2008 was supposed to be the year that I wrote a whole bunch of fiction. I got a lot of things started, finished an important project, but I didn't finish the two projects that were most important to me. I'm going to blame my failure on losing three months to sinus surgery recovery, and a busier-than-anticipated summer convention schedule. Now, I will look forward to 2009 as the year I'll write a whole bunch of fiction, and publish it, even.
As I looked through my archives for 2008, I remembered a year that totally didn't suck. Here are some of the highlights:
I put on pointy sideburns and a space suit, and brought Lieutenant Commander Wesley Crusher back to life as the Assistant Chief Engineer of the USS Titan for Star Trek: the Tour.
I suggested that AAA automobile insurance can eat a bag of dicks. This made Consumerist giggle, apparently, and the whole thing was even included in one of those "best of the year" things.
The day was a blur of friendly faces, signing autographs and books, shaking hands, posing for pictures, mutual geeking at scientists (there were lots of scientists there, mostly astronomers, who listened patiently to me while I slimed them with my slobbering geekiness) and my constant excitement and wonder that so many people knew about my books and wanted to pick them up.
This went on for a few hours. Then, during a lull in the day around lunchtime, Walter [Koenig] walked over to my end of the table after posing for a picture with some fans and looked at my books.
"I hear you're a writer now," he said, looking at Happiest Days, "What do you write?"
I told him.
"What's this one about?"
I told him, then I showed him the Manga.
"Check it out," I said, opening it to one page, "I totally blew up Leonard!"
He grinned, and I pointed to Dancing Barefoot.
"There's a story in here about the first time I met Bill, and what an ass he was to me," I said.
Walter laughed and said, "Who hasn't he been an ass to?"
I laughed with him. I suspect that if WFS had been there, he probably would have laughed with us . . . before ordering us off the bridge.
"If you're interested, and if you think you'd have time to read it," I said, "I'd love for you to have a copy of Happiest Days."
Walter smiled at me, surprised. "Really?"
"It would mean a lot to me," I said.
"I'd like to buy it from you," he said.
We danced for a minute, me trying to give it to him, and him trying to pay me for it. It was an exquisite tango, and I won't reveal the victor, because it's not that important. What is important to me, though, is that Walter has a copy of my book, which I hope he reads, because there's this story in it about conventions that I think he can appreciate on a different level than most readers.
A young girl, probably no older than 10 or 12, wanted to buy a copy of Happiest Days. I didn't think she'd like it as much as the Manga, so I asked her if she wanted to have that, instead.
"It's in the vendor's room down the hall," I said, "so let me send someone to go pick it up for you --"
"This isn't for me," she said, "this is for my stepdad. He'll really like it."
I almost started to cry. For the first time since I've been raising Ryan and Nolan, I've recently been made to feel the step in stepdad, and it hurts more than anything.
"I'm a stepdad," I said to her, taking a deep breath to steady myself, "and I think it's the greatest thing in the world that you want to do something kind for him."
I blinked back tears as I signed it.
"Here ya go," I said, "You're both very lucky."
I know I signed other books that night, but after that, nothing stands out.
While I was at this convention, I had a moment of clarity and grew a level:
"Just a few years ago," I said, "I rarely came to conventions as a guest, because I felt like I was trying to hold on to whatever fading celebrity I once had. I didn't do it because I wanted to be famous again. I did it because, at the time, it was all I could do, which was so much worse. But now, when I go to cons, I feel good about it. I look forward to it, because I feel like I can share the Star Trek thing with people who love it, but I'm really here as an indie publisher, just like you."
I thought for a second and added, "You know what it's like? It's like -- "
"Don't say 'rising from the ashes' while you're in Phoenix! Don't say 'rising from the ashes' while you're in Phoenix!" My brain screamed at me.
"It's sort of like rising from the ashes for me, in a way, which is a pretty lame thing to say since I'm in Phoenix."
"Do you even listen to me anymore? That's it," my brain said. "I'm out of here."
"I am so lame" I said.
In February, I had sinus surgery to correct a massively deviated septum and scrape a whole bunch of polyps out of my skull. The recovery sucked and I couldn't write or do anything useful for weeks. I did get to watch a bunch of movies, though.
