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I made it home

I’m back home again now, though I’m still recovering from the trip. I had a nice visit with Aunt Shirley and Uncle Harry, then turned in early so I’d be rested for an early departure Tuesday morning, though I didn’t get as much sleep as I hoped (but then, I rarely do). Cousins Barb and Mark were kind enough to pick up groceries I could use to make a turkey sandwich for the road.

I set out during morning rush hour, but the westward route I chose toward I-70 enabled me to avoid heavy traffic once I got onto the highway. My plan was to take I-70 to the PA Turnpike so that I’d only have to be on it for a little while and not have to spend as much in tolls as I did on the way out. But Google Maps wanted me to go along I-68 through the Maryland panhandle and avoid the Turnpike altogether, and when I checked my weather app and saw there was rain heading north toward the Turnpike, I decided to follow its suggestion after all. I generally avoid that route because it’s so mountainous, which can be rough in bad weather, and because it’s less trafficked, so it could be harder to find help if something went wrong. But on a clear day with the car working fine, it made for a nice, quiet drive on an uncrowded highway. I did have a bit of a scare, though, when my GPS conked out, since I didn’t have any backup printed maps of the route I was using and was in danger of getting lost. Once I found a place to stop, I was able to reboot it, and also got out my folding state maps in case I had to navigate the old-fashioned way. The GPS stopped working a couple more times along the trip, but not until after I’d gotten past the tricky part, taking the US 40 state road from I-68 up to I-70. The last time I took that route was in the middle of a snowstorm, which is why I’ve avoided it ever since, but in clear July weather it was fine. I was even able to eat most of my sandwich while driving, since the road was so empty and uneventful. That saved me some time.

In fact, I got really lucky with the weather. The forecast called for rain on and off throughout the day, but either I managed to take a route around it or it just happened to go around my route. As I headed west toward Columbus on I-70, there was a big rainstorm heading northeast toward it from Cincinnati, so I figured I’d have to deal with some rough weather on the final leg of my drive — but by the time the storm and I converged, it had mostly tuckered out and I only caught a few moments of heavy drizzle along its fringes.

So thanks to all this good luck, I was able to get home via the quickest route with minimal delays and only the occasional moments of anxiety when my GPS conked out, and when I was unsure if I could find a gas station before running out. There was a moment when it seemed the gas gauge needle was dropping alarmingly fast on a steep uphill grade, but then it went up again once I was going downhill. I realized the changing angle of the fuel in the tank was lowering and raising the bob that connects to the gauge. There was also a weird moment later on where I was backing out a parking space (while turning) and the car kept going backward when I put it into drive, and the brakes were slow to stop it. That worried me, but it seemed to work fine after that. Maybe I was just on a steeper downhill grade than I realized. Or maybe the gears just didn’t catch.

I reached home around 6:30, about 10 hours after I set out, and I even stopped in at the local Kroger for some groceries, since I’d used up the last of perishable items like milk and sandwich fixings before I left. Then I spent the evening catching up on Killjoys and Dark Matter. My DVR failed to record them for some reason, but fortunately On Demand cable has nearly everything now. I still have Orphan Black to catch up on, though. (By the way, several Dark Matter cast members were at Shore Leave, and I got to have a brief chat with Jodelle Ferland, who seemed pretty nice.)

I just finished adding up all my receipts for the trip, and it turns out that the money I spent on the trip is only about 40 dollars more than the money I made, and that’s counting the gas and the car inspection I got shortly before the trip as trip-related expenses. So I didn’t quite break even, but I came close. Who knows — if the fans who said they might buy my books later actually follow through, I might come still closer to breaking even.

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The Shore has been Left

This time, I’m sitting in cousins Barb & Mark’s house about an hour’s drive from the convention hotel, taking advantage of some quiet time to recover from the past few days of conventioneering, if that’s the word. So now’s my opportunity to gather my thoughts about Shore Leave and post my recollections.

My second day of driving was much better weather-wise than the first, nice and sunny all day. The one snag I hit was financial. I didn’t get cash before I left, figuring I had enough for the trip and would get more from my convention stipend and book sales — but I didn’t take into account that the Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls had increased. It occurred to me to check the tolls on my phone browser at a rest stop just before I had to get off, and I found I didn’t have enough cash and needed to use the ATM there (complete with $2.50 service fee). Okay, maybe they would’ve taken a credit card, but I didn’t want to chance it. I belatedly realized that they have the prices printed on the tickets — I don’t know why I didn’t consider before that all those numbers on the tickets might actually convey useful information. If I’d thought of that ahead of time, I would’ve gotten off the Turnpike earlier and taken the highway through Maryland instead. I’ll probably do that going  back. I generally stick to the Turnpike despite the tolls because the other route is tricky in bad weather, with all the mountains and fog and such, and there’d been a flood warning in that area the day before. But the weather was clear on Friday, so it probably would’ve been fine.

