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Next Time You're in Boston, Can You Swing Through Brooklyn And Pick Up Some Macaroons?

February 24, 2009 at 4:28 am

This month's whirlwind trip to Boston and New York was a great success. I can't speak for anybody else, but I had a fine time. Here's the abridged version: Old friends! New friends! SCIENCE! Brooklyn! Heavenly macaroons! Business lunch! Publication dates! Super-secret VIP tours! Lincoln Center!

A slightly longer version of the trip report follows.

I arrived at the Boskone hotel around the middle of Friday afternoon, after flying most of the day and sleeping less than two hours the night before.  (That's what I get for neglecting to pack Benadryl.  Lesson learned.)  After unpacking, I called up Richard, and met him down in the hotel bar.  I introduced him to Melinda, and the two of them promptly started comparing iPhones.  (They had no choice.  I think it's written into the cult bylaws.)  Richard did manage to break off from the iPhone lust long enough to show me the pen he used to jack up a car earlier that day.  His entire weekend seemed to revolve around strange automobile adventures.   Sam showed up not long after that.  The four of us went off to find dinner (the pseudo-Irish pseudo-pub in the Westin lobby got a lot of business from us over the weekend) before Sam, Melinda, and I had our first panel of the convention.

The Business of Writing panel -- er, "conversation" -- had been Sam's suggestion, and it was a great success.  (Well done, Sam!)  We started at the beginning of the hour with a small audience, so we opted to move chairs into a circle so that everybody could sit together.  More and more people trickled in over the course of the hour, so our circle kinda-sorta fell apart after a while, but it got the conversation off to a strong start.  Frankly, I think Melinda, who manages an oil and gas company in her spare time, and Sam, who was a bond trader in a past life, could have carried the entire hour by themselves.  I mean, what the heck do I know about business?  So I took the perspective of somebody just at the beginning of his writing career, and spoke a little bit about how I view writing as a job.  A job I love, but a serious responsibility nonetheless.  People seemed to enjoy and appreciate what we had to say. 

But the best thing about our panel wasn't us three knuckleheads.  We had a fantastic group in the audience.  A couple of CPAs showed up and shared some great insights into that Lovecraftian horror known as the US Tax Code.  We also had a number of aspiring writers show up, so I felt at home.  Our hour was up far too quickly.  I wish I could have had more time to speak with the folks who showed up and asked questions and participated in the conversation.  Throughout the rest of the weekend I occasionally glimpsed some of the others, the CPAs and fellow aspiring writers, but always when either I or they weren't able to stop and chat.  Rats.

A few folks did hang around to continue chatting after the official end of our panel, which is how we met Corry Lee, particle physicist-slash-novelist-slash-OWW member.  Corry had decided to take some time out of her studies at Harvard to check out Boskone over the weekend while her fiancé was out west interviewing at Google and Microsoft.  She's a cool person when it comes to hanging out at conventions.  We even talked a little physics, but (I hope) not enough to bore Richard and the others.  Mostly we talked about how Victorian/steampunk/robot/bodice-rippers are going to be the Next Big Thing, and about why I would be a fantastic butler.  And CP symmetry violation. 

Later in the evening I went down to the art show with Richard, who went gaga over some of the incredible art on display by Stephan Martiniere.  (Well, okay, we all did.  Because Stephan does amazing work.  His covers for Daniel Abraham's Long Price Quartet novels are breathtaking when you see them full-size.)  Richard impressed me with his Photoshop-fu by deconstructing exactly how Stephan composed his images, and apparently impressed Stephan himself later.  Everything at the art show was amazing.

I got to chat with Josh Palmatier at the show, which was cool, because I never get to talk with him very much.  Sadly, the previous night's insomnia caught up with me by that point, so I had to cut short yet another chance to get to know him.  Someday I'll get to have a real conversation with him.  (And running in to him and Patricia Bray at an adjacent gas pump at a rest stop on the Mass Pike doesn't count.) 