Gary Gygax died in March. Part of what I wrote to remember him was read at his private memorial service:
Of all the things I do that make me a geek, nothing brings me as much joy as gaming. It all started with the D&D Basic Set, and today it takes an entire room in my house to contain all of my books, boxes, and dice.
Thank you for giving us endless worlds to explore, Gary Gygax. Rest in peace.
I wrote a story for the third volume of the Star Trek manga. In volume two, I brought Star Trek to manga, and I worked very hard to bring manga to Star Trek in volume three. TokyoPop didn't promote the book at all, but we who worked on it did our best to get it to reviewers and support it with interviews.One of them said some very nice things about my story.
iTunes: Here, enjoy something soothing called Velvet Piano. What the hell is this? Did you download this from one of those retroblogs you read?
Me: How did you know about that?
iTunes: the SDK isn't just for programmers, you know.
Me: Okay, I think it's time for a playlist.
iTunes: No! No! Here's Nine Inch Nails! You just bought that! You like Nine Inch Nails! And now Boingo! doesn't it make you happy? Doesn't it remind you of those halcyon days of youth?
Me: Now you're just embarrassing yourself. I think we're going to spend a little time away from each other.
Me: It's not you, iTunes. It's me.
When we were about eight steps past the officious security guard, I reached up for my badge, which I'd pinned to my T-shirt's collar, so I could write my name on it.
It wasn't there.
I looked all around my jacket, checked all of my pockets several times, and had to accept that it had fallen off somewhere inside the con floor. Because I'd paid cash, I had no receipt. Because I hadn't written my name on it, yet, I had no way of proving that I'd lost anything.
I sheepishly revealed all of this to Matt and Ariana while I was whirling around like a dervish, patting my pockets and shaking out my jacket, looking like that guy down the hallway in Jacob's Ladder.
Interlude: My kids are awesome.
I love Sriracha sauce, but I know how insanely hot it is, so I always put just a few drops on, mix it up, and apply more if I feel like it as I eat.
Nolan, however, put it on his dish like frosting.
"What in the world are you doing?" I said.
"I'm putting my chili sauce on like a man," he said, "not like a pansy."
Nolan took a bite of his food, and his face turned as red as the sauce.
"Yeah," he said, in a pinched voice, "that's the stuff right there!"
I took a bite of my food.
"How's your dinner treating you?" Nolan said to me.
"It's good," I said. "I don't need as much hot sauce as I used to, because after my surgery, I can taste food a lot better than before."
"And you're a pansy," he said.
Ryan put his chopsticks down, wiped his mouth with his napkin, and said, "The difference between you and him, Nolan, is that he's enjoying his food, and you're enduring it."
I was interviewed by Wired's game|life blog. I admitted that I have a comic book problem. I co-wrote a special edition of PvP. I discovered something obvious about my writing process. I also put together a collection of resources for writers (and shared some thoughts on writing) that I think is pretty useful.
I had a damn geeky weekend.
Friday night I said to Anne, "When I finish this martini, I'm going to think it's a great idea to have another martini. It will, in fact, be a very bad idea for me to have another martini, and I'd appreciate it if you'd remind me of that fact when the time comes."
When the time came, she wasn't at the table. Oops.
I wasn't nervous at all about my reading at Mysterious Galaxy, which was really weird. In fact, while we were driving there (Anne was driving, I was reading from my book because I got it into my head that it may be a good idea to try something new about 20 minutes before showtime) I said to Anne, "You know what's weird? I'm not nervous at all." It was at that very moment that I got nervous.
While I was signing books, a girl about my age walked up to the table. She extended her hand and said, "Hi, I'm Gina."
"Hi Gina," I said. "It's nice to meet you."
"I'm a blogger," she said.
"Oh? Cool!" I said. "What's your blog?"
"It's called 'Lifehacker,' and --"
It was at this point that I completely lost my shit and spent the next eleventy hundred minutes telling her how much I love Lifehacker.
Please enjoy this moment from lunch, which I sent to Twitter: Anne: It's Jedi day! Me: What? Anne: May the Fourth be with you. Me: OMG I am so sending that to Twitter.