Anyway, I made it to the hotel a bit poorer but otherwise intact, and once I checked in, I managed to find a free parking space right next to the closest entrance to my room, so I didn’t have to carry my bags very far. (I had the same parking luck at my motel the night before, although I’d unwisely asked for an upstairs room that turned out to be in back, so it was a bit more of a schlep even so.) I got in a bit late, so I only had a few hours before my first panel, but I managed to find a bunch of fellow writer guests in the bar, including Dave Mack (of course he’d be in the bar), his wife Kara, Aaron Rosenberg and his daughter, Bob Greenberger, and I think Keith DeCandido (sorry, I was tired so my memory’s fuzzy), and we sat around and listened to Dave regale us with stories about what’s going on behind the scenes in Star Trek, which are unrepeatable for two or three different reasons. Although Dave, who’s working closely with the Star Trek: Discovery producers on his tie-in novel Desperate Hours, did leave me reassured that the writing on the new show will be solid and that it won’t invalidate our vast tie-in continuity, at least not right away. It was a thrill to hear about how our friend and colleague, Voyager novelist Kirsten Beyer, is doing on the writing staff of the show. It’s awesome to see a friend achieve something like that, and it sounds like she’s already made herself indispensable. Although it’s too bad that her work out in Hollywood is keeping her too busy to attend Shore Leave this year.

My first panel was on Star Trek Literature as Science Fiction, ably moderated by Strange New Worlds author Derek Tyler Attico and including Dave Galanter and John Coffren, and we all had an interesting talk about what we think SF is and what makes ST’s brand of it distinctive. Later I had a quiet dinner in my room (finishing off the sandwich I’d bought on the road, along with a cup of hotel-room coffee) so I’d be nourished and alert enough for Meet the Pros that evening. As usual, I was seated next to my Only Superhuman editor Greg Cox, who was touting his new tie-in novels to TNT’s The Librarians and his novelization of War of the Planet of the Apes, which unfortunately was just a week away from being released so he couldn’t sell copies at Shore Leave. I was also across from Keith and his longtime girlfriend Wrenn, who recently got married at last, and they had a huge sign at their table saying “MARRIED LIFE IS PRETTY DANGED AWESOME,” no doubt pre-empting a question they knew they’d be getting asked a lot otherwise. As for myself, I signed a number of copies of The Face of the Unknown that they had for sale at the book vendor’s table, but only managed to sell three of the older books I had for sale at my own table. It was a pretty quiet evening — in fact, a pretty quiet con, in terms of guest attendance — but that just gave us writers more time to socialize and catch up with each other. It’s nice to connect with the fans, but it’s also nice when the event dies down and the writers can just wander the hall chatting with each other.

I had three panels on Saturday. First was “History for Fun and Profit,” where we talked about using history in our SF/fantasy writing — mostly involving writers of alternate history SF/F, but I talked about how my history studies helped me write about future events, first contacts, cross-cultural interactions, and so forth in my SF. After a quick lunch (a peanut butter sandwich I’d made for the trip), there was “Defending the Light Side,” which was about optimistic and/or humorous writing, refuting the attitude that such things are fluffy or insubstantial. Then I guess I just hung around with various people I ran into for a couple of hours — it’s all kind of blurred together about what conversations I had when — and I did my first hourlong stint in the “author chimney,” the narrow space between brick pillars that’s the only place the book vendors usually have for authors to sit and peddle our work. But it was a slow afternoon — most of the guests were probably in the big ballroom watching Marina Sirtis and Michael Dorn give their talk. So it was mainly just a chance to sit and rest between panels. Finally, we had the “Upcoming Star Trek Books” panel with me, Dave, Dayton Ward, and Scott Pearson. We didn’t really have much in the way of new Pocket novels to discuss beyond what’s already been announced, so I thought we might have to do a Q&A about our recent books to fill the time, but Scott also talked about all the other books and comics coming out from other publishers for the rest of the year, and that ended up occupying most of the hour after all. But I got to talk some about my upcoming Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference, and how it’s the climax for the Trip Tucker/Section 31 arc I inherited when I started doing the ENT novels.

