May 23rd, 2009

At Wiscon, Day 1

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  • 01:06 You know… just once, I would like to go to a con without pulling an all-nighter at the theater. See you at Wiscon tomorrow? #
  • 04:31 I’m waiting for the bus to the airport. Have I been to bed? Does a 20 minute nap count? #
  • 04:38 Today’s shopping list consists of ginger ale, laser and napkins. #
  • 06:02 Curses. My flight rescheduling means that I’ll arrive at Wiscon after the writer’s workshop session I’m supposed to be leading. #
  • 06:54 On the plane and ready to fall asleep. #
  • 14:39 Have arrived at my hotel for Wiscon. Very tempted by the nice soft bed but I’m going to head over to registration. #
  • 18:03 Sitting around with Klages, Levine, Monette and Thomas. Wiscon is already fun. #
  • 22:37 Just a gentle reminder: Robinette is my middle name, not my maiden name, not my surname. That’s Kowal. #

Sans, twitter. The con is great fun and I’m happy to see people. I’m also so tired I could weep, yet somehow I managed to moderate a 10:30 pm panel without any major mind melts. Thank heavens for the theater instinct which kicks adrenalin in to focus the mind just long enough to get through the “show.” 

And I’m even more thankful that I had very smart panelists in Carrie L. Ferguson, M. J. Hardman and Deepa D. so I didn’t have to do more than ask the occasional question. What was the panel?

Many of us can point to something which we read that changed our lives. Some of us view writing fiction as a political act. This panel will explore the relationship of SF/F to society and culture. Can SF/F change the world in a practical and political way? Is there any occasion when writers of SF/F can justifiably claim it is only entertainment and has no responsibility for commenting on popular culture.

Oh, I also managed to catch up with Erin Cashier, who was in the writing workshop I didn’t get to this morning, and go over her story with her. A hearty thank you to K. Tempest Bradford who stepped in to cover the workshop for me.

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The truth about John Scalzi

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The concom at ConQuest 40 were looking for a bio of John Scalzi but wanted something a little more detailed and accurate than the standard wikipedia one.  They asked me if I’d assist, given my long-standing friendship with him, and write one for them with some behind the scenes details for the program book.  In the interests of making this information available to the wider public, here is a brief biography with never before told facts.

Every word of it is completely true.

John Scalzi, Campbell-award winning author, has been thrilling fans with his writing since he began as is evidenced by his Hugo award for fan writing. This amazing victory can best be summed up in the reaction of his mother-in-law, who often weeps at the thought of his writing and what it means to her daughter.

But where did this phenomenal talent come from? Born in California on May 10, 1869, Professor Scalzi’s life followed normal patterns for a child of his time. Although he demonstrated an early facility for language in the forged notes he created to get out of the entirety of third year, his true skills did not become apparent until his parents sent him to an exclusive boarding school in the Catskills. This location would become ironically apt later in his life.

Brother Francis Gerard later commented in his memoirs that “Young Scalzi had the worst hand-writing we had ever seen. It was impossible to test him because no one could read his writing, and yet curiously, his forgeries were impeccable. So we set him to copying, hoping that he would learn to write his own words as well as he could write other’s.”

Taking the command to “copy the good book” rather more liberally than his instructors intended, Scalzi picked out what he called, “the only good book in the school library,” Starship Troopers. Not content with merely copying the original text, Scalzi began the project that led to his receiving the 1985 Hugo for Best Fan Art — The Complete Illuminated Works of Robert A. Heinlein. Rendered on vellum with ink ground from a mixture of boa-boa berry and dark coffee, these lovingly drawn works represent nearly a lifetime of work. The sheets of vellum measure on average 24″ by 17″ inches and have an estimated $5000 worth of gold leaf and powdered cobalt spanning the collection.  Exhibited at the Smithsonian, MOMA and the Vatican, they have brought universal acclaim from old fans and new alike.

In 2004, Scalzi was awarded a fellowship at Yale for his work on the Illuminated Manuscripts.  The pressure of teaching interfered with his continuing efforts so he moved with his wife Krissy, to rural Ohio.  There he began working with private students on the fine art of illumination.

While taking a break from his students, Professor Scalzi happened to witness one of his neighbors working on the neighboring ranch, herding his flock of cats. The job was overwhelming the man, so Scalzi stepped in and discovered that these highly trained animals were bored with their role.  He introduced them to the notion of illuminating manuscripts which they took to, as if they were born to it. He’s since begun work on a new illuminated manuscript collaborating with the cat, Ghlaghghee .  They selected the material together by the simple means of Professor Scalzi spreading his books around until Ghlaghghee chose one to sit on — The Collected Works of Francis Bacon.

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