Anne and I went to New York for our friends' wedding. I never finished my trip report, so let me sum up what happened after the events of part one, part two, and part three: We went to the Natural History museum, where I realized how I've just taken for granted that there are replicas of everything everywhere. Actually seeing priceless gems, complete dinosaur skeletons, and ancient weapons and clothing was more awe inspiring than I thought it would be. If you can get to a natural history museum, doo eet. The wedding was awesome, and Sean Bonner and I engaged in a little bit of mayhem, and live-blogged it via Twitter. The following night, Anne and I went to see Spamalot, which I loved, despite Clay Aiken who can barely sing and really can't act. We did a few other touristy things, but nothing worth mentioning. I love New York, and I hope I get to go back there in the future as often as I did when I was too young to appreciate it.
I went to the Emerald City ComiCon in Seattle:
Very Memorable Moment of the con: I was talking to Ed Brubaker, who waited in my line to give me copies of Criminal. It's one of my favorite books in the world, and I asked him if he would sign it for me. Ed and I kind of know each other because Warren Ellis introduced us (I know, it feels like name dropping to me, too, but I swear it's how it happened) and Ed's given me a ton of reassurance and advice as a writer. I was attempting to thank him for casting Dispel Fear and Self-Doubt when I failed my save vs. insecurity just before I started my second Star Trek manga story, and this really angry guy in my line yells at him for talking to me for so long.
I think we'd be talking for about 5 minutes, which is about how long I spend with everyone who waits to talk to me at a convention, because that's just how I roll.
For those of you who don't know who Ed is, he writes (and killed) Captain America, and that's not even the coolest stuff he's done. Yelling at Ed Brubaker at a comic convention is like yelling at Wayne Gretzky at a hockey convention.
When Angry Yelling Guy got to the front of the line, he just wanted to talk to me about Star Trek. For five minutes.
I didn't mention it at the time, but Angry Yelling Guy didn't just talk to me about Star Trek, he bitched at me about everything he didn't like twenty years ago. Still, it's quite funny in retrospect.
I drove to San Jose for a convention, and praised the scenic route:
…the grass on the foothills is golden, creating an inviting backdrop for splashes of color thrown across it by wild flowers. There was orange from poppies, yellow and green from wild mustard flowers, bright purple from lavender, and occasional bursts of bright green from grass that hadn't gotten the memo about dying off for summer. Around it all were gnarled oak trees, providing shade for grazing cattle and horses.
Once I got north of Soledad, towering Eucalyptus trees -- sixty feet tall, it seemed -- stood guard over vast green fields of lettuce and celery, as if the foothills had been somehow pushed back by farmers decades or even a century ago. Near Monterey, a heavy blanket of fog did its best to come inland, as coastal mountains held it back.
My story Blue Light Special from The Happiest Days of Our Lives was adapted into a comic.
I went to what will probably be my last concert, because I've finally had enough of the entitled assholes who ruin concerts:
For the next twenty minutes, this woman loudly complained about me to her equally drunk, equally idiotic friends. She kicked my chair. She clapped her hands next to my head. She screamed like a teenage girl in a Beatles concert film.
In other words, this stupid asshole made about a third of her concert experience -- seeing The Police! -- all about trying as hard as she could to ruin it for me, because I'd asked -- politely -- for her to just be considerate of the people around her.
Bob Justman died in June:
I can close my eyes right now and see him standing just outside the set lights on stage six, gesturing excitedly at the bridge while our crew set up a shot. I can hear him tell me, "Good job, kid," after a particularly grueling day on Planet Hell.
Later that night, I noticed that he was sitting in the chair by our family iMac, but instead of playing games or talking to his friends on iChat, he had his head cocked to one side, Little Brother open in his lap. He'd made some serious progress in the book. I noticed that he had Firefox open to a Google search about [spoiler redacted].
I nudged Anne and pointed to Nolan.
"He's been reading that pretty much non-stop since you gave it to him," she said quietly.
"That rules," I said.
Over the next two days, I'd see him sitting on the couch, sitting in my favorite reading chair in our den, sitting in the chair by the iMac. He was always in the same pose, head cocked to one side, Little Brother open in his lap. We talked a little bit about the characters and the events in the book, and he asked me lots and lots of questions about the technology and real-life issues Cory presents in the book.
Okay, this is way longer than I thought it would be, and I'm only up to July, so I'll split this into two parts. Part two will be up shortly.