desserts--was less than the bill for two at many of the area's nicer restaurants.

Definitely check out this one.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A hole in my heart

One old, fat author and father; one young, handsome son and college student.

Scott and I this afternoon, just before we all drove off to NCSU.

Two years ago, I wrote a similar post about Sarah. Now, that time is here for Scott.

Damn, this is hard, if anything harder the second time than the first.

Eighteen and a quarter years ago, Scott was born. Earlier today, we moved him into North Carolina State University, where he is beginning college.

From the moment I knew we were having a son, I was terrified about how to be a good father to him. I grew up largely without fathers, and most of the men I knew as a child were far from good role models. How could I love him well? Make him both tough enough to survive as a boy and a man and yet comfortable with his feelings? Make him know I loved him? Make him confident and strong? Just be the father he deserved?

I had no clue.

In the years since that time, I've fumbled in the dark, doing the best I could as a dad but always being sure I was making a bad job of it. I've worked too many hours, gone on too many trips, spent too much time alone in my home office, taken too much time for myself, and missed too much of his life. I've always, always, always felt like I was failing. I still do. I've tried to balance being a good provider and being there and all the rest, and I know I've screwed up.

The only thing I have never failed on is loving him. I don't know how much that matters, but I've gotten that one thing down. I have always, always, always loved Scott and Sarah with a fierceness I cannot imagine they understand. No one will ever be more important to me than they are.

I still hug him good night every night and kiss him on the cheek as I say good night. I'll do that until I die if he'll let me.

I am so very proud of him and such a believer in him that I hope I have conveyed those feelings to him. I just don't know if I've done it enough, because I've spent so much time pushing him, worried for his future in this increasingly difficult world, that I fear he's heard only the pushing and not the tremendous, chest-bursting pride and love.

Every single night of Scott's and Sarah's lives, I have either stood outside the doors of their rooms and to the darkness whispered, "Good night, Scott. Daddy loves you. Good night, Sarah. Daddy loves you." as if it were a blessing that could keep them safe, or said the same words to myself as I was falling asleep in some other building in some other place. It's a dumb tradition, but it's mine, and it's theirs, though they've never participated in it, and I don't ever intend to stop it.

And now, Scott has left this house and moved into a dorm and started the next phase of his life. All of that is good and proper and natural and what I have desired for him; heck, I'm paying for it. I want him to have his own life, and in any way I can, I will help him get it. I also know he'll be home at holidays, and we'll find our old ways quickly enough, we'll talk and laugh and hug and play Halo and make dick jokes, and for a short time we'll all be living together again.

Today, though, there is a hole in my heart and an ache in my chest, a heart that will always beat for Scott. I want him to know always that for as long as I'm alive, he can take refuge with me from a rough world and know that his father, that I, will do anything in my power to keep that roughness at bay, and that I love him more than I can ever express.

Daddy loves you, Scott.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Dr. Efficient clarifies a point from his last column

The mention of rape in the last Dr. Efficient column drew enough attention and raised enough ire that when he asked if I thought he should comment on it, I said, yes. He did, and his comment is available in the Comments section of that entry. Because many readers have told me they often miss the comments, I am also making the text available here, as its own entry.

Now, I turn you over to Dr. Efficient.

The subject of rape could probably fill several columns on its own. I can't really do it justice here, but nothing I've written should be interpreted as excusing rape or Sudanese atrocities in the Nuba mountains.

David Buss writes in The Evolution of Desire, "it is a matter of controversy within evolutionary psychology today whether rape represents an evolved sexual strategy of men or is better understood as a horrifying side effect of men's general sexual strategy of seeking low-cost casual sex." However, "the age distribution of rape victims corresponds almost perfectly to the age distribution of women's reproductive value, in marked contrast to the age distribution of victims of other violent crimes. This evidence strongly suggests that rape is not independent of men's evolved sexual psychology."

Rape is also most often perpetrated by socially outcast young men who've lost the game of marital musical chairs because there aren't enough available women to go around. (A fact that bodes poorly for Asia and its 160 million missing girls. But that's another column.)


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