The bus left Mount Pleasant at 