Tag Archives: freelance editor

Selling books on Alibris

The basic problem here is TMB.  Anyone who has been here knows that I basically live and work in a library, and though I’m not buying piles of books lately, it’s out of hand.  Imagine 13 ‘stacks,’ each six rows high, 4′ wide.  The fact is that if I want, this is enough to last me a lifetime.  If I reread them all, by the time I got back to the beginning, I would have forgotten what the first one was about.  And the older I get, the easier that becomes…

It’s bad enough that I sometimes buy a second copy of a book that looks good, forgetting that I already have a copy.  This is just stupid (worse yet, it is foolishly wasteful), and it’s time it stopped.  So I’m going to try unloading some.

The process is both easy and hard.  The basic shipping charge will mostly cover the cost of the mailer and postage for media mail, but not all of it.  The company you list with, of course, collects some profit as well.  So the first question is not ‘what are other people charging’, but ‘what must I charge for this to be worth the bother?’ After a visit to the P.O. with a couple of books, and some negotiating with my local UPS store on mailers, the basic answer to that question is:  about $1 for a small paperback, $2 for a larger trade paperback, and $3 for a hardback, combined with the $4 shipping allowance, is the ‘worth bothering’ point.  However, my books tend to be in great condition, me being so obsessive about that, so that should help.

I picked Alibris over Amazon and Abebooks because a) it seemed easier to work with than Abe, and b) I got to keep more of my money than Amazon.  Part of it also was some desire to separate my selling presence from my authorial presence at Amazon, and part was evidence that Amazon cleverly undercuts its secondary-market sellers.  Many is the time I’ve seen Amazon price books to just where the people who get free shipping would save a nickel buying from them over the poor sloggers selling the book for $0.01, and I find that to be taking unfair advantage of their position.  Alibris isn’t going to do that.

So, let’s see how it goes.  First I have to cover the $20 annual fee, which I suspect won’t be hard.  I put out five books just to learn the interface and see what sort of business I got, get through the process, then we’ll consider going forward after the first week.

Notes from the aliens’ survey, 4/13/2012

The sleek  “Tlai survey frigate ran under full stealth in Earth’s orbit.  It had arrived there two days prior, on a mission from Homeworld to investigate alien intelligences, civilizations and potential friends–or threats.  Ethnographer ‘Plaf, senior researcher, had directed the pilot to orbit for two full days while his staff gathered data.  It was the “Tlai way to be sincere, thorough, and intensely curious.  ‘Plaf had spent much of its day absorbing a great many fascinating departmental reports in preparation for the initial sharing of thoughts.

‘Plaf opened the meeting, then bade its staff present early research data in each’s specialty field.  Linguistics presented the shocking and dismaying report that Earth’s sentient species communicated in thousands of languages, which would take long enough to catalogue–far longer to understand, but they could decipher most of what was said or written in the nine or ten most widely spoken.  Fair progress.  Xenobiology had identified one sentient and several semi-sentient species, each with several racial variants.  Evidently racial variants weighed heavily on the minds of ‘Umaniti, as one widely-spoken language collectively called the sentient species.

“Very good, Xenobiologist li’Wal,” said ‘Plaf.  “Now let us examine a simple situation under close magnification, and see where the data lead us.  What issue do you feel would profit us to study?”

Li’Wal worked its keyboard.  Pictures popped onto the screen.  “Ethnographer, fellow researchers, here are two ‘Umaniti at the center of a large controversy on Landmass D.  One, the one on the left with the lighter flesh, is in the middle of their normal lifespan.  Unlike us, but like some other species, this species has genders:  one which bears young and one which seeds them; both are necessary for procreation, and in this case, both are of the seeding gender.  The one on the right with darker flesh is a youth.  There seems no doubt that the lighter-fleshed one slew the youth with a kinetic energy launcher.”

“Why would he slay a youth? Is this their norm?” asked Military Scientist Khaul.

“It is frowned upon everywhere, and prohibited in most places on the planet,” answered Judician ‘Faur.  “There is great controversy on Landmass D whether the violence was allowable.”

“Why would they consider it allowable?” asked ‘Plaf.

