Daily Archives: September 4, 2011

No Sleep ’til FenCon

And now that the heat is finally breaking and the air finally smells like something other than burning flint, it’s time to talk about the rest of the year in North Texas. If things go well, they’ll go quiet between now and September 23. On that Friday, the Czarina and I set up shop at FenCon VIII, and we won’t leave until I finish burying the attendees, organizers, and fellow vendors in more information on carnivorous plants than their fragile little minds can handle.

Friends who knew me back during my science fiction writing days, and knew my feelings about conventions during those writing days, regularly question my sanity on showing plants at conventions. I have a lot of good reasons for doing so. Younger convention attendees in particular may have no interest in roses or irises, but they want to know everything they can find about sundews and bladderworts. Not only do the plants bring a much-appreciated touch of green to a dealer’s room, but the only competition I offer to most of the other dealers is in the “rising tides lift all boats” variety. While I have less than no interest whatsoever in returning to writing about science fiction, I still miss friends involved with the genre, and this is a great way to see them while doing business. Most of all, the definition of true joy is watching the face of a seven-year-old who suddenly realizes that most plants in science fiction are unmatched by some of the weirdness in the “mundane” world.

Anyway, FenCon VIII looks as if it is going to be the convention’s best show yet, and the con staff wants to guarantee this. Because it’s offering a last chance at discounted rates and online ordering over the Labor Day weekend, the Texas Triffid Ranch is going to offer a free three-day regular admission pass to a lucky blog reader. Details will follow soon, and feel free to spread the word. Something interesting to do in Dallas in autumn that didn’t involve Red River Rivalry: who’d have thunk it?

I’m living in my own private Tanelorn

Many moons back, my best friend and I were lucky enough to accompany the very talented science fiction writers Ernest Hogan and Emily Devenport on a trip down to Austin. Ernest has lived in southern California or Arizona for his entire life, and Em is a Phoenix native, so they were prepared for Texas heat. And there was the problem. This was the middle of October, and that’s about the time we get our first blue norther. Sometime in the middle of the night, almost always on a Friday night for some reason, a massive cold front shoves its way to the Gulf of Mexico from where it had been teaching lessons of existentialism to the people of Alberta. As I learned to my detriment one night at a midnight movie screening, you can step inside from 85 degree F (29.44C) temperatures and come out three hours later to a new low of 50 (10C). As I also learned to my detriment that night, 10 degrees C is far, far too cold to have to bicycle for the next two hours without more clothing than a T-shirt and jeans. In another three months, those temperatures are pretty balmy, but it’s the shock of the transition that takes you out like a sniper’s round in an old World War II movie.

The weekend in question didn’t have quite that bad of a shock, but poor Em was in a state. Compared to what she left in Phoenix, where she was still playing outside in 110F (43.33C) balminess, the sudden drop in Austin to 85F (29.44C) was too much for her. It’s rather surreal to be standing around in what for Dallas is still sultry temperatures, while your companions sit with chattering teeth. Em finally had to borrow my leather jacket for the rest of the weekend, just so she didn’t freeze.

Suffice to say, my experiences with Em made it much easier for me to understand the Czarina and her aversion to cold. The Czarina is a Dallas native, so any temperatures below freezing, anywhere but in a scoop of ice cream, is alien beyond experience. Trying to describe typical temperatures of my native land during winter, where “minus-forty” means the same in Fahrenheit and Celsius, was like trying to describe “plaid” to Stevie Wonder. (She occasionally makes noises about moving to Canada, until she sees photos of Banff and Toronto in January and I have to explain that the white stuff piled in gigantic mounds and embankments along the sides of the roads isn’t volcanic ash. When I try to explain to her that I used to entertain myself as a kid in Michigan by leaving a banana out on the back porch and night and using it the next morning to hammer nails, she starts to scream.)

I’m thinking back fondly to that trip with Ernest and Em, because we’re going through the same thing right now. After four months of cooling down at night by swimming through pools of molten concrete, we’ve finally seen a bit of a break. The temperatures outside right now are more attuned with normal temps of Earth instead of Venus. I may have to pull out the leather jacket by the time the weekend is done, as we might actually reach a high today of 32C.

And for those who still look with fear and loathing for living in such a place, I relate a tale involving my friend Dave Hutchinson from London. He’s been making noises for a while about coming out to Texas to visit, but not, as he likes to say, in temperatures where the natural state of steel and silica is “fog”. I was discussing his coming out to San Antonio for Lone Star Con 3 in San Antonio in 2013. When he took a look at the average temperatures for the date in San Antonio, he started to glibber and meep about what possessed me to live in such a horrible place. All I have to do is tell him about my childhood, where everyone stayed warm my knitting Tom Baker scarves from their own nose hair. If living in a blast furnace for four months means that I can pick fresh tomatoes out of my garden and serve them at Christmas dinner, I’m staying right here.