Monday, February 25, 2008

The Lost Geekend, Part I

In case I haven't mentioned it lately, I am dating a beautiful, smart, funny, and astonishingly nerdy girl named Stephanie. The fact that she and Diet Cherry Chocolate Dr. Pepper both exist in the same universe is proof that God likes me, regardless of the mean things I occasionally write about Him.

Despite her love of all things geeky, Stephanie had never been to a Science Fiction or Fantasy convention when I met her. So last year, I took her to ConDFW, which is a "literary science fiction convention in the Dallas-Fort Worth area." Basically, authors and artists of some renown show up, along with small press publishers, rare book dealers, and vampire belly dancers. Throw in some folks dressed like Klingons and playing Risk, and you've got a heady brew of geekdom, my friend.

Although the event runs all weekend long, we just showed up for Saturday's festivities last year. It was me and Stephanie, along with Sean (my playwriting buddy) and Silver (whom I can't mention without bringing up our homoerotic Valentine's Day dinner). Stephanie's friend Heather showed up as well, dressed adorably like Dr. Who.

Since we were only there for a few hours, we didn't really get a chance to immerse ourselves in all things nerdy. We attended a couple of panels and met with a couple of authors. Stephanie got a book signed by Emma Bull, while another author (whose name I won't mention) spent several minutes staring straight down Stephanie's cleavage while he was chatting with us. We also met Stina Leicht, a writer from Austin who's friends with Silver. She's nifty.

Stephanie had a blast, and said she'd be game for another convention. We toyed around with going to Comic-Con in Los Angeles or VCON in Vancouver (where I got to meet my hero Tim Powers in 2002). But when we learned that Peter S. Beagle was going to be the guest of honor at ConDFW 2008, Stephanie got all excited. It turns out that The Last Unicorn is one of her favorite books of all time, and she was giddy at the prospect of meeting the author. So we decided to hit ConDFW again this year. And although the convention was only about 20 minutes away from my apartment, Stephanie and I decided it might be fun to get a room at the hotel and make a weekend of it.


In Space, Nobody Can Hear You Laugh
Friday night was pretty much a bust, as far as nerd content goes. We got to the hotel in time to catch a panel titled Comedy in Space! Humor in Science Fiction. The only problem was that the five panelists, while admittedly humorous in print, were tragically unfunny in person. On the Universal Comedic Scale™, these panelists ranked somewhere between the comic strip Mallard Filmore and a clown dying hilariously in his sleep. Here's a highlight from the evening's discussion:

Nerd in Audience
You mentioned that a lot of science fiction is about feelings of awe and majesty. How can you reconcile that with humor? How can you make that funny?

Panelist #1

Panelist #2
Oh, um... like...

Panelist #1
Oh, okay. Like, let's say you've got a guy on a spaceship and he's discovered this alien city. And he's like, "Oh, this is so beautiful! This is so majestic!" But then he's like, "Oh, damn. I forgot my camera."

Panelist #3
Right! Right! Or like, he's discovered this new sun or something, but he forgot his sunglasses!

Panelist #2
Right. Something like that.

We also spent about half an hour at a screening of Hercules Goes to New York (starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, billed as Arnold Strong). Audience members were encouraged to shout out hilarious comedy à la Mystery Science Theater 3000, but it turns out that moviegoers just aren't that goddamn funny without a team of writers. After 30 minutes of listening to people simply describe what was happening on the screen in wacky voices ("Oh, he's crossing the street! Hey, a car!") Stephanie and I finally decided to call it a night and start fresh on Saturday.


Putting the "Pub" Back in Publisher
We started Saturday morning off with the panel Starting Your Own Publishing Company. I really didn't have any interest in the subject matter at first, but Stephanie was curious, and I'm totally whipped, so there you go. Anyway, unlike the dud on Friday night, this was actually an entertaining and informative discussion. I still have no intention of starting a publishing company, but at least now I know what the hell those guys are thinking when they're poring over manuscripts.

