Iím about three weeks behind on dispatches. Iíve been busy and sick and rivers have flooded and entire cities lain waste and reclaimed and fortunes made and spent and women loved and lost and loved some more, often with the aid of digital devices and strange composite materials specially imported from parts of New Guinea where white men are used as furniture and wall decoration exclusively.
But none of that is this story. This story is about a convention.
For all intents and purposes Iím out of the con business. I find them loud and annoying and largely counterproductive. Yet every year I say Iím too busy or too underfunded or too hip to make it to Balticon, and every year I pack my gear at the last minute and turn up. This year I didnít even register (Iíve got it down to a science), opting instead to go ninja. This led to many hilarious jokes about the guy in the Matt Fín Wallace costume and everyone leading introductions by telling me they thought I wasnít coming. I felt mythic, like John Wayne in Big Jake
or Kurt Russel in Escape from New York
, everybody presuming they were dead.
For the last two Balticons Iíve been on-hand to help present The Singularity with Earl Newton (who couldnít make it this year, as heís even busier and on more deadlines than I am). But largely I go to hang out with four of my favorite all-time humans: Mur Lafferty
, Jim van Verth, Dr. John Cmar
, and Laura Burns, otherwise known on Twitter as the wildly popular Moon Ranger Laura
(so named by yours truly). My goal was to avoid virtually everyone else. Although I spent a lot of time knocking around with my favorite duo of microbiologists, Jan, the ungodly talented artist behind Indiefinable
, and her friend Diane. I was also accosted by a number of folk who wanted me to sign something or other. A fan from Texas forgot their copy of The Next Fix
and asked me to sign a card that would then be taped to the title page. I inscribed it, ďNext time remember the fucking book,Ē and sent her on her way.
There was also a singular and sentimental reason for going this year: Recorded live at Balticon was the final episode of Variant Frequencies
. Rick and Anne Stringer, in a rare appearance, were on hand to do the honors. Rick, with an assist from Michael Spence, narrated the last story. It was not written by me, but by Jonathan C. Gillespie. Afterwards Anne and I, the two wordslingers whose scribbles fed the beast in the beginning, stepped to the mic to thank the audience there and at home.
Iíll lay it down for you the same way. For four years Variant Frequencies was the single highest quality fiction podcast out there. It smoked everything in its category. There was bigger, there was more popular, well-publicized, more hyped, but none better. Rickís production was landmark. It literally launched careers (like mine). Very few people will truly appreciate how it enhanced this weird thing call podcasting.
And now itís over.
I was also part of the live I Should Be Writing with Mur Lafferty
and other special guests author Gail Carriger
and musician John Anealio
. Gail is the NYT best-selling scribe behind Soulless
. Johnís sci-fi/fantasy songs have been pimped by everyone and Neil Gaiman. This was fast company in which to be. John played live versions of an ISBW theme written exclusively for the event and ďGeorge R.R. Martin is Not Your Bitch.Ē Mur and I called up audience members for a live version of our perversely popular ďGood Cop/Bad CopĒ segment, with Gail as referee. Mur and Gail were very insightful and informed. I mostly made blow job jokes. It was a good time.
Sunday night was the parting night for me, the make-it-last night, the final salvo night. I said goodbye to Rick and Anne, whose kids I have literally watched grow from children into adults, both up close and from afar, Iíve been friends with these people that long. I traded dirty jokes with Podiobooks
founder Evo Terra
and sexually gratified the lovely Sheila Dee
by repeatedly pounding a wall with my fist (itís the simple pleasures for some, and I dig that). I lamented the fact I promised to pound shots with Ms. Information
and missed all useable windows (next year, babe).
I ended things by assembling with my favorite four in the shaggoth-shaped hot tub of Mur and Jimís palatial suite, with the addition of astronomer Pamela L. Gay
, who in my estimation earned her stripes the first night I met her. Cmar had discovered a brand of black spiced rum called Kraken. This elated us all. Because weíre dorks. I killed the entire bottle straight up with my brother-from-another-mother while we all played a game of Funny Friends
. I ended up born again and married to Pamela. We had two children. Which means I tapped that at least twice, thus making me Lifeís ultimate victor.
The Moon Ranger was benevolent enough to stay sober and haul my wayward ass to the airport at some ridiculous hour of the morning while Cmar crashed in the backseat. I love these people in a way that defies even my faustian command of language.
At their core cons are meant to be a celebration, of art and artists, of media and media-makers, of cultures and subcultures, of fandom, of behavior both healthily expressive and compactly personally destructive. You can use them to whore, you can use them to pimp, you can use them to hook up. Iíve done all of these things in the past. Here and now I use them to celebrate the select group of people I donít actively loathe. I call these people my friends, and itís just fucking good to see them.
I have also vowed next year to return in a private jet. Possibly with lasers.
Who the fuck am I kidding? Of course itíll have lasers.