Sunday, July 20, 2008


What do you get when you take away the Klingon costumes, paintings of silver coiffed elves and drooling aliens, Regency dancing, dragon earrings, and fans with enormous... enthusiasm? You get Readercon. It was more intellectual, far more sedate, the dealer's room only sold books, and the panelists mentioned Twain and Godot and reached further into the canon taught in universities as well as the influence of pop culture. It was like visiting college and all your favorite writers happened to be lecturing that day.

Here is my top quote of the weekend. "Disney is a roach motel of culture: myths check in and never check out." --Jonathan Lethem.

Here are my sketches of Lethem and the talented Paul Park. I didn't do nearly as many sketches at this convention, I was lounging in the writer's side of my brain.

I went with my wonderful friend Deborah Atherton. It was her birthday weekend and she is one who does not encourage too much fuss. Notable was whistling "Happy Birthday" to her in the swanky hotel restaurant with Ernest Lilley and getting a round of applause from nearby tables. Her birthday somehow translated into a number of happy luck moments for me. For instance I said "you know Deb, I think I'd like to design some science fiction and fantasy covers, I come to enough of these conventions and read the reads." I check my email and a publisher is contacting me about freelance designing some sci fi/fantasy covers! I go to an excellent panel on historical fiction, tell John Crowley after that I'm researching 1911 for a novel and he gives me a totally perfect L. Woolf quote that I could use to start the book! It just kept happening.

I am now thinking about how to write/code a hypertext poem. It would give new meaning to "shaped" poetry.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Life with no parachute but plenty of ideals

I ran into my friend Margo Fox on Broadway yesterday as I held an armful of books newly borrowed from the library. She is a gifted writer but one of the strongest threads binding our lives is the fact that she grew up on the same street, just a few doors down from my parent's house in a Long Island college town.

She noted it was remarkable that our parent's raised us to have so little practical preparation for life outside of academia. Yes, I said, I wasn't given driving lessons, shown how to balance a checkbook, taught how to give a good interview, or many other general life skills. But I left home knowing how to write a bibliography and do research in a library as well as our encyclopedia. I also was experienced in sit-ins against the Shoreham nuclear plant and taking trips to protest the Vietnam War in Washington DC...

The New York Times just had an article about the masses of liberal professors that are now retiring and conjectured the changes as a new generation takes over teaching in our universities. I suspect the tide mark of "political correctness" will be replaced by a more conservative, indeed practical agenda. I only hope that the idealism that makes people take on impossible impractical goals won't be squashed by too much steely-eyed risk assessment. It takes poets and fools to change the world too.