Or at least I _think_ it’s still Monday. Leapt into a plane this morning and flew home from Atlanta, after a delightful—but busy!—weekend at DragonCon and the Decatur Book Festival. (Well, it was Monday when I started this; now it’s Tuesday…my, how time does fly…)
Both these events are wonderful, but it would be hard to imagine two gatherings (both involving thousands of people) more dissimilar. The Decatur Book Festival is charming: it’s held in Decatur (reasonably enough), a suburb some eight miles outside Atlanta, a small town with an old-fashioned Southern (with a capital “S”) feel to it, and occupies the center of the town, with white tents arranged around the Old Courthouse, and reading venues here and there—I spoke in the Presbyterian Church, which is their largest venue (someone told me it holds 900 people, and there were just about that many in it, I think).
There’s a street filled with food-vendor’s booths, selling everything from ice-cold lemonade (regular and cherry (pronounced “cheery”)) to fried dough (with powdered sugar) and fried fish and dirty rice. The tents running up and down the streets hold everything book-related (and a few things having Not That Much to do with books, like jewelry and music CD’s): the publications of various companies, small and large, writer’s organizations, book-binders, literacy organizations, children’s books, travel books, philosophical and spiritual books, and a group called Muslims for Peace, handing out information and answering questions about Islam.
The streets themselves are full of families; there’s something for everyone—including the “Ladybug Girl Parade” and a storyteller’s tent, to say nothing of the readings and talks for more adult guests. But the mood is cheerful, laid back, and peaceful; there’s something going on everywhere you look, but the overall sense is one of happy, calm expectancy.
DragonCon is…er…NOT calm. [cough] This is (I think) the biggest sf/fantasy convention in the world. It occupies the entirety of _five_ huge convention hotels in downtown Atlanta, and hosts something like 50,000 people.
You know how one describes any outre’ social gathering as being “like the cantina scene in “Star Wars””? Well, the public aspect of DragonCon _is_ the cantina scene from “Star Wars”.
There are bars (multiple; impromptu portable bars are set up around most of the escalators) on all the floors, thronged with…well, you name it. If you can imagine it, you’ll see it there—and a Whole Lot of Stuff Nobody Ever Even THOUGHT of Before, too. (Thinking here specifically of the man—naked save for a fur Speedo—painted red from scalp to shoe-sole, with four nails through each nipple. (I told my husband about this and he said, “Either he has big nipples, or they were small nails.” Small nails. Real ones, though.)
About half the participants are in costume, and I do mean “Costume.” As in, these people take their costuming Very Seriously, and dress up as anything from their favorite anime character to an undead cabaret dancer (one of the finalists from last year’s masquerade—which I had the privilege of judging, meaning I got to see everything from a distance of about six feet), Chthulhu, or a Black Ops team from Another World (which one, I don’t know; I was afraid to ask. They aren’t _supposed_ to carry real weapons, but…). There’s an official parade in costume on Saturday morning, but believe me, you can see just about everything simply by standing in one place in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency (the main hub of the con) and letting it all thunder past you. (“The nerd herd is particularly thick tonight,” one panelist remarked, explaining his late arrival, disheveled and panting.)
While the Decatur Book Festival lasts two days and is impeccably organized, DragonCon lasts four (more or less) and…well, in all justice, _I_ wouldn’t want to be responsible for scheduling several hundred presenters and allotting them room in a multi-hotel labyrinth that would baffle the Minotaur.
Several of the hotels are linked physically, both above and below-ground, and all of the “writer’s-track” panels and events were held in the bowels of the earth, two or three stories _under_ the hotel complex. This made finding the locations for various panels a little challenging, but the hotels did tend to scatter staff members with a lavish hand, so it wasn’t that hard to find someone to ask. Still, the schedulers were inclined to put eight people or so on a panel, just to insure that three or four of them showed up on time—with the result that sometimes you really _had_ eight or nine people on a panel, which is a little unwieldy.
I was the official guest of the Decatur Book Festival, but the DBF is more than generous in sharing guests with DragonCon, and goes so far as to provide free transportation back and forth between Decatur and downtown Atlanta (and the airport) during the weekend. I took full advantage of this, as I had to make _three_ round trips on Friday, in between DragonCon events.
My chief reason—other than the fact that I enjoy it [g] –for attending this year was to promote the upcoming publication of THE EXILE (yes, yes, yes, I know you want the unexpurgated artwork from the wedding night scene; it’ll be along in the next blog entry), and I was delighted to have everyone show such enthusiasm for the book! (My editor, Betsy Mitchell, came to DragonCon to do a panel on the graphic novel with me, and brought me a copy of the Actual Book! Always a thrill [g], when something you’ve worked on for months or years is suddenly embodied and you hold it in your hands—and this is a particular pleasure, since it’s physically beautiful, as well as A Real Book.
I did have other minor things to do, though; I did a number of panels on writing—always a lot of fun—and a very interesting one in Decatur, with several YA authors, for an audience of younger readers (and their parents). Don’t know as they’ll ask me to do that one again, though, as one of the questions was which book I remembered most vividly from my teen years and I replied—honestly—that it was FANNY HILL. [cough]
Also brought a number of the Outlander: The Musical CD’s with me, and sold them at my signing in Decatur, courtesy of The Little Shop of Stories, who hosted my event. Happy to say I sold pretty much all of them—though I’d given some to my son (see below) to carry in his suitcase, and neglected to get them back before the event. (No worries; I’ll take those with me to the Bookmarks Festival in Winston-Salem next weekend.)—and people seemed thrilled to have them.
(I’m planning to have at least some CD’s at all the independent book-store events on the book-tour, later this month, so if you’d rather not go to the bother of setting up a PayPal account (and paying shipping) or waiting ‘til we get the Amazon/iTunes connections going, _and_ you’ll be in one of the places I’ll be….I’ll have a CD for you there! [g] (Special Event Price – $15.00!))
Beyond the pleasure of meeting fans, talking about writing, and sharing fabulous music, I was also supporting the efforts of a couple of Worthy Young Men.
First of these being Samuel Sykes (www.samsykes.com), hot new author of heroic fantasy, and [cough] my son. His first novel, TOME OF THE UNDERGATES, was published in the UK earlier this year, but comes out in the US this month. Having got an agent, a three-book contract, published in six countries, and good reviews, all on his own, he’s now willing to admit that he’s related to me. [g]
Sam was at DragonCon, promoting the US release of TOME, so I took a copy with me to my various panels and talks and was allowed to brag on it and show off the very attractive cover (see above). Pleased to note that Sam’s publisher had brought 50 copies of TOME to the Con—all of which sold by Sunday morning. (I didn’t do _nearly_ that well with _my_ first book…)
The second young man being Allan Scott-Douglas, who sings the role of Jamie Fraser on the Outlander: The Musical CD. Allan told me that owing to the kind interest of all the Outlander fans, he was #2 “most viewed actor” on the UK castingcallpro website for professional actors—“Only behind the new girl on Coronation Street.” I laughed and said that if he wanted to be #1, I’d mention him while in Atlanta, and we’d see what happened.
So…I did, and y’all made him #1 within about 24 hours—MANY thanks!
(Though I think I rather shocked him by reporting that I’d had a good response to his photo (in kilt) at the “Sex in Science-Fiction” panel. “How on earth did you manage to use my picture in a panel on sex?!” being his rather agitated reply. “I’m glad they liked it…but a little weirded out!” (Granted, that sort of panel usually starts on a low note and heads straight downhill, but not to worry; I didn’t do anything even slightly undignified. It’s just that the moderator’s first question was, “So…what do you personally find sexy in sf or fantasy? Let’s start with you, Dr. Gabaldon…” –whereupon, moved by inspiration, I pulled Allan’s photo out of the folder I was carrying and solemnly displayed it to the crowd, all of whom burst into applause. Responding to the iconic “Man-in-Kilt” image, I mean, not Allan’s personal attributes. (Coulda been worse. One of the DragonCon events was (I kid you not) “Men in Kilts…woman with leaf-blower.”))
Only justice, though, that a man in a kilt then made _me_ blush, in Decatur. [g] During the Q&A following my talk, a tall, nice-looking gentleman at the back of the church stood up and told me that he’d been impressed by the accuracy of my depictions of the area of North Carolina near where he lived, and would like to offer his services if I needed any research—adding that he would put his resources at my disposal.
OK. I’d already told all my indelicate kilt stories. [cough] So I laughed, thanked him, and said, “In terms of resources—I won’t ask whether you have a kilt.” Whereupon he stepped out into the aisle, arms spread, displaying…a very becoming kilt. [g]
Anyway, it was a terrific weekend—if Really, Really Busy—and I had a wonderful time meeting so many nice people!