About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Chiconic Fatigue Syndrome

I've had supporting memberships for World SF Conventions, WorldCons as they are known, dating back over 30 years. When I was just becoming an sf fan and devouring a goodly chunk of sf/f (Analog, Omni, Asimov's, the occasional F&SF, novel after novel) voting in the Hugos was a major temptation. Reading the progress reports and looking over the program books instilled a certain sense of community, of belonging to a larger community even though I was just a high school kid in a small town in New York City. Imagine how nice it is to have a job where I now get to attend WorldCon as part of it! And ChiCon, the 70th WorldCon, is the 18th I've actually attended.

The experience of attending WorldCon as a pro is very different than the WorldCon I dreamed of 30 years ago, however.

I get to be on panels, I don't so much get to attend them.

This year, I thought all my panels were reasonably successful. The one on business advice for writers at 3pm on the first day of the con when everyone was settling in had the kind of crowd you might expect when half the convention hasn't even picked up its membership badges yet. Having the "getting an agent" panel at 9am the next morning wasn't ideal either, it's WorldCon and people go to parties and who wants to have to wake up for a 9am panel? I was also on a panel on e-books.

I grew up wanting to vote on the Hugos and waiting around ten years to finally attend an actual Hugo ceremony.

Alas, I have learned over 26 years in the business that I am rife with internal conflict about awards. I love for my clients to be nominated for awards, I love for my clients to win awards, I just wish that this could all happen without my ever having to attend an award ceremony or banquet or dinner ever ever again. So much bad food, so many bad speeches, the occasional bad table full of bad conversation partners. And more often than not, the person you want to win -- doesn't !!

This year's Hugo Awards were not bad as such things go. Connie Willis can be a great toast"master" but sometimes there can be too much Connie, because when you have someone as good as Connie you want to take advantage. John isn't Connie, he wasn't uproarious, but there also wasn't too much of him. They made an interesting decision to have John do most of the presenting which may have saved a good 15 or 20 minutes of time introducing presenters for 12 more awards.

Alas, they did not take the equally radical decision of doing away with the clips for the long-form and short-form dramatic presentation awards. Each took ten minutes to present, all told, which is an eternity. Around 16 awards all told, if every one of those takes ten minutes and you add in the other stuff you're looking at a three hour ceremony. If you don't think the Hugo Awards should go on for three hours, and they most certainly should not, you have to do away with the damned clips for the dramatic presentation. If you're going to leave in the ciips, then I want people to read one-minute excerpts from the nominated pieces of fiction. Believe it or not, the Hugos are supposed to be a literary award, so none of these damned clips for the dramatic presentations.

My guy won! Well, one of my guys. Though the glory is in both instances reflected since the nominations were not for literary work represented by the agency, we had our client Jim C. Hines nominated for Best Fan Writer, and our client Brandon Sanderson is one of the masterminds of the Writing Excuses podcast that was up for Best Related Work. And Jim Hines not only won, but in the voting breakdowns we see he won quite quite handily. And then he did something very well, and said he would recuse himself from this category in future years, so he won't become like Locus and take home a statue every year for twenty or thirty years.

There wasn't any of that music playing at the 30-second mark, so the winners could give thank you speeches that went on pretty much just as long as they pleased. This can be unfortunate. But... I'll take this approach over the Oscars and their 30 second limits. Yeah, there were some over-long thank yous at the Hugos this year, there were also some really touching and moving speeches like Jo Walton's accepting for Best Novel, and John Picacio for Best Professional Artist, that were only possible because people had the time to speak passionately and from the heart.

I am a bad person. During an award banquet, usually held in a brightly lit hotel ballroom, I will quietly read a text-rich magazine (fewer page turns) during the speechifying. In the darkened ballroom for the Hugos, the iPad was quite delightful, and I think I read 15,000 words of a submission. Lest you think I wasn't paying attention -- I assure you I can read a good 40-50,000 words in the time the ceremony occupied, so that's 25K of paying attention to the ceremony. I had the brightness all the way down, and had the cover held tight over the screen. With all the people that have their phones out to tweet and text and whatever, as we are wont to do in the modern age, I hope I wasn't upsetting the atmosphere of the room.

