Saturday, November 3, 2012

On the road again: World Fantasy Con, Toronto, day 4

A quick check of the opening sentences of blog entries makes clear to me that I am obsessed with sleep--how little I get of it, how much I want it, and so on.  I'm tempted to stop mentioning it, and I probably will, but not today.  The reason is that last night I slept for eight glorious hours, a wonderful treat indeed.  I woke up today with a slight sense of the energy that I used to feel all the time in my body.  It was great.

Food out here in the Toronto suburb boonies is not particularly good, so I'm having to forgo the usual fancy dinner reports because the dinners are anything but fancy.  Still, both lunch and dinner today were serviceable meals and pleasant times with friends.

I watched a few panels, did some work, and talked a lot with friends new and old.  I particularly enjoyed the presentation by top artists Todd Lockwood, John Picacio, and Charles Vess on their creative processes.  Vess works entirely traditionally, Lockwood almost entirely digitally, and Picacio regularly employs a mix of both techniques, so the discussions and slides were interesting and informative. 

I also cruised the art show for a second time.  Particularly impressive were the huge Charles Vess canvas and the two lovely pieces from Howard Fox, an artist who is new to me.  I'm already a Vess fan, but now I'll be keeping an eye out for Fox's work as well. 

Another pass through the dealers' room proved my self-control was intact, because I bought nothing.  I did sign stock for one dealer, a task that is more fun than work.

Among the various con functions I sprinkled a fair amount of work, so I end the day caught up with my goals for it, which is always a good feeling.

Friday, November 2, 2012

On the road again: World Fantasy Con, Toronto, day 3

Today I managed to do a better job of interweaving work and con stuff than on most con trips.  I got up early, worked, and then went off to what I was sure would be an empty room for my reading.

To my pleasant surprise, 13 or 14 people attended--and only six of them were friends.  For only the second time, I read aloud the Lobo Christmas story, "Lobo, Actually."  I was pleased by the audience's response, because everyone agreed that they liked it and the story worked.

After a panel on urban fantasy, I grabbed lunch with friends and did some work, then caught part of another urban fantasy panel.  To say that topic was all over this con would be quite the understatement. 

More work, then I went to Dave's panel on the importance of reading older works in the field.  The conversation, which old friend Brett Cox moderated and which included guest-of-honor Elizabeth Hand, was interesting and even occasionally lively. 

Work, then the Baen dinner, where a group of Baen writers and friends enjoyed a very good steak meal courtesy of Senior Editor Jim Minz.

From there we had to hustle back to do the traditional WFC group autographing session, an exercise in humility (or humiliation; it's hard to tell) for lesser-known writers.  I was pleased that during the course of the session at least half a dozen folks brought books for me to sign.

A group of us then party-crawled a bit, and I ended the day working, as usual. 

As cons go, a pretty good day.

On the road again: World Fantasy Con, Toronto, day 2

I actually slept last night, which was wonderful.  I spent the day in an ongoing mix of work, time with friends, and a little con stuff. Though work dominated my hours, I did get some of the other good stuff as well. 

I prowled the dealer's room for the first time, but I didn't buy anything; I'm still scouting.  It's always great, though, to see a dealer's room full of books. 

Dinner was a lovely time with friends including Dave and Tom Doherty, the head of Tor, the largest SF publisher in the country (probably the world).  Tom has been working in SF publishing for decades, and I could listen to his stories for days.  I wish he would write an autobiography of his time in the field; it would be a fascinating book full of stories that only he could tell.

Later, a group of us gather to chat and share a late dessert.

A slow start to the con, but overall, a good day. 

Now, to figure out what I'll read at my reading in the morning!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

On the road again: World Fantasy Con, Toronto, day 1

Hurricane Sandy's closing of LaGuardia airport led to a series of travel adventures that ended up starting my day at 5:45 a.m. and getting me to my destination about 7:00 p.m.

The flights for which I'd purchased tickets were no longer available, so a new set was to take me through O'Hare. When I arrived at the airport at 6:25 a.m., however, I learned that the flight to Chicago was delayed so long that I would miss my connection.  The only alternative American could offer me was to go through DFW, so I waited an extra 45 minutes in RDU and several hours in DFW. I had neither an upgrade nor an exit-row seat on the way to DFW, so I didn't have the space to work.  I used the flight to fitfully doze and twitch in my seat; I do not sleep well on planes.  The flight to Toronto was vastly better, because I got an upgrade and bought bandwidth and worked the whole time.

