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Chicon 2000
A report by Steve Lazarowitz
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Chicon 2000

Steve Lazarowitz

Chicon 2000
Shawn Trexler, Steve Lazarowitz, Lisa DuMond, Kent Brewster, Lee Driver, B.A. Chepaitis and Steve Sawacki

Chicon 2000
Terry Pratchett

Chicon 2000
Joan Vinge

Chicon 2000
Michael Swanwick

Chicon 2000
Joe Haldeman

Chicon 2000
Cybling Chat: David M. Honigsberg, Alexandra Elizabeth Honigsberg and Janice Murphy

Chicon 2000
Robert Silverberg

Chicon 2000
Fred Saberhagen

Chicon 2000
Hal Clement

Chicon 2000
Gene Wolfe, Tina and Steve

Chicon 2000
Larry Niven and Kent Brewster

Chicon 2000
Stephen Goldin

If you've never been to a Science Fiction or Fantasy convention, it is hard to describe what it's like. I can tell you about each individual happening and describe it in detail, but that will not tell the real story, any more than describing a roller coaster can prepare you for the actual experience of the event.

A Con is a big party, honoring something you love dearly. The panels can be fun or informative, dull or annoying. You can wait on line for half an hour to get into an elevator, particularly on Saturday night and the three panels you really want to see are all scheduled for the same time. Yet the convention is more than the sum of its parts. It's a ritual. A pilgrimage. A place where you can be with others of your kind and feel the spirit of the genres flow around you. You can freely discuss ideas with other fans that would get you some mighty strange looks elsewhere in the world.

I love a good Con, so much so, that there are few I consider bad, though I do tend to avoid the more "commercial" media cons.

Kara (my patient and supportive significant other) and I arrived in Chicago late on Wednesday, just about half an hour too late to register for the Con. Which didn't stop me from attending a couple of the Wednesday night parties.

All Cons have parties. They range from a fairly organized well stocked shindig put on by a larger group or corporation to a bowl of chips and a two liter bottle of coke in someone's hotel room.

Thursday morning, I registered (a rather quick and painless affair), received my badge and set out to attend my first panel.

Panels are the mainstay of science fiction/fantasy cons. They usually consist of a group of authors (or artists, editors, fans... whoever's qualified) discussing a topic. Panels are moderated by one of the members and can, as previously mentioned, vary greatly. My first panel (one of the only two I made it to) was Teaching the Writing of Science Fiction. Joe Haldeman, the moderator, was joined by Suzy McKee Charnas and Gene Wolfe. This was a great panel filled with fun anecdotes and great information. After the panel I said hello to Joe and Gene and snapped a couple of pictures.

Right across from the conference room was the Green Room, the place where program participants go to take a break between panels. There is usually food and beverages (both hot and cold) waiting to refresh you as you ply your way from one activity to the next. Naturally in order to enter the Green Room, you need to be on programming, which fortunately I was. Kara was able to join me, since they do let you bring guests into the Green Room.

This Green Room had something in it a bit different than most. It had Janice Murphy.

Janice is one of the moderators of Cybling.com, a popular SF chat site on the web. Cybling has interviewed many Science Fiction/Fantasy authors including Harry Turtledove, Jack McDevitt, Barry Longyear, Mike Resnick, Paul Levinson, Connie Willis and many, many more. In fact, Cybling has even interviewed me a couple of times, so I already knew Jan before we met.

Jan spent the entire Con in the Green Room, running online chats for people unable to attend, on three laptop computers. The amount of work she did was staggering. Janice Murphy gives new meaning to the word dedication. In fact, later in the Con, I was able to relieve her for about half an hour and it was the longest half hour of the Con. Moderating a chat is not easy work. How she did it all day, every day, is beyond me.

I only had a little while before my 1:00 panel. This was the only panel on which I'd be appearing. It was called "Do Fans Still Talk About Science Fiction?" Well obviously they do. The real question is, with so many books coming out each month, can you still find people that read the same stuff you do?

