Chicon 7: Friday (Or, Panels and Parties)

I managed to be up just after 6am on Friday, despite the late night the night before. I came down to the lobby to write up the Thursday blog post, and then met Allen Steele for breakfast. It was a great breakfast and set the tone for the rest of the day. Allen has always given me very good, practical advice for being a writer and that breakfast was no different. He imparted on my some wisdom that has changed the way I am approaching my career as a short fiction writer–and I think for the better. I also got to see the cover for his upcoming YA science fiction novel, which was pretty darn cool.

The first panel I attended was titled “The Bob and Connie Show” and as you might guess from the title, it was Robert Silverberg and Connie Willis up on stage, chatting.

It was an absolutely hilarious panel, although it had its serious moments as well. To give a flavor of it, Bob said at the opening, “Let's get started,” he turned to Connie and said, “Remind me what your name is again?” He then went on to read a completely fictionalized (but supremely funny) biography of Connie Willis which he claimed to have taken from her website. This kind of back and forth went on for nearly ninety minutes. It immediately became one of the best panels I'd ever seen.

After that panel, it was about noon and I thought I should grab a quick bite. I picked up a pretty terrible chicken salad sandwich and had taken one bite when I saw Jay Werkheiser, Stan Schmidt and Stan's wife, Joyce walk by. I waved hello. Stan said they were off to lunch and invited me to come along. Well! I was up in a flash. The four of us roamed the steaming hot streets of Chicago for 25 minutes locating the restaurant at which Stan and Joyce wanted to eat, the Frontera Grill, a Rick Bayless restaurant. Once we finally go there, we learned that there was an hour-long wait for a table. So the four of us crammed into the bar and ate there. I had some outstanding duck quesadillas. It was wonderful getting to talk to Stan, who as most people probably know now, is retiring as editor of Analog after holding that post for 34 years–a longer tenure than John W. Campbell.

When we got back from lunch, Jay and I went to the bar and had a beer and talked shop before my 3pm panel.

The 3pm panel was my first of the conference. It was called “Turning Ideas into Stories. Louise Marley moderated the panel as was among the finest moderators I've seen. She was incredibly well-prepared, having the bios of all of the other panelists, and introducing us. She also ran the panel incredibly well. Also on the panel:Tim Akers, Alec Nevala-Lee, Roland Green, and myself. It was an interesting panel in which we discussed, within a well-structured framework, how we take ideas and turn them into stories. There were about 70 people in the audience during the question and answer session. I got to meet Tim Akers for the first time. Also, Alec, who is another Analog writer.

With the panel over, I headed up to the Big Bar and had a drink. John DeNardo and his family stopped by for a while and mentioned that Patrick Hester would be moderating a panel on Pizza Wars: New York versus Chicago–on the Chicago side! So I headed down to that panel at 6pm and while there were only a few people in the room, it turned out to be a really fun panel with discussion ranging from pizza to burgers and beers and all kinds of food. By the time it was over, it was getting close to party time. I'd been invited to the Analog party at 8pm, and that was followed by a combo Analog/Asimov's party, both of which took place in the SFWA suite.

These two parties were some of the most fun I've had at a convention to-date. For one thing, I felt like a pro among other pros. For another, I finally got to meet Ken Liu in person and I did my best to introduce him to as many people as I could. Sheila Williams led a champagne toast to Stan:

There was also a toast to Trevor, who is taking over as editor.

And Stan made a short speech. I found myself chatting with everyone. I spent a lot of time chatting with Ken. But I also talked quite a bit with Trevor (the new “boss”), and Alec Nevala-Lee. Met in-person and chatted with Lynne Thomas. I met and chatted with David Brin, and reminded him of the time, a dozen years ago, when we last corresponded. Allen Steele was there, and I got to meet his wife, Linda. I mentioned to Trevor that I was a Robert Reed fan, and Trevor dragged me over to where Reed was sitting and I chatted with him, too. I said hello to Jack McDevitt and Rob Sawyer. Eventually, I started to lose track of everyone I spoke to, but it was an incredibly fun time and I am still on a high from it this morningm and hoping, perhaps, that the parties tonight will be almost as good.

Here is Stan and Trevor with Jay Werkheiser in the background:

Looking forward to more fun today!