At Lunacon last Saturday, Esther Friesner reported seeing a Lord of the Rings slot machine. Surely, I thought, it was a slip of the tongue and she was talking of a pinball machine.
As witness above, no such luck.
And since you asked . . .
"You're totally mad," Gardner Dozois told me at the Pen & Pencil Club Friday.
"We'll see," I replied. And the very next morning got up at dawn, let Marianne pour me into the car, and tackled the ten-panels-in-thirteen-hours iron man schedule that Lunacon had assigned me. Which is, taking into account that industry gives you a half hour lunch hour and two fifteen minute breaks during the day, means I was being challenged to squeeze one and a half work days into one long burst of adrenalin-fueled verbal brilliance.
Here's how it went:
9:30 a.m. Arrive at convention, find registration, find pro registration, receive badge, schmooze friends, hand out copies of Song of the Lorelei, find first panel.
10:00 a.m. Don't Change a Thing! -- A discussion of editing, what works and what doesn't. Which quickly turns into exchanges of horror stories alternating between the insane behavior of editors and the insane behavior of writers. We are all brilliant. I hand out a few chapbooks.
11:00 Free time. I take a swing through the huckster room, talking to friends, handing out chapbooks, signing a few autographs.
12:00 noon The Biggest Mistakes New Writers Make -- This was an easy panel because new writers make so many and varied mistakes. It was easy for us all to be effortlessly brilliant.
1:00 p.m. Biographies -- There were only two people on this panel, myself and Daniel Grotta, who had written a biography of Tolkien. Even so, we outnumbered the audience at the beginning of the hour. But our audience was both passionate and well read on the topic, so we began a discussion with him. Then several more auditors drifted in. This was easily one of the best panels of the day.
Continue to give away the chapbooks. Luckily for me, Marianne has planned ahead and stuffed some granola bars and a couple of hard boiled eggs (with homemade celery salt!) into my attache. I have time to scarf down an egg before my next panel.
2:00 p.m. When Magic Goes Away -- An entertaining panel. I was still in good form and Esther Friesner revealed that she had just seen a Lord of the Rings slot machine.
I manage to eat the second egg before I have to speak again.
4:00 p.m. Weapons of Tomorrow -- I'm still doing well. If I'm not quite as sharp as I was earlier, the other panelists make up for it. The audience is large and almost entirely male. They are also quite opinionated. Nobody on the panel is surprised or dismayed.
5:00 p.m. Writing Across Genre Lines -- The panel begins a bit disjointedly and then . . . A streak of luck! When I mention that nobody "here" is a romance writer, a woman in the audience raises her hand. I have the presence of mind to invite her to join the panel and she pumps a great deal of energy and insight into the hour. Everyone, including the panelists, is interested in what she has to say. Alas, by this time, I was too tired to jot down her name, and so cannot give her full credit.
6:00 p.m. Free time. I grab the last half-bagel in the Green Room and eat it. There's more food in the Con Suite, however, and I put together a handful of cheese cubes, a half dozen cherry tomatoes, the last three slices of zucchini, and a small bag of potato chips. Then Marianne gently leads me outside and we walk about the margins of the parking lot, enjoying the near-spring air. I'm pretty washed out by now and confess that I'm not at all sure I'll manage to make every panel.
7:00 p.m. Short Fiction and Its Nine Lives -- I'd been looking forward to this panel, but there are only two people on it, myself and the editor of Clarkesworld. He has a great deal of intelligent things to say about the state of online zine publishing, and a lot of people in the audience are intensely interested in the subject. We agree that in a year everything will be changed. Nevertheless, by now I'm so tired that I cannot hold up half of a panel and make it sizzle. I do my best, but I wander a bit. I hand out more chapbooks.
8:00 Defeat. "I can't do two more panels," I admit to Marianne. Which meant I had to abandon Is Society Anti-Science? (a subject which, admittedly, I did not have a great deal to say about) and "Real" Folklore and Mythology in Fantasy World-Building. The latter is something I'm rather knowledgeable on. Nevertheless, I'm on the point of collapse. I need food, and I need rest.
Gardner is right. I was completely mad to think I could do this. Twenty years ago, maybe. So I let Marianne help me into the car and drive me away.
I gave it my best, though. I'll give myself that.