October 23rd, 2010


Day 1 at Capclave

I came down to breakfast with my laptop because the Lobby has free wifi and yesterday I caught up on emails and gchatted with maelkann whilst having breakfast. It *was* 6 am though. And I hadn't yet really been to the con. Today though, I ended up having breafast with three other people, shrieked with laughter and drank a lot of coffee. Which is a long way of saying, I'm having a great time!!

So here is an update from yesterday since I went to bed and read last night instead of being on the interwebs. It's something new I'm trying.

After breakfast, I headed down to the lobby to meet the Vandermeers and wait for Colleen who had all invited me to join their tour of the Library of Congress. Colleen works there and we got a personalised tour which was totally worth the entire trip to the USA! We headed into the city - it turns out the Metro passes right behind the hotel and is on the same line that I used to take when I visited my Uncle out when he lived here. We met up with Connie Willis and her husband and Judy and Bruce and headed off for a quick chinese lunch. With fortune cookies. (I'm still getting a kick out of how much like TV America is - this is my fourth trip to the US and I still get amused easily). Lunch was fantastic - the company and the stories - and the food was not bad.

And then we headed off to the Library. Which is ... OMG BOOK AND INFORMATION AND DATA AND MAPS P0RN! First Colleen showed us where she works, in the basement, and we got to see how all the maps in the Library are slowly getting digitised and made accessible on the net. And then she showed us all kinds of oddities that make their way to the Library. I really like the ladies (mannequin size) wearing clothing made out of maps. And Roosevelt's (I think) globe of the world. Also the Library has the only surviving intact (across 14 pages or soemthing) first map of the world that names America "America" from the 1600s - it cost $14 million. It was quite nice :P

Then we headed out to the public part of the Library via tunnels under the street. SO COOL. And OMG the library is very beautiful - just on the edge of "too much" in terms of opulence. Lots of columns and beautiful murals and arches and statues and quotes of inspiration - "Beauty is truth, truth beauty"; "Words are a kind of action and actions are a kind of words" and all kinds of other great quotes. Is it me or do Americans tend to quote things a lot more than Australians do? We got to overlook into the reading room and I had a tiny moment - Ann was like, "Books are beautiful, right?" And well ... yeah, I think I got that whole "books are an artifact that is beautiful" thing - it was just like the shots you see of all the most beautiful libraries in the world only in real life. And kinda got me. I guess.

We toured a bunch of exhibits in the halls including Jefferson's Library collection. Which is what started the Library of Congress in the first place. Pretty cool. And yeah, a lot of books. But is it weird if I don't think that they were *so many* or *too many* books?

And then Colleen took me on a quick side tour to see Gershwin's piano and writing table. I have a thing for Gershwin. And it reminded me of my grandmother who also had a thing for Gerwshin.

Then the gift store and then off.

We did a quick run past a couple of other government buildings, which was cool but we had to head back cause Connie had a panel.

I had a really great time. The library was just so inspiring and so got me back to the whole core of why I love what I am doing right now and why I am here, in DC, right now. And there were moments of just soaking all of that in. And taking stock and getting energy and recharging my batteries. But on top of that, I was there taking the tour with Ann and Jeff and Connie. Which ... has to be a pretty unique way of touring the Library of Congress, you have to admit. But ... Colleen wandering around and telling us about the history and so on and also contextualising it all, and having that bounce off the others, reminded me what I love about this genre, and about all good books generally. It reminded me how I love and am inspired and energised by intelligent, thoughtful, provoking and challenging ideas and thoughts, presented by intelligent, thoughtful and caring people. It kicked off that thing I was complaining that I thought I'd lost the other day. It made me want to read. But not just any old thing. It made me want to read work written by people like those around me (and those around me after watching how their brains work) - brilliant stuff that will challenge and push me. People who have something to say about something - cutting edge, new, fresh and unique stuff. The stuff that makes your arms get goosebumps and demands you stay up long past bedtime to keep reading. Sorta like I should stop eating the junk food and get back to the crunchy stuff.

