So me and Jon have just (Well, not just; about a week ago. I was tired. It was a long flight, okay? Just shut up about it already.) got back from San Antonio, TX and the nerdapalooza that was LoneStarCon 3. And it was epic.
First off, San Antonio is hot. Like, hot. Like, okay, I'm from a pretty hot place myself, but this was actual, for real, fuck-you hot. It hit 105 degrees, and while I'm pretty sure that's some sort of crazy Imperial measurement, I wouldn't, having lived through it, put actual money on that.
But San Antonio is a place where "profligate waste of energy" ran into "oppressive subtropical heat" and broke. The convention took place in colossal indoor spaces, whole cathedrals of glass and steel, that were nevertheless cooled to bone-chillingly cold temperatures. I should, on behalf of whales and dolphins and Greenpeace protesters everywhere, have been affronted at this, but as you opened the door and this blast of frigid air hit you, all you could think was, "It's worth it. Never say it isn't."
But they have this whole semi-wonderland called the "River Walk" (pictured above). It's this spectacularly artificial tree-bedecked network of walkways, bridges and balconies built just below street level lining the river, and it's kind of shaded and lined with shops and cafes, and it really is quite lovely, even if it makes you feel like you're at Center Parcs.
And never mind all that, because for the first time in my life, dear readers, I was in the United States. So I got to all kinds of stupid shit that really don't matter, but are in their tiny way kind of amazing. Like ride in an actual yellow taxi (there's Arianne "Tex" Thompson, one of Solaris's writers, on the left); it's just a fucking taxi, but it's a proper Murican yellow taxi and I was in it and it was cool and shut up.
And we ate a lot. Texans do not believe in small portions, and that really isn't just a colourful reputation or the kind of rubbish boasting people do when they're being a bit jingoistics. We didn't have a small meal all weekend. We actually took to ordering bar snacks. And not eating them all.
But it was a good opportunity to meet and connect with folk, and enjoy the company of some extremely friendly people, and here's a picture of some of us hanging around at just about the hippest BBQ joint you can imagine (seriously, they had all ethically-produced, locally-sourced meat, and they did things like asparagus icecream accompaniments; it was cool but a bit jarring), with Jennie Goloboy, Tex, Jon, Libby McGugan, Ben Jeapes and John Carter Cash's right arm.*
We also went up the Tower of the Americas, which is mildly famous, although I had to think a bit to make sure I wasn't thinking of Stratosphere or the Space Needle, because all of these observation towers are really terribly similar. At any rate, it turns out it was built for the '68 World's Fair, and it has an obligatory moving restaurant in it, so we could very gradually see all of San Antonio pass beneath us as the sun set, which was lovely. And we had some really very nice food (a lot of it, natch) with Jack Skillingstead, Nancy Kress, Libby McGugan, Ben Jeapes, Brenda Cooper and a friend of Brenda's whose name I didn't catch.
So it was a very good time for walking around, eating, drinking (be very cautious drinking margaritas in San Antonio; or, perhaps, be very cautious ordering a second margarita in San Antonio - they're really quite strong, a fact that you won't fully appreciate until you're already started the second one and realised you should have had a coke). And it was an awesome time for meeting people: authors, agents, members of the SFWA and fans in general, and our esteemed peers and rivals across the pond.
And we got a bit of tourism in! Did you know that San Antonio's where the Alamo is? I didn't. (Okay, you did; I guess you're just a better person than me. Whatever.) Anyway, it's just right there! You can just walk to it. It's not even, like, a bus ride outside town or anything; it was right around the corner from the convention! There's Jon on a terribly pretty fountain, and me by the entrance. That thoughtful expression is me remembering the Alamo, something I gather you are encouraged to do in Texas.
"So shut up about your holiday abroad!" I hear you cry. "What about the con?" Well, I'm glad you ask.
It was immense. Thousands of fans, creators and community people, talking, showing, watching, trading, selling, buying, arguing, discussing, and generally advancing and promoting the genres and media we all love. It was amazing to see the commitment and passion on display everywhere. We sat on panels - our early-morning, still-jet-lagged, still-frankly-kind-of-hungover "Solaris Presents" (which came out as "Abaddon, Solaris and Ravenstone Present" in the end) panel went really rather well given the time and our mental states, the gender parity and economics-of-publishing (mostly about Print-on-Demand and ebooks) panels Jon sat on were a lot of fun, and the horror panel that Lee Harris very kindly invited Jon to step up to was amazing - but mostly we met people, talked about past achievements, future ambitions, and the future direction of our world.
And rather wonderfully there was a full-scale reproduction of part of the bridge of the Enterprise from the original series of Star Trek. Here we are being captains. Are we not masterful (and fat; I kind of look like later-era Kirk, while Jon looks like earlier, sexy Kirk)?
And then there were the Hugo awards. It's actually kind of awe-inspiring being there. It's always nice being invited to any awards ceremony, and it's always very gratifying to be present when the wonderful people who create the stories we read and publish are acknowledged and applauded for their efforts, but there a lot of awards, you know, and you can get kind of used to them. But the Hugo's the first award you hear about, in our circles, and it remains - to me at least - a fairly special accomplishment set out from the rest, however jaded you get. It was awesome to actually go to one.
Huge congratulations go to all the winners and finalists of the prestigious awards (and especially to Pat Cadigan, whose contribution to Jonathan Strahan's Edge of Infinity won the trophy for Best Novelette), and huge thanks to Paul Cornell for a brilliant ceremony.
After that was the after-party, where I got to meet some of the organisers and members of the SFWA, which was a brilliant opportunity and which I was genuinely excited to be doing.
So, yeah. That was What We Did On Our Weekend. I hope you had as good a time as we did.
*And yes, three of the people in that picture are British. Never mind that.