So, with very little notice to the ConCept people, I hopped a night train to Montreal on Friday, and discovered that the Renaissance cars? They're horrible in comparison to the regular express cars run during the day; the seats don't tilt back. Sorry. This is a minor complaint. The unreasonable complaint is that I wanted all the lights off so I could actually see out the window, rather than see reflections of the interior of the car. I felt like a four year old, pressing my nose against the glass so I could see the nightscape pass by. Unfortunately, I don't have the cost-free flexibility of a four year old <wry g>. I did manage to sleep. I wrote, but not book words, and I ran my iPod batteries down.
I arrived at Bonaventure at 8:10 (the trains really do run on time), and was met at the station by papersky and zorinth. papersky looked exactly like her awake and alert self; the less said about the state of wakefulness of the other two of us, the better. But we went to eat a café whose name I didn't notice, and breakfast was good.
After which, I followed them home. Montreal has both a very good bus system and a very good subway system, both of which we made use of during the weekend; I could not, however, tell you the name of the street on which papersky lives.
If your definition of stupid includes a lack of ability to remember geography, than I am very heavily part of your definition of stupid. I apologize for this, given that stupidity is aggravating, but it seems to have gotten worse, and not better with time. When, for instance, I decided I needed a cup of coffee, I walked three blocks in the wrong direction and realized that the industrial zone was probably not the Second Cup I'd passed the evening before. It's just a thing.
Whenever I visit someone's house for the first time, I spend a lot of time looking at their bookshelves; nothing is quite as disorienting -- for me -- as walking into a house that doesn't have any. papersky has a lot of books, some familiar, some less familiar. She also used to work in a specialty book store in the UK, and there was some bookstore neep (including a very funny bit about the Wrath of Khan photonovel).
We went and registered at the convention (actually, I may have these two events mixed up; I was awake at 8:10 a.m., which is my excuse). The convention space wasn't very large, but this did have the advantage of making it easy to find people. zorinth disappeared; papersky went to her first panel, on Alternate History. There were several panelists in a packed and very small room (which was wider than it was long). Harry Turtledove, the GOH, was one of the panelists; papersky was another; Alan Weiss from Toronto another. I believe the other two were Mark Shainblum,the moderator, and Gordon something or other. The latter had … interesting ideas on Alternate History. He felt that it was, in many ways, a setting just like any other genre setting.
People in the audience were exposed to the sound of Michelle grinding her teeth. I really felt the need to point out that people read alternate history because it is an exploration of what-if, and if one's sense of the history of the period in which one is writing it sucks, it's almost pointless. The last panelist seemed to feel it necessary to say that he didn't feel there had to be a "point" to the setting; that it was all about interesting characters and story, and not -- implied -- some literary sensibility. I hate straw men. If someone else on the panel had somehow made some high-brow claim to that effect, I could understand the comment -- but really. No one was.
He also felt (as did the moderator) that getting bogged down in detail would ruin the story, and I did also feel the need to point out that I had never said that the writer should write down every single bit of knowledge they had of the period (to which Harry Turtledove enthusiastically agreed), but rather, that their sense of the period was what gave weight to the reality of the what-if. And that the knowledge itself was necessary to do justice to it.
I may have been a bit brusque, on the other hand. I was trying very hard not to be. For me. Because I wasn't actually on the panel.
The reading that papersky did was terrific; the space was… less terrific. It was in a long, long room, in itself not a problem, which was quiet narrow, ditto -- but the reading was at the front of the room, and the art show was at the back of the room. Which meant that people kept cutting through the reading space to go to the art show behind us. It also meant that the door was never closed, and ambient noise continually drifted in from the hall. Which didn't stop the content of the reading from being great (Kelley Armstrong was also present, and read from two of her books), but it did make it distracting; I'd have found it very distracting were I the one doing the reading.
After the reading, we eventually met up with zorinth, and after that, went for sushi, where we met rysmiel. Dinner was good. I probably talked too much. It's a failing of mine, I know.
The next day, I wandered around the convention a bit, got coffee, and missed the World Building panel (and I'm sorry I missed it, too), and then headed into the autographing room. papersky was signing with terri_osborne, whose name happened to have an extra u at the end. She was very graceful about it, and said it was the Canadianized version (Osbourne). I also met kradical for the first time, and he was terrific; funny and also very obviously conscientious about the work that he's doing in the Trek universe and in other media universes. If the adage "write what you know" is a necessity, it's absolutely clear that he is writing what he knows, and knows it in the way that people do who deeply care about their subject matter. But also? Funny. He was funny.
I also had a chance to talk with Harry Turtledove a number of times, which was nice because he's a really, really wonderful man. He's sort of the exact opposite of me: He's tall, male, quiet, reasonable, and he thinks about things before he says them <wry g>. Also, really gracious.
But much of the point of my going to Montreal on short notice was to get a chance to talk with papersky, and we did talk about any number of things at length. I had a great time because of this, and felt very much at home. She is both opinionated and entirely herself, while still being enormously polite. I'm probably both of the former things and I'm working to bring the latter up to scruff.