“It’s odd, Ethnographer,” said ‘Faur.  “There is no consensus.  A discredited fringe, all naturally of light flesh, evidently believes that persons of light flesh should justly do random violence to persons of dark flesh.  The majority of all flesh tones reject this view.  The fringe at the other end of the spectrum sees this as yet another act of war based on flesh tone, lighter versus darker, and is outraged that the killer will likely face no punishment.”

“Is it the reverse on Landmass B, where the majority are of dark flesh? Do those of lighter flesh feel the same where they are in the minority?”

“It seems so, but the historical circumstances differ,” offered Historian Xul. “South of the immense central desert on Landmass B, ‘Umaniti of dark flesh were once the sole residents.  Those of lighter flesh, mainly from Landmass A, arrived and subjugated Landmass B, carrying off many in forced labor.  No one on any of these landmasses has forgotten this captivity with the passage of time, though the practice is nearly extinct and has been for at least a hundred revolutions of the planet.  I have learned that those of dark flesh on Landmass D descend mainly from these captives.  They remain somewhat marginalized, and many resent this greatly, but not all.  A ‘Umaniti of dark flesh actually leads the most populous nation on Landmass D, though in reality he seems in between flesh tones.  However, he identifies himself as dark-fleshed, and most ‘Umaniti concur.”

Ethnographer ‘Plaf looked thoughtfully at the images.  “It makes one wonder why this leader does not correct the conditions.  Why is that, in your view, Politician Lr’uff?”

“His ‘Umaniti chose him as leader, Ethnographer, through a process that makes zero sense to me.  He has limited power.  He and his young-bearer evidently said what the population desired most to hear, in order to attain this office.  As nearly as I can see, his function is to accept credit for all that goes well, and blame for all that goes wrong.  Neither seems justified, but that is my read of their sentiment studying his predecessors.  Some have led during great scandal, some have barely bothered to do the job.  Some have spent more time in the procreational act with the young-bearing gender, one recently to great public embarrassment, especially for his mate.  Speaking of which, young-bearers are almost globally disadvantaged and deprived of power; in some factions they must cover their entire forms in sacks and have few privileges save to bear young upon command and do menial tasks.  A few of the leaders in Landmass D’s history seem to have been noble according to our values, which somewhat intersect with those of ‘Umaniti.   Most seem to have sought power primarily because ‘Umaniti value power over other ‘Umaniti.”

“Very well.  Back on the subject. Faur, please summarize the contending views regarding this slaying, and we shall see what they suggest to us.”

“Certainly, Ethnographer.  In the region where the event occurred, and in some other regions, the law allows anyone to slay another if he or she feels in fear of loss of life.  Many feel that this instance pushes the issue of slaying to an ethical breaking point accented by flesh tone, that the youth was killed simply for being in an area inhabited by light-fleshed ‘Umaniti, and his killer will now escape penalty for a death that did not need to be.  It is on nearly everyone’s speech apparatus in Landmass D, and dominates all media.  One source even made a breathless report that the killer, who is confined by the authorities awaiting the judicial process, spent money at the confinement center’s store.”

“How much did he spend?” asked ‘Plaf, bemused.  “Enough to purchase what, for example?”

“About enough to fully fuel two common fossil-fueled passenger vehicles, which would allow each to operate for 1/4 of a planetary rotation before running out.  An amount that would buy a high-quality meal for two ‘Umaniti at a dining establishment.”

“Why did this matter to anyone? Who imagined it would?” snorted ‘Plaf.  “Does not Landmass D have any other concerns of greater import than how much a confinee spent on what one assumes were petty comforts? Has Landmass D remedied all other social ills?”

“Far from it,” responded Lr’uff.  “This nation is deeply fragmented with great political hatred.  It has borrowed excessively.  Every sector of wealth believes that every other sector should pay to solve the problem, in one way or another.  It is involved in wars against two…abstract nouns.”

‘Plaf turned to Linguist Glrol.  “How would one wage war upon an abstract noun, Linguist?”

“My colleague is speaking semi-literally, but ‘Umaniti seem to take the matter almost literally.  They are at war with ‘controlled substances’–anyone associated with these substances, save legalized businesses that mass-produce the substances–and with ‘terror,’ by which they mean selected groups who launch terror attacks.  Li’wal may correct me if I err, but it seems to me that ‘Umaniti wage war against abstract nouns by means of faction-sanctioned terror attacks, which is ironic when we consider the hypocrisy.  One’s own faction’s terror attacks are a war against terror, thus not truly terror attacks.  Landmass D has no monopoly on this attitude–it seems nearly universal.  I defer to ‘Qorc’s greater consideration of that matter.”