Right after that came the annual tradition of Saturday dinner at Andy Nelson’s Barbecue a few miles from the hotel. In years past, I’ve always gotten a pulled turkey sandwich with cole slaw and cornbread as sides, because it’s so unique in my experience to have cole slaw and cornbread that are actually good, indeed really good. But this year, I finally decided to try something different — still the pulled turkey, but with macaroni & cheese and stewed tomatoes as my two sides. (I considered mac & cornbread, but I figured I needed a vegetable.) Right off the bat, I accidentally dropped a piece of macaroni into the tomatoes, which proved a happy accident that I did on purpose quite a bit thereafter. I also got to talk about a bunch of stuff with a bunch of people, some work-related, some not. I learned a lot about the comics business from Glenn Hauman, who’s done some Trek writing but mainly works in comics and knows a ton of the people in the industry, so it’s hard to talk to him and not learn a lot about comics. After dinner, back in the hotel lobby, he and Richard C. White (a comics author who then moved into prose) got to talking to me about an early Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons “Dragnet as time police” spoof from 2000 AD that was a master illustration of the economy of comic-book art, and also a sort of spiritual antecedent of my Department of Temporal Investigations novels. They both found the story on their smartphones to show it to me, but there was no easy way to call up the next page, so it became a two-phone bucket brigade operation — while I read one page on one of their phones, Glenn would navigate to the next page on the other, and we’d swap phones when I was ready. There’s got to be an easier way to read a comic, but luckily it was only five pages. And it was a cool story.

Sunday morning, I got up a bit late and had an 11 AM panel, and I had to have breakfast and check out of my room before the panel, so I didn’t have time for much else that morning. But it was a fun panel, called “Where No Tale Has Gone Before” — Dave, Keith, Dayton, Scott, and myself talking about whether there were still new Star Trek stories to tell after all these decades. Answer: Yes, of course. There are always untapped areas to explore, and every new story introduces new elements that can be explored further. But it was a good talk. Afterward (and after briefly running into my cousin Scott and his son, who’d arrived at the con too late to do more than say hello), it was time for lunch. Due to my tight finances, I was just about to settle for my remaining emergency peanut butter sandwich (now several days old, but it had spent the majority of the intervening time refrigerated), but Aaron Rosenberg was kind enough to treat me to a sandwich from the hotel Starbucks — a chicken sandwich with cranberry mayonnaise, of all things. I sat and talked with him and Greg for a while, and ultimately followed Greg to a panel on genre mashups which he did along with with Keith and Roberta Rogow. I could’ve easily joined them on the panel, since Only Superhuman counts as a hard-SF/superhero mashup (in fact, Glenn Hauman coined a good pitch line for it this weekend, “Superheroes meet The Expanse“), but I welcomed the chance to be an audience member and just be quiet and listen for a while. (Although I couldn’t resist asking one question.)

I was done with panels after that, but I hung around a few hours longer to talk to people, and I did an extended stint at the book vendors’ table — but fortunately there was a larger space available this time, so Greg and I sat together again and pitched our books to passersby. We were competing with Sirtis and Dorn again, but eventually their show ended and the crowd in the hall grew, and I finally managed to sell a couple more Only Superhuman copies. Later on, I briefly got to meet Marina Sirtis and give her a copy of Orion’s Hounds, which she insisted I sign for her. I hope she likes it.

All in all, a pretty good Shore Leave. I didn’t get to accomplish as much business-related, err, business as I’d hoped, but I got to socialize a lot with old friends and new, and I learned some interesting stuff. And then it was a reasonably easy drive to my cousins’ (aside from a brief traffic jam), and for once I didn’t get lost in the maze of streets around their house (GPS isn’t always helpful here), and as usual we had dinner at their friend Charles’s, and I had a really good turkey burger with a slice of remarkably good tomato. I’ve had good luck with tomatoes this weekend. And later today, I’m going to go visit Aunt Shirley and Uncle Harry at their retirement home, and tomorrow I’ll set off for home. Hopefully I can make it in one day this time.

Shore Leave 39 schedule

I’m sitting in a motel room in Western Pennsylvania right now, after driving through increasingly heavy rain throughout the day. I stopped about an hour earlier than I planned because I was fed up with the weather — and of course the rain stopped shortly after I checked into the motel. But then, I had a coupon for this motel (which I’ve stayed at before), it cost less than my other option, and my right foot felt like it was about to cramp if I didn’t rest it and get some dinner soon.

