My friend, editor, and partner in crime, Andrew, is at Penguicon right now, and he's graciously agreed to be a substitute me for the weekend. I asked him if he'd read the following at the opening ceremonies tonight. If we timed it right, he should be reading this right now:
A few years ago, I had a really serious case of Epstein-Barr that really kicked me in the junk. My doctor said it was an exceptionally rare form of the virus, and warned me that I'd spend the rest of my life with a slightly-weakened immune system.
Monday or Tuesday, I started to feel all the warning signs of impending illness. I was more physically and mentally tired than I should have been, I was sneezing and coughing like crazy, and I felt generally run down.
"I am not getting sick," I told Anne. "I refuse to get sick. I don't have time to get sick."
Yesterday, I had a quarterly follow-up appointment with my doctor who did my sinus surgery a year ago.
"I'm traveling to Detroit tomorrow and –"
"You're working in an infection already," he said. "You shouldn't be traveling at all."
I told him how important it was to me to go. A lot of my friends will be there, I made a commitment to the organizers and the people attending. I'm playing Atari for charity. Couldn't he do something for me?
He said he could give me some meds, but there was no guarantee they'd work. He repeated how serious he was about me not traveling where I would be at risk for further infection, or infecting other people if whatever it is I have is contagious.
"Start this right away, and you'll know in the morning if you're going to feel better or not, but you really shouldn't travel."
I thanked him and left, determined to kick this thing's ass through the magic of pharmaceutical science.
As it turns out, yesterday was a really busy day for me. I worked on a game called Brütal Legend, which was awesome, but took a lot out of me and left me feeling like Daffy Duck after he blows himself up.
I was also invited to the Star Trek premiere last night, which was kind of a big deal, considering that I'm usually excluded from these things. Oh, and I've been excited to see the movie for over a year. And I was going to get to take my wife to a big deal Hollywood movie premiere. And, holy crap, people: Star Trek. I was so exhausted after working on the game, though, I decided that there was no way I could spend the evening out and still get enough rest to give my body a chance to heal itself. So, I made a really tough choice and stayed home. I can't tell you which of us was more upset about missing it, because we're both still pretty unhappy about it.
Anyway, after dinner last night, I packed my bags, went to bed early, and hoped for the best. I guess it was about 1:30 this morning when I woke up with a fever. I was covered in sweat (it made me slippery, like a fish.) I had body aches, chills, couldn't breathe through my nose, and felt like my throat had been replaced with a tube of meat that was filled with broken glass. Also, there was an angry badger running around in the tube, occasionally taking bites out of it. And from time to time, the Badger would climb out of my throat and claw me in the face, just because it could. The Frogurt was also cursed.
When my alarm went off at 5:30, I dragged myself out of bed, took a step toward the door, and felt like I was going to fall over. I was forced to admit that it would have been one of the most irresponsible things in the world for me to travel all the way across the country feeling like this. It would have been pretty miserable to fly with my head full of mucous and my throat smuggling an angry badger, but I was extremely worried about putting myself and my weaker-than-normal immune system at risk. I had these visions of suffering though a miserable flight only to discover that, once I got to Michigan, I felt even worse than I did standing next to my bed, and I was sharing a bed with an angry badger, no less.
I tried really hard to convince myself otherwise, but I was forced to admit that coming to Penguicon would have been a bad experience for everyone involved. I got sick at PAX last year, and though I did my best to tough it out, I wasn't 100%, I was too tired to have nearly as much fun as I wanted to, I disappointed a lot of people, and I got to spend a full week recovering when I got home. The idea of being 1000 miles from home and feeling like I did last night in my own house - or worse - was just too much for me.
I called Brendan, told him the bad news, and went back to sleep where - I am not making this up - I had a dream that I was riding in a car with Felicia Day, sneezing all over the windscreen.
I know this isn't the first Penguicon I've missed, and I've certainly earned your enmity (that's +1 to your attacks against me until the end of the encounter, and you get to roll twice, using the better roll, which is pretty sweet) but I wanted to offer a thought that I hope brightens your weekend: I've been attending cons for pretty much my whole life, and while it sucks when someone I wanted to see cancels for one reason or another, it's never made a con not fun for me. The panels and the guests and the signings are just one part of a con, and over the last 25 years or so, that's never been the part that sticks with me and makes cons memorable. It's being with my fellow geeks and fans, and the things we did together. It's the gaming, and the nitrogen ice cream, and the serendipitous meetings in the halls and the room parties.
All that's still going to happen, even though I can't be part of it, and you're still going to have an awesome time. Penguicon isn't about me, it's about you. (It is also, as it turns out, about making John Scalzi dress up as a pirate. Sorry, John.) If you were coming to Penguicon to see me do my thing, you have every right to be unhappy with me, and I take full responsibility for letting you down. It's really important to me that you know this, though: I didn't blow you off, guys, and whether you accept that or not, its the truth. I did everything I could short of putting myself on a plane against my (and my doctor's) better judgement to be with you right now.
It's not enough, but "I'm sorry" is the best I can do. I was really looking forward to finally meeting Elizabeth Bear in person, utterly destroying Shawn Powers in Combat, cheering with all the locals when the Wings crush the Ducks tonight, and hanging out with Andrew and John Scalzi and Cherie Priest, three of my favorite people in the world who I don't get to see nearly enough. In other words, you are not alone in your disappointment and I totally understand if you want to hate me to death (provided whatever I have doesn't beat you to it.)
Have a fucking awesome weekend (isn't it funny to see Andrew say "fucking?" he's not nearly as profane as I am so it always makes me giggle. Let's do it one more time: fucking awesome. Ha. Ha. Ha. HAHAHAHA!) and say it with me: Don't be a dick.
less than three,