“Philosopher ‘Qorc.  How much of ‘Umaniti’s logic is this self-serving and situational?” asked ‘Plaf.

“Much of it, Ethnographer, but by no means all.  Stripped of fancy paint and decoration, the dominant logic of ‘Umaniti seems to be that what helps one’s own faction is acceptable, and what thwarts one’s own faction is anathema.  There is limited evidence that any of this species’ leaders believe their philosophies, to go by their actions.  Theologies that ban all slaying, then condone slaying or invent excuses for it when they deem it advantageous.  A pro-young-bearer philosophy, espousing greater freedom for young-bearers, casts out any young-bearer who exercises freedom in a way this philosophy dislikes.  Several theologies that promote love, peace and tolerance fly into rages when two young-bearers, or two seed-bearers, mime the procreational act for physical or emotional pleasure–thus showing no love, peace or tolerance.”

Ethnographer ‘Plaf shut the display off.  “Our research now has valid questions to explore.  Doubtless more will arise, but let us keep our sensory apparati trained on them with greater interest:

1) How will we ever treat with ‘Umaniti, if their only ethic is to win for their faction, and an act has one value if done by them, and another if done unto them? Lr’uff’s data indicate that they jettison agreements as soon as they see advantage in doing so, and have done so since urbanization.  Can there be agreements with ‘Umaniti, as we understand them?

2) While ‘Umaniti may technically be sentient, are they of rather low-grade sentience next to other species we have discovered? Is this obsession with polarizing events, to the detriment of issues with farther-reaching consequences, a universal trait, or not? What of their selective ethics and hypocrisies?  They are intelligent enough to take seriously, but are they intelligent enough to let loose on the galaxy? Should we interdict them from interplanetary travel while we have the power to do so, as we were prepared to do yesterday when a lunatic faction launched a rocket that happily fell apart before we had to face a hasty decision?

3) I would like to know how this species has refrained from self-extinction.  Khaul’s reports indicate that various ‘Umaniti factions stockpile enough destructive radiological, biological and chemical weaponry to reduce ‘Umaniti to an even more primitive state than it exists in now.  If this sense of priorities proves typical, then why has not some emotional maniac begun a chain of destruction and reprisal that would ruin this world for thousands of revolutions around the star?”

4) My reading of your reports indicates that ‘Umaniti are obsessed with procreational acts, roles and even the sight of an uncovered ‘Umaniti form, to which we have alluded earlier.  Why? Why can they just not perform their acts as they like, in whatever harmless form, without obsessing about how anyone else does so? Or can they, and we simply have not yet discerned it?

We know little.  We have vast ignorance to repair.  We can as yet conclude nothing, merely suppose.  Before we recommend ‘Umaniti be confined to its world by armed force, let us obtain firmer bases in knowledge.”

The department heads  arose, made gestures of respect and returned to their studies.

Commentary on “42 Dos and Don’ts from a Dick”, and a dirty little secret

First comes the original e-mail, a rejection letter sent to some 900+ applicants who didn’t get an online writing gig.  Read it within this Gawker article impaling it as “42 dos and don’ts from a dick.”  You can then read the original author’s logic and rebuttal at Salon.

When I look at the anger Shea’s long list of advice has generated, my thoughts include:

  • Wow.  No good deed does go unpunished.
  • These people are not cut out to be writers at all.  They cannot take constructive criticism.  I wouldn’t have hired them either.
  • This is a perfect manifestation of the “I’m So Awesome” generation that got a trophy just for deigning to show up.
  • What part of ‘follow the directions’ is so complicated?

I find this all very revelatory.  It’s helpful to me, because there are a couple of errors mentioned that I can easily see myself making, and would rather not make them.  (Thanks, Shea!)  What it reveals to me is that I haven’t been wrong about the Amazing Ego Based Upon Few Results mentality so common today.  Anything that sounds like negative feedback:  “That’s disrespecting me!”  Respect is earned, sorry.  Advice offered:  “How arrogant to think you know better than me!”  Uh, he does; he’s in a position to hire, and you are not.

