My “awesome*” weekend at Capclave 2011

I spent most of Saturday and Sunday attending Capclave 2011 at its new hotel up in Gaithersberg, Maryland. Saturday was an experiment for us. Kelly was spending the day at a bachelorette party, going from one winery to the next and I would be at the convention. We had a babysitter staying with the Little Man and the Little Miss from 10am until I got home at 6pm. The experiment was a success. The kids were fine. And the babysitter worked out very well.

Saturday

On Saturday, I arrived at Capclave around 9:30am. As soon as I walked into the hotel lobby I ran into Edmund Schubert, editor of Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, and the man who bought my first story. We caught up quickly and then wandered over to the con-ops room to get our badges and other goodies. My schedule for the day was pretty wide open. My first panel wasn’t until 3pm. Once I’d collected my badge, I wandered over to the area where the Kaffeeklatches were being held. I’d signed up for the KK with Edmund and Alethea Kontis. Present at the table was Kat Otis, who I’d first met in the green room at the Nebula Weekend back in May; Larry Hodges; and one woman whose name I cannot recall, but who had some fascinating stories to tell about her teachers. (The discussion at the table was wide and varied, which was a good thing.)

After that I went wandering briefly through the huckster room (I guess they actually call them dealer rooms now) to see if I could find any pre-1950 Astoundings that I didn’t already have. Alas, there were none to be had. I wandered back into the lobby where I saw Scott Edelman and I chatted with Scott for a while.

A day or two before the convention started, it was quietly announced that best-selling British author Terry Pratchett would be stopping by. Scott’s 1pm panel was moved in order to make a slot available for Terry Pratchett. While we were chatting in the lobby, conference organizers came by with a sign indicating that Terry’s appearance was being moved from 1pm to noon. Eventually I (and just about everyone else at the conference) wandered to the room in which the event would take place. By the time things got started, it was standing-room only, but I managed to get there in time to get a seat in the second row, and I snapped this picture of Terry Pratchett being miked for the interview:

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Pratchett was interviewed by his assistant, who also read some hilarious portions from his new book, Snuff. I am rather embarrassed to admit that I have never read anything by Pratchett, but listening to him speak and hearing the reading made me want to. I picked up a copy of The Colour of Magic. However, I have since been giving some good instruction by Fred Kiesche on the proper way to read the series and I will likely take his advice. Someone in the audience asked about the documentary Pratchett did for the BBC on assisted dying and that led to another fascinating discussion. I’m glad that Pratchett showed up and I’m glad I got to be there to see him. For those interested, Scott Edelman got the whole thing on video.

As the audience flooded out after the talk, I ran into Edmund Schubert coming the opposite direction of the flow, collecting people to go to lunch. We opted for Tandori Nights and collected a gang of 8 or 9 people which included myself, Edmund, Scott Edelman, Kat Otis, Lawrence Schoen and his wife Valerie, Alethea Kontis, Brian and Jennifer O’Callaghan. The lamb vindaloo was yummy, as were the beers, but toward the end, I got a little nervous, worried that we might not make it back in time for my 3pm panel.

But make it back we did, with a minute or two to spare. The rest of the panelists were already seated when I took my place next to David G. Hartwell. The panel–“Will Books Survive, and in what form?”–included Hartwell as the moderator, myself, Iver Cooper, Ernest Lilley and Elaine Stiles. It was a good discussion on e-books, traditional books, the pros and cons of each and the challenges that e-books faced going forward. There was good audience participation as well, which I think is important on panels like these. The panel ended at 4pm. I took one more swing through the dealer room and then decided to call it a day and head home; a good thing, too, since I ended up hitting substantial traffic on the way home. What took me 30 minutes in the morning, took 90 in the late afternoon.

Sunday

I arrived before 9am on Sunday and spent the first hour in the lobby jotting down notes for the panel on “Why Short Fiction” that I was moderating at 10am. I hadn’t had a chance to prepare well Saturday night as I was dealing with some fussy kids once I arrived home. I ran into Brian and Jennifer O’Callaghan and they were playing catch-up, too, trying to cram in their homework for the writing workshop in which they were participating.

Just before 10am I wandered over to the room in which the panel was to take place and said hello to the two other panelists. Bud Sparhawk I’d met before on several occasions, but this was my first time meeting David Bartell. I found it interesting that all three panelists were Analog writers. This was a Sunday morning, 10am panel and when we got started there were 3 people in the audience. I think we did an okay job providing an interesting discussion on why short fiction was important and why we wrote (and read) it. This was only my second time moderating and I still have some ropes to learn, but both Bud and David were good about pitching in and adding to the discussion. The audience grew throughout the session and by the time we wrapped up, I think we had 12 people in the room.

I spent the rest of the day actually sitting in the audience of interesting panels. Well, first I grabbed some lunch, an excellent turkey melt sandwich at the hotel restaurant. I chatted with Alethea Kontis in the hotel lobby for a while and then headed off to a panel on “self-editing”. On the panel were Aly Parsons, who moderated, Scott Edelman, Alan Smale, and Danny Birt. It’s always amazing the little useful tips you learn on panels like these. Scott Edleman said two things on this panel which were particularly interesting. He talked about playing to his weaknesses rather than his strengths as a way of learning and improving. He also said, “I believe there are putter-inners and taker-outers, and I’m a putter-inner.” I’m not sure which camp I fall into yet. I do a little of each.

After that panel, I headed over to the panel on “Stealing From the Best”. Panelists included Andrew Fox (moderating), Lawrence Watt-Evans, Sherin Nicole, and Alethea Kontis. Another fascinating panel about how writing adopt and build upon work that comes before them, something that I recently wrote about with respect to science fiction.

And when that panel was over, it was 3pm and I was pretty tired and ready to head home.

Capclave is, as it turns out, my most attended convention. I started going to conventions in 2007 and while I have attended Readercon 3 times and RavenCon and Balticon twice each, I have attended Capclave a total of five times. I was so happy to be invited to participate in the convention this year. It was great getting to chat with folks like Bill Lawhorn who is always so enthusiastic about Capclave that it is contagious. And a big thank you to Mike and Beth Zipser, who Kelly and I sat with at the Nebula banquet and who invited me to participate in Capclave this year. It was a lot of fun.


* People who watch Scott’s video of Terry Pratchett’s interview will get the “awesome” reference.