I managed to sleep on Friday night.  For which I was a small mercy, because it meant I was halfway coherent and maybe, just maybe, I didn't come off as a complete idiot on my Saturday morning panel -- Physics: What We Don't Understand.  There I finally had the pleasure of meeting Geoff Landis, Karl Schroeder, Chad Orzel, and Mark Olson.   The panel was a discussion of the big, unsolved problems in physics, as identified in the late 90s, and from the viewpoint of today.  I did more listening than speaking, but damn, it was really fun.  We talked about dark energy, string theory, hidden variables interpretations of quantum mechanics, Gravity Probe B, neutrino oscillations...  We drew a decent crowd for 10am on a Saturday, too.  People seemed to enjoy it, based on the questions they were asking.  Richard told me later how much he'd enjoyed it, too.  Geoff, Karl, Chad, and Mark are all very interesting people, and great panelists. 

After the panel I told Chad that we share a mutual friend, Pam.  He looked at me funny, and then left quickly.  I kind of wonder what Pam might have told him about me.  Oh, well.

That left the rest of my Saturday free to enjoy the convention.  I crossed paths with Paul Melko once or twice, and finally had my chance to see Paul and Richard standing together, which I'd wanted to do since I first met Paul a few years ago.  I could have sworn they were practically twins.  But the resemblance was far more impressive in my mind's eye than in the hotel lobby.  Rats.  I got over that crushing disappointment by running into Matt Jarpe, whom I'd been hoping to see since he's a local.  I was happy I had a chance to tell him how much I enjoyed Radio Freefall.  We didn't get to talk for very long, but we did get to commiserate briefly on the difficulties of writing as a second career.  I also met the Kollins, Eytan and Dani, who will be the first to tell you they are the "only sibling collaborative science fiction writers working today".  (You wouldn't know they were brothers by looking at them.  In fact, they're more like the wacky-sitcom version of two brothers.  Seriously.)  Their book, The Unincorporated Man, is coming out from Tor very soon.

Saturday afternoon I bought a copy of Half a Crown in the dealers' room, a book I've been dying to read since devouring Farthing and Haypenny.  Then I took it directly to Boskone's Guest of Honor, Jo Walton, for her autograph.  And!  I managed to not turn into a squeeing fanboy when I introduced myself.  Because there was a lot of potential for that, let me tell you.  I mean, hey, it was Jo Walton.  I told her how proud I am to share an editor with her.

I got to hang out with Richard more that afternoon, and at the Tor party after his dinner adventure with Corry and the Kollin brothers.  Since he had to fly home early on Sunday morning, I said goodbye to him when I left the party.  Later, I kicked myself for not asking him for hints on how to complete this year's TigerOx origami advertisement.  (It's the Year of the Ox, you know.)

Coming out of the Tor party that night, I met Alisa Kwitney Sheckley.  We chatted about Santa Fe, upstate New York, comic books, and werewolves briefly.  We were both starting to fade by that point, so we didn't talk for long, though long enough to agree to attend each others' readings the next day.  And in fact she gave a fantastic reading.

My own reading didn't go quite as smoothly on Sunday morning.  Melinda and I were scheduled to share a reading spot.  But, because neither of us read the schedule carefully, we both assumed it meant we each had 25 minutes of a 50-minute programming block.  But actually (and in retrospect this was obvious, because, you know, it was right there on the schedule) it meant we had 25 minutes together.  Because of the misunderstanding, Melinda read a fun excerpt from Suicide Kings for 25 minutes, and did a bang-up job of it.  Then it was my turn.  I got three pages into my own reading when we realized the mistake.  So we had to scoot out of there to make room for the next reading.  It was a little disappointing.  Live and learn.  (Note to self: learn how to read a convention program.  This will be a good career move.) 

