I have returned from my long sojourn to the east, and lo, it was awesome. New York was fantastic, and WorldCon in Montreal was great, and I never want to walk anywhere again for the rest of my life. We walked a lot on this trip. But since everywhere we walked was awesome, it was worth it.
Saturday, August 1: Grandma took the kids, and Dawn and I spent the day rejoicing in our freedom. Barely three days later we were sadly bemoaning how much we missed them.
Sunday, August 2: Flight to New York takes all day, thanks to increasingly silly airline regulations. The SLC airport has the most efficient security protocols I have ever seen–do they really still need me there three hours early? We landed at JFK, took a taxi ride on Hell’s Rollercoaster, and wandered around in Midtown Manhattan taking in the sights until we got hungry. Dinner: One of the 500 pizza places labeled Famous Original Ray’s.
Monday, August 3: We walked to the Flatiron Building and met everyone at Tor, all of whom are awesome and are very excited about “I Am Not a Serial Killer.” We had lunch with my editor, his in-house contact, the Director of Publicity, and the Director of Marketing, and talked about our plans for the book launch; it should be very exciting. They loved the buttons, so I’m going to print some more and ship them over so they can send them to reviewers and booksellers and such. We spent the afternoon with Emma Hawkes, this year’s Down Under Fan Fund winner, and with my editor Moshe, who showed all three of us all over lower Manhattan. It was the best tour of the city we could possibly have asked for; he knows literally everything there is to know about everything you ask him. Dinner was City Crab with Writing Excuses fan Eliyanna and her wife Danielle; we ate incredible oysters and perhaps the best fish I’ve ever had. Afterward we took the Roosevelt Island tram in an attempt to see the Renwick ruins, but it was getting super late so we just wandered around a bit and caught the subway back to Manhattan. A few pictures of the Rockefeller Center (at which we did not, to my heart’s great sadness, see Tina Fey), and we were done for the day.
Tuesday, August 4: Arguably the nicest guy we met in all of Manhattan was Unsal Yildirim, owner of the Central Park Bicycle Shop, who rented us some bikes for the morning. It turns out Central Park is practically a National Forest; in two hours we barely had time to ride around the periphery, let alone stop and take a million pictures (though we did that too). We had just enough time to get ripped off by a hot dog cart guy before arriving at the Met and having just enough time to not really see even half of the exhibits. Dawn is a huge Monet junkie, so that was her favorite part; I’m more of a modernist, but the gift shop didn’t seem to have a print of my favorite piece. Then we raced to Katz’s Deli for dinner (real pickles, a Knish to split, a Reuben made with their own homemade Corned Beef, and a New York Egg Cream, which instantly became my new favorite drink. Dawn had motzah ball soup and pastrami); we rushed out and ran to the subway and barely made it to the theater in time for “In the Heights,” an awesome musical that I recommend wholeheartedly to everyone who has the chance to see it. Does it sound like we spent the whole day running? Because we did. Next time we visit New York we’re planning at least one extra day, if not more, because there is simply too much to see and do.
Wednesday, August 5: A short walk and a fond farewell to Broadway, and then we raced off to the airport where, once again, we got through security in about three seconds and then sat on our butts for three hours. It gave me time to finish Warbreaker, though, so I guess it wasn’t a total loss. The plane to Montreal was one of the little city-bus-sized ones, and it made Dawn so airsick she was dizzy for the next four days. We made it to WorldCon just late enough to miss registration, so we spent the evening exploring the city and trying poutine (verdict: awesome).
Thursday, August 6: My first panel was really more of a writing workshop, which was really more of a presentation by Derek Kunsken–and it ws a completely fascinating presentation. His premise was an Orson Scott Card quote saying that, when you think of a story element, the first thing that comes to mind is probably a cliche, so you should immediately throw it out and think of another one, then throw it out and think of yet another; repeat as necessary. We did this as a group exercise, and it was amazing how much more interesting and original our stories got as we kept digging deeper. This panel went long, so I was late to my next one, which I was technically moderating, but Cheryl Morgan stepped up to the plate and did a fantastic job; she should have been moderator to begin with. It was a panel about how the mainstream media perceives fandom, and what we as fans can do to get our real story told. In the long term it doesn’t necessarily matter, because tomorrow’s leaders are growing up on today’s movies and video games and will end up as fans themselves, but in the short term we have to go out of our way and make our voices heard–and we have to make sure our voices are telling interesting stories that the mainstream media will want to hear. Dinner: a fancy French restaurant with Carsten, my German editor. My book launches in Germany at the end of this month, and they’re doing some incredible things to promote it. I gave him a bag of German buttons, and we talked about our plans for hours.
