I was pretty excited when I got into the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop this year. As I have written, it was an incredible experience. I collapsed an entire Astronomy 101 course into 6 days, and it was done in a framework and context for science fiction writers. The work that Mike Brotherton, Christian Ready and Andria Schwortz put into the lectures and materials was Herculean in and of itself. Their teaching and guidance was invaluable.
But there was another side to Launch Pad, the more personal side. Quite a few of the attendees of Launch Pad this year were previous attendees of Clarion. For me, however, Launch Pad was the first time I was thrust into a program with other writers in which you did everything together. You took classes together, ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner together, you slept in the dorms. You went to the bar, or the movies. It was compressed and that very compression led to friendships that formed quickly. So let me take a moment to talk about the new friends I made at Launch Pad, and just how amazing they are. I’ve probably made some mistakes and misremembered things, but these are my new friends. Let me introduce you. They are listed below alphabetically by first name.
Andy (@inkgorilla on Twitter) works in visual effects when he is not writing. He can speak at length on the subject, and in an engaging manner. (He worked on Babylon 5!) Indeed, on our drive up the mountain to WIRO, Andy distracted us from the terror of the winding, curving road and the sheer drops to one side, by telling us stories from the visual effects world.
He also writes great fiction. I read his story, “The Parting Glass” (Lightspeed, December 2011) and it was excellent, reminiscent of the stuff I used to read in Science Fiction Age in the mid-1990s. It was great getting to hang out with Andy. He is one of those people who is naturally friendly and after 10 minutes, you feel like you’ve known him for 10 years. It’s just too bad he lives on the opposite coast.
Anna Leahy and Douglas Dechow
Douglas Dechow (@dougdechow on Twitter) and Anna Leahy were one of two couples attending Launch Pad this year. They, along with Jeri Smith-Ready were among the only other baseball fans in the batch. They are science writers, and Anna is also a poet and editor. They are also just about the coolest people you’ll meet. We hung out in O’Dwyer’s one evening, talking about beer, and baseball, and Markov chains. Some LISP might have been discussed as well. They seem to have interviewed just about every single important person in the U.S. space program and they have some great stories to tell. Some of these, they tell at their joint blog, Lofty Ambitions, which you should be certain to check out and add to your feed.
I somehow missed getting my picture taken with Brenda, but she is right smack in the middle of his panorama shot I took on our last breakfast together at Launch Pad. I’m not sure I’ve ever met someone with such an effervescent personality as Brenda. She was constantly bubbling with ideas and is a fascinating person to listen to. She also knits and led a group of Launch Pad attendees to a knitting store in downtown Laramie at one point during the week.
Brenda is a novelist and has had novels published by TOR, DAW, and other outlets. She seems to be written about ten novels at once, which impressed me beyond measure, as I am incapable of writing more than one short story at a time. Brenda would hang out with us in the lounge some evenings to chat and was always great fun to be around.
Brenda was one of four people to take a fall during our hike. I think it was my fault. She had turned around to talk to me when she tripped backward of the rock and did a kind of judo roll, getting up dusty, but unharmed.
Caren (@spitkitten on Twitter) is one of those people who is just fun to hang out with. She can liven up every crowd, and tells fantastic (and sometimes, hilarious) stories. In lectures, she was often the one asking smart questions, that always seemed to me be to tied back to whatever it was she was writing in some meaningful way. She was another of the crowd who would sometimes hang out in the lounge late into the night, talking shop or telling war stories. It was great!
Chaz (@chazbrenchley on Twitter) might very well be the most experience writer in our group at Launch Pad. I’m not exactly sure how many novels he’s written, but the number exceeds A Lot. He has also written something like 500 short stories. Or, in Launch Pad-speak, 5 x 102. Of course, Chaz has probably been writing longer than anyone else in our group. His first novel was published in 1977, at which time, I gleefully pointed out to him, I was 5 years old.
Chaz was one of the morning cohort, which usually included myself and Doug Farren (and occasionally Brenda) who would be up early and at the student union by 7 am, writing. He was also my frequent companion at O’Dwyer’s. I think the photo I took above is possibly one of the only Launch Pad photos of Chaz where he hasn’t managed to hide in the background.
Chaz was one of four people who took a spill while we went hiking. They say the bigger they are, the harder they fall, and I think Chaz proved the sentiment with great fanfare. Don’t believe me. Let Chaz describe it himself.