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GATHERING JOURNAL 2005
I was glad that this year's con was in Las Vegas. This city wouldn't normally be a destination for me; I'm not into the casino and show scene. And, like I kept telling my pals over the course of the weekend, I was getting into town about 40 years too late to do the one Vegas thing I really wanted to do - see the Rat Pack at the Sands. Nevertheless, the bottom line was that - other than this being the Gathering, which I'd attend no matter where it was held - this was an opportunity to go somewhere I'd never been before, and that's nothing but good.
The flight in was smooth and on time, and gave me the chance to get all my paperwork done in anticipation of the panels I'd be co-hosting. I collected my suitcase at the baggage claim and was out the door to find a taxi.
Before I left, numerous people had told me about how the dry heat of the desert felt much better than the humidity in Chicago, that I wouldn't notice the heat in Vegas as much, etc., etc. Bull. It's HOT in Las Vegas in the summer. Period. And I was roasting as I wrangled my suitcase through the taxi line. I nevertheless had to perk up and look my best, because along came Greg Weisman and Thom Adcox in that interminable taxi line, graciously offering to share their cab with me even after the trials and tribulations they'd been through that day. (It had taken the poor guys over twice as long to get there from Los Angeles than it had taken me to get there from Chicago.) One of the things I really wanted to do this weekend was to personally congratulate Greg on getting the opportunity to write more of his stories, and to tell him that, speaking as a writer myself, the news about the comic actually left me with a lump in my throat. The fact that I was able to do this right off the bat was an auspicious beginning to the weekend indeed.
After this pleasant chat with the Boss and Thom in the cab, I checked into the hotel and hauled myself up to my room. I got on the phone with Emambu to set up a breakfast meeting for the following morning, and with Allaine and Mooncat to find out which room they were in. I stopped by and chatted with them and Princess Alexandria for a little while, until I was fairly certain I'd fall over if I didn't get to bed pronto.
The following morning I met Emambu at the little restaurant at the foot of the stairs leading into the casino. The primary purpose of our meeting was to review our material for the "Writing that Flows" panel. However, I found Emambu so easy to talk to and such an interesting conversationalist that we stayed there until the restaurant manager threw us out at 20 after ten so that the staff could set up for lunch. We moved our conversation out to the lobby, where Allaine, Mooncat, and Princess Alexandria joined us. I finally decided it was high time I went and registered, so I was off in search of the meeting facilities.
Once registered, I found myself with a little free time before our panel, so I retired to my room, put my feet up, and listened to Frank Sinatra on my CD player. One of the best things about this weekend was that, since the events were extended over an extra day, I had extra half hours here and there just to sit back. It made a big difference. I might have been incoherent by the end of the convention, but I was still on my feet.
I was very gratified to see how many people showed up for the panel that Emambu and I hosted, that they all stayed till the end, and that many of them had comments and questions throughout and after the session. I say this because much of what Emambu and I discussed was the dry and boring nuts and bolts of technically clean writing - grammar, punctuation, usage, and all that stuff that makes for, as I call it, a frictionless read. Not very exciting, but so vitally important to good writing.
I had every intention of staying in the meeting room for Greg's Writing for Animation session - really and truly, and I'm sorry I missed it. But at the end of our panel, Shadowrunner (a.k.a. Julie) introduced herself to me. I've always liked her stories, had corresponded with her via e-mail, and had found out just a few days prior that she would be at this, her first Gathering. So we repaired to the hallway outside the meeting room, where we were joined by first Alex Garg and then Jackel (another on-line writer friend I was meeting face-to-face for the first time). Before we knew it, Greg's session was over. What was I saying to the guys in the cab the night before, about getting together with my writer pals and not being able to shut up?
From there I ducked into the dealers' room for long enough to pick up my copy of the Eye of Odin Anthology. It looks VERY spiffy. Christine and Tim outdid themselves on it this year, and I was sorry only that they weren't there so that I could have told them that in person.
I headed upstairs to take a breath or two and change clothes, then met Kathy in Jack's Pub downstairs to review our material for the following morning's panel on writing action scenes. I always enjoy chatting with Kathy; she has loads of great stories from the farm and from life in general for when we inevitably digress from the business at hand.
We both headed off to the opening ceremonies from there, where all present were suitably delighted at the advertising trailer for the next DVD release, and thoroughly agog at Vash's pseudo-Leica reel of The Last. Holy cow, what a tour-de-force of artistry and production that was. Hats off to Vash!
I met Mooncat, Allaine, Jackel, and Princess at Chin Chin's in New York, New York for dinner. (Good, but I can of course do better around Wentworth and Cermak for a fraction of the price. ;) ) The others were off to see Zumanity, but I returned to the hotel for the Blue Mug-a-Guest. I know by now that those sessions are always good for laughs, and this one was no exception. Like last year, however, the discussion tended to be unusually G-rated, since many of the questions had to do with the new comic series that was distracting us from coarser topics, just like the DVD release distracted us last year.
The following morning, I sat for a while in Starbuck's with coffee, a fruit drink, and a bagel and reviewed the material for that morning's panel with Revel and Kathy. I thought it turned out very well. Kathy and Revel were awesome, there was lively discussion and give-and-take throughout the session, and we covered a wide range of topics within (and outside of) the topic at hand. As with all of these panels, the time flew.
