Monday, August 19, 2013

My WorldCon schedule (plus some words about introversion and conventions)

In the midst of one of the busiest summers of my life, I’ll be heading to WorldCon at the end of this month. So I thought I’d post my schedule. As you can tell at a glance, it’s pretty scant: no readings, autograph sessions, kaffeeklatches, literary beers, or much else to promote my novel Taft 2012 (or much else of mine, really). There’s a reason for that, and it’s called introversion, and I’ll talk about that below. (I know, you can’t wait! Who can resist an introvert talking introvertedly about their introversion? But really, I’d appreciate it if you would indulge me. I will be brief. Okay, I’m lying about being brief. But anyway.)


My schedule for WorldCon 71 (LoneStarCon 3)

How Science Fiction Fandom Made the Sixties Happen: Origin of Rock Journalism

Friday, August 30 5:00pm - 6:00pm

U.S. rock journalism arguably came out of SF fandom, with Greg Shaw and Paul Williams inventing it at the same time on opposite coasts. Williams turned his fanzine Crawdaddy! into a professional music magazine, and went on to a career writing about rock music.

Panelists: Christopher J. Garcia (Moderator), Sanford Allen, Jason Heller, Mike Ward, David G. Hartwell

Hugo Awards Pre-Ceremony Sunday, September 1, 7:00pm - 8:00pm

Hugo Awards Ceremony Sunday, September 1, 8:00pm


Skimpy as it is, I’m excited by my schedule. As the nonfiction editor of Clarkesworld during 2012, I’m up for a Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine along with the rest of last year’s Clarkesworld staff: Kate Baker, Sean Wallace, and the magazine’s illustrious and visionary publisher Neil Clarke. It was an honor to edit Clarkesworld’s nonfiction section, and I’m proud of what I was able to accomplish during my twelve months there—including the launch of “Another Word,” an opinion column that alternates between Daniel Abraham and a guest columnist each month; the introduction of many great authors to Clarkesworld’s nonfiction section, including Chesya Burke, Lev AC Rosen, and Brian Francis Slattery; lots of behind-the-scenes tweaking and refining; and a continuation of the magazine’s high standards. And my rock-journalism panel seems like a lot of fun, especially seeing as how I spend a good portion of my professional life as a music critic.

That said, I’m almost overwhelmed by this barely existent schedule. The reason: I’m an introvert.

I actually typed the above sentence about three or four times, trying to find the right way to self-deprecatingly describe my introversion. The descriptors “crazy” and “weird” were bandied about. As in, “You know me, I’m just one of them there crazy-weird introverts!” Then I remembered that I’m trying hard NOT to be apologetic or preemptively self-belittling when I talk about my introversion. I’ve done that my whole life. It hasn’t served me well. It’s who I am, and lately I’ve been trying to be more straightforward and upfront about it.

In the interest of that straightforwardness and upfrontitude, let me briefly elaborate. I am introverted. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m shy. Sometimes I’m shy, sure, but so are most people. The thing is, I often get overwhelmed by groups of people—but only if I’m expected to try to communicate with all of them. Everyone becomes a blur. I feel panicked, like I’m going to say something wrong or stupid or stupid-wrong. Mostly that’s because whatever modicum of cleverness and eloquence I possess usually flies out the window when I’m around three hundred people. And sometimes when I’m around three people. (Hence my gravitation toward a career in writing, I suppose.) In those situations, I tend to just clam up, shut down, and listen. This gets taken as aloofness or even arrogance. I know this because people have told me this, many times, over the years. Decades of this cycle of discomfort, miscommunication, and misinterpretation have led me to a simple conclusion: I prefer being alone (or spending quiet time with my beautiful, understanding, and similarly introverted girlfriend) over throwing myself frustratingly to social situations time and time again.

Basically, I’m too old for this shit.

Only I’m NOT too old for this shit. Quite the contrary. Being introverted doesn’t mean you're a curmudgeon or that you don’t like being around people AT ALL. It means you can’t always control exactly when and where and for how long you’ll be socially on. And when your social battery runs out, no amount of putting on a fake smile can crank it back up again. You have to leave, be alone in a quiet place, and recharge. (Or you could get drunk. But that’s a whole other kettle of fish I’ll leave unopened in this blog post.)

None of this should be news to anyone. Most people have read about introversion or are even introverts themselves. If you’re an introvert, you don’t need me to explain any of this to you. But as someone who has been a self-loathing introvert for so long—who bought into the extroverted default setting of society, the one that tells you there’s something wrong with you if you’re not gregarious and outgoing—I know how much it helps to know that there are others out there like you. Especially at a convention, full of rivers and seas of people, where it’s easier than usual for an introvert to get swept away and overwhelmed.

The ironic thing is, we’re talking WorldCon here. A science fiction and fantasy convention. Not to be the one stereotyping here, but I’d say from my own experience as a fan for the past thirty years that there’s a higher percentage of introverts at a convention like WorldCon than, say, at a sales convention. Yet very little about WorldCon—or any genre convention—is designed with sympathy toward the introverted. Which is why I’m hoping some extroverts will read this post, particularly those I may know from real life or the Internet.

If I run across you at WorldCon, I may seem flustered, distracted, or even disinterested. I’m not. I’m just overwhelmed. Even if it’s at an event that’s on my schedule, like the Hugo Awards ceremony, I may be unprepared to process all the socialization I’m required to do. I sincerely hope you don’t take it personally, whether you’re an extrovert who just doesn’t “get” introversion or an introvert who doesn’t recognize one of their own (I often don’t). Honestly, I’d love to talk with you. I’d love to talk with anyone. If you feel the pressing urge to, pull me aside. Let’s sit down somewhere. Or ask me to coffee sometime later during the convention (I love the hell out of getting to know people over coffee, quietly, one-on-one). Also know that, despite all my wisecracking on social media and such, I can be very withdrawn in person. On the other hand, if I’m hitting a certain mood and I’m fully charged, I may be the life of the part. Probably not, but it’s happened before.

You may ask yourself, “If you’re so introverted, why even spend hundreds of dollars to fly to a convention, just to be uncomfortable for four days straight?” I’ve asked myself that, believe you me. The answer is simple: I love conventions. I love them for the same reason anyone does: It’s a chance to submerge myself in the atmosphere where I feel most at home, that of speculative literature. It’s a chance to see and hear writers whose work has changed my life (or simply made it more enjoyable). It’s a chance to meet likeminded people, renew old acquaintances, and, yes, network professionally (although I’m more liable to pass up such chances due to my introversion than lunge at them like an extroverted, go-getting self-salesman).

Above all that, though, I actually DO love getting swept up in the crowd at conventions. I love feeling part of the pulse of the concourse, an erg of that energy stream, a particle of the continuum that’s stretched from the inaugural WorldCon in 1939 until now, the farflung future of the year 2013. I'm happy here. Really.

I love all that, but the fact remains: I may not have a lot to say if you bump into me. But if we don’t bump into each other at all, that’s fine too. We’ll both be there, sharing the experience in our own specific and self-contained ways. And to an introvert like yours truly, that’s just as beautiful.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Dead Man's Curve

Here is the beautiful cover to the new issue of the New Haven Review, which contains my hefty essay "Dead Man's Curve: The Slow Crash of the Touring Musician," in which I mention Baroness, The Exploding Hearts, Cap'n Jazz, Friends Forever, Ike Turner, Bob Seger, Red Sovine, Cliff Burton, David Bowie, J. G. Ballard, Mad Max, dog food, and of course Jan and Dean. You do the math.