I had a great couple of days at FogCon. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but as I left the house Friday afternoon, I had a realization. I was walking alone to BART, to take the train across the Bay, to walk through a city I’m only vaguely familiar with, to sign into a convention where I didn’t have a concrete plan to see anyone I knew. Maybe some people can do that and not think twice, but I am a person who used to be afraid to leave my house alone. (For good reason. Someday I’ll tell you that story.) I felt like I deserved a medal just for setting out.
I got to Walnut Creek. In the course of my 10-minute walk to the hotel, I walked through a downpour, had my umbrella torn out of my hands by the wind, and was blinded by sun. I still managed to get myself checked in, find the reading I wanted to hear, score free coffee in the hotel bar (big tip to the waitress for that), and get myself to the panel I was assigned.
“From Caterpillar to Butterfly” was so much more fun than I expected. It may have been the first time I was on a solely female panel that was entirely unconcerned with the gender of its participants. We were there to talk about weird creatures on earth and how familiarity with them can make the alien creatures we write about more plausible.
Jamie Henderson, the moderator, did a great job of including everyone and keeping the conversation moving. I held down the literary end of the discussion, since the others were science nerds of varying stripes, all of whom were on fire with enthusiasm for the weirdness in our world. I got to gush about octopi and cuttlefish. The audience was a nice size, everyone contributed, and I had a lot of fun. I wish I’d been taking notes.
Up in the bar afterward, a couple who had been at the panel invited me to join them. We had an amazing conversation about Mary Roach (she has a new book coming out!), earthquakes, serving our feline masters, and so much more. Once again I had to marvel: I was talking to strangers, almost unselfconsciously. I was enjoying myself immensely.
Only after we parted ways did I begin to criticize myself and my inability to act normal in public. It was as if I had forgotten briefly how socially inept I am. I decided it didn’t matter. I didn’t care. I’d enjoyed myself. I would just hope that they had as well. I walked alone through the rain back to BART, came home to an empty house, and went to bed, wrung out.
Saturday morning I had to be back to the convention to read at 10:30. I managed to get to the hotel early enough to be the first one in the reading room, to settle and relax a moment before people came. I set up a copy of No More Heroes on a table in the front of the room, like a real writer might.
Then people came and we made conversation. I met the other readers. They decided I should go first and I was okay with that, because there were people to hear me. (So different from all the readings when I was afraid, when nausea choked me and my heart beat too loud!) I sat down, opened the book, and read about Mykah wading on the beach, facing the anti-human prejudice. I read Ariel and Eilif getting the message that the Thallians might not be dead after all.
The applause was so beautiful afterward.
Micah Joel read from his soon-to-be published novel about a Silicon Valley guy sent back to ancient Sumer. Then Shara Tran, who’d won the convention’s writing contest, read a lovely fairy tale. It was a nice range of material.
I gave the books I’d brought to Joel and Toni for Rebound Books in San Rafael. They were kind enough to invite me back up to read at the Litquake in October — maybe even to read in a funeral home, which would be a huge treat.
One of Shara’s friends was nice enough to buy the last of the books I had with me — and then they invited me to join them for lunch. I couldn’t get a ticket, so I didn’t go, but once again I felt like a normal, socially skilled person — someone that strangers might like to have lunch with.
While I ate my solo lunch in the bar, I read an email from a generous stranger, who said, “I’ve just finished No More Heroes and wanted to say well done on such a great trilogy. I thoroughly enjoyed the way you used elements in each book to craft a connected trilogy of individual adventures, from action thriller to time travel mystery to court room drama. Thanks very much. Do you have any plans for a book 4? Or any further adventures for the Veracity and its crew?”
It felt, at the time, like the nicest thing anyone had said to me ever.
Of course, this morning, I got a second rejection for one of the stories of the Veracity‘s further adventures. I’m sure the story will find a home, eventually. The rejection was just a little reminder that I may have come a long, long way, but I still have a long way to go.