Thursday, July 27, 2017
All the way across Phoenix to Tempe, cranes loomed over construction. Also new office and apartment buildings shined across the landscape. The dream of making the Metro Phoenix Area into Silicon Valley colony was going full-steam ahead.
Emily and I were off to WesterCon 70/Conalope/LepreCon 43. We had her upcoming novel, Medusa Uploaded, and some anthologies--Five to the Future, with stories by both of us, plus Latin@Rising, and Altermundos featuring stuff by me--to tell the fans about. It had been a while since we had been to a local con, and I was curious to see how things had evolved. How was old school fandom getting along with new, improved nerd/geek culture?
For one thing, the gentrification extended all the way across the canal to Mill Ave. We had to figure out the Mission Palms Hotel’s high tech parking lot gizmos--hey, techies! We could really use screens for these things that can be read in the Arizona sun!
There were more members of graying fandom than young nerds. It was a quieter, smaller version of the conventions of old. Though now and then there would be a serious kid with tattoos and/or blue green hair, taking notes.
People recognized us and told us how they loved our work. At most of the panels I was on, the focus was books, writers, and stories rather than franchises.
Em was on a panel about traditional versus self or indie publishing. I was reminded that things are changing, and--as usual--I wasn't sure where I fit into the equation. And I’m disturbed at how a lot of writers these days are getting locked into a self-inflicted rat race in which they aren’t making money or even having fun.
We had dinner a Rúla Búla, an Irish pub/restaurant, right next to the hotel, with our mad scientist friend and his DNA analyst wife. I had the corned beef and cabbage in honor of my Irish heritage. Emily had macaroni and cheese with a side order of sweet potato fries.
Em had to work Monday, so I took the light rail from the Heard Museum to the con. Phoenix looks different from inside the train--more like an airless, sun-blasted futuristic metropolis than a wide-open sprawl. I had a blurred view through the sun-screened windows of a lot of sparkling, new buildings. The riders were mostly young, “multicultural” and tickling electronic gadgets. The air-conditioning strained all the way.
The future has arrived in Phoenix. The shock will follow. Soon.
At the con,the heat made the courtyard unlivable. I stood indoors.
Back at the Heard, I checked out the Museum Shop, where I saw things that were more amazing than anything in the convention art show. Fantasy artists, open your eyes. Especially in Arizona.
The science panels were well attended. A lot of these fans are working on space technology.We got to make paper stabilizing rockets, and saw a PowerPoint presentation on interstellar propulsion from a guy who works for a local tech business. Just what kind of gentrification are we in for?
I was on panels with writers like Connie Willis, Linda Addison, Weston Osche, Yvonne Navarro, Gini Koch, J.L. Doty, and we finally got to meet Cynthia Ward. Got to talk about humor, diversity, and the Southwest/Aztlán as a location for fantastic fiction. The people in the audience seemed to give a damn. Can’t ask for much more than that.
I felt good as we ate again with the mad scientist and his wife, this time at Med Fresh Grill, where the waiter could actually rock the man-bun look. The police had blocked off Mill Ave. Crowds were filling the streets. It was the Fourth of July. Block party time.
We saw a lot of fireworks over Phoenix on the drive home, to the west side, across the railroad tracks, where the gentry still fear to tread. It smelled and sounded like a war zone, except for the music. A neighbor kept playing “Stars and Stripes Forever” over and over. It would have been an ideal night for the UFOs to sneak in.
Friday, July 21, 2017
Thursday, July 13, 2017
The season of deadly heat had begun when our nephew arrived from California to bask in Aunt Emily's and Uncle Ernest’s vast knowledge accumulated by being professional writers. Too make sure he survived the visit we took him up north.
It was cooler up in volcano country. A less threatening environment for an aspiring young writer. Em had researched bookstores in the area, and the lad could use a quick course in cherchez le weird and zen and the art of the road trip.
As we approached Flagstaff, there was a sign: ICE MAY BE PRESENT ON THE ROADWAY.
And in front of a hotel: NO TRAIN NOISE . . . MARTIANS WELCOME.
We stopped at Montezuma’s Castle and Well, even though both were abandoned long before the Aztec emperor was born. Looks like the names have been changed to protect the ignorant.
And we avoided the town with rumors of white supremacists, human sacrifice, and cannibalism.
It was hot rod night when we had dinner at the Galaxy Diner. There was also a singing cowboy on duty.
The next morning in Sedona, we had breakfast and I got my buckwheat-pancakes fix at the Coffee Pot. Part of the snake that one of the kachinas was holding was broken. They either need to have it repaired, or paint the ends red, and put another drop near the kachina’s mouth.
Later, in Prescott, I saw some bathroom graffiti: PEACE 2 THE WORLD.
Montezuma St., AKA Whisky Row, is now hipster central. The ghosts of the rowdy cowboys who raised hell in the saloons that once lined the street would be amused. Now there are a lot of antique shops, and places to eat and drink. We had iced tea and root beer floats in a place called the Devil’s Pantry.
We stood at the Apache Lodge, a relic from the pre-motel and interstate highway days. It was built to look like an adobe outpost in 1946. Wooden Indians guarded the front door, and ancient prostitution licenses decorated the office.
The next morning, we had breakfast at the Lone Spur Cafe amid the murals and Wild West artifacts. A stuffed buffalo head watched over us. I recommend the huevos rancheros.
We took the scenic route back to Phoenix. The car was overflowing with books. It was a successful trip.
Our nephew proved to be at home in places arranged to accommodate stacks of books rather than human bodies. Once he found the classics and literature he was happy. His tastes are more highbrow than mine—I usually turn to that stuff when it appeals to prurient interests.
He does also like Edgar Rice Burroughs and Edgar Wallace.
We even found some more bookstores once we got back to Phoenix.
By the time we took him back to the airport, we were headed for more record-breaking temperatures.