Think on it.  They would rather have been ignored than receive help.  They would rather flounder in ignorance and mediocrity than take a bruise, suck it up and grow.  Anything less than “You’re so awesome!” is a boot in the groin.

How did we wind up raising young adults this way? Is this a young adult thing, or a writer thing, or a young adult writer thing? Feel free to educate me.  Because when I get a list of 42 things I might be doing wrong, I want to bless the sender.  That’s 42 things I should never do wrong again.

I promised you a dirty little secret, and you shall have it.  Truth:  I didn’t succeed as a ‘lancer because of busting my butt, nor by being a brilliant writer. That isn’t self-deprecation; I’m not saying I didn’t work hard, nor that I’m untalented.  I succeeded at freelancing because most of my competition took a look at its path ahead, sowed as many mines as possible in its path, concealed them carefully, went away for a while to forget where they were, then just waltzed on through the self-made minefield.  Over, and over, and over.  Most of my competition suicided on the way to the finish line.

I didn’t have to beat them.  They beat themselves.

Writing life: being the bottleneck

When books get down to crunch time with a print deadline, it all shifts.  I’m proofreading on an upcoming book, essentially the final set of eyes.  This is something I am very capable at.  If I may be permitted to preen just a bit, the author said:  “OK, let’s get it over with: your proofreading work is stunning. Best I’ve ever seen.  No qualifiers.”  That felt kind of nice.

What it meant, in this case, was that a key (penultimate) chapter was on the way, after much health-hammering and sleep-starved labor by the author and editor, and as soon as it hit my inbox, I was on the clock.  Now it’s all waiting on me.  I was actually delighted by this, because:

  • There had been an excellent chance it would happen in the middle of the night.  And if that phone call came at 4 AM, I’d have to get up, put on coffee and get to work.  Instead, it came at 4:18 PM.
  • It was a chance to show off.  On previous chapters, I’d had the luxury of multiple reads, wording suggestions, recasting, and relaxation.  It was easy.  This was not easy; I was on the clock.

In writing, as in any profession in which one takes pride, there are those moments:  the moments where one is doing something most people just cannot do.  They are what make most work worthwhile.  For a lumber grader, it might be spotting the exact cuttings of shop lumber to reach a given grade, watching the inspector lay a skeptical tape measure on the board, and find that your eye from ten feet away was as good as if you’d had ten minutes to lay out sample templates of perfect dimension.  In homemaking, it might be doing seven things at once and doing them all well.  It is when one feels uniquely capable, achievement mixed with refined talent and skill.  ‘And that’s why not everyone can do what I do’ moments are gratifying.

Got the chapter in at 7:32 PM.  Turnaround:  three hours, fourteen minutes.  Bottleneck? Not for long.

A great book you have not read: Transit Point Moscow

Some years back, I happened upon Transit Point Moscow in a used bookstore.  Synopsis:  an American, on the spur of the moment and with great impulsive idiocy, agrees to try and smuggle heroin through Soviet-era Moscow–and it doesn’t go well.  I guess that’s in the category of “young, dumbass stunts we pull that cost us ten years of our lives.”

Why it’s great:  the writing style is clear, often funny, and skillfully descriptive of the transition from arrest to imprisonment.  The book also offers a lot of cues to Russian culture.  I wouldn’t describe Amster and his cronies as sympathetic characters, but there’s a sense of honesty in that.  One does pose the question of how much of Amster’s story we believe.  I’m more inclined to believe someone who paints himself as a complete ass than as a dashing hero, and there isn’t much glory in Amster’s self-portrait.  The book is better for it.

What got me thinking about it was a more recent read, Alexander Dolgun’s Story.  I got turned on to this in a strange way, for it was on the guest room nightstand at some friends’ home.  I didn’t read it, just glanced at it, but noted the title and ordered a copy.  Dolgun was in the Gulag in the late forties and early fifties, when life was a lot harder there.  Even accounting for the temporal separation (Amster did his Gulagging over a generation later), there was enough in common between the two accounts for me to recognize terms, prison subcultures and practices.