Just to say, was it just me, or was the dealer's room a little quiet and mono-cultured this year? Something seemed to be missing.

The parallel con that I attend now vs. the con I dreamt of attending as a wee lad consists of a lot of time spent in meals and meetings with clients and editors. Since my business has grown, some of those meals have to breakfasts, which are always way too early for my tastes. I hate paying for overpriced booze at hotel bars. On days when I have a breakfast, a lunch and a dinner on my schedule, and then visits to the party suites filled with M&Ms and Doritos (this year, prawn-flavored Walker Crisps on account of the 2014 London bid) I am certainly eating too much, especially since there isn't a lot of time for exercise during a WorldCon. Oh well! I did find an Argo Tea cafe a few blocks from the hotel and did a couple meetings there, I don't actually like tea or coffee and Argo is really really big on the tea, but it's nice to get out of the convention hotel. There was also this little sunken park on an ancient golfing burial ground a couple blocks from the hotel, and we did a couple meetings there on a nice bench under a nice shade-giving tree with a wonderfully designed fountain providing that nice relaxing burbling sound of water.

I don't understand people who travel to these conventions and decide they can't leave the hotel or convention center. Yeah, you want to do your business, but you're in Chicago, a world capital, one of the major cities of the US, get out and see the world! In my early days of attending WorldCon with way fewer clients I could do some of this during the days of the convention and not feel too guilty, now I have to add on a day or two but I did get around. Especially the Wednesday before, 15+ miles of walking around Chicago to take in 3 Whole Foods, 2 Costcos, and a Cubs game. Not the usual tourist stuff, but it was 15+ miles of walking around and seeing the city and the weather was gorgeous.

It was my first time at Wrigley. I enjoyed it a lot. The park is full of atmosphere and history. Strange in some ways, they have an organ but all of the music seemed to be a little bit of organ music grafted on the same rhythm track for every song that sounded like some special kind of Christmas music. Definitely strange. The stadium got really really loud, I could hardly hear the person next to me. The game to most people was an afterthought, so many people going to see Wrigley and not that many who cared whether or not the Cubs won. The concourse had the feel of a carnival midway, which is definitely not the feel you get from most of the modern stadiums.

Thursday night Adam-Troy Castro had a launch event for his new book at the Magic Tree children's bookstore in Oak Park. Previously I had gone to Oak Park to add the Borders there to my list of conquests, a Borders conveniently near to the River Forest Whole Foods. I did visit the Whole Foods, but I also walked around and saw other parts of the neighborhood. I need to make an Oak Park day the next time I'm in Chicago to admire more of the Frank Lloyd Wright houses, maybe even visit the Hemingway birthplace and museum.

I'm going to stop here, there's more I could say but maybe I'll do another WorldCon post later, or maybe not.


xxxxxx said...

"...to take in 3 Whole Foods, 2 Costcos, and a Cubs game ..."

That reminded me so much of 2010 when you attended the DFW Writers' Conference in Dallas, and we spent three days driving all over the metroplex to visit Whole Foods, Borders, B&N, Books-a-Million, etc.

You certainly like to do "non-tourist" stuff when traveling.

A group of my crit buddies and I plan to attend Worldcon 2013 in San Antonio. I hope I can attend the Hugo awards just for the experience.

Kevin Standlee said...

I'm not sure how a ceremony lasting about 2h10m = "three hours."

If you're worried about the long ceremony, why have one at all. Just post a list of winners and mail out the trophies. That would be nice and fast, wouldn't it?

Kristin said...

As a person who as attended 6 Worldcon's now, I had to agree entirely with your assesment of the Hugo Award presentations this year.

I was glad they managed to shorten it. I would prefer if they would drop some categories all together, but it sounds like the committee is going to add a YA category. Alas.

Ideally, I would have like it if the convention had broadcast the ceremony over the hotel channel, so I could have sat in the comfort of my own room, take-out in hand, remote in the other, and not have worried a nip about the elevator crush afterwards.

Being unable to do the above, I settled for reading on my tablet which made the whole thing tolerable.