A Goddamned Happy Ending.

I haven’t been opinionating much these days because I’ve been opinionating too much: on the malleability of public opinion (for Nowa Fantastyka), on whether science fiction should be a happy place (for the CBC), on the use of science fiction as a Trojan horse for interdisciplinary communication between the sciences (for the University of Bergen). Right now I’m writing a talk on Hive Minds and Mind Hives for delivery at next week’s SpecFic Colloquium (I really thought I’d have the damn thing finished by now). I can’t put most of that stuff here — not until it’s out of its exclusivity window, anyway — but I’m reminded I’ve yet to wind up the Scandinavia sequence, and that travelogue is sufficiently straightforward that even the bellowing of the drunken Belgians in the next booth won’t be able to keep me from getting it down.

So, where were we?

Right. Kontrast. I would like to be able to report some degree of dissatisfaction.

I mean, it’s kind of my schtick to complain, right? So I would like to be able to report that best-selling fantasy author Joe Abercrombie is a raging egotist, or that  Kelly Link‘s kid kept us up at night with her squalling, or that the panelswere lame-ass retreads of tired old themes. Or at least that it rained the whole time we were there, turning the con into a sodden mess.


But I can’t. Joe Abercrombie was the archetypal charming rogue (even if his book-signing lineups were, like, three times longer than they were for any of the rest of us); Kelly Link (whom I’d met just once before, briefly, at a con in Kentucky back in 2001) was an unmitigated delight; the panels sparked, and left me scrambling for cool references on synaptic degradation in hibernating chipmunks. We met  Sara Bergmark Elfgren and Mats Strandberg, local fantasy legends who’ve really broken out big internationally. We hung out with a pair of Johans and a kick-ass chef named Daniel who introduced me to the taste of ruminants I’d only read about in fantasy novels. We discovered that coconut plays a far more prominent role in Swedish confections than it does in North American ones, which in and of itself is enough to make me seriously consider moving there. I met fans I’ve spent years corresponding with over e-mail. I got interviewed twice, for Swedes and for Russians. I met the guy I named Blindsight’s vampire after (he does not look anything like Jukka Sarasti, even if they share a Christian name).


I didn’t meet a single person I did not like. Regular readers will know how much it pains me to admit this.


I can cite only two negatives during the whole event. I discovered, during one of the panels, that the whole punchline of a novel I’m currently sketching out may have been scooped by an old David Brin short story  (and even that revelation proved to be a source of uproarious mirth, at least for everyone else in the room). And my Guest of Honor interview was slotted opposite a sing-along screening of the Buffy episode “Once More With Feeling” — a conflict that had me seriously considering jamming out on my own interview, at least while “Rest in Peace” and “Standing in the Way” were playing.

We managed to maintain a certain stoic dignity...

...Despite sharing our bedroom with a predatory alien plant.

With a single blow, Joe Abercrombie made my entire collection of exotic t-shirts into his bitches.

I can’t even complain about the weather; it was relentlessly sunny the whole time we were there. Usually, after a solid nonstop week in an alien time zone, I’m a snuffly jet-lagged dishcloth. But I think this trip actually rejuvenated us.

Which was just as well. It gave me the strength to go for a solid week without socks or underwear, after Air Canada sent my luggage to Kazakhstan.

Con-goers crowded into my GoH interview, curious as to who I was and what I had to say

Their enthusiasm was not universally infectious.

Their enthusiasm was not universally infectious.

The Green Room was well-stocked with a wide variety of decadent foodstuffs.

These adorable tykes decorated the stairwell between the third and fourth floors. By the third time I passed them, I wanted to punch their fucking lights out.

This is my brave face. The science journalist to my immediate right has just told me that the punchline for the epic billion-year-scale novel I am writing was already used in an eighties-era short story by David Brin.

The Swedes are always happy to share their enthusiasm for body modification.

Since neither spoke the other's language, Dmitry used the Charades approach when interviewing me for a glossy Russian SF magazine. I think this question may have had something to do with my favorite orifice.

