WOSSNAME -- OCTOBER 2004 -- PART 2 OF 4 (continued)
1) NOREASCON 4: ALL TERRY PRATCHETT, ALL THE TIME
or, "Hi, my name is Anna, and I'll be your stalker this weekend."
(continued from Part 1)
Unobtrusive eavesdropping on Terry was no longer an option, but as more
authors arrived, I found no lack of other interests. Feeling a bit like
a party crasher, despite my invitation (which I kept conspicuously
clutched, half-expecting a "Right, who the hell are you, then?"
challenge from security at any moment), I stationed myself in various
strategic spots to enjoy the scene. I admired Lois McMaster Bujold's
striking necklace, more a wearable work of art than mere jewelry, and
was amused to see Neil Gaiman lounging with more boneless grace than the
luminous jellyfish behind him (Note to Terry: You're right. The man
has a patent on cool). At one point, Charles M. Brown found one of my
obscure corners and sat near me; within moments, I was surrounded by at
least a half-dozen best-selling authors paying homage to him and being
polite to me, albeit in a puzzled way ("Right, who the hell is she,
then?"). It looked like an issue of _Locus_ come to life.
When I saw Jennifer, she transformed the occasion into a true
kid-at-a-candy-store experience, explaining to my naÃƒÂ¯ve delight that the
books on display were *free for any party guests to take,* myself
included. Even better than my healthy armload of books were two very
spiffy Ankh-Morpork Post Office T-Shirts for Joe and me. I don't know
about Joe, but I'm getting mine framed.
Just when I was ready to leave in search of a cab back to the Retro Hugo
Awards, Terry appeared, teasingly accusing me of lurking. "Is it quiet
where you live?" he asked, wistfully noting that after the peace of his
country home, being at the center of a party like this eventually felt
"like being hit on the head with little hammers." I suspect he might
have envied me my license to lurk in quiet corners.
After sharing a cab back to the Sheraton with Terry and Jennifer and a
very important big shot from HarperCollins whose name escapes me (but
who was, like Jennifer, far nicer than big shots have any right to be),
I ran for the auditorium. It was already packed for the Retro Hugos,
but I managed to snag a pretty decent seat anyway. I was just settling
in to await the show when Jennifer approached, inviting me to sit with
her in front. Her excellent company made the proceedings even more
enjoyable, as we effused over Terry's writing together. I even got to
share her excitement when Ray Bradbury won the Retro Hugo for
_Fahrenheit 451_, which she accepted on his behalf. Unsurprisingly,
the humor highlights came when Peter Weston and Terry interviewed each
other, both reminiscing about old friendships, old fanzines, and the
conventions of their youth, when authors were "giants made of gold." We
also learned a bit about the rights and privileges of Terry's Order of
the British Empire, although since said empire now consists of one
puffin-intensive island, it boils down to Terry's proud knowledge that
said puffins "damn well have to do what I say!" All in all, I think his
honorary commandant-ship in the Klatchian Foreign Legion is a better
deal. At least he gets a free hat.
Finally, I laughed as hard as anyone when Terry good-naturedly declared
that his pots of money weren't fulfilling enough, and groveled on his
knees to obtain a spare Hugo -- even a little one! -- by means of
begging and/or bribery. Still, I found myself feeling a bit indignant
after the Retro Hugos ended and I'd turned in for the night. Peter
Weston's joking response that all Terry had to do to win a Hugo was
"write a science fiction novel" made me resentfully remember all the
other novels that have merited Hugo nominations despite their "fantasy"
stigma. I agree with Esther Friesner: no matter how much Terry may
modestly proclaim himself "a fraud" when compared to the old "giants
made of gold," we fans know his Hugo's overdue.
Saturday looked to be the least Terry-filled day of the convention, but
I was still determined to make the most of it. The "Discworld: a Kid's
View" panel was unfortunately open only to adults accompanied by
children. My first cunning plan -- to rent a child -- seemed a bit
extreme; besides, with my luck, I'd be stuck with Thursday's
pirate-hunting boy. Plan B -- eavesdropping in the hall -- came to an
abrupt end when they callously closed the doors. Ah, well, I tried.
On the plus side, arriving early for the GOH speech allowed me to find a
seat in the front row. Beside me were two English Discworld fans I'd
seen on Thursday, the man dressed as Rincewind and the woman in a blue
satin Renaissance gown. I'd been conversing with them a full five
minutes before noticing the name on her convention badge: Sandra
Battye. Yes, she was *that* Sandra, the Discworld character from _Night
Watch_. Adrian/"Rincewind" had also won the role of one of the _Going
Postal_ hackers at auction.
The beginning of Terry's speech belied his T-shirt's proud claim,
"Actually, I am a rocket wizard," as all efforts to boot his laptop
failed. "Some six months ago I wrote a worthy and learned treatise to
deliver to you today . . . ." he sighed, then resorted to pounding on
the screen. "Work, damn you!" I must admit I gained a certain
schadenfreude-style thrill from the knowledge that his obscenely
expensive, state-of-the-art laptop could prove just as crappy as the
Windows 98 relic on which I'm typing this. (Hey, I got one, too.-- Joe)
One of the most endearing qualities of Discworld books is their
determination to wrest humor from the worst of situations, and in
discussing his recent surgery, Terry applied this quality to great
effect. Following decades of exercising, eating well, not smoking, and
not drinking to excess (much), "of course" he found he had blood
pressure high enough to require both surgery and six pills per day.
