Not that many of you care, but I spent three days last week in the Life, the Universe, and Everything Symposium on Science Fiction and Fantasy in Provo, Utah. Short version: I had a great time. There most of you can go now.
Long version for everyone else: Dang I’m tired!
One of the main change-ups from last year for me was my involvement with the crew from The Authors’ Think Tank, a blog and podcast for writers by writers. Last year I met Melva Gifford, the Grand Dame of LTUE, who suggested I get involved in the local writing community and gave me a few places to check out. So I did, and found The Authors’ Think Tank, a growing community of writers online, and began writing guest posts for their blog. It’s grown to a regular, weekly post, but in all this time I’ve never met anyone from the “staff.”
That changed at LTUE this year. They also do a weekly podcast, and needed help recording more material. Since there are a lot of writers to be found at LTUE they decided to see how many they could line up. Final total: 24. That number is telling. For James Duckett, who recorded and hosted pretty much every one of them, I’m sure it felt like one of Jack Bauer’s bad days. I got involved as often as I could and was there for maybe a third of them. We had some awesome guests, and I got to meet most all of the Think Tank crew. Great people! I had a blast.
Some things I learned from the podcasts? For one, Brandon Sanderson is one busy guy. He was generous enough to give us half an hour when he should have been writing his remarks as Toastmaster for the final Grand Banquet. He had the flushed, haggard look of someone who is busting his butt trying to make as many people happy as possible. I’m afraid my compliments on “The Rithmatist” came across more fanboy-ish than I intended, but he took it well. I’m sure he’s used to being Brandon Sanderson, even though that’s probably not always fun.
I also had a somewhat less embarrassing encounter with L. E. Modesitt, Jr. Before we began recording, as he was getting settled he seemed to be staring just a little bit at me and/or my name tag. I thought maybe it was because I hadn’t introduced myself. I told him I had just finished reading one of his books the previous week and I was looking forward to his being on the podcast. He replied that he’d read my review. To paraphrase Meg Ryan in “Joe Versus the Volcano”, I had no response to that. It later occurred to me that I’d mentioned the book to make a point in my Think Tank blog post the day before, which was also the day my own review of the book came out. Chances are he saw the Think Tank post, perhaps if he visited the site to find out just who it was planning to interview him. Still…
It was also interesting to see that some people we interviewed found us a little intimidating–or at least the high-quality microphone we had staring them in the face. Also, most writers do not look like their author’s photo. They look…well, normal. Even Mercedes M. Yardley was not at all what I would have expected for a horror writer. With her red bandana headscarf and soft, pleasant voice she had more of a Red Riding Hood vibe.
I’m pleased to say that every podcast I sat in on seemed to go well. Guests who might have begun a little tentatively soon warmed up, and it seemed as though they had as much fun doing it as we did. I don’t think anyone was scarred for life, anyway.
Also fun was getting to see friends I made last year. Practically right off the bat the first morning I encountered Michaelbrent Collings. He remembered me (I don’t even think my name badge was showing at the time!), and even remembered my hair was longer than last year. (I’ve been growing it out a bit at my wife’s request, and to see if I could achieve an “artist look”.) Michaelbrent was a Special Guest this year, a distinction well earned because, well, he’s awesome incarnate. He’s entertaining, full of interesting stories and experiences, is able to teach the craft, and recognizes he’s there for the attendees.
I also visited here and there with Dave Butler, aka D. J. Butler, author of the only Mormon Steampunk novel I’m aware of. He’s also a good guy, and a Treasure Valley transplant like me. We lived within ten miles of one another in Boise, and now live within forty miles of each other in Utah. We’ve also traded comments back and forth on Facebook over the past year, so it wasn’t as surprising he remembered me. He also introduced me to the Wests (Brook and his wife), who are nice people with delightful period/steampunk costumes. I also met many other great people, but my apologies if I don’t name you all here.
My attendance in sessions dropped off considerably over the three days, as did my note-taking. I went to nearly all the sessions on Thursday, about half on Friday, and actually made it to a few on Saturday. Part of this was due to the aforementioned podcasting, so certainly no regrets there, but also partly due to the new Kaffeeklatch sessions they introduced this year where you can sign up for a smaller, informal session with a brave writer who entertains you and your questions for 50 minutes. But I also ran out of steam as the week went on.
Saturday I took my daughter and two of her friends down with me. They, being card-carrying students, could get in for free. I kept an eye on them, but they’re old enough to hold their own. I’m happy to report, however, that they gave out before I did. Okay, not my daughter. She would have been good for another couple of hours, probably. She’s already practically begging me to let her skip school next year so she can go for more than one day.
Next year I may try and change things up a bit. I’d like to start making it more about networking and getting to know more people. I’m going to start working on building my “street cred” and see about getting on some panels. And perhaps most of all, I want to start working on becoming more like a Melva Gifford or Michaelbrent Collings (and Michael, his dad, for that matter) and see if I can do more giving while I’m there, not just taking.
At the very least I’m determined there will be a ‘next year’.