I’ve returned from Kansas City! Though dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I fought my way back through the dread wastes of La Guardia International and American Airlines to deliver this report on what transpired in the distant cattle town.
So, let me explain.
No, it is too much. Let me sum up:
I attended a great many panels, spoke with a great many friends and colleagues, and watched the Hugo Awards get distributed to deserving people and watched thoroughly undeserving people get routed and driven back to Mordor. I will break this thing down, category by category.
The panels I attended were either panels about the craft of writing or panels about the subjects we are writing about. In the first category, perhaps the most interesting was the panel on how to pitch your work which was hosted by a goodly number of very spiffy agents (of which my agent, Joshua Bilmes, was member). That panel solidified in my mind what I have come to realize – that a good query is not smoke and mirrors and flowery language, but rather spare and efficient and evocative. Not “My novel is a thrilling death ride through canyons of moral ambiguity that asks the question “at what price justice?”” but, rather, “My completed fantasy novel is the story of a mercenary company that loses its way through a toxic wasteland and must rely on its captain, a recovering alcoholic, to see them to safety.”
I also saw a pretty cool presentation on Solar Sails by the guy who actually managed some of NASA’s solar sail projects. I listened to neat narrative tricks by Mary Robinette Kowal (who used her shoe as a puppet to illustrate concepts) and a panel of other luminaries. I watched a panel on immortality that became dreadfully boring so quickly I abruptly realized that the easiest way to live forever is to listen to an MD mumble jargon into a microphone for what seemed like eternity.
And there was so much more!
Let’s see, who did I run into? Well, first there was my Harper Voyager friends: Brooke Johnson, Beth Cato, Bishop O’Connell, Lexie Dunne, Becky Chambers, and editor David Pomerico. Then there were my Writers of the Future fellows, including Daniel Davis, Martin Shoemaker, Amy Hughes, Sharon Joss, Tina Gower, Steve Pantazis, (Quiet) Austin “the Dealer” DeMarco, and more besides. There was also my newest writing “family” in the JABerwocky Agency, including Joshua Bilmes, Ben Grange, Sam Morgan, Megan O’Keefe, and Heidi, Alison, Joe, Joey, and Chris (whom I spoke with during dinner but whose last names elude me).
I ran into Mike Resnick (editor of Galaxy’s Edge) and Shahid Mahmud (publisher of Galaxy’s Edge), I met CC “Charlie” Finlay, editor of F&SF, who actually remembered me right away and gave me a big smile and a handshake (which was awesome) and introduced me to his wife, Rae Carson.
And there were so many other people, besides! I couldn’t hope to name them all, and not least of all because I’m not 100% confident I would apply the right names to the right people!
Kansas City is a nice little town – very clean and evidently unpopulated (by my northeastern standards, anyway). Like, seriously – not a lick of traffic at any time, anywhere. Not even downtown. Hardly any pedestrians, either. I won’t lie – it was a trifle eerie.
It is a nice place for BBQ, though, and a big thanks to Brittany Constable (friend of Brooke Johnson and writer in her own right) for giving me a ride out to sample some great brisket and ribs. I also got to go to a fancy restaurant and have a Kansas City Strip Steak, which was pretty good (still not a huge strip steak fan, though). Stopped into the Dubliner pub, too, just to do a standard authenticity check on their “Irish” credentials. It was no Southie or Dorchester, mind you, but it was a really nice bar with some excellent chicken wings (though they don’t seem to understand the definition of “medium rare” for a burger). Got to stop into the Kansas City Public Library, which was a beautiful building that was everything a library should be, and got driven around by some of the nicest cab drivers I’ve met.
The awards show was a bit loosely organized, though they managed to get it into 2 hours on the dot, so kudos to them. The awards weren’t terribly surprising, for the most part – the Puppies were firmly routed yet again (and deservedly so), though I got the sense that their bitter negativity had driven a number of award winners from attending the awards, as quite a few people were accepting things on others’ behalf. Neil Gaiman’s acceptance speech (which was read on stage) was particularly scathing in that respect. Overall, though, I enjoyed the awards show more than I thought I would, as awards shows are usually overlong and deadly dull.
I was particularly happy for Lightspeed for winning Best Semiprozine and for Hao Jingfang and her story “Folding Beijing,” as they were all beside themselves with joy for their win. Jessica Jones also richly deserved the Best Dramatic (Short Form) Hugo, as well.
There was, of course, just a little bit of drama during the convention. I missed it, though whether I was fortunate or unfortunate in that regard is uncertain. A Puppy sympathizer by the name of Truesdale decided to hijack a panel on the state of short fiction and rant and rave about his own opinions about how “pearl-clutchers” are ruining scifi and was, apparently, completely unaware of the irony he embodied. You can look up plenty about this online and I’ll largely stay out of the discussion, but I will say this: Persons of color or women winning Hugo awards doesn’t ruin scifi for anybody. Being assholes, on the other hand…