Friday, February 20, 2009

Look Who's Coming To Dinner

Jack McDevitt has been invited to attend I-Con 28.

This forces a complete reversal of my previous stance, which can be worded as "I'm not going to I-Con this year come hell or high water", since I view McDevitt as one of the recent greats of SF and have yards of his books I want signing.

I-Con has for years been a staple on or around the end of March/beginning of April for La Famile Stevie, as a three day event (actually, Friday night through Sunday afternoon, and Friday could often be a bit of a let-down) on the grounds of the Stoneybrook campus of SUNY.

Although it has morphed a lot over the years, and the old regulars who made it such a great event are now largely absent1, we have also changed in our expectations of it. We originally went mostly for the guest speakers. Then I started to get more interested in the author-driven events and Mrs Stevie and the Stevieling got more caught up in the SCA-ness of it all. Somewhere in there a whole Anime subculture sprang up and threatened to dominate the entire con.

And the prices kept rising every year. I was getting a bit tired of it to be honest, and when SUNY announced that they were renovating the campus and therefore were declining to host I-Con this year, and when I saw the absolutely dreadful "arrangements" the I-Con management committee had made I decided enough was enough.

The Hotel Ronkonkoma has (apparently) always been a staunch supporter of I-Con, being the "official" I-Con hotel, location of the con ball and banquet for some years now and the place where everyone goes to filk2 and so the committee decided they would have to be kept in the mix. The only fly in the space-ointment is that the Hotel Ronkonkoma is nowhere big enough to house the entire Con, and the committee felt there was nowhere else in the vicinity that could take the overflow, so other sites were sought out.

They've ended up with three different sites. One in Brentwood, right next door (sorta) to the Steviemanse. Yay! And one in Islandia, only a few miles from the Steviemanse by car. Yay-ish. And, of course, the Hotel Ronkonkoma some 15 miles east. Yeesh! The committee feels that no-one will be more than 15 minutes from the next site, but neatly elide over the issue of getting between sites to attend consecutive eventsusing the Long Island Expressway3, so knowing what sort of things will be happening in each site is of primary importance. This information has been non-existent up until about a week ago.

Add to this the fact of Mrs Stevie's extreme poor health of late and you might understand where my "Not on your nelly" attitude was coming from.

However, I was informed last night that since Sam Gamgee from Lord of the Rings (The epic saga of the One Ring by J.R.R. Jackson) will be attending as Media Guest of Honor, the womenfolks would put a brave face on things and required tickets buying at once. I grumbled a bit but went to the website to check it out and saw that McDevitt was a confirmed guest. I immediately returned to the living room and told the women in no uncertain terms that they could sit at home on their fat butts if they felt so inclined, but as Asimov was my witness I was going to I-Con and nothing they could say would persuade me otherwise.

I first encountered McDevitt at I-Con some years ago, and it was there I bought Polaris and got it signed. It is a relatively recent infatuation of mine to get books signed by the author. In previous years I didn't get excited by the prospect and never bothered, missing chances to get my C.J. Cherryh, Larry Niven, Ron Goulart, Barry Malzberg and Harlan Ellison collections properly endorsed. This sort of treachery by Mr Brain is why I never got on in life. I digress.

These days at I-Con I follow interesting authors4 around from panel to panel, even if the panel subject is not obviously of interest to me. Sometimes this pays dividends and sometimes it just gives me a chance to sit down. Bit of a crap shoot really. But McDevitt was very entertaining, enough so that I bought Polaris and Hello Out There, and, with one minor reservation, they were well worth the finding, leading me to a new (for me) source of highly entertaining reading. As a result I own about a dozen of his works now, and I jump at the chance to meet him again, get him to sign the buggers5 and tell him that his previous visit paid off, at least for me.

But oh, those sods on the committee have arranged for the panels to be split over the Brentwood site and the Islandia one, which means I will likely end up missing something I want simply because it will cost a significant portion of time to move the handful of miles down the Long Island Expressway. They could NOT have made life more difficult if they'd set out to do so. And I still don't know how much racing around I'll have to do in the fabulous Steviemobile over the three days because they still haven't nailed down what panels will be where (they could at least make a stab at dividing them up by genre).

But Jack McDevitt will be worth the hassle.

  1. Octavia Butler has passed away of course, Barry Malzberg was very ill last year, Harlan Ellison just hates to travel and hates to travel to New York even more, and I don't know what happened to George Zebrowski
  2. Yes, "filk". Google it for Azathoth's sake
  3. A-List contender for the much-prized World's Longest Parking Lot designation
  4. Like Ben Bova, Charles Stross and Norman Spinrad to namedrop shamelessly
  5. I make the authors add "I-Con xx" rather than a year so that in fifty years when the Stevieling is slinging out my paperbacks, she can at least get a brief clue as to where and when it all went down

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