Post Road-Trip Thoughts : Gravity Lens

Post Road-Trip Thoughts

by Jeff Patterson on 09/08/13

I am almost caught up with laundry, housework, bills and such, and my thoughts from the recent road trip have gelled into something nearing, though not achieving, coherence. I find the trip produced equal measures of catharsis and perplexity in me.


Jennifer and I struck out on Monday in a 2013 Dodge Charger that Enterprise deemed to upgrade me into. I am a Chevy man, but goddamn this was a sweet ride. It got us to Pigeon Forge TN faster than I expected.


Pigeon Forge is pretty much as advertised: a gaudy, flashing tourist town. It is unique among such places as it sits in a dry county. It is full of diversions, all coated with a veneer of weird, commercialized Christianity. Neighboring Gatlinburg is a treat, with a touristy downtown hiding village-themed shopping areas down it alleys. And they pretty much GIVE you moonshine samples everywhere.


From there it was across three states and a time zone to New Orleans. "Wonderful" is the Big Easy's default setting. Even in the relatively dead mid-week, it was kinetic and loud. I cannot say enough good things about the Clarion, which is equal parts antiquated relic and interactive art space three blocks from the French Quarter. Cafe du Monde, the French Market, and the Absinthe House are exactly as I remember them. I do, however, have to question the logic of families bringing young children down a street where “barely legal” strippers and live sex acts are screaming at you from the sidewalks.


The next travel day sent us due west across bayous and desolation to San Antonio for LoneStarCon. Texas was experiencing a bit of a cool spell, so the temperatures only got to a brisk 102. Good thing I brought shorts.


The main theme of the weekend for me was meeting (but not spending nearly enough time with) the SF Signal crew in the flesh, including fearless leader and bagel-overlord Jon DeNardo, Patrick Hester, JP Frantz, Karen Burnham, Matthew Sanborn Smith, Jamie Todd Rubin, Larry Ketchersid, Derek Austin Johnson, and Josh Vogt. Among others I met were David D. Levine ("you're JeffPatterson11") Jess Nevins, Irene Gallo, Galen Dara (who went on to win a Hugo), John Sies, Stina Leicht, DL YoungKevin Ikenberry, Joe Lansdale, Gail Carriger, Walter Jon Williams, and David Brin.


I missed most of the hubbub about ageism at the con. From my vantage point I saw quite a few younger members, on par with my last two Worldcons in Boston and Montreal. Especially in the art show. But my reading of post-con concerns about the age of the audience reminds me a lot of similar debate surrounding prog rock: The older folks just want to hear the 70s stuff, while the newbies consume the more metal-tinged offerings.


I was pretty pleased with the Hugo awards as well, not all my choices won, but nothing really stood out as blatantly undeserving.


Reading Fred Pohl's remembrance of him and Isaac Asimov turning pro in 1938 in the Hugo program book was a treat, only to turn bittersweet with his passing two days later. I was Pohl's gopher at Sci Fi Happening in Springfield MA back in 1979, and remember what a jokester he was.


There were two letdowns of the Worldcon weekend:


First, I sold no prints. That's my poorest showing at a con ever. I am not sure what message to take away from this. I did sell quite a few Holiday Cards, and a few folks I met snagged my latest ebook. This didn't shock me, but I had spent the weeks leading up to the con prepping my prints to the exclusion of everything else (writing, blogging, etc.).


Secondly was the crowds. Aside from LoneStarCon, the convention center was hosting the People Magazine Espanol expo, which was much better attended. Add to this the usual holiday weekend draw any big city has, and the San Antonio was packed. At times the Riverwalk was almost impossible to navigate. Sunday was my birthday and Jennifer wanted to take me to dinner, but there were no restaurant tables to be had.


This was my eleventh WorldCon. With each one I come away with a sense of "what are you going to do with you're life?" Being surrounded that that many creative and inventive folks really hammers this home, hard. As I go through my files of half-finished projects I find I better answer that question soon.


If anything this goves me more talking points for upcoming episodes of The Three Hoarsemen.

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