I really wish I'd moderated this panel. I was the only writer on a panel with four long time fans. The moderator basically remolded the question, by changing the definition of the word fan, to people that were active in fandom. Essentially, the panel divided fans into those that attended cons and thus were active in fandom and those that read books, who they called readers. Several readers in the audience were rather annoyed to find out they were not considered fans. I spent an hour and fifteen minutes saying, "I'm not with these guys!"

Worse yet, there were two events I really wanted to attend, both which occurred during my panel. The first was a panel on promoting and marketing your work and the second was a reading by Stephen Goldin, one of the authors I've been reading forever. However, it's been that way at every Con I've ever attended, so I'm sort of used to it. You might call it Murphy's Law of Panel Scheduling.

Later that day, I viewed the History of Fandom Exhibit, voted on where I want the 2003 Worldcon to be, had a nice conversation with Jack Chalker, who is not only a great writer, but a charming and entertaining man and finally met Raechel Henderson and Matthew Moon the people behind Eggplant Productions.

Eggplant Productions (http://www.eggplant-productions.com) is an online publishing company. They currently produce Jackhammer Ezine, Spellbound and Darkmatter Chronicles. They've also had various other projects over the years, including a print version of Jackhammer and a couple of e-chapbooks on CD-ROM. I've known both Raechel and Matt for more than a couple of years and getting to meet the in person was a real treat.

Finally, I made a bee line for the dealer's room, took out my book list and bought a few used novels that I've been after for some time, but were out of print. Twenty-five bucks later, I returned to my hotel room to drop off my booty.

The dealer's room is a giant SF/Fantasy flea market, with everything from medieval garb to cut wood puzzles and everything in between. New books, used books, video tapes, games, tee-shirts, novelties, artwork... almost anything you could want and then some.

I timed it perfectly. Just enough time to shower, change and eat, before the Meet the Pros party on Thursday night. Lots of writers all over the place. Lee Driver was there. So was Kent Brewster. I finally met Lisa DuMond, author of the newly released Darkers (Hardshell Word Factory), an e-book I've been awaiting for a couple of years. With her was her husband Shawn and Steve Sawicki. I also met Susan Sizemore, another online author friend. It was at that party I signed my first autograph at the Con, and gave away some of the four hundred free e-books I'd brought with me, specifically for that purpose. The Meet the Pros party ended around 11:00 PM.

Of course, that was about the time when the other parties were starting. Cons have quiet floors and party floors. When you book your rooms, they ask which you want. Naturally, I chose a party floor, but most of the parties were in the Hyatt, while I was staying at the Fairmont. Naturally this didn't deter me from hitting several parties that night.

My first stop Friday (after entirely too little sleep and far too much coffee) was a panel on Reviewing Science Fiction Books. As a reviewer, I had a professional interest in this one. Again, Lisa DuMond was there and I finally got to meet John O'Neill of SFSITE fame. It was nice to see him in person.

Afterward, in the Green Room, I ran into Stephen Goldin and had a nice long chat with him. I also had a long talk with Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Jean Lorrah. Those of you who are old Trek fans and Simegen fans will no doubt know those names well. In fact, it looks like I might be doing a column for Simegen rather soon.

I was able to relieve Janice for a bit and moderated my first online chat. Catherine Asaro was my guest and she was delightful (not to mention a really fast typist). After my first two chats, I really could appreciate what Jan was going through.

Kara and I had dinner with some of the SFSITE crowd that night, in an expensive Italian restaurant. John O'Neill premiered a new fantasy magazine Black Gate at Worldcon (http://www.blackgate.com), a new online and print magazine, featuring fiction, articles, reviews and more. I got a chance to check out the web page when I returned home and highly recommend it to all fantasy fans.

On my way back to the hotel room after dinner, I met Robert Silverberg in the elevator. Of course, I turned, did a double take and said, "You're Robert Silverberg!" He must have thought I was an imbecile, but he was kind enough to let me take a picture of him anyway.