So here I am, and I see that a lot of other Shore Leave guests have posted their schedules for the con. I figure I’d better do the same. Here’s the overall, final schedule (as final as these things get, anyway):

https://www.shore-leave.com/programming/schedule.htm

And my schedule specifically (copying the panel descriptions from the pocket program because I’m tired):

FRIDAY 7/7

Star Trek Lit as Science Fiction — 7 PM, Salon A
Star Trek authors discuss how their work—and Star Trek literature in general—fits (or breaks) the mold of the science fiction genre. Do Star Trek stories draw on classic sci-fi? Do they advance the genre?
Derek Attico (M), Christopher L. Bennett, John Coffren, Dave Galanter

Meet the Pros — 10 PM to Midnight, Hunt/Valley Corridor

The usual mass signing event. As with last year, I intend to have copies of Only Superhuman and a few older Trek paperbacks for sale, and I take credit cards.

SATURDAY 7/8

History for Fun and Profit — 11 AM, Derby Lounge
Lots of SF/F stories explicitly use historical models, whether it’s the Victorian Age for steampunk or Age of Sail for original Star Trek. What pieces of the past are best for borrowing? How important is accuracy?
Jenifer Rosenberg (M), Christopher L. Bennett, Melissa Scott, Roberta Rogow, Richard C. White
Defending the Light Side — 1 PM, Chase Ballroom
In fiction, as in real life, upbeat and happy are often equated with silly fluff lacking substantial themes and intelligence. Or dismissed as childish. Those claims are often inaccurate, however.
Rigel Ailur (M), Christopher L. Bennett, Michael Critzer, Roberta Rogow, Andrew Hiller
Upcoming Star Trek Books — 5 PM, Belmont Lounge
A preview of forthcoming Star Trek novels from Simon & Schuster, with some of their authors as well as other Trek-related titles due out this fall and into 2018. (Note: It’s likely to be more a “Recent and Upcoming ST Books” panel, because there aren’t that many upcoming books currently scheduled. But the next upcoming book is my Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference, so I’ll have that to talk about.)
Scott Pearson (M), David Mack, Christopher L. Bennett, Dayton Ward
SUNDAY 7/9
Where No Tale Has Gone Before — 11 AM, Chase Ballroom
After over 50 years, how can there still be fresh stories to tell in Star Trek’s shared universe? Our panel of Trekspert storytellers discuss what they think makes for solid new Star Trek tales.
David Mack (M), Dayton Ward, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Christopher L. Bennett, Scott Pearson

I’ll be at Books By the Banks on October 28!

My attendance at the annual Books By the Banks festival here in Cincinnati has been intermittent over the years. There was one year where a communications breakdown kept me from completing registration in time, and last year, for whatever reason, I simply forgot to apply. So I made sure to get my application in this year, with help from Pocket Books’ publicist, and I’m happy to announce that I have been accepted as a guest for this year:

http://booksbythebanks.org/authors-confirmed.php

The event will be held Saturday, October 28, 2017 at the Duke Energy Convention Center in downtown Cincinnati, OH. I’ll provide more info as the time approaches, but since I’ve just been announced as a guest this afternoon, I wanted to get the news out.

 

Of course, next weekend, July 7-9, as most of you probably know already, I’ll be at the Shore Leave Convention in Hunt Valley, MD. I got my car checked out and my vacation hold filed at the post office, so I’m just about ready.

Shore Leave is coming up again!

Hey, everyone. Once again, I haven’t been keeping up with blogging… Other matters have been preoccupying me, including a side job I just finished for a little extra income, transcribing a book-length SF-fanzine memoir from the ’40s into a Word document for a colleague, which was rather time-consuming.

Anyway, I needed the extra funds because it’s getting close to that time of year again. The Shore Leave convention will be held in about 4 weeks, from July 7-9, 2017, at the usual venue of the Hunt Valley Inn in Hunt Valley, MD. This year’s guests include Marina Sirtis and Michael Dorn! As usual, I’ll be on a few panels about various things, though the schedule isn’t finalized, and of course I’ll be at the Friday night Meet the Pros signing event and spend some time signing at the book vendor’s table. Whether I’ll have any new writing projects to talk about at the con remains to be seen; I’m hopeful something will break in the next few weeks, but there’s no way to be sure. At least my new DTI novella, Shield of the Gods, will be out by then. (Oddly, Amazon’s best-seller category trackers have it doing well under “Religion and Spirituality,” subsection “Personal Growth,” subsections “Men’s Personal Growth” and “Philosophy.” I guess they’re getting that from an overly literal interpretation of the title, and there is a reference in the blurb to the characters facing a personal challenge, so I guess this is the result of some kind of computer algorithm; but where do they get the “Men’s” part from?)