You can learn things about a country’s mentality from its prison system.  For example, from the sheer magnitude of ours, one begins to suspect that our national mentality is that we should all be incarcerated in it. From its deep division between country club pokies for those who steal billions, and PMITA hard time for people who grow dope, one suspects that we consider having a good time (or relieving pain) without buying the drug from a corporation a horrific crime, but that if you steal a few bill, hey, that’s how we roll, shouldn’t have gotten caught.   I still haven’t figured out what the Gulag says about Russia’s mentality, honestly.

Greek phrases I wanted Berlitz to provide me

If you are familiar with the Berlitz language books, they will get you through a trip rather conveniently.  I especially like the helpful phrases.  I don’t speak Greek, except for about 25 really poorly pronounced words and phrases, but I can think of a lot of English phrases I would have liked to render in Greek:

  • I promise I am not here to start a riot, Officer.
  • I assume this is the same city street plan as the time of Pericles.
  • There is no way I can eat all that.
  • I don’t know what the spicy cheese dip is called in Greek, but it’s the only food I ever need again.
  • Right now I would commit low crimes for a toilet that allows you to flush the paper.
  • It looks like, long term, you lost the Persian War.  Look at all these barbarians on the Acropolis!
  • Never again will I refuse to believe that a tour bus can get through any space.  I bet he could drive this thing through a GI tract without messing up the paint job.
  • Please show me to the only ten square feet of Greece that are as flat as Saskatchewan.
  • What is the strike about? Oh, wait, I forgot.  It’s Monday.  My bad.
  • So when are you going to get a good Viking metal band at Epidauros?
  • Okay, I give up.  Is it ‘Patra,’ ‘Patrai,’ or ‘Patras?’ Just someone please clear this up?
  • No offense–this Corinth Canal is hella cool to look at, but that’s about all it’s good for.
  • I have no idea how even a goat can find anything to graze on out here.  I have half of the country’s non-olive vegetation caught in my socks!
  • How many pottery traps does this bus stop at?
  • With all these steps and slopes to climb, how does anyone in this country achieve fatness?
  • What do you call a Greek female banker who loses her composure? A drachma queen, ar ar.
  • Please don’t make me drink ouzo.  Do you have any Nyquil instead?

Finding faults: the fine art of proofreading

My current effort is the final proofreading of a book soon to be published.  This sort of work is no joke, because final proofreading means just that:  the last set of eyes.  If I miss it, it gets printed, and every time I read it, I will have to live with the fact that I missed it.  All I expect is perfection, and I consider full perfection a reasonable expectation of myself, attainable or not.  In writing and editing, that’s elusive and imaginary, but in proofreading, it is simple:  you either saw it and noted it for correction, or you have failed.

I haven’t been given leave to say anything about the book itself, so I cannot do so here, though when it goes gold I will trumpet it, as I am proud to be associated with it on many levels.  Its author is a social historian whose work I admire (and am honored to be asked to nitpick); it covers a topic we mostly would rather not address, but should and must; best of all, it’s in sufficiently good shape it can be proofread.

That works this way.  A work may need heavy editing/rewriting, in which case it is frankly incomplete or incompetently written.  A number of people make good livings doing this, and honest livings, bringing to fruition the autobiography or musings of an otherwise interesting person who cannot write to professional standards.  Moderate to light editing will mean rather less of the above, and intellectual honesty compels my confession that my own ‘finished’ works could benefit from moderate editing.  You get so grooved into your habits that you fail to see where they bother the reader.  “But that’s my style” is a bad rejoinder.  If your style makes the reader unhappy, your style needs adjustment, because without the reader you are soliloquizing.

On the above two groupings, proofreading is not really feasible, as they will change too much.  You can only proofread something that is ready to go to print–before that, it’s wasted energy.  If it needs editing, it’s not ready for proofreading.  This book, with which I am helping, is fully ready for proofreading.  I’m on an Easter egg hunt for odd commas, misspelled names, very rare run-on sentences, mislaid accents on foreign names, loose spaces, italic and case issues, and anything else I encounter that I imagine the author does not want printed as is.

