Rebooting the Writing Life, Part 2

I have to start today’s blog with a small scream. I am so excited about HBO’s dramatization of His Dark Materials. Having entered the premier date in my calendar, I was on my sofa that very day to watch and was not disappointed. I also applaud the show runners, and their decision to use the trilogy’s name for their series, rather than The Golden Compass. Unlike HBO’s Game of Thrones and the inexplicable decision to use the first book of seven (five published) as the title for the entire run. Song of Ice and Fire, I suppose, was not a good selling feature in their view.

Anyway, the feast of fantastic shows (Carnival Row—there is a Season 2!, Penny Dreadful—bummed it was canceled after 2 seasons!) available for streaming is yummy indeed.

But this is not what I want to write about. In a comment to my last blog, Phyl Radford reminded me about Orycon—this weekend—as now we live 90 minutes from Portland. And it’s today! (as I write this blog). I felt like kicking myself.

Of course! SF and Fantasy cons! What was I thinking? (With many more exclamation points.)

Surviving Clarion West 1984—Joanna Russ, Arthur Cover, Terry Carr, David Hartwell, Suzi McKee Charnas, Vonda McIntyre—and yes I know Gen-Y’s were either pre-natal or crawling over carpeted suburban homes—I attended my first con ever: Norwescon, March, 1985—GoH Brian Aldiss and Toastmaster Robert Silverberg. I took a week off from my job as an ICU nurse in Kaiser San Francisco and flew to Seattle.

I recall so many details about that visit from the music I was listening to as we landed (Joe Jackson’s Breaking Us in Two) to dancing with David Hartwell (a very good dancer). My costume for the Big Dance was a little black cocktail dress, pink sparkly jacket, black gloves and fishnets. I could wear stuff like that, then.

I also got roped in collect the money for the First Annual Clarion West Auction. My baker friend and writer, Linda Jordan, offered a chocolate gateau that brought in a chunk of change. Our assistants were Vonda McIntyre, Marilyn Holt and J.T. Stewart. Rhea Rose paraded the offerings up and down the aisles. Wearing a hardhat, Richard Clement MC’d the sales.The room was packed with people standing in the back and spilling into the hallway.

When I arrived at the hotel, I asked myself what I was doing here. Why did I think I belonged? The familiar insecurities needled me. Creeping into the back of a panel in the days before cell phones, I hoped to see my former classmates and friends, but no one seemed to be there.

I had left my stuff in our shared room and knew I would find the 3 of them eventually, but was I really going to have fun? Was this a good way to spend my money?

That changed as soon as they found me, after the panel and as the audience was leaving. There was the masquerade, where Rhea competed as Isabeau from the newly-released Ladyhawke. The auction, of course, and the Dance. Never, ever miss one of those dances. To this day I love to dance.

Michael and Jay (friends of friends) dressed each as a Man in Black, alien police pursuing The Brother (Joe Morton) in The Brother From Another Planet. They stalked through the halls in the same manner as John Sayles and David Strathairn.

We wore our Clarion West 1984 class muscle shirts, imprinted with the first line off each of our workshopped novels. And there was the spontaneous bar cluster; David joined us and when he appeared, the crowd grew.

Parties, parties and more parties. We felt a feted, the first class of the resurrected 6- week science fiction writing workshop—still popping out star authors. I managed to attend 1986 and 1987, too, then life intervened for a while.

Years of change have modified the Cons. For me they will not be the same sleep-crazed 25 hour gala. But 2020 World Fantasy Con is in Salt Lake City next fall. Hmmmm. Not such a long way to travel.

PS: I did attend the 1989 World Fantasy Con in Seattle. I won a Yoshitaka Amano signed print. Cool.



About Jill Zeller

Author of numerous novels and short stories, Jill Zeller is a Left Coast writer, 2nd generation Californian, retired registered nurse, and obsessed gardener. She lives in Oregon with her patient husband, 2 silly English mastiffs and 2 rescue cats—the silliest of all. Her works explore the boundaries of reality. Some may call it fantasy, but there are rarely swords and never elves. More to the point, she prefers to write as if myth, imagination and hallucination are as real as the chair she is sitting on as she writes this. Jill Zeller also writes under the pseudonym Hunter Morrison


Rebooting the Writing Life, Part 2 — 2 Comments

  1. Orycon was small, quiet, almost intimate. But then I was so exhausted from LIFE and helping man a table in the dealer’s room that I collapsed at 9PM most nights, so no parties.

    It was what I needed this year. WFC in Salt Lake City next year is singing a siren song my direction though…

  2. Nice to hear about another Norwescon. I remember my two visits as good ones, although there was a lot of stranding for out-of-towners at one of them. Tram guy just decided not to go over for a few hours. And the second one was a very sick building–and I, a very sick cookie, took home an unwanted souvenir.

    Hope to do conventions again some day, but the hotels make me sick. So I feel like I should only agree to attend if I know the hosting hotel/convention center is not a sick building. That even lets out the local convention in Austin, alas.