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08-24-06: Then I–Not

No Adventures Guaranteed

I'm a series of tubes as well, but I don't wear a sign.
So here we are, 7 AM Friday. Worldcon continues, with or without me, mostly without. Now I am going to make my headline a lie and tell you a bit about what transpired yesterday. Not that I intend to make a habit of this. This is, I guess, why I don’t consider myself a blogger, because I can't imagine anyone wants to read about me. Unless of course, you want laundry tips, or descriptions of how to pick up the endless sea of crap I manage to create in my house. But I'm not there now, I'm at Worldcon and thus, there may be summat of interest for you. Let's see.

Yesterday morning pretty much revolved around Naomi Novik, the author the 'Temeraire' series. I spent much of the early morning prepping for my interview with her, and then we met in the lobby and tooled out to NPR West, meeting very little traffic. (I could also "Blog" about my driving experiences. Now there's excitement!) We arrived, as seems to be the usual, about five minutes late, but then our excellent engineer, herself an SF reader, got us set up in one the new high-tech studios they have, and off we went. For like, over an hour, and even then there were questions left unasked. That said, Naomi was a wonderful guest with a variety of fascinating things to say about her writing and fiction writing in general. Consider it yet another lesson the Rick Kleffel Interviews Master Class for Aspiring Writers. Listen and ye shall be uplifted! (But only if you’re a dolphin of chimpanzee.)

Naomi Novik will soon be ruling the world from a dragon's back.
On the drive back, my wife and I were chatting with Naomi, who has an intense interest in vidding. Great term, that. Vidding is the practice of remixing music and video to suit your own tastes, to tell your own stories using the dissected bits and pieces of other people's stories. AKA, more popularly, the mash-up. Naomi told us of us password-protected websites and other secretive exhibitions. Wait a second–secretive exhibition, isn't that an oxymoron? No, that's me. The vidding artists are understandably secretive about their work, however, with the corporate lawyers on a witch hunt to prosecute anyone out of a few thousand dollars, most of whom can ill afford it. Naomi's spoke to the power of storytelling, of how it enters the public marketplace of ideas to become one part of a conversation that gets echoed back by low-cost, cutting edge digital technology. Artists create art using the shredded remains of someone else's art. And here come the lawyers.

Top: Jay Lake and unidentified non-blogger ogle the super-cool Lake WU Limited (bottom). Very much to die for.
The lawyers basically want to shut this artform down, which is of course, impossible. You can't legislate either art or morality, and you can't sue creativity out of existence. With dwindling profits for corporate purveyors of other people's art, those corporate entities are looking for other ways to being in the money. Now that U2 can write, produce and distribute their own music with no help from RCA, MCA or WTFCA, well, WTFCA is looking for money. If you can't get the consumer's money by selling them something and you've got a platoon of bored-shitless lawyers who used to have to haggle with artists, well, why not send out the lawyers to collect the money from your customers without any of those silly artists in the middle? I don’t see that as a viable long-term business strategy, but then, probably these guys aren't think it is either. Get the money now until there's no more to be got that way, then figure out another. 'Tis more soulfully satisfying to create art than commerce, but commerce pays generally pays better. So when an artist sues you directly, maybe you might want to pay them, or as it were cease and desist. When you think a corporation is going to sue you, password protect your website and keep a low profile. It's only a matter of time until all this foofaraw blows over and vidding is mainstreamed. By then, my wife suggested, the vidders will be remixing your DNA. I'm happy to have people generate all the clones of me they want, so long as I don’t have to shell out the dough to send said clones to college. Of course, maybe the clones will hire some of those bored-shitless lawyers and sue me for child support. Oh, the agony.

And all of this ties back to SF in the form of fanfic. Naomi told me in our interview that she'd written fanfic, and that she welcomes fanfic for the Temeraire universe. And fanfic is of course the protozoic form of vidding. What all this really suggests to me is that the Pericalypse has arrived. There is now more art being produced than can be consumed by the available audience. The creators are pretty close to outnumbering the consumers. Soon ye shall rule the world. But who will have time to read the books ye write?

Elizabeth Bear will rule the world from what's left of Toronto.
Meanwhile, back here in Anaheim, Naomi is delivered to her seminar, and I'm delivered to the Post-Apocalyptic SF panel. Ever mindful of the money, or more precisely, my lack of it (I'd just gone to the grocery store to buy some fruit and bread, thus to save money on fatty and unsatisfying lunches, then found out I'd spend forty friggin' dollars on fruit and bread), when they opened up the panel to questions, the first thing out of my mouth was some mumbled-for-the-proffered-mic bit about the Depression as the ultimate fiscal apocalypse. They weren't biting. They being Elizabeth Bear, John G. Hemry, Ed Green, Nick Sagan, and Takayuki Tatsumi. I did think that Tatsumi has some fascinating insights into the post-Hiroshima perspective. And then I–

Not. You know, one thing I'll say for this Worldcon, they've got it organized really well. What’s their great innovation? Panels that last one hour, guaranteed. And then, get this -- a half an hour between panels. So you have time to go up and say hello to the participants, then get a soda, then wander over to the next panel. It was really weird to be at a Worldcon where folks weren't rushing everywhere hither and yon, responding to hellos with a puffed, "Gotta run, late for my panel." Thank you Worldcon committee, great job. Please continue this practice.

