GenCon 2013 Part 2

Lou Anders and Brad Beaulieu.

Strange things happen over the inter webs. No, I’m not talking about any of that. I’m talking about how friendships can develop in ways different from any in previous generations. Four years ago I briefly met Lou Anders for the first time at DragonCon. We shook hands, said a few words, then, things being busy, went about our lives. Slowly, over the last couple of years, we’ve become close friends. Yet it was all done over the Internet and primarily over Facebook as we’ve commented upon one another’s posts and chatted via IM. We’d never actually been around each other AS friends, so I wondered if it would feel a little odd when I picked him up at the Indianapolis airport Wednesday and drove into town for GenCon.

It turns out no, not really. Neither of us was particularly used to the other’s physical presence, but we were over that in a matter of minutes and during the short drive in were quickly catching up on a host of mutual interests — primarily gaming, given our destination. Lou’s passionate about fantasy and science fiction, and I suppose you could say that he wears his heart on his sleeve. You can tell he loves the books he works on, and he loves his authors. James Enge has told me that he’d take a bullet for Lou, which is fine praise indeed. He is, simply put, a great guy doing great things. Some of the most fun I had at the con was wandering around with Lou and taking it all in. He is a never ending source of hilarious stories and pretty astonishing experiences — and is smart, dedicated, tireless, and fearless. Some of you may recall my own dilemma about introducing myself to Wil Wheaton. Well, Lou just went and did it, damn the torpedoes, and had a great chat with him. Fortune favors the bold.

Marc Tassin and Beth Vaughan.

Lou and I had a second room mate at GenCon, Scott Lynch. I met Scott for the first time at ConFusion two years ago. I had wandered into the hotel bar with my pic of the cover of The Bones of the Old Ones and was sitting with Myke Cole and a few other writer friends when a tall fellow with long hair and glasses walked up and said he’d love to blurb that because the first one was great. He quickly realized he wasn’t yet wearing his name tag, so introduced himself, and then I was left stammering as he said a few more kind words and wandered off. Scott, you see, is one of my very favorite modern fantasy writers. After that meeting, some of my most enjoyable con moments of the last few years have been across the table from Scott talking pacing, plot technique, and character arcs.

So what’s Scott like? Well, he’s insightful, well-spoken, and brilliant, but never in an “I know more than you” way. And he’s very kind. In fact, despite the fact he could probably bend a lot of us introverted writer types in half, he is one of the gentlest souled people I know, to the point I feel strangely protective of him.

The room pre-clutter with Con treasure.

Lou and I reached Indy early enough to drop our bags in the hotel room at the Omni Severin and then wandered over to the convention center where we soon bumped into James Sutter and Wes Schneider, two editorial powerhouses from Paizo. We took in the sights at the Indianapolis mall attached to the hotel, then located the Spaghetti Factory where the Writer’s Symposium dinner was to be held. There I caught up with the delightful Elizabeth Vaughan, and briefly met Richard Lee Byers, not realizing at the time that I was not only going to share a panel with him, but that he was a fellow Pathfinder novelist, like Chris Jackson, sitting at a more distant table. I met others for the first time as well, like Pyr author Joel Shepherd and Writer’s Symposium volunteer Molly Findley.

Some of my other friends were there, including Dave Gross and Brad Beaulieu (whom I never seem to catch up with AT a con, only after). Scott turned up, having made a marathon drive from Wisconsin begun in the early hours of the morning, and then we set to the dinner. As usual, Marc Tassin, director of the Writer’s Symposium, had everything finely ordered. I hope he remains in charge of the Symposium for many years to come.

As dinner wound down, more and more of the writers headed out for the Diana Jones award, but Scott and Lou and Joel Shepherd and I delayed, and I ended up leading us on a wild goose chase trying to locate the bar where the event was held. I used to live in Indy, you see, and maintained a sort of misconception that I knew my way around. Fortunately, I managed to reach James Sutter via cell phone and he corrected my geographical bungle.

Matt Forbeck welcomed us into the award area with a bright smile and a drink ticket, and then we wandered into a crowded restaurant/bar. There were probably a whole bunch of interesting people I could have met, but there weren’t actually that many familiar faces. I saw some Paizo guys, of course, and one or two others — including Wil Wheaton — but for the first time in a while I was reminded of how I felt when I walked into the World Fantasy Convention at Madison. That was my first con, and upon entering its halls, I knew no one apart from my close friend E.E. Knight, and my old friend Bruce Wesley (who’d driven with me).

Monte Cook’s newest work.

Lou knew a few more people than we did and bopped off to say hello, and Joel vanished. Just up and vanished. I spoke with him again the next day, but  at the time I wondered if he’d stepped through some kind of dimensional door. Scott and I talked with author Wesley Chu, and a fan who suddenly realized who Scott was and very articulately complimented his work.

I decided not to try speaking to Wil Wheaton, but on our way out I did maneuver over to speak with Monte Cook. I lurked for a while until, feeling more and more like I was a stalker, finally just interrupted. That’s really not the way to do things, so I apologized, saying that I’d been trying to meet him in person for the last several years so I could thank him in person for the wonderful blurb he’d written for The Desert of Souls (Monte has always been where I have not, no matter our presence at various conventions).

Monte was gracious, as you might expect, and I told him how much I was looking forward to his recently-released Numenera. Scott and I then took off and I helped him carry his stuff up to the room. I also allegedly helped him with his shiny fresh air mattress, but there was no way to manually inflate the thing, and we didn’t have a pump. As it was too late to consult my wife, we did not then know what apparently is fairly common knowledge — you can inflate a lot of air mattresses with a hair dryer.

Scott resigned himself to sleeping on top of what was for all intents and purposes a lumpy piece of plastic. I ran back down to my car to get a sleeping bag, which I thought might help a little. I felt pretty terrible about the whole sleeping arrangement, but, gentleman that he is, Scott refused to take the bed.

So ended day 1.