Thursday, November 3, 2011

Guilt and Conventions

(this was under a freeway in San Diego. it made me laugh.)
I spent this past weekend in San Diego, playing truant from rehearsal (with Liss's approval) and stretching my usual one day per week away from the studio into three to accommodate this year's World Fantasy Convention. Twelve of my Clarion classmates were there, and two of our instructors. It was a joy to see them. I think there must be something uniquely traumatizing about Clarion, something rather like the battering that baptizes baby fowl as they emerge from their eggs. My Clarion classmates are my comrades in arms and my siblings in storytelling. They have propped me up through frenzy and desperation, held me accountable, and flayed my stories with their fine, sharp knives. Seeing them again is always a very good thing.

It is also the lion's share of the reason I go to conventions. I've been to three (Montreal, San Jose, San Diego), and each one was mostly an excuse to see some people I met in the summer of 2008.

Other reasons I go to conventions:

1. Meeting new people.

Please consider in particular the wonderful aspects and charming demeanor of the following characters: Nicole Taylor, Ben Loory, Joe Monti, Matt KresselWilliam Alexander, and Charles Tan.

2. To admire the work of writers who I am excessively fond of.

Example no. 1: Jeffrey Ford read a short story from the upcoming Ellen Datlow/Terri Windling edited anthology, After. He was cut short by scheduling, and I am still, several days later, on cruel tenterhooks about the ending.

Example no. 2: Neil Gaiman read "The Case of Death and Honey," which is a story about Sherlock Holmes, bees, death, and China. I have been in love with this story for some time, ever since Neil mentioned it to me in an off-handed way back in the spring. And I had read it, several times, before this weekend, but still there I was, surreptitiously blinking my eyes harder than usual to disguise the tears.

Example no. 3: Nalo Hopkinson read a mad and bizarre scene from her upcoming novel, Taint. It was so vivid and impossible and absurd and shivering with movement and invention that all I could do was fall face-first into it and enjoy.

(I am possibly biased. Nalo and Neil were our instructors at Clarion, so I love them dearly.)

3. Guilt.

I am not as persistent as I should be in the pursuit of stories. I love writing them, even when it's difficult, frustrating, and involves a great deal of studying the wall above my desk. But I am slow, and when I'm tired from dancing (something that currently happens often), I tell myself that there is nothing finer than telling stories to the audience of one that resides inside my head. But it's a bad lie. Stories, for me, are always better, stronger, and more defined when I've done the wrestling required to put them on a piece of paper. They might not actually be better, stronger, and so on and so forth once they've actually hit the paper, but the work of putting them there changes the story in my head from a vague mess of images to something that makes a kind of sense.

Being around people who make stories happen, the ones who live them and breathe them and believe fiercely in the creation of them, floods me with guilt. I look at the dusty scraps drifting through my head and am struck with shame that they should be so foggy and indistinct.

I go home, and I retrieve my notebook from its lonely corner, and I start dredging things up by putting down one word and following it with another.

And that is why I go to conventions.


Ali Trotta said...

These are all good reasons. I was glad that I was able to see your pictures on FB; it looked like a lovely time was had by all. I adore your paragraph under guilt. It is good to have people who push us, even just by being there.

Megan Kurashige said...

Thanks, Ali! It was a really lovely time. Also, yes... Something perverse in me loves the guilt!

Maybe one day I'll see you at one of these things!