So that means there are things I need to take care of over the next few weeks. I need to get my car checked out to make sure it’s safe for the long drive. And I need to replace my laptop hard drive. See, when I got this refurbished laptop, the hard drive was making an intermittent clicking noise and sometimes wouldn’t start up, and I was told it might be damaged and unstable, so I contacted the refurbishers and they sent me a replacement. That replacement worked okay until a couple of months ago when it crashed, so I went back to the original, iffy drive until they could send me another replacement. I got that one weeks ago, but I’ve been putting off the switch because the iffy drive has been mostly working okay, and because I’ve had work I wanted to get done first. Mainly just because I hate going through the rigmarole of setting up a new hard drive, reinstalling and reauthorizing everything, etc., having to spend most of a day getting it all done. But on the other hand, the risk that the current drive might crash is a more long-term source of worry, so I should probably just get it over with. And I definitely should do it before Shore Leave, so I don’t have to worry about my hard drive crashing on me while I’m on my trip. (Assuming the second replacement actually works, which I shouldn’t take as a given considering how the first two turned out. If I could afford it, I’d just buy a whole new computer rather than gambling with this one.)

Finally, my Shore Leave report

Sorry it’s taken me so long to talk about Shore Leave. It’s been a really exhausting week. Since money is very tight for me at the moment, I decided to leave early on Thursday and drive all the way to the DC area so I could spend the night with my cousins Barb and Mark. The drive took 12 hours, including rest and meal breaks, and I didn’t quite make it before dark. It’s a measure of how exhausted I must’ve been that I actually got a decent amount of sleep that night. I almost never manage to get any sleep on my first night in an unfamiliar bed.

(I almost had a copilot this time, though. My Aunt Shirley and Uncle Harry just moved from Detroit to a DC-area retirement home, and their daughter Cynthia is still in Detroit trying to square away the rest of their belongings and arrange the sale of the house. The idea was mooted that I could drive up to Detroit and that together we could drive to Shore Leave and bring some of her parents’ stuff to them, whereupon she could visit me at the convention too. Unfortunately, she had a friend’s wedding to attend that weekend.)

Anyway, I was delayed a bit at the start of my drive when I heard an ominous knock-knock-knock sound from my right front tire once I got above 60 MPH. I pulled over at the first opportunity to check the tire, and it looked fine, so I figured maybe something had gotten stuck on it for a bit and had fallen off before I stopped. But then the sound started up again. So I found the nearest auto shop and asked if they could take a look. I managed to talk them down from “We can pencil you in an hour and a half from now” to just coming out to the parking lot to see if there was even a problem. It turned out that the mud flap sort of thingie in front of the tire had come loose from its anchor and was being blown into the tire by the wind at highway speeds. The clerk and I (mostly him) managed to patch it using a roll of “gorilla tape” I keep in the glove compartment, and although I’m pretty sure I tore the tape on the curb at the next rest stop, the sound didn’t recur for the rest of my trip. Maybe the tape covered a hole or altered the weight distribution just enough to change the flap’s aerodynamics. Anyway, it was a relief that the problem turned out to be inconsequential. And the auto shop guy didn’t even charge me, so I’m very grateful for his help.

So after 12 hours on the road and a decent night’s sleep in my cousins’ guest room, my first stop on Friday was the retirement home where Aunt Shirley and Uncle Harry just moved, about a 20-minute drive from my cousins’ place. It’s a nice facility, strikingly similar in architecture and layout to the home my father lived in all too briefly, and they seem to be content there. They treated me to lunch, and I had a pretty good chicken salad sandwich. Then I set off from there to the convention. This time I had the sense to leave most of my luggage in the trunk until after I checked into my room, and fortunately my room was close to where I parked, so I didn’t have to lug it very far. Eventually I wandered out to the dealers’ area and ran into fellow Trek author and Only Superhuman editor Greg Cox, who’s usually the first person I run into at Shore Leave, and usually in the dealers’ area. (I walked right by him at first, then recognized his distinctive voice behind me while he was conversing with someone else.) We stood and talked for a while, but I was still pretty exhausted and hungry, so eventually we adjourned to the hotel cafe, where I got a sandwich and juice that I was charged exorbitantly for. We encountered a few other people while there and talked shop and the like.