Caitlin arrived in Uppsala as a virtual unknown and left as a star. Here she makes a pithy point while Mats averts his eyes and Joe looks on in awestruck wonder.

Caitlin, Kelly, and I at Upsalla's English Bookstore, trying to look busy while Joe Abercrombie signs books.

The last panel of the entire con, after two solid days of debate and partying. At most N'Am cons, this picture would have shown a roomful of empty chairs with three or four bodies passed out in the back row. (I rewarded these attendees by relating a dream I once had about the technical specs for walking beachballs.)

The Concom (at least, those still standing at the closing ceremonies). These people are AWESOME.

"Foot-skeletonization" is the latest weight-loss craze to hit Sweden. We encountered these baby piranhas devouring devotees at the Copenhagen airport. Maybe it was time to head home after all.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Thursday October 18 2012at 06:10 pm , filed under On the Road, public interface . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

20 Responses to “A Goddamned Happy Ending.”

  1. Thanks for the great early night read… lol
    Head full of shit I am trying to push aside… seeking distractions… exhausting battle… fck… gonna lose i know it… off to make some sense of the multitude of words dancing on my nerves… echoing my soul’s cries…

  2. Write your epic billion-year-scale novel anyway! Insert the baby piranhas somewhere in…

  3. Brin is all well and good, but my epic sagas need that patented Watts dark-edge to really shine. You’ll outstrip the short.

    Glad to hear the trip rocked!

  4. We go to lengths to give your GoH interview a soundtrack and you have the temerity to COMPLAIN? Sheesh. Some people.

  5. [...] http://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=3596 [...]

  6. Going on no evidence whatsoever my guess for the Brin short would be “Inherit the earth”.

  7. How weird is it dealing with a crowd of people who are busy texting each other and camera-phoning you?
    Favorite orifice – pie hole?

  8. Okay, i just spent several valuable minutes learning about a type of small Swedish fish that “sucks away your dead skin” while providing a “tingling massage” for your feet. This must not come to America, where some porn producer will do something terrible with the idea.

    Also, I never realized Caitlin was so small, or that you were so freakishly gigantic.

  9. EnsleyG: Also, I never realized Caitlin was so small, or that you were so freakishly gigantic.

    I ….uh.

    They look okay from here – maybe some malfunction on your end? Could one eyeball be bigger than the other today? Try checking that. Eye inflation/contraction can cause all kinda visual distortion.

  10. Ooh, Kelly Link! I am super thrilled that you two have crossed paths.

  11. EnsleyG:
    This must not come to America, where some porn producer will do something terrible with the idea.

    Rule 34, my friend. No exceptions.

  12. Ohh I see myself in the audience of the last panel. Really enjoyed the story about the beach ball as well ;)

  13. Seconding the support for soldiering on with the novel (though I know you’ll do whatsoever you fucking please without any outside considerations) but I’d really like to know which story. It’s been a few years since I’ve read any Brin, but I’m going to guess “Lungfish.”

  14. The first thing that came to mind upon seeing this pic of you stoic couple was Marlon Brando and Susannah York as Jor-El and Lara in Superman (plus some Logan’s Run vibe).

  15. T-shirt escalation? I submit:

    friendly surveillance drone

    there’s also octobear

  16. DB:
    Going on no evidence whatsoever my guess for the Brin short would be “Inherit the earth”.

    I can’t find this short… but given the initials of the commentor, I am reluctant to claim it does not exist.

  17. You guys are so adorable! For you the word adorbs may have been coined!

  18. DB,

    My vote is for Lungfish.
    http://www.davidbrin.com/lungfish1.html

  19. Emilia:
    DB,

    My vote is for Lungfish.
    http://www.davidbrin.com/lungfish1.html

    So far, nobody’s got it right. This gives me hope.

  20. Geez. I stop at your blog once in a while and it’s always worth it for some WTF. Fish eating dead foot skin. O_o