The panel included Glenn Yeffeth, from BenBella Books. Back in 2003, when I decided I was going to be a Writer™, I figured I could skip past the whole "honing my craft" step and go straight to being a famous author. I imagined everybody would be chomping at the bit to sign a writer of my caliber. "Oh my God," they would exclaim as they immersed themselves in the genius of my prose. "This is his first book? Get me a wheelbarrow full of money and warm up the copter!" Anyway, long story short, BenBella was the first publisher to send me a rejection letter and disabuse me of that notion. But unlike these guys, they weren't dicks about it.

Also on the panel was Chris Roberson, the founder of MonkeyBrain Books in Austin. Stephanie and I ran into him at the bar later that evening, and wound up chatting with him for an hour or so. Actually, Stephanie did most of the chatting. I tend to get dorky and self-conscious when I'm around anyone who's been published. It's like this mystic veil that I've yet to pierce, so some retarded part of my brain makes me act all awestruck. But the upside is that my social awkwardness spared Mr. Roberson from hearing me pitch my brilliant idea for an epic novel where Space Jesus fights a guy who's half pirate/half race car*. I only hope he comes to realize how close a call that was.

(Incidentally, Chris informed us that someone wrote a Wikipedia article about him. I looked it up, and was surprised to learn that he's an outfielder for the Baltimore Orioles. Then I realized I was probably reading the wrong article.)

Coming Soon: The Lost Geekend continues with Peter S. Beagle, hot chicks in boots, and nerds partying like it's on sale for $19.99.

*When I first mentioned half pirate/half race car guy to Stephanie, she immediately said, "So I guess his favorite sport is NASCAAAAAR!"

Sigh... she completes me.


Chris Roberson said...

Dude, Space Jesus versus half-pirate/half-racecar sounds awesome.

Thanks for the drink, and the pleasant conversation. I still think Charlie was lying about not being able to swim, but I see your point.

mr. schprock said...

I once went to a convention here in Boston that had part of the cast of the 60s series "Lost in Space." The guy who played Dr. Smith had a Band Aid on his forehead, and the one who played Don (who in the show was always on Dr. Smith's case) looked pretty pissed the whole time. Maybe the antipathy was for real.

No robot though. And he was the one I really came to see.

I dig Space Jesus. Run with that one.

Irb said...

Chris: Wow! My first celebrity post! I'd always kinda hoped it would be from Jim "Ernest" Varney, but since he's dead, I guess it's time to let go of the dream...

If I ever complete a draft of Chris Irby's Space Jesus vs. Cap'n Bony Jack McZoomatron: Apocalyptic Smackdown in the Year 3000, I'll be sure to send it your way. Hell, if I ever come up with anything other than a title, I'll let you know.

Stephanie's totally jazzed about hitting some more conventions this year, so hopefully we'll run into you again real soon. I'd really like to show her Austin sometime, if only to prove that there are more than six liberals in the entire state of Texas...

Mr. Schprock: Good to see you, pal!

I remember reading in Starlog that the robot was taken to jail after beating up Dr. Smith. Don's anger was directed at the U.S.'s misguided foreign policy and stagnant economy, and had nothing to do with his mincing, effete co-star.

Space Jesus is just alright with me...

scarletvirago said...

Aargh, you lucky sea dog. My husband will complete me, too, just as soon as I forcibly cram some sci-fi into his brain, edging out all that useless Tom Clancy.

Here's to many more cons of increasing geekiness to you and your lady...!

MissBossyPants said...

I knew my man and I would be together when he agreed to accompany me to poetry readings even when I wasn't the poet reading . Thank God I grew out of that stage, but it's nice that you got to roll your eyes at the convention together.

Irb said...

Scarlet: Thanks, sweetheart. If you ever manage to bring your husband around to the geek lifestyle, I hope we'll see you at a con or two as well. Tell him there's always booze involved, if that helps...

Bossy: Speaking on behalf of whipped men everywhere, let me just say that your man is an inspiration to us all.

Farrago said...

Sorry, Irb, but I don't believe in Jesus in space, either, so I don't find any appeal in the prospective title of your book.

However, if I'm misreading the title, and your hero is a swashbuckling Mexican starfighter, then I might be long as he's at the very least agnostic.

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