And goddamn it, I am going to find them all.  The layperson might imagine that the author would be shocked, appalled and dismayed that I do.  The professional understands that this is precisely what the author desires.  I change nothing; I merely call attention.  I have no investment in how the author and editors react to what I highlight, for their work is to act upon my work.  They’re capable, seasoned hands.  Once I have noted and pinpointed the issue, action is on them.  They may decide to ignore what I say.  They may tell me to not bother with a given type of issue going forward.  They may make changes.  And I don’t care.

How can I not care? That’s the easiest part, which is that I know my role.  My role is to spot and note, and occasionally to suggest, or explain my reasoning.  Nothing more.  Once one has read a manuscript enough times, and edited it enough times, it becomes the norm to one’s eyes.  Errors that have always been there are no longer seen.  You can’t proof your own stuff.  I am, with no false modesty, the best proofreader I have ever met, and I cannot proof my own stuff.  The value a final proofreader can bring is a combination of fresh eyes and zero emotional investment.  The author has worked on this book for five years, and gods only know how much time his editors have put in.  Quite a bit, to go by the state of the finished product, which has me looking for the fussiest and minutest details.  I can suggest how they might handle an issue, but they know what they meant it to say (or look like).  Once I call it to their attention, it will be handled as they see fit.  I did what was asked of me, and avoided meddling in what was not asked.

It’s not that I don’t care about the end result.  I care about it almost savagely.  I care enough about it that if you send me a chapter in which I think I didn’t find enough problems, I’ll suspect that I lost focus, and do it all over again until I am satisfied I have found all that exists.  If I find nothing, I will do it again.  If I go through it thrice and find zero, then I finally believe my work is done.  Believe you me, I care.  I just know where my job begins and ends, and trust my teammates to take the handoff and hit the hole for paydirt.

Radcon 2012, afterword: okay, enough with the sickness

I now find, as expected, that while my fairly robust constitution fought off the Plagues of Radcon for a few days, the battle is lost.  I have the congestion/throat disease, not the dysentery disease.  It’s probably the same one that turned John into a stationary snore machine for a couple of days, though he didn’t seem to have a lot of muss associated with it.

When this happens, and I identify the early signs, my first action is to pick up the telephone and order some cold medicine.  The only pizza place around here that will put both jalapeños and chopped garlic on a pepperoni pizza is Round Table, and I’m currently boycotting Pizza Hut anyway since they actually dishonored a current coupon in such a stupid way they deserve to keep hearing about it.  I will then consume as much of the pizza as possible over the next few days.  This is my primary early punch in the mouth to any cold.

What does it do?

  • Since I do it every time, it is a conditioned signal to my system that we are going to fight, not just suffer and moan and suppress symptoms.  No, we’re gearing up.  We get stronger when we feel we can do something about it.
  • Because it tastes good, it improves my morale.  Morale is important.  Morale affects your mind which affects how your body resists.  If my nose and throat cannot be happy, some part of me can be.
  • If there is any infection-fighting ability at all in garlic relevant to colds (which are viral, but resulting sinus infections are not), I’m getting a heavy dose.  If it is not relevant at all, I do myself zero harm.
  • If nothing else, it will surely clear my sinuses, especially as I put the pepper flakes on.
  • It’s a pretty nasty combination of toxic waste to dump on the invading microbes, just on general principle.  “Okay, you little varmints, this isn’t going to be your happy vacationland.  I’m about to ruin your whole trip.  Anyone thirsty? Have a drink!” as I munch and swallow another combination of peppers and garlic.  I can picture the microbes phoning their travel agents demanding refunds.

Does this all cure the disease? Of course not.  When applied as it is just taking hold, does it affect the severity and duration? It seems to.

And if not, it does no harm, and I enjoy the pizza and thus suffer a bit less.

Radcon 2012, epilogue: Down with the sickness

When Ignition (the fire dancers) performed Saturday night at Radcon, they did one of their early routines  to Down With the Sickness by the rock band Disturbed.  In no way did I imagine it prophetic.

Turned out there was a truly nasty stomach/intestinal bug ripping through Radcon.  It’s pretty normal to get sick at any SF con; it’s as close as there is to an airplane ride or a third grade classroom in terms of random proximity to lots of careless people who might be ill.  This one is worse.  It produces power-chucks, vicious runs, and a lot of pain/fatigue.  Dozens of cases.  I had no idea it was even happening.

