Well, I'm alive.
I'm going to post about the convention in bits and pieces over the next few days, and it will probably be pretty incoherent. I'm still really stirred up from being out of the house and around so many people.
Prepare for shameless name-dropping, people.
Husband and I went to the toastmaster dinner with Walter Jon Williams, who I believed was the best living SF writer even before
I met him and discovered that I like him immensely. Now that I know I like him, well . . . he's gone from being a good writer to a good person in my mind. The two do not meet as often as you might believe.
There were about forty people at the dinner, which was an invite-only affair. Luckily, we got to sit at his table, so I can now say with certainty that Walter Jon Williams does not sugar his iced tea, and takes it with one lemon, exactly like me. He will also pass you the lemons if you ask politely. He also owns cats. A civilized man.
There was much conversation, and my husband only made an ass out of himself once. I feel that we all did very well. Walter is an incredibly interesting guy. The Q and A session was a lot of fun. I don't know if he made me feel better or worse about my odds, but I do know that it's nice to have a reality check that validates what you already thought was true.
He recounted Roger Zelazny's tale of the Lucky Chicken, and I will attempt to paraphrase the gist of it here, because I think it is important.
Roger was talking at a convention about breeding a race of super-lucky chickens (I don't know why). But his theory was that you would take all the eggs laid by the chickens and throw them into the air. The ones that didn't break, the lucky ones, you would hatch, then throw their
eggs into the air, and so on and so forth, until you had a race of super-lucky chickens, which would then proceed to rule the world.
Roger's point -- and Walter's -- was this: writers are the luckiest people on the planet. We are the eggs that get thrown up into the air again and again, and we don't break.
Zelazny asserted that anytime writers gathered, trouble was in the offing, because they would use up all the ambient luck in the area, and he was apparently fond of citing evidence for this in the form of accidents that frequently happened just after he left someplace.
I think there may be something to that. Not that we use up our luck, or anyone else's, but that there is something different about those who are successful and those who are not. Those who are not eventually break under the pressure. Those who succeed never break. They never quit.
Walter confessed that there was a point a few years ago, after he published The Rift, which did not do well, where he thought his career was dead. Not just in trouble, but hanging-by-the-heels, hide-on-the-barn-door dead
. Which comes as a shock. I have been an admirer of his books for years. It seems unthinkable . . . unfair . . . that a writer as tremendously talented as he is should suffer the same fear and uncertainty about his career that, say, I do. But things don't change. One book, or twenty, or fifty, doesn't change the fact that if your luck runs out . . . it's out.
He's doing better now. He's got some new work out, and he's excited about what he's working on. Not all his eggs are broken. He's still got chickens, and he's a lucky old bird, himself. All his old stuff is out of print, though (check your local used shops right now, people). And that's upsetting. Books that meant a lot to me, Hardwired, Voice of the Whirlwind, Aristoi, those books are not being printed anymore.
I did manage to pull him aside at one point, and attempted to express to him how meaningful Aristoi was to me.
I hate being a fan. I hate trying to explain something so bone-deep and visceral. I told Elizabeth Moon last year something like "I read your book and liked it a lot, thanks for keeping me happily entertained for a week." Her work was entertaining, but not really earth-shattering to me. But telling Walter Jon Williams that I am not normally moved by things that I read, but that I have read Aristoi three times and every time it has just knocked the Hell out of me, that it meant a lot to me, that was very hard.
I don't know how he meant what he wrote. Aristoi is a complicated book. Very complicated. Heck, it's meant something different to me every time I have read it. So I can't say "I understood it." I don't think anyone can ever understand exactly what a writer meant. I think that doesn't really matter. All I can say is that Aristoi was meaningful to me at a time when I desperately needed to hear what it seemed to be saying about humanity and the strength within the broken soul. And that kind of thing, that baring of a naked wound, it's hard to do it without overdoing it.
It's easy to say "I admire your work. It makes me want to write." But his doesn't. It makes me want to live
But I tried to make him understand anyway, with words that never come when you want them to, and he really seemed to appreciate it even though it is just hard
for me to talk like that to anyone. I tried not to be all fawning, but it was not easy. I am sorta naturally doe-eyed. I smiled a lot and made bad jokes, and he listened when I spoke. I had a good night.
A thousand years to him. And a thousand worlds.link