From there I went back to the dealers' room with every intention of scoping out all the artwork and NOT abandoning my coffee on Shara's table (my apologies, Shara!). However, I ran into Alex Garg and suggested we head over to the restaurant in the Stratosphere tower for lunch. He was game, so off we went. The food was good, the view was spectacular, and the conversation was delightful. And every so often we'd catch a glimpse above of the infernal roller coaster outside, atop the tower. We'd glance up at it, then look at each other, shake our heads, and say, "No, thank you."
The downside of this was that we returned way too late for Flanker's panel, so I took a few minutes to put my feet up before grabbing another cup of joe and heading to the Creature Comics/Slave Labor Graphics panel. It got me excited all over again about the release of the comic. Plus, before the panel, I snagged the chance to chat with Shara a little. She's amazing, a real go-getter.
After that, I decided to check off another item on my Vegas to-do list. Emambu and I went over to Rio for dinner at the Voo Doo Café. We loved it - great food, great atmosphere, great view. I'd recommend it anytime. After standing outside and talking non-stop for who-knows-how-long, we finally decided we should head back so that he'd have a fighting chance of catching the tail end of the celebrity poker tournament. Knowing that I had reached my own limitations for that day, I simply headed upstairs and crashed.
First up Sunday morning was the anthology signing in the dealers' room, which was fun because it was reminiscent of signing school yearbooks. From there I went to Dave Schwartz's storytelling panel. He was approaching the topic more from a graphic perspective than a writing perspective, of course, but I was very gratified to hear him giving us attendees several of the same story/plot construction tips that my panel mates and I have been giving other writers over the past couple of years. I also enjoyed his analysis of scenes from the movie "Mildred Pierce," as he pointed out one visual metaphor after another.
Then I was faced with another quandary - Greg's W.I.T.C.H. panel, or sustenance? I opted for the latter and headed down to the Oyster Bar for a bowl of chowder and some oysters on the half shell (which were quite good). I managed to catch the last few minutes of Greg's panel, at least, then returned to the consuite for Allaine's reading-aloud session. I was honored to help him out by reading parts of one of his excellent works, and tried to do it justice.
From there we headed down to the radio play, which, of course, was very well done. (The unanimous consensus in my writerly circle was that "Doc Shakespeare" would make a heck of a novel.) With a quick change of clothes afterward, I was off to the banquet. I enjoyed chatting with Leo, James Anatidae, CKayote, and the other gentlemen at the table, and the little gargoyle tea light holders at the place settings were a nice touch. Dancer stopped by and chatted a bit as well. Then it was upstairs to put my feet up for a bit (and convince myself that, no, I was NOT tired) before the masquerade. I joined Allaine, Mooncat, Jackel, Princess, Julie and Denis downstairs for the masquerade and cosplay. Too bad MC, Jacks, and PA ducked out to the pool before Allaine received his well-deserved award for having the best Eye of Odin story in the anthology. Go Al! At the conclusion of the awards ceremony, Allaine joined the girls at the pool, and I went down to the pub with Julie. She regaled me with fascinating and humorous stories until we were both too tired to be lucid, at which point we called it a night.
Monday morning I munched on the remnants of the previous two mornings' bagels and washed them down with a diet cola as I packed. I checked out, left my suitcase at the bell desk, and went upstairs with every intention of simply being a spectator for Allaine's fan fiction game. Somehow I got roped into being a participant, though, and thus spent the rest of the session alternately embarrassing myself with how little I knew about the work of my fellow fic writers (several of whom were present) and being amazed at the extent of Gside's knowledge of the subject. He won, of course. And a good time was had by all. I returned to the art room to check out Kythera's portfolios, then joined Al, Jacks, MC, Leo, PA, and Alex Garg downstairs for lunch in the Broiler.
We headed back upstairs for the live auction. Yay for Alex for getting that fabulous set of poker chips, but I just couldn't let him get those playing cards for so cheap, and I think Julie felt the same way. ;) I'll have to buy him a treat in L.A. to make up for bidding against him. But I'm sorry, Alex, that horrified look you shot me when you realized that my hand was up was well worth the price of admission.
We hung around for the cozy, low-key closing ceremonies. Then it was time for me to pre-register for next year and say my goodbyes. That took me a while, of course. And I was touched when the Boss opened his arms to me for a hug. Greg, you're a swell guy.
The trip home was smooth and uneventful. Two very sleepy boys (one big, one little) picked me up at O'Hare at midnight Chicago time, and now I'm back to reality.
In closing, my overall impression of Las Vegas was that it was hot, garish, and smoky, but lots of fun. Above all, though, the scenery was fabulous - the city is ringed by mountains, which are endlessly fascinating to this midwestern flatlander. And I found the natives to be extraordinarily friendly.
I would be horribly remiss if I didn't specifically thank Chris Rogers and the formidable con staff for all their hard work over the past year, and congratulate them on a terrific convention. And one last note: I didn't get the chance at the convention to do much more than to say a quick thank-you to Marty Lund for all his efforts on behalf of Greg's Gargoyles vision in particular and the Gargs fandom in general. But as far as I'm concerned, this guy - who is as low-key as he is deserving of praise - has demonstrated the ability to walk on water. Bravo, Marty, and thanks again.
You'll have to do better than that!