I attended the Arisia science fiction convention in Boston for the first time. I signed up to be a participant and also agreed to set up and run the booth in the dealer room for Water Dragon Publishing. In other news, I am also a masochist and glutton for punishment. In fact, I had a great time. But it was not without complications.

The books came late. I had been planning to leave midday on Thursday to drive during the daylight, but a critical box of books wasn’t scheduled to arrive until Thursday. All we knew was that it was to be before 9pm. The day came and we had snow changing over to rain. I waited and waited. I was in a perpetual flight/flight state waiting for the books to arrive. But, once they did, I was fine. I drove to Boston, found a parking spot right by the elevator, and was good.

At one point during shipment, the tracking website had gone haywire and I worried the books might not actually arrive on Thursday, so I thought it prudent to make a backup plan. I asked a friend if he thought he might be able to drive to Boston if the box didn’t come until later. I was on the program on Friday, so I really couldn’t wait. But everything turned out OK. Except my friend had cleared the possible trip with his wife who then expressed interest in driving to Boston even in the absence of any need. But another box of books arrived Friday, so he brought that one. (And now he claims he’s mad at me because of how much his wife made him spend at the Ikea store, but that’s another story. 🙂

Yet another heavy box of books arrived on Monday. But that too is yet another story.

I was signed up to moderate a panel on Intersections Between Ecofiction and Science Fiction. I had been a bit concerned that I had been unable to reach the participants ahead of time. (It was new that you had to opt-in to share your address and many participants seemingly hadn’t understood that.) But they changed the participant list a couple of times and then finally closed the panel for a lack of participants. So that was a little disappointing.

I was a participant in a panel on Gender & Sexual Identity Representation in Media. I was really excited about this one because one of the participants of a similar panel at Worldcon that I had moderated was to be the moderator of the panel. But when I saw the final list, he wasn’t on it anymore. And when I went to room where that panel had been scheduled, it wasn’t there either. Luckily, since I always leave plenty of time, I was able to look up where it had been moved to and I was still the first one there.

I always worry that I won’t find anything to say when I’m a panelist but I’ve always found that if you stick a microphone in front of me, I can babble surprisingly cogently at length about almost anything. I was able to offer a number of perspectives that the audience and other panelists seemed to appreciate. And I learned a lot too, although I wished I had a keyboard so I could have taken better notes.

I was also scheduled for a reading. The session I was signed up for had five people on it and included another Water Dragon author, so that was exciting. But I got an email asking me if I was willing to be flexible so they could rejigger things. I said sure, so they moved me to the next day but there were only three of us, so I got 20 minutes instead of just 10. But more excitingly one was James Cambias. I had seen him read at the Odyssey Bookshop several years ago with Elizabeth Bear and Max Gladstone. And I just been scheduled for a panel with him moderating at Boskone. And he had just stopped by the Water Dragon booth and I had had a chance to catch up with him. So this was just icing on the cake.

The reading went well. We had been chatting ahead of time and I had mentioned Better Angels and the Truck Stop at the Center of the Galaxy, so everyone called on me to read from that first. So I did. As I was reading it, I was like “Wow. She keeps saying ‘Master’ a lot. Is that really OK anymore? And Gaetz says the F-word a fuck of a lot times. Shit! Was this really a good idea?” Then Amy J. Murphy read for 10 minutes. Then Jim read for the full 20 minutes. It was fabulous — a really funny bit. I read a scene from Crossing the Streams and Amy read another from her books. It was a small audience, no more than 10, but enthusiastic and generous.

I had been really worried about being responsible for running the table in the dealer room, but everything went great. I was able to roll everything in Thursday night and set up Friday morning. We had two tables set in an L shape. I had the insight that the corner would be the prime real-estate so I set my stuff up on one corner and left the center and other corner for my two co-conspirators.

Neither of the authors helping run the table were actually Water Dragon authors. One was Kathryn Sullivan who has been attending conventions and selling books for decades. She had two middle-grade fantasy books and an anthology. She had connected with us via a friend and it was great to have her help and insight. The other was a new author, Greg Stone, who’s been published by Paper Angel Press (the general publisher of which Water Dragon is an imprint). Among the books I had been waiting for was his first novel, a cozy mystery set in Vermont. And my friend brought the hardcovers on Saturday.

I had fun interacting with readers who came up to the table. I’ve developed a pretty good line of patter for many of the books, though I don’t know all of them well enough to say something meaningful. Some people just want to browse silently. Others want a whole tour. I’ve tried to adopt a just-in-time approach to providing information. When someone is looking at the short fiction, I would say, “Anything that isn’t marked is probably $5.” Or when they got to the Truck Stop stories to explain what the Truck Stop at the Center of the Galaxy is. “Like Callahans,” one old-timer said.

A number of other dealers were unhappy with the low attendance and, in particular, that the con-suite wasn’t co-located with the dealer room. Evidently, that was a big draw that brought many people through the dealer room to get snacks and drinks. But they had put it somewhere else mainly to protect us from people not wearing masks while they ate/drank, so I couldn’t fault them.

When things wrapped up, I was very grateful for the help of my co-conspirators and was able to get a prompt start driving home. Google initially told me I was on the fastest route, but then started trying to get me to get off the ‘pike and drive through Boston to get to Route 2. I turned off Google and just accepted that I would be delayed a bit on the ‘pike. And I was. But I got home in good order and went to bed just a couple of hours later, utterly exhausted.

I could tell you about the next day, but that would be yet ANOTHER other story.

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