I didn’t have any panels Friday, but I sat in on Greg and Marco Palmieri’s upcoming Tor Books panel (along with new Tor editor Jennifer Gunnels, who has a theater background, so they let her do most of the talking), then went on to the Meet the Pros autographing event. This time I brought copies of my old books to sell at my table, but the only ones I sold were three copies of DTI: Forgotten History. Still, I met a lot of fans and signed a lot of books.

Since I resolved not to spend hotel prices on food anymore, I just had coffee, a cereal bar, and an apple for breakfast, then walked over to the shopping mall nearby to get a sandwich from the Wegman’s grocery store’s deli. Luckily, I happened to have a refrigerator in my hotel room this year (they usually remove them for some reason, but this year was an exception), so I was able to save half the sandwich to eat on Sunday. I was really trying to economize as much as possible this trip.

Saturday was my big panel day. “Kick-ass Women Heroes” was a fun discussion, although there was one point I wished we’d covered more. We talked at one point about how both male and female comics characters tend to be stylized with male gaze in mind — female characters are sexualized, scantily clad, and objectified, while male characters are overmuscled, body-armored tough guys catering to male power fantasies. I asked the female panelists what a male character drawn for female gaze would look like, and the answers boiled down basically to “Chris Hemsworth” and romance-novel cover models. But the question I didn’t get to follow up on is that, if female gaze still favors big, muscular men, what differentiates them from the male gaze-oriented power-fantasy he-men of the comics? Is it the degree of exaggeration? Their wardrobe (functional vs. revealing)? Their attitude and body language? (I welcome replies in the comments from female readers.)

The “Superhero TV Scorecard” panel let us discuss a range of different points of view, because I started off gushing about how awesome Supergirl is and then another panelist insisted he found it unwatchable. Although the panelists and audience members were pretty civil about such differences of taste. The “World-Building” panel had fewer members on it than I expected — Peter David must’ve cancelled, and indeed I don’t think we encountered each other at all this year. Anyway, it was a nice discussion of the process of developing settings for fiction, gaming, and such, and I think moderator Stephen Kozeniewski did a very deft job directing the conversation and handling the audience’s questions. Then came the crowded “Star Trek at 50” panel, where we talked about our love for the franchise and our Trek memories, and fortunately managed to keep the conversation from getting sidetracked by the negativity about new stuff that often gets injected into Trek conversations by some fans. Although that can be a good opportunity to be informative. When someone questioned the idea of having to pay a monthly fee to watch the upcoming new Trek TV series on CBS All Access (which we’ve since learned will be called Star Trek: Discovery), the panelists were able to explain that the fee was for the entire streaming service and its dozens of old and current shows, and that you could just join for a month and binge-watch the whole series after it’s all out, or that you could wait for it to come out on home video a few months later. And I reminded folks that Star Trek has been used as the anchor of new broadcasting outlets before — Phase II was going to launch a Paramount-run “fourth network” before that fell through and the project evolved into Star Trek: The Motion Picture, ST:TNG was the first prime-time drama in first-run syndication and the beginning of a decade-long explosion of first-run syndicated dramas, and Voyager was the anchor show for the UPN network. Star Trek has always been about seeking out and embracing the new, after all.

Unfortunately, there was no opportunity to reschedule the “Upcoming Star Trek Books” panel, so it was still opposite the panel about the Smithsonian’s Enterprise restoration. We still got a decent-sized audience, though. All of my panels on Saturday were well-attended this year, without any cases of the panelists outnumbering the audience. I honestly don’t remember much about the panel, and I didn’t have anything new to announce that I haven’t already revealed, since the contracts haven’t gone through yet. I do remember it was interesting to have Scott Pearson on the panel, since he’s been copyediting a lot of our books lately (including the anniversary trilogy that Greg Cox, David Mack, and Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore collaborated on) and it was interesting to get that perspective. Scott recently handled the copyedits on The Face of the Unknown for me, and I think he did a terrific job.