This is why I should go to cons. I love cons. And I want to thank Tansy (and my friend Jus at work) who talked me into coming. They were right! I needed this and actually this is probably the kind of holiday I should be having.

When we came back, I hung out and relaxed before heading off to an early dinner with Ann and Jeff and Steven. Then I registered and went to Jeff's panel on writers on the internet. Quick drinks at the bar, lots and lots of laughing and then we had our 11pm panel on what's hot this decade. We were 6 people on the panel and there were lots of different opinions.

And bed for me as I was starting to feel the jetlag.

Today I have one programming item of sitting behind a table with some TPP books I brought for an hour (it's a small con and space has been limited so they have a schedule for some limited trading if you didn't make the trader's room in time). And tonight is the WSFA Small Press Award. And the Drink Bird Awards Party afterwards. I have to admit that the Drink Bird awards is something that kinda sold me into coming as I saw all the photos last year and really wished I'd been there. It's the second year of the Vandermeers' awards to people behind the scenes who work so hard to make our community vibrant and ongoing.

And ... I might actually go to some panels today :P I'm trying a few new things at the moment :)


Conservation of books check in

I am currently at +1 on the book tally status. I've handed over 3 TPP books but acquired 4 and a magazine.

Not looking good for luggage status!

And i missed the book launch party because I was trying to get lunch and the hotel shut lunch down at 2pm - I was at Connie Willis' reading at 1. Instead of reading from All Clear she sat and told anecdotes on stories she came across researching for the book. It was thoroughly engaging and I'll be tracking down Black Out to read before long. She also talked about her next book she's working on which sounds hilarious.

Just now I'm back from the Ann and Jeff show where they did a presentation on all their projects. Their doing some really gorgeous work and I'm so looking forward to their upcoming books. I'm also about to renew my subscription to Weird Tales - the full new team take over as of the next issue. Though last time I was subscribed, not all my issues arrived due to "postal problems". But I'm so looking forward to watching the magazine evolve under Ann's direction that I'll be risking this.


Other stuff

I've been trying to remember to drink lots of water but it's been interesting - the hotel provides free bottled water at the back of the panel rooms. Isn't that nice? Except that the bottles are half pint bottles - that should be 300ml I guess but the quantity looks smaller than that. Last night I sat on my panel and watched the person next to me drink 5 or 7 bottles over the course of the panel. And all I could think was how all those plastic bottles would now go sit in landfill for the rest of time.

It's funny cause I was sitting in a panel on epublishing today and I watched a bunch of people sit there and discuss whether or not the book would be gone in 20 years and talk about all their electronic gear and this and that. And I kept thinking, wow but the whole world isn't like you. There are a lot of people who could never afford to live this way. And I did mention this at the end, when called on as the only person in the room who owned up to being a die hard print book fan to make the case for the printed book. And there were some people on that panel who didn't get that my point was a class/wealth one.

There's a lot of thoughtless waste here. All sorts of little things that I've started to notice - straws are served with your drinks in restaurants (I have a pet peeve of straws, they are an utterly useless device and then take a million years to degrade - what? You can't pick the glass up and sip from it?) and the straws are wrapped in plastic. I couldn't eat lunch at the restaurant today and so I had to have it "to go" and was given two styrofoam (though surely not?) containers and all sorts of extra bits and pieces. Now, I was excited when he gave it all to me, but as I ate my meal I became more and more guilty at the footprint of my meal - the containers, plastic cutlery inside a plastic shrinkwrap. Takeaway coffee cup with uht in little plastic cups (but omg! french vanilla flavoured!!!) and a bottle of ketchup - a glass bottle of 62g of ketchup. Cute but broke my heart at the footprint of it.

It's a bit depressing. But then on the other hand, actually there is so much room for tiny changes in lifestyle expectations that could make massive changes in footprint. What if this hotel provided glasses and water in jugs instead? What if I had been allowed to eat on crockery and use stainless steel cutlery etc? Maybe when the world finally wakes up and gets cracking, we will actually get a very steep change in direction just by making a few small changes to how we live? I mean, yeah, we need to make massive changes but maybe the low hanging fruit stuff really would make a difference if everyone did it - quick runs on the board etc.