Over the weekend I attended the Shore Leave convention in Baltimore, Maryland. I started going in 2000 and it has become something of an annual tradition. This year, however, was the first where I attended as a guest, due to the publication of Ring Around the Sky and a story in the No Limits anthology, rather than as a fan.
Highlights of the weekend, in no particular order–
Signing books. This was my first book signing, and I had the fear that very few people, if any, would come by and ask for my signature on No Limits. But people did, many people, some sixty or seventy, and they had even read one or the other or maybe even both. By the time the signing session ended at midnight my arm was well and truly cramped. Fortunately the bar was well-stocked with Guinness.
Meeting people. Just tossing out names here. David Mack, author of a lot of really fantastic Star Trek fiction, for one. Glenn Hauman, who co-authored the excellent Xant story in No Limits, for another. Lisa Sullivan, Glenn’s co-author, who was irrepressibly cute and unfailingly bubbly and just plain fun to talk to. Susan Shwartz, whose books I’ve read for years. Josepha Sherman, ditto. Kevin Lauderdale, a Strange New Worlds VII author, whose website I read way back in the day and enjoyed. Christian Grainger, SNW VII author who works for the same company I do. Todd Kogutt, better known online as Scavenger, who came accompanied with his Plush Porthos. And let’s not forget all the others I am forgetting.
“Monty Sauron’s Flying Nazgul.” This was the convention play, written by Peter David, that closed out the convention. Imagine if you would The Lord of the Rings, as filtered through Monty Python, especially The Holy Grail. Though the play took its inspiration (and much of its dialogue) from Python, I imagine that had the Beatles made the LotR film instead of what became Let It Be (as they had considered) the result might have been much like this. Besides the scenes of the Fellowship encountering Holy Grail-like insanity, there was a film portion starring George Takei as the narrator. Some clever editing of The Two Towers and The Holy Grail had Saruman’s Uruk-hai army attacking Helm’s Deep with the Trojan Bunny Rabbit with comical results. One cool thing I noticed–in one scene a character is drinking from a beer bottle, and he’s drinking “Monty Python’s Holy Grail Ale,” which I discovered at a local grocery story a few months ago.
Putzing around the University of Richmond on Monday. I had planned on going to King’s Dominion or Busch Gardens on Monday, but the weather was terrible, I didn’t feel particularly well, so I decided to visit where I went to college. The campus had new buildings–the political science building had doubled in size with a new wing. The campus lake was six feet below its normal level, and the far end of the lake by Boatwright Drive had a very lovely algae bloom and a stomach-turning odor. However, while waiting for a thunderstorm to subside I plotted out a short story while sitting in the library and looking out over the lake. Curiously, I decided to buy a Richmond tee-shirt and baseball cap in the campus bookstore–curious, because when I was a student there I hadn’t. People change with time, I suppose.
Buying better newspapers. I subscribe to the Raleigh News-Observer, have it delivered every day to my door, but it’s not a particularly inspiring newspaper. The local reportage is mediocre at best, the national reportage consists largely of wire reports. I arrived home with a stack of Washington Posts and Baltimore Suns which I’m still picking through. I also picked up a Richmond Times-Disgrace, erm, I mean, Times-Dispatch, just for old-times’ sake.
Going to the Book Fair. The Green Valley Book Fair can be difficult to describe. Imagine a bargain book paradise, in the middle of a cow pasture. In the old days the books were sold out of a barn, but in the early 1990s the owners built massive warehouses. I hadn’t been since 1998, and spent more than I probably should have.
Seeing friends I hadn’t seen in a very long time.
Lowlights of the weekend–
Coming down with a cold. Saturday afternoon the throat felt scratchy. By Sunday my voice was nearly gone, having dropped by an octave and a half. As of today, it’s still not back. This primarily was the reason why I didn’t do the amusement park thing on vacation as I had planned.
Tamper-proof televisions. At the Hunt Valley Marriot, site of the Shore Leave convention, the televisions had odd little plugs on the antenna leads, which prevented me from getting my XBox hooked up. Why travel with an XBox, you ask? It has most of my CD collection stored on the hard drive, to say nothing of its uses as a DVD player. (I had picked up the Batman: The Animated Series boxed set along the way and I was anxious to watch it.) I understand why the television was tamper-proof–to prevent idiots from doing things they shouldn’t–but it so didn’t have to be.
Getting lost in Annapolis. I left the convention Sunday after “Monty Sauron,” and instead of going around the Washington Beltway I thought that swinging around DC on US-301 made more sense. Getting to Annapolis was fine–the outer harbor tunnel, then I-97, but when I got to Annapolis I took 301 in the wrong direction then crossed the Cheasapeake Bay Bridge by accident. When on the other side I wondered why the 301 Bridge had a toll, when it had gotten so long (seven miles long), and why the road signs were still Maryland road signs since I thought I was heading into Virginia. I pulled off the highway, turned around, crossed the Bay Bridge once more, and instead of getting onto 301 South I kept heading toward Washington. Realizing my mistake I turned around yet again, decided the best plan was to go north on I-97 for one exit then turn around and pick up 301 from that direction (which had been my original plan, let’s remember), but that only got me more lost. Somehow, and I still can’t tell you how, I found 301 South, and from there things were smooth until I reached Richmond.
All in all, it was a great vacation, the first I had taken in a really long while. All things end, though, and today I went back to work and the release of NCAA Football 2005.