OK, OK, OK, here's your flying car. Are you happy now? From the Dealer's Room to your shell-like. And the Petersen Car Art exhibit.

Then I, well I told you I was going to turn my headline into a lie, then I went to the Space Opera Renaissance panel. You can imagine who was there; Al Reynolds, Mike Shepard Moscoe, Toni Weiskopf, Wil McCarthy, David Hartwell, Gardner Dozois, and Charles N. Brown. It was pretty lively and entertaining. Er, until I had a horrific coughing fit. Then I.

And last evening, we did have a lovely dinner in the city of Orange with my sister and her husband; by the time we returned, even the sound of constant partying couldn't keep me awake. And alas, by the time it was over, I was wide eyed and awake, wondering what I was going to write about. Got that problem, solved eh? Look, you all just blog on without me. I'm going to give myself a rest and I'll catch up with you in a few minutes. I've got a bit of reading to do.


08-23-06: Arrivals, Interviews, and One Panel

Yet Another Worldcon

Robot row greets you as you enter the Dealer's Room, which is also the art room.

And here we are. Los Angeles, scratch that Anaheim. Though we did stop in LA on the way down, so I could eat at Tommy's. I must say it was nice to arrive on Tuesday, the day before the convention started, as it gave me a few moments to catch my breath and to prepare for what turned out to be a much larger day than I expected.

The Anaheim Convention Center is one rockin' Worldcon location. We're holed up in the Hilton, though of course, holed up is not exactly the correct description. More like laid out in luxury, or what passes for luxury on a beer budget. When we arrived, we were told our room was on the party level, and we immediately requested we not be on the party level. But the room they gave us was one the locked in sealed tight deals, so once we saw that, we ran right back and asked for the party level. This turns out to be not so much the party level, thus far however. The plaza behind us was deserted all evening, and I had one wonderful time re-reading 'His Majesty's Dragon' by Naomi Novik. What a ripping yarn! A lovely evening spent reading in the warm night, easy dinner downstairs–sublime. But a crumb of worry, or rather a bread-loaf of worry. I had to get up this morning and do a boatload of work. Thus, i work up every half hour until 3:30, the designated-by-me-getup time.

This is me waking up. Here I go! I brew a weak-ass cup o' coffee, cos the grinder I bought on the way down is much smaller than my home grinder. Then I tuck in to work. That is, I have two interviews to write up and one review for the Metro, totally off-topic, non-SF wonderful book. 'Let Me Tell You Where I've Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora' edited by Persis Karim. Beautiful stuff, and a joy to write about, so eqry it make the rest of my work easier.

That work would be to prep for interview I'm doing at NPR West with David Louis Edelman, then Anne and Todd McCaffrey. Remarkably, I manage to finish them both by the time I have to go down to meet David. Here's David:

And he is one smart, nice guy, who really has his head on straight. Mostly, he's very nice about being shoved in our station wagon and driven though searing heat and fairly searing traffic to NPR West. But once we got there it was utterly cool and smooth sailing. The engineers make all this seem super-easy, and that makes my job as an interviewer even easier. Of course, having an ace guest like Edelman helps a lot.

Once David and I finished, it was time for the next interview -- Anne and Todd McCaffrey. Yes, the mind boggles. Legends from my earliest SF reading, in conversation. I was like, 12 years old when I first read Anne's work, and it was one of those that hooked me on SF. I got it at the same bookstore where I bought Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and I remember looking at the books a number of times before I grew brave enough to buy them. So today, I was fortunate enough to talk to Anne about the state of SF when she wrote them, and about dragons in general. Todd is wonderfully articulate, and there were moments of genuine emotion crackling in that studio. Of course, we all got our photo taken with Anne at the NPR mic. And it's barely 1 PM.

After that a quick detour to take David to my other eating icon, El Abajeno, a Mexican cafeteria near NPR West that I used to enjoy when I worked at Quotron. Then, back through stifling heat and traffic to the Hilton. Oh the air-conditioned bliss.

Once we got back, we went to get my press pass, which was another great experience. The staff for this Worldcon had heard the Vinge/Doctorow piece on NPR, and they were really enthusiastically supportive. And from there to our first and only panel for the day on (what else would I attend?) 'Future Trends in SF'. I'm hoping to produce an audio report for this, and you'll likely hear excerpts from it tomorrow morning. It being 6:30 PM, I'm pretty much past my Expiration Date.