Saturday night featured the usual group outing to Andy Nelson’s BBQ for dinner, and I had my usual pulled turkey sandwich with cornbread and cole slaw on the side. I have the same thing every year because I only have it once a year; if I could dine there more often, I might try something different. Unfortunately, I’d had a bit too big a snack that afternoon, so I was pretty darn stuffed by the end of dinner. We usually eat outside, but it was too humid, so we reserved the large dining room for the group. It was my only big meal of the con, since I skipped the Sunday author breakfast; it’s just gotten too expensive, and this year I was trying to cut my expenses as much as possible. (As it turns out, the freshly made sandwich, two sides, and iced tea I got at Andy Nelson’s cost exactly the same amount as the boxed sandwich and small bottle of orange juice that I got at the hotel cafe the previous evening.)

Sunday was pretty relaxed; my only panel was a small one about e-books and how electronic publishing is changing the business. This time it seemed the panelists may have outnumbered the audience, but since we were all sitting around the same table, it was hard to tell which group was bigger. Sunday was a good day for talking business with other writers, and I did get some promising hints of future possibilities, although one prospect I was hoping to pursue did not pan out. I also spent my requisite hour in the “author chimney” at the bookstore table, signing books for passersby. They let me put out some of my own books to sell, and I finally moved a single copy of Only Superhuman, as well as selling a number of my books in their stock. I learned too late that I could’ve let them sell my books on consignment over the whole weekend and split the money with me.

I was hoping to get to talk to a few of the actor guests, but I was only partially successful. I did talk to Zoie Palmer a bit about Lost Girl and Dark Matter, and that was nice. And I talked a bit to Anthony Montgomery about what I’d done with his character in my Enterprise novels, but I think my timing was bad and he had other things on his mind. I also briefly exchanged hellos with John Noble as we passed in the hallway, but that was about it. I never caught a glimpse of Karen Gillan, whom I would’ve liked to meet.

After the con, I drove back to Barb and Mark’s, and we picked up Shirley and Harry and went to have dinner at the home of Charles, a family friend who’s an excellent cook. When I was helping to get stuff out of the car, I fumbled a bag of squash, bent down to pick up one I’d dropped, and keeled over onto the pavement. I had to sit there for a while to gather myself. I realized that the only things I’d eaten that day had been another bare-bones breakfast of coffee, fruit, and a cereal bar, a half-sandwich and more snacks for lunch, and a single tiny cheese snack when I set out for my drive. My blood sugar must’ve been critically low. So once I made my wobbly way inside, the folks got me some water and nachos to rehydrate while we waited for dinner. It’s a good thing I had such an appetite, since dinner was substantial. It was mostly stuff I’d never had before, with an Indian theme, including curried chicken, jasmine rice, spinach with tofu (substituting for an Indian spinach-and-cheese dish, I think) and lentils (which I couldn’t visually distinguish from corn, though their taste and texture were very different), as well as some of the squash we brought. I was hesitant about the curried chicken, since I’d gathered Indian food was very spicy, but this was quite mild. And when I tentatively sampled it, I not only liked it but found it inexplicably familiar. It took me a while to realize what it reminded me of: amazingly enough, Cincinnati chili. It was probably due to the cinnamon and cumin. Anyway, it’s good to know that Indian food is something I might enjoy after all.

The highlight for me on Monday was my trip to the Air and Space Museum to see the restored Enterprise. Here she is:

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By the way, that isn’t my hand in the photo.

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And here’s a video I took, from my Facebook author page:

I was disappointed that I couldn’t get anyone to go with me (so there are no photos of me with the ship this time). Anyway, it was an amazing experience. It just looks so right now, and seeing it with the lights on was amazing. The restorers did a fantastic job. Seeing this object on TV for the first time as a child sparked my curiosity and started me on the path that has shaped my whole life, so getting to stand before it and see it restored to its original glory was like completing a pilgrimage. It was amazing. Maybe it was better to be there by myself, just me and my feelings about the ship.

I also enjoyed wandering around the rest of the museum — at least until I got hungry and had to go out into the Mall to have the peanut butter sandwich I’d brought — and geeking out over all the science and exploration stuff. I may do another, more photo-intensive post about it later. I also dropped by the American Museum of Natural History after lunch, but I was still too worn out to enjoy it fully (and I didn’t take pictures there). I found it odd that they included exhibits on African and Korean art and culture in a natural history museum, which is generally more about animals and plants and, well, nature. Wouldn’t something like the National Gallery have been a better place for the cultural exhibits?

Anyway, we dined with Shirley and Harry again Monday night, and I ordered a vegetarian “gyro” (which turned out to be a black-bean patty between slices of flatbread, with tzatziki sauce) and potato wedges, which turned out to be redundant since the sandwich came with chips. So I saved the chips in a takeout box to have on my trip home.

