April 25th, 2009

Astro Boy

Nebula Awards Weekend: Friday

Based on this entry's time stamp, I should be asleep, since my head only hit the pillow about five hours ago, but my body thinks it's back home, and that it's already 8:00 a.m., and long past time to be awake. So here I am, typing up my thoughts on the first day of the Nebula Awards weekend in L.A.

For me, the weekend started not at the Luxe Hotel, but at the airport, where Jim Kelly and John Kessel, who'd rented a car for the weekend, met me at United's baggage claim. We were all coming in on different airlines at around the same time, which allowed for us to meet and then have lunch together. We drove to the hotel while comparing notes on two foreign conventions we'd attended—my 2002 trip to Cuba and their recent trip to Columbia. At the Luxe, we quickly dumped our bags, picked up our badges, and headed off for lunch at Musso and Frank, Hollywood's oldest restaurant.

As John drove, he pointed out various locations in the life of Preston Sturges, whom John had researched for his homage story "The Miracle of Ivar Avenue." (And yes, after lunch, we did end up walking briefly along Ivar Avenue.) The restaurant was filled with dark wood paneling and ghosts, the latter since Mary Pickford, Edward G. Robinson, Cesar Romero and other stars used to dine there. At meal's end, in the bathroom, I couldn't help but think ... hmmm, I wonder if Cary Cooper once stood right here where I'm standing? (OK, maybe that was too much information ... )

After the meal, we walked down Hollywood Boulevard, where where we discovered something we hadn't known—that we were old. Unlike most of those walking the streets with us, we could identify almost every star. I'm sure that most of those around us knew who Leonard Nimoy was, but the fact that we could immediately recognize Franklin Pangborn, Penny Singleton, and Andy Devine, and make references to their careers, meant that we three were dinosaurs. If someone had shouted out "dead men walking!" as we passed by, it wouldn't have been too far out of line.

Back at the hotel, the tribe was already gathering in the bar, where I paused briefly to genuflect to Bob Silverberg, which is a requirement, and commiserate with poor Ellen Klages, stuck in a wheelchair due to a recent tumble which injured her knees. Then it was time to change for the evening's cocktail party at which the nominees would receive their pins and certificates. I caught up with many old friends and confused poor Harry Harrison (below) terribly.

I sat with Harry, who'll be honored as a Grand Master Saturday night, and begged him to tell me the details of an anecdote I thought I'd heard him tell once about drunken science fiction writers at a wedding in New York in the 1950s. The story involved (or so I'd thought) Horace Gold, Fred Pohl, and a horde of tipsy writers mistaking a telephone booth for a urinal. (And yes, I do know that's the second urinal reference in this entry, which is two too many.)

The anecdote had come up earlier in the day at lunch when John and Jim and I were discussing how not as much drinking goes on at SF events today as went on in the Golden Age, and I'd shared that story with them, but couldn't recall the specifics. So I sat with Harry and kept tossing out half-remembered details, baffling him completely. It was only later that I remembered that this wasn't a Harry Harrison anecdote, but one I think I'd actually been told by Phil Klass. Ooops! Sorry, Harry!

As the party wound down, I headed off for dinner with Adam-Troy and Judi Castro and their friend Debbie, who I'd only met for the first time, so I beg forgiveness for not remembering her last name. We went to Jerry's Famous Deli in Westwood. The brisket was fine, but I was a bit disappointed—can a deli that doesn't serve stuffed derma really call itself a deli? Heading back to the car, we discovered the Mystery Bookstore. We had to drag Adam away before he could max out his credit cards.

Back at the hotel, I hung out in the hospitality suite, dissecting this year's crop of TV shows with Adam, Michael Cassutt, Connie and Courtney Willis, Joe Haldeman, and others. Though we discussed Dollhouse, Battlestar Galactica, Sarah Connor Chronicles, The Big Bang Theory and other shows, most of the discussion centered on Lost, which continues to captivate us.

At 10:30, I took off for the lobby where I met up with my SCI FI Wire cohort Patrick Lee, who had seen an advance screening of Star Trek that evening, and who'll be interviewing the cast and crew Saturday.

Don't worry! I won't spoil it for you. I can't! Primarily because I was doing the equivalent of putting my fingers in my ears and singing "La la la la." I'm trying to know as little as I need to know to do my job. We had drinks, he downed a burger, and then it was back to the hospitality suite briefly where I realized I was too tired to go on, and so returned to my room to crash at midnight.

For a few additional photos—and I really mean a few, since I was having so much fun I kept forgetting to snap—check out my flickr set.

Nebula Awards Weekend: Saturday Morning and Afternoon

I started the day at 10:00 a.m. at the WGA/SFWA mixer, which tossed the print writers and the visual writers in the bar together with fruit, cheese, and muffins in the hopes that we'd all just get along, instead of starting a rumble. We seemed to behave professionally. No drinks were tossed, and all of the silverware in the room was used for its intended purpose.

I did try to mingle, as the organizers of the event intended, so I tried to stay away from the usual suspects, though that was hard. Who would not want to discover, via a conversation with Michael Cassutt and Craig Miller, that they'd gone to grade school together? The longest conversation I had with any single person was the time I sat with D. C. Fontana (below), and probably bored her to tears reminiscing of the time I got her autograph at the first Star Trek convention back in 1972. She did her best to smile and tolerate me as we talked of the old days at the Statler-Hilton Hotel.

As the event died down, I took a shuttle bus over to the UCLA campus with Connie Willis, Cynthia Felice, Sheila Williams, John Moore and others so we could attend the Festival of the Book. Connie headed off to sign books at a bookstore's booth, but Sheila and I wandered the massive campus in search of the auditorium housing the Grand Masters panel on which Robert Silverberg, Harry Harrison, and Joe Haldeman would pontificate.

Collapse )