From there it was a quick wind around the Dealer's Room, there to be presented with signed editions of Dune, the usual Lovecraft firsts, a whole yikes-o-rama of fun. But they'd really done a number on this room. It was studded with lots of fun memorabilia from the moment you entered, when you were confronted by a row of robots.

You know, yesterday you might have noticed I put the word "blogging" in quotes, because, well, I doubt what I do measures up to blogging. But I do what I can, and try to reflect what the day brings to my rather peculiar perspective. It's frigging hard to blog after running around all day like this. I drove 75 miles in the blazing sun (well, my wife drove, and I know everyone was happier about that), did two interviews that just about knocked me out, then went to a compelling seminar. This is knockout time, folks. I'm history.

And there I'll have to leave you, just so I can get enough sleep to get going at 3:30 AM tomorrow morning, to prepare for another day of fun. And reporting. For The Agony Column, I'm Rick Kleffel.


08-22-06: WorldCon Field Trip

Experiments in "Blogging" and "Podcasting"

By the time you read this, I'll likely be on my way to the 2006 World Science Fiction Convention in Los Angeles. Or at least it’s called LACon, though it's being held in Anaheim, which is rather a drive from LA. For the rest of the world it's probably just a blur, but as one who spent many years traveling those freeways, it is most definitely not a blur, and the two are not even physically close. I'm not sure why they didn't call if Anacon, but then, I'm definitely outside of the SF establishment.

Nonetheless, I'll be the cuckoo in the nest for the next week, talking to whomever is willing to chat and attempting to post some news from the convention itself, as well as to enjoy a relaxing vacation. As I know more and have more to report, I'll report it, both via podcast and via this column. Should you feel so inclined, I'd suggest subscribing to the podcast now via iTunes. It will certainly help me in some nebulous fashion of which I'm not precisely certain, but, that's what the iTunes folks tell me. Plus, the updates will not be just the regular hour chunk o' interview on Sunday evening / Monday morning. I'm hoping to do at least one or two per day while I'm here. I've got a nifty new microphone to get better audio from the panels. We'll see if and how it all works. And I'll probably see a few people who read this column. One hopes they won't come at me with brickbats. But if they do, I'll finally see a brickbat in person, and you know, despite their fearsome reputation, well, I've never seen one and am rather curious as to what, precisely one looks like. And if they aren't hurled at me in "tribute", well, I can probably pick one up in the Dealer's Room, where I'll be picking up material for the Rolling Shelves feature. It's an odd time for me and SF. I'm certainly no stranger to the conventions, yet I don’t feel like I'm quite in the world either. But that's because I rather enjoy the prospect of peering through the window. There's something about glass, as looking through the invisible Colgate Shield, that I find bracing. Good thing that. One wonders whether in some science fictional future, force shields will be invented by the Colgate company–one can be certain that they'll be used for dental protection. Flip a switch and your teeth are protected.

08-21-06: A 2006 Interview with T. C. Boyle

Balance and Flow

Fear of fiscal malfeasance. His speciality, this time round.
For Episode 99 of my podcast, I'm fortunate enough to have on hand this wonderful conversation with T. C. Boyle, whose latest novel, 'Talk Talk' should be on your shortlist to buy and read immediately. Now, my take on this novel was a bit unusual, more personal than usual. That's because I have a sort of phobia of debt, which might explain why I'm constantly acting like the cat that's walking on an electric grid that goes off at irregular intervals. I get at least one credit card solicitation every day, usually more, and these advertisements clearly cost like about a buck each to send. They’re incredibly elaborate. But because I'm lucky enough to get to work at home, I can be right there to snatch them from the mailbox, rip 'em open and shred them immediately. Those who don't might fall victim to someone like the sympathetic antagonist in Boyle's novel of identity theft. Yes, William "Peck" Wilson is something of a monster, but since we see the much of the novel from his point of view, he's a likable monster. Not as likable though as his creator, the thoroughly entertaining Mr. Boyle.

If you're subscribed to the podcast via iTunes, then you've already downloaded this, and I know you'll enjoy it. Boyle is as engaging a speak as he is a writer, and every bit as pithy. Now you can download the MP3 from this link, or the RealAudio from this link. But I'm hoping that more readers will use the iTunes store to subscribe, since it might bring a few more in your wake. And frankly, the more people who hear Boyle's interview, the better. All of his books are accessible and they're all excellent. But I suspect this one might have more popular appeal, and we anyway we can get the word out works for me. I'm hoping to catch up on my review backlog next week, or perhaps the following week. But no matter what week it is, be assured that I or my designated house sitter shall be at the mailbox every day to fetch in those offers. My identity may be compromised, but I'm working very hard to make sure it's not stolen.