Later that night, Janice Murphy moderated an online chat where I was the guest. I had somewhere around fifteen people for most of it and really enjoyed myself. One of the offshoots of Worldcon is that I'll be offering at some point an online Writer's Workshop on Cybling for newer writers.

I returned to my room to shower and change, before attending some more parties, but ended up falling asleep instead.

Saturday Morning I attended Paul Pence's reading. Like me, Paul is an Internet author. We're in the same critique group and are published in the same online zines. He read a feghoot (a humorous SF story that ends in a really BAD pun), a couple of poems and a couple of short stories. Paul has a background in Quantum Physics. After reading his poem "Einstein's Curse" (which I loved, by the way), he and one of the gentleman attending the reading, got into a discussion on relativity that left me mystified. My own writing is, for the most part, curiously devoid of science, so you'll never see a story of mine in Analog!

Afterwards, I had just enough time to stop in the Green Room for a quick bite, before my autograph signing. When I found out I was going to be signing autographs in such a prime spot, I was surprised. When I found out that Vernor Vinge, Fred Saberhagen, Nichele Nichols, Paul Levinson and Michael Swanwick were going to be signing at the same time, I was more than a little flabbergasted. So I did the only thing I could do.

I made a large colorful sign that said "GET YOUR FREE E-BOOK HERE". I made 400 free e-books and brought them with me. Then I sat next to Fred Saberhagen and pretty much gave one to everyone that lined up for his autograph. "Hi, want a FREE e-book. Guaranteed not to shrink in the wash. I'm a Fred Saberhagen fan too!" I even was asked to sign some of them.

After the signing, I returned my leftover stock of freebies to my hotel room. On the way, I noticed the proliferation of costumes. Saturday night is a big costume night at the Con and several people were already dressed and ready to party.

Saturday night is also the night of the Hugo Awards. Vernor Vinge took best book this year for Deepness in the Sky. Asimov's SF Magazine came out strong, taking best novella, best novelette and best short story, by Connie Willis, Patrick Kelly and Michael Swanwick, respectively. Mike Swanwick is already well on his way to becoming one of the all time greats, but in addition to that, I met him last January at Boskone and he's as nice a guy as he is a great writer.

In addition, Gardner Dozois, editor of Asimov's took the award best editor! What a night for that fine publication!

Other awards included best related book, best dramatic presentation, best professional artist, best semipro zine, best fanzine, best fan writer, best fan artist and the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer. For a complete list of winners visit the Chicon Onsite Page at http://onsite.chicon.org/html/hugoawards.html.

That night I attended the SFF.NET party (and met Melissa Michaels) and managed to finally get to the Science Fiction Writers of America Suite. I also met Vernor Vinge in an elevator and snagged a picture of him too!

Finally, exhausted, Kara and I dragged our weary carcasses to bed, only to awake three hours later, leaving just enough time to eat breakfast and get to an impromptu e-book signing that we'd arranged only the night before.

I got to meet a couple of e-book writers, including Carrie S. Masek. Carrie wrote Under a Bear Moon and ran off with the EPPIE (EPIC's annual e-book award) for best Young Adult E-book. She read some of it at the signing and I can see why it won.

Unfortunately, I had to cut my Worldcon short and it was time to pack up, check out and head to the airport.

I almost cried as I left the hotel, pulling my luggage behind me. On my way to the Chicago's O'Hare airport, I did the only thing I could do.

Started talking to Kara about November, when I'll be attending Uncommoncon (http://www.uncommoncon.com) in Dallas. These things can't come often enough for me.

Copyright © 2000 by Steve Lazarowitz

Steve Lazarowitz lives in Brooklyn, NY. His work has appeared in numerous online 'zines including Twilight Times, AnotherRealm, Jackhammer, Aphelion and Titan. His short story "As Luck Would Have It" took first place in the 1998 Preditors and Editors Readers Poll. He is a regular reviewer for SF Site.


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