Life’s mercies:  neither I nor my friends caught it.  John had a nasty hanger-on cold/sore throat that caused him to sleep through most of Monday, but no stomach stuff except that he had the appetite of a hummingbird (if that).  My strong suspicion is that Deb and I had this in Anchorage; sounds quite familiar.  In any case, bullet dodged, and fortunately so.  I feel badly for the many who fell ill.

Edit:  so I post this, and Jenn PMs me to advise me:  ‘not so fast, my friend.’  Goddamnit!  Evidently they’re both under the weather.  No fun!

Radcon 2012, Sunday: A coward and an ass

By Sunday, anyone who has done Radcon right is running on fumes.  Mostly coffee fumes.  Had to be at the con by 9 AM, as John wanted to hit a panel.  I practiced the fine art of loafing around for an hour, but also hunted down the con registration wizard to pay her some homage.  Fair is fair.  She has truly stepped up and fixed the very worst thing about Radcon (and it never had many bad aspects to begin with), making it a far better con.  Registration is now a Radcon strength.

First panel for me was at 10 AM, on collaboration with other writers.  What the panel could not know was that John and I had done some intensive writing collaboration some fifteen years back.  We were both present.  It didn’t continue, but did not harm our friendship at all, nor did it rule out future collaboration.  We had simply never gotten around to discussing why it petered out, though I had my guesses.  Well, I decided to test those guesses.  So I asked:  “Suppose I once did some collaboration with a writing partner, and it faded out.  I’m pretty sure that part of the reason was that he’s a good guy, and some of my stuff was sophomoric and useless, and some of it just sucked, and he was too good-hearted to tell me.  Is that often a reason a collaboration could fail?”

John’s head swiveled like a turret and his eyes got big with that ‘why, you crazy fucker!’ look and smile, but he reacts well on the fly, and he curtailed any other response to avoid tipping the panelists off.  Panelist:  “That collaboration’s doomed.  Never work.”  I nodded thoughtfully, sagely.  They actually had a point.  We would have been better collaborators had we been more candid.  The discussion proceeded, and near the end, I asked:  “Suppose someone were actually in the panel with a past partner in a faltered collaboration, and begin to ask about reasons it went south.  Would that be a dirty trick?”

“That would be a coward’s act,” said one panelist.

“I’d say that person was a real ass,” said another.

I could see John staying on the down low, manfully suppressing his desire to bust out into laughter.  I actually don’t think the panel caught on, which is even funnier.  I’m not sure how I held back.  There was a reason I saved that for the end.

Next panel was on the best writing advice they had ever been given.  “Nothing sells in a drawer.”  “Keep writing.”  All of it was good.  I wanted to add a ton, and would have loved being on that panel, but they did well.  My own best writing advice came from the redoubtable C.J. Cherryh, a class act:  “Never follow any rule off a cliff.”  A well-focused panel.  Final panel, on scams writers should beware, was also good albeit a bit wandering and rambly, understandable at noon on Sunday of Radcon.  Afterward, I had the great fortune to run into S.A. Bolich, a fantasy author from Spokane and one of the nicest you could hope to meet.  We said our farewells in the dealer room and elsewhere.  I didn’t run into Sharon on Sunday, but it was so great to see her and meet her current pair of first-time con-goers.

All in all it was a great Radcon, even if there weren’t as many panels that really drew my interest.  They are getting new blood in the leadership and moving stuff in good directions, except for the room party situation, which I do understand is somewhat out of the hands of the leadership since it relates to liquor laws, enforcement and the hotel management.  One gratifying moment came when visiting with a coffee barista, who said that of all the conventions and such that lodge at the Pasco Red Lion, Radcon’s crop of 2000+ certified weirdos treat the hotel staff with more friendliness and courtesy than just about any other group.

Think on that a minute.  Rather than urbane executives, elegant real estate agents, streetwise police detectives, class reunion-goers and anyone else, the hotel staff is happier dealing with a bunch of people dressed up as Klingons, Victorian grandes dames, zombies, vampires, pirates, belly dancers, elves, Imperial stormtroopers, anthropomorphic furries, Spock, and gods know what else, than with completely conventional and evidently well-adjusted people.

Kind of amusing when one thinks about the socially dysfunctional geekage reputation, eh?

See you in February 2013.