Yesterday (Thursday) was my first full day at the 70th World Science Fiction Convention. As a reminder to those who may not have been following along, this is my first Worldcon. Despite being up later than usual the night before (in part, listening to Scott Edelman's excited descriptions of his dinner at Next–which I see he has not yet posted about), I was up early yesterday morning. Indeed, I was up with the sunrise. I pulled open the blinds in my hotel room and saw this:
I came down to the hotel lobby around 6:30am, had breakfast (a surprisingly good one) and then sat in the lobby waiting for things to get started.
It was while I sat waiting that I saw Robert Silverberg roaming the lobby. He was wearing a bright blue button down shirt and beige jeans. In the past, I would have been terrified to approach such a giant of the field, but two things were in my favor: first, he wasn't engaged in conversation with anyone else; he was wandering alone. Second, we'd corresponded by email a number of times and had planned to meet. So after a false start or two, I gathered myself from my seat, walked over to him and said, “Bob, hi, I'm Jamie Rubin.”
“Jamie,” he said, “you caught me early, I see.” We chatted for a moment and he asked, “What do you hear from Barry?” (He was referring to our mutual friend, Barry Malzberg.) We chatted some more and then Bob asked, “Have you seen the Wall Street Journal this morning?” I hadn't so Bob went on to explain, with sardonic delight, a front page story about how eBay will no longer be selling metaphysical items. (I had no idea they sold that stuff in the first place.) Shortly after that, Scott Edelman came down. He and Bob were having breakfast together and we went our separate ways.
But, wow! It was so cool to talk with him. I tried very hard to suppress the fanboy in me and act reserve and professional in his presence. I think I did okay.
I spent some time in the morning wandering around the city. Aside from the scores of times I've been through O'Hare airport, I've never actually been to Chicago. I left the hotel and walked to Michigan Avenue and then walked up the length of the Magnificent Mile. I was impressed. It reminded me of a younger version of Fifth Avenue in New York, with lots of high-end stores, some of the buildings were certainly newer, but others seemed old and the architecture on those old buildings–the details in the stonework, for instance–was impressive. I walked right by the John Hancock building and leaned back to gaze up at the top.
When I got back to the hotel, I had some lunch and then settled down to my first official con activity: a reading by Adam-Troy Castro. He read a rather hilarious story called “My Wife Hates Time Travel.” I believe he said the story will soon be appearing in Lightspeed Magazine. He had cookies and pens to give out, promoting his new series of children's books about Gustav Gloom. It was a good reading and a good event to start the con.
At some point, I wandered down into the bowels of the hotel to locate the dealer room. The conference facilities are deep below the hotel proper. I went two levels underground to find con registration and where a lot of the breakout rooms are. But the dealer's room was one level below that. And it has to be among the largest rooms I've ever seen. From one end of the room, I almost could not see the other end. And there is an enormous amount of stuff being sold in the dealers room. I made a fairly quick pass, looking for anyone selling old issues of Astounding Science Fiction. While there in the dealer's room, I finally got to meet Jason Sizemore, editor and publisher of Apex Magazine, which printed a story of mine way back in 2008.
Coming back from the dealer room, I ran into Allen Steele, who was just checking in. We chatted for a while, went back down to the dealer room and chatted some more. We ran into Adam-Troy Castro and we stood around, blocking traffic, telling stories and laughing a lot.
I attended the opening ceremonies for the convention in the vast ballroom (that sits above the dealer's room). The room was not packed, but rather than fight for a seat up toward the front, I sat way toward the back so that my view of the events on stage looked like this:
When the opening ceremonies were over, I was hungry again, so I headed over to the Big Bar because I knew they had some happy hour specials. Since I am in Chicago, I decided to order something traditionally local and put in an order for a footlong hot dog. What I thought I was going to get was one of those extra long dogs, Chicago-style. What I got was a hot dog that was twelve inches long, with pickles, onions, tomatoes and mustard. It was enormous:
After eating, I headed over to a reading by Nancy Fulda. Nancy read to a pretty full room and brought donuts! She read from the first chapter of her work-in-progress novel, and it was a great reading. You'd never know it was her first time doing a reading.
It was after that meeting that I finally met Bryan Thomas Schmidt in person. A short time later, I met Patrick Hester of the Functional Nerds and SF Signal in person, too. I sat with Patrick as well as Kat Richardson and Jennifer Brozek and talked shop for a while.
Heading back to the main east tower, I ran into Allen Steele and we went back to the Big Bar to sit at a table with a bunch of folks, including Rob Sawyer and his wife Carolyn Clink. The Big Bar, incidentally, has a great view of the city partially hidden behind bottles:
Jay Werkheiser and his friend Lisa joined us as well, and we sat around that table chatting for quite a while before Jay, Lisa and I headed up to the SFWA Suite.
We ran into a bunch of people in the SFWA Suite, including quite a few Analog writers. Steven Silver was there, looking unrushed for a change. Bill Lawhorn was there, as well and when Myke Cole showed up, we began to propose a hilarious series of non-military panels that Myke could potentially be on at future conventions. Kate Baker was also there and we talked baseball briefly, but long enough for me to get in a few digs about the Red Sox. Bryan Thomas Schmidt arrived so did a few others. But it was getting late and I decided that since the clock hit midnight, I should head off to bed.
I came down from the east tower to head to my room in the west tower and that's when I ran into Scott Edelman and found out how his dinner went at Alinea. While I was talking to Scott, I finally got to meet John DeNardo, head honcho over at SF Signal, in person. After Scott recounted his 21 course meal, I headed down to the lobby to sit with Patrick Hester, John DeNardo, and John's wife and daughter until things started turing gray–some time around 1:30am.
Despite all of that fun, and despite the fact that I was out as soon as my head hit the pillow, I was up with the sun at 6:30 this morning. It was a great first day of my first Worldcon.