Friday, August 7: I had my two best panels today, starting with the zombie panel I talked about earlier. It was awesome, and gave me some great ideas I’m still trying to wrestle into a coherent story. After that was our Writing Excuses panel, which was very well-attended, but due to a communication error two of our guests weren’t able to make it. Luckily for us, our third guest was Mary Robinette Kowal, last year’s Campbell winner, who was awesome. You’ll have to wait a few weeks to hear them, but the episodes we recorded with her were some of our very best. Two were audience Q&A, and one was about puppets. Seriously. You’re laughing now, but in my humble opinion it’s one of our best episodes ever. Dinner = awesome chinese food with Eric James Stone and our friend Heidi.
Saturday, August 8: My Saturday panel was “Exploring the monster within,” which could have been awesome, but it was listed with the wrong time, and the wrong location, and the location it actually had was through the “let your kids play around and be noisy” room, so we only had four people show up (which, alas, narrowly missed the time-honored rule: “If you have more panelists than attendees, you hold the panel in the bar across the street.”) It was still fun, sparse attendance aside, and if nothing else I got to meet Lauren Beukes, who was just as interesting as her book’s website had led me to believe. On the plus side, my old friend Will and his family showed up this day, so we got to hang out with them and catch up over dinner at Schwartz’s, an awesome local deli. We got back to our hotel just in time to see an email from Peter Ahlstrom inviting us to dinner with him and Brandon and Howard (and their wives, of course), so we wandered back into Chinatown and hung out for hours. WorldCon travel tip: staying in a hotel next door to the convention center on one side and Chinatown on the other is even more awesome than it sounds.
Sunday, August 9: This was my last panel, a sort of writing crash-course with Brandon, Jay Lake, and Elaine Isaak. I was moderating, and ended up participating very little–when you’ve got that kind of talent at your fingertips, it’s best to just ask some questions and enjoy the ride. That night was the Hugos, of which I predicted more than 50% (yay me!). Howard did not win, which was sad but no surprise because we all knew Joss Whedon was going to beat him. What we did not know, on the other hand, was that Phil and Kaja Foglio would beat Joss, and we cheered like maniacs. Congrats to the Foglios, and to all the winners, for an awesome job. Also of note: the Hugo trophy is slightly different each year, and this year’s was gorgeous. Dinner on Sunday was arguably the highlight of the trip: Brandon, Peter, and I came to Montreal for World Fantasy in 2001, and it was there that we met our editor, Moshe, and he agreed to read our books. We celebrated by eating at a funny little Italian restaurant where they made us some Chinese Spaghetti. We loved that place, and we were almost childishly excited to go back again eight years later as published professionals. It was exactly how we remembered it, though the old mobster-looking guy who sat by the phone and took mysterious calls all night was replaced by a young mobster-looking guy doing the same thing. We ordered Chinese spaghetti and ate some intensely delicious calzones, and when we left we took pictures of the restaurant and the building and the waiter and everything we could think of (though not, it should be noted, the phone guy. If anyone asks, we didn’t even SEE a phone guy. We didn’t see nothin’).
Monday, August 10: The trip came full circle when we met up with Emma Hawkes again, this time listening to her panel about why Australia is wonderful and we should totally go there for WorldCon next year. I would dearly love to, and the possibility is definitely still on the table, but for now I simply donated a copy of my book to the Down Under Fan Fund auction. It is signed, and comes with an “I Am Not a Serial Killer” button with which to put your friends at ease, and you totally want it. When the auction goes online I’ll be sure to link to it. Our trip home was grotesquely elongated by some kind of epic fail at the Detroit airport, which delayed our flight from 4pm until 8am the next morning; we were able to get on the next flight out of Montreal, landing in Minneapolis, and from there we found another flight home to Salt Lake City that same night. So we got home about 4 hours late, but at least it wasn’t 16 hours late. Our kids were so excited to see us again I thought they were going to hyperventilate. Grandma and Grandpa, God bless them, are probably going to sleep for a straight month.