After a procedure that reached his heart via the groin ("Now, the heart
and groin are sometimes linked in other ways, but this was new"), he
awoke to find a nurse pressing on the latter area -- leading him to
wonder, "Where were you when I was 18?"
The surgeon, whose son was a Discworld fan (a fact Terry looked upon as
life insurance), admitted he had reacted badly to the dye injection,
sitting bolt upright and declaring he saw a man with sandwiches. He
then asked the question foremost in all our minds: what *kind* of
sandwiches figured in his "near-sandwich experience"? Although Terry
doesn't know, since the surgeon "wouldn't let me get up and check," he
reflected that the issue could be vital. If the sandwiches were, say,
cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off, he knew he was headed for
hell, whereas a Branston pickle would affirm that he had led a blameless
life. "So that's it, brothers and sisters: Do not go towards the
Other highlights of his speech:
-- How an unfortunate nuclear mishap (the "Fred Factor," or why the
phrase "three independent fail-safe systems" never fails to make him
laugh) led to the writing of most of _Equal Rites_ in a few days.
-- The origins of The Luggage as a role-playing game defense against the
equally innocuous-looking yet deadly Happy Little Girl.
-- How a major plot point of the next Discworld novel, _Thud_, will
involve the children's book _Where's My Cow?_ being read by Vimes to
his son, leading to speculation about what an authentically urban,
Ankh-Morpork children's book should be ("See the beggars. Cough, cough").
-- The Australian production of a Discworld play in Antarctica marking
the official incursion of Discworld theater into every single continent.
-- The concept of Terry's "horizontal wealth," revealed in such
indulgences as miles of bookshelves and a computer that causes a power
dip in the neighborhood, as opposed to the traditional "vertical
wealth," expressed in the purchase of a yacht (the effect of which can
be achieved by simply standing in a cold shower and tearing up your money).
-- How the "Discworld: A Kid's View" panel had degenerated into one
long "Well, what about the turtle, then?" inquisition, forcing him to
forbid any terrapin questions for the foreseeable future.
-- Revealing that one of the perks of fame was meeting "attractive women
dressed as Susan." No doubt the other two Susan Deaths I'd seen that
weekend joined me in an enormous grin. : )
-- Cutthroat guild competition at the Discworld Convention, culminating
in the embezzlement of guild funds by one conventioneer, and the
Machiavellian mock-assassination of Terry by a little girl and her
brother. Seeing Ankh-Morkpork brought to life in all its rampant
corruption, he gloated, "My work here is done!"
Nonetheless, Terry's work was far from done, considering the sheer
volume of questions the audience posed concerning his favorite Discworld
books (_The Wee Free Men_ and _Night Watch_), the Discworld timeline
(the "Century of the Anchovy" is up next, in case you were lying awake
nights wondering), and his strong women characters, among innumerable
other topics. Although his throat was raw from days of dry
air-conditioned rooms, he gamely continued to talk until the convention
management resorted to the subtle hint of turning out the house lights
and starting the scheduled _Making of Troll Bridge_ documentary. This
was only a minor inconvenience to Terry's fans, however, as they
followed him out into the hallway to continue their interrogation there.
As I was already incredibly late for a lunch appointment with my
husband, I ran for it.
After an apologetic lunch, I returned to wait in an impressively long
autograph line, where I struck up a conversation with three other fans.
As the time crept further and further past the designated end of the
session, we began to express mutual concern that he was pushing himself
so hard again. "I hope someone's thought to bring him dinner," one man
said. And then . . . just imagine, if you will, four near-strangers
shouting in perfect, unrehearsed unison: "Sandwiches! Cucumber
sandwiches with the crusts cut off!"
After all, what is hell if not an eternal signing session?
Once I'd gotten copies of _Once More, with Footnotes_ signed for Joe
and me, I attended the regrettably Terry-free Hugo Awards (see above
rant), ran into a jubilant Jennifer Brehl celebrating Lois McMaster
Bujold's Hugo win for best novel, and returned to the concourse to check
my email. Then came a Thursday deja vu: I spotted Terry walking by,
obviously fresh from some Hugo festivities, judging by the black dress
shirt and black vest sprinkled with what appeared to be tiny silver
rhinestones. I'm not kidding. It wasn't a Liberace level of sparkle,
just a subtle effect, but it still threw me for a loop. First velvet,
then rhinestones -- there's a dandified side to Terry I'd never suspected.
Hastily abandoning my email to Joe (sorry!), I said hello. Amused,
Terry noted that I "bobbed up and down" when I talked to him (probably
in a fair imitation of Tiffany's plongeon) out of sheer nervousness.
Embarrassed but undeterred, I pursued my goal, asking if I could buy him
a drink before the convention ended.
"How about now?" he asked.
So it was that I joined Terry and several attendees of the English
Discworld Convention (including Kris, Chris, David, and Sandra) just
outside the Mended Drum, where they proceeded to feed me juicy details
about the convention and some of its more infamous participants (whose
names will be withheld to protect the guilty). I sat back happily and
listened until the group broke up in the wee hours, leaving me with only
a few hours to devote to some sorely needed sleep. I don't think I've
ever had such surreal dreams.
Thankfully, they didn't involve sandwiches.
Next month: the exciting final installment of
Anna's Amazing Absolutely True Adventure:
Part the Third: Sunday/Monday -- Not the Usual Unusual
Many thanks to all the Noreascon bloggers who have kindly clarified my
often-illegible notes and muddled memories of panel highlights.
If you did not get all 4 parts, write: jschaum111@...
End of Part 2, says my computer -- continued on Part 3 of 4
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