Now, though, I am happy to report that I am at the con hotel.

Calling the convention a "Toronto" World Fantasy Con is more than a little misleading. Yes, Toronto is the nearest big city, but the cab ride here took over 45 minutes from the airport, and going downtown for a meal is too great a time commitment to be manageable.  That's a shame, because Toronto has a great and rapidly growing food scene.

Still, I made it, and now I finally get to sleep; last night's 110 minutes of sleep were simply not enough. 

Tomorrow, the con starts in earnest!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Another SK6ers tune

I have to get up in three hours to head to the airport, and I haven't packed, so this fun song, which they performed in their show the other night, will have to hold you. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

The best concert I've seen this year

Sunday night, Stephen Kellog and The Sixers played the Cat's Cradle for what is probably the very last time. A group of us, led by Sarah and me, went; I had purchased tickets the moment I learned of the show.  The group, which I have loved since Sarah turned me onto them, is making what they are calling their HI-ATE-US tour, because they are taking an indefinite hiatus from performing. 

It's no surprise that this was an emotional show.  Knowing this band, it's also no surprise that it was an excellent show. 

What was surprising was how amazingly emotional it was, how superb it was, and how everyone in the band managed to squeeze so much intensity into this sixteenth stop of their final tour.  They smiled and teared up and played with abandon, all of them clearly still friends, all of them still loving these final shows together. 

In addition to loving the show, I found myself moved and with a great deal to think about, some of which will no doubt find its way to this blog over time. 

As the last full number of the second encore, they played one of my very favorite songs of theirs, "My Favorite Place."

Gradually, the members of the band stopped playing their instruments and gathered together around the microphone, until they were singing to the occasional strumming of one guitar, and then they were singing a capella.  They motioned the audience to join, and we did.  We all sang together, louder and louder, as the power of live music brought musicians and audience together in that perfect joining that makes your heart burst and your spirit soar.  Their love of performing came through in the repeated refrain, and so did our love of their music.  Sarah sobbed, and though I do not cry, my eyes filled and a few tears leaked onto my cheek. 

If you like this group, if you like live music, or if you simply want to witness artists doing their very best right to the end, catch one of their remaining 13 shows. 

Over 28 hours later, my heart still aches from seeing them. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cloud Atlas

The moment I saw the first Cloud Atlas trailer, I knew I would have to see this film.  I haven't read the David Mitchell novel of the same name, but I've heard a lot about it and have it on my to-read list.  The interwoven narratives that span time and place attracted me, as did the film's look.  When I learned that Andy and Lana Wachowski were in charge of half the film, I understood why so many of the shots were so gorgeous.  I knew I would go.

I wasn't at all sure, though, whether I'd walk out of the theater happy.  My nervousness grew when I learned the film ran just eight minutes short of three hours; Wachowskis can be self-indulgent. 

I'm happy to report that my fears were for nought; I loved it.  I was never bored, never squirmed in my seat, and despite drinking a rather large Coke Zero in the course of it, never left for the bathroom.  I wouldn't have cut any of it.  More, if they were to issue a four-hour Director's Cut, I'd preorder it. 

That said, if you're not comfortable with six different stories that jump around in place and time, or if you have trouble following disjointed narratives, this movie is not for you.  I loved all of the narrative devices.  Each story alone engaged me, and unlike some critics, I felt the endings of each brought them all together nicely. 

I particularly enjoyed all the main actors playing multiple roles, though there were times when the prosthetics necessary to turn some of the actors into Asians were too obvious and, in a few moments, wince-worthy.  Tom Hanks and Halle Berry delivered the goods in all of their different characters.  Jim Broadbent was wild-eyed and charming throughout--even when he was an unlikable ship's captain.  Hugo Weaving took every opportunity to chew the scenery--which is, I have to assume, exactly why they hired him. 

I do have some minor criticisms, but they'd also act as spoilers, so I'll withhold them.  Cloud Atlas may not wind up being the very best movie of the year, but even this far in advance of the Christmas Oscar-contender releases I'm going to guess that it will belong in any good Top 5 list. 

Don't miss this one.


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