Said trip commenced Tuesday morning — not too early, since I was planning to take it in two days this time, and since I wanted to avoid rush hour on the Beltway. I briefly considered trying to make it in one day, but I wisely recognized that I was just too tired for that and shouldn’t push myself. Plus, the first day was kind of frustrating, since my phone GPS was acting up. It kept forgetting what route I’d selected and trying to redirect me toward its default route — and later, once I’d managed to convince it that I was going to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, for some reason it kept wanting me to detour through Pittsburgh instead of going straight through Wheeling to Columbus. At one point, just after I’d left the Turnpike on Tuesday afternoon, it dinged an alarm tone and told me to take the next exit. I blindly followed its instructions, thinking maybe it was an emergency detour around an accident, but I soon realized it was turning me around, trying to make me go back to the Turnpike and follow it to Pittsburgh!! Why, why, why??? By the time I realized that, it was too late, and I had no choice but to go backward a few miles and then use the next exit to loop back around to the westbound interstate. And I resolved not to blindly trust anything the GPS told me from then on.

So I ended up spending the night at a motel in Eastern PA, one I’d stayed in before on a previous trip (selected for because it was in the book of motel coupons I’d picked up at a rest stop), and then set out again Wednesday morning for a mercifully uneventful trip back home. I had a cup of rest-stop coffee late in the drive, so I was atypically alert when I got home and actually had the energy to unpack most of my bags pretty much right away. Although it’s taken me another few days to get rested enough to write and edit this post.

Anyway, it turns out that my economizing worked fairly well, but not as well as I’d hoped. I made enough money at the convention and saved enough on food and boarding that I’m only in the red by less than 70 dollars. Indeed, if I’d been able to make it all the way home on Tuesday rather than staying in a motel, I would’ve come out a few dollars ahead. Still, it was a mistake to try to save money by relying on snacks instead of decent meals. Both interstate driving and convention-going take a lot out of a person. Here it is a week later and I’m still not fully recovered. Still, it was worth it. It was a hell of a trip.

My Shore Leave 38 schedule

The final schedule for Shore Leave 38 has gone online:

http://www.shore-leave.com/programming/schedule.htm

Here are the appearances and panels I have scheduled, assuming I survive what looks like a rainy drive tomorrow:

FRIDAY 7/15

Meet the Pros — 10 PM to Midnight, Hunt/Valley Corridor

The usual mass signing event. For a change this year, I intend to have copies of Only Superhuman and assorted Trek paperbacks for sale. I’m now equipped to take credit cards as well — I find I seem to be selling more books now that I have that option, so I though it would be worth mentioning.

SATURDAY 7/16

Kick-ass Women Heroes — Noon, Salon A

Pretty self-explanatory. Also with Rigel Ailur, Joshua Palmatier, T.J. Perkins, Greg Cox, Mary Fan, and Jo Graham.

Superhero TV Scorecard — 1 PM, Salon A

The writer guests geek out about, well, superhero TV. Also with Russ Colchamiro, Michael Jan Friedman, Dave Galanter, Susanna Reilly, and Daniel Patrick Corcoran.

World-Building — 2 PM, Chase Ballroom

Discussing one of my favorite subjects with Stephen Kozeniewski, Richard C. White, Michael Jan Friedman, Mary-
Louise Davie, Kelly Meding, Jim Johnson, and Peter David.

Star Trek at 50 — 3 PM, Salon A

Not to be confused with the “Star Trek: The Big 5-0” panel at 10 AM in the same room. That’s the fan-track anniversary panel, while this is the author track one (so you’d think we could’ve come up with a more distinctive name). I’ll be there with Robert Greenberger, Dave Galanter, Howard Weinstein, Paula M. Block, and Larry Nemecek, and I imagine some other folks will show up as well.

Upcoming Star Trek Books — 5 PM, Salon A

Discussing next year’s schedule with Greg Cox, Dayton Ward, David Mack, and Scott Pearson. Sadly, this is on at the same time as the “Air and Space Museum’s Enterprise Project” panel that I was dying to see.

SUNDAY 7/17

Original e-Books/e-Novellas — Noon, Concierge Lounge

Discussing original-to-electronic work with Jim Johnson, Terry J. Erdmann, Paula M. Block, Richard C. White, Steve Wilson, and Jo Graham.

So basically I’ll be in Salon A a lot on Saturday, with a lighter schedule on the other two days.