But!  One bright spot of the botched reading was meeting Leo Korogodski in the flesh.  He remembered my name from the OWW and kindly decided to check out my reading.  Leo and I used to trade critiques on the workshop, and he was one of the smartest and most insightful folks around.  And he's one hell of a writer.  In fact, Leo critted a couple of the original short stories that eventually turned into the Milkweed universe.  It was a real pleasure to finally get to meet him in person. 

Early Sunday afternoon, I piled into a car with Sam and Melinda, and we struck out on the Massachusetts Turnpike for Sam's mansion -- er, brownstone -- in Brooklyn.  I rode in the back, and managed to edit a chapter and a half of The Coldest War before giving in to the temptation to finish devouring Old Man's War.  (Oh, Scalzi, you devil you.)  I joined Melinda, Sam, and his wife Susan (who is yet another OWW alum-- Sam and Susan are one of a small handful of OWW marriages, in addition to Charlie and Rae) for dinner at a great little Italian place just down the street from Sam's place.  Back at their beautiful home, I met Sam and Susan's dog Nellie, who is the Sweetest Dog East of the Mississippi. 

Next time I'm visiting Sam and Susan and Princess Nellie in Brooklyn, I'm stopping by the Court Street Bakery for another batch of amaretto macaroons.  Because, ya know.  OM NOM NOM.

Seriously.  I honestly think those macaroons were the best cookies I've ever had in my life. 

Sam, by the way, gives a fantastic walking tour of Brooklyn.  You can tell the man was born and raised in New York and that he's got the city in his bones.  They should put him on the payroll.  Anyway.  We walked the Brooklyn bridge and a few scenic neighborhoods on Monday before Melinda and I had to scoot down to Manhattan for dinner and drinks with our super-fabulous agent Kay.  She introduced us to Vong where, oddly enough, our bartender was from Santa Fe. 

And have I mentioned that Kay is super-fabulous? 

Monday's dinner was a warm-up for Tuesday, where the three of us had lunch with a trio of Tor luminaries: PNH, Dot Lin, and Linda Quinton.  Patrick said very kind things about Bitter Seeds, the first book of the Milkweed Triptych, and we arrived at a publication date:  Winter, 2010.  (A pub date! Hooray, hooray!  Callooh, callay!)  Also during that lunch I learned that Linda Quinton is an avid hiker who puts me to shame.  Serious shame.  And it was a joy to finally meet Dot Lin in person, whom I knew tangentially via Wild Cards, but only through email.  Dot treated me and Melinda to the Sooper Seekrit VIP tour of the Flatiron Building, which was beyond cool. 

Then it was off to see a show at Lincoln Center, and back to Butler brownstone, and then out the door at 6am for the flight home.


Richard February 24, 2009 at 1:49 pm
I was rushed and cramped for space. There's a bit with the leg where it folds inside that could have used a bit more explanation, and the head and neck will only look right through plain dumb luck. I mean, skill and dexterity. That's what I get for not running this one through the focus group to weed out the bugs. Next year it's Year of the Tiger, and it will either be easier to understand or step one will be crumple the paper into a little ball and step two will be glue on some googly eyes and pipe cleaner whiskers. Not your traditional origami, true, but TigerOx isn't your traditional painting company. It was really great seeing you again, and meeting Sam and Melinda. I'm about half-way through Reiffen's Choice, and I'm really liking it. The next one's already waiting for me across the street at B&N. Melinda's got the first 169 pages of The Edge of Reason on her site which got me looking forward to that as well. See you at Bubicon!
S.C. Butler February 25, 2009 at 7:54 pm
What is this mansion stuff? It's a row house. Brick, with a stoop. Kind of what Dr. Strange lives in, only smaller. And no butler, except me. Sounds like I have to check out Richard's origami.
Zoe March 1, 2009 at 6:02 am
Hey Ian, Finally got to read the details about the trip to Boston. You packed a lot into those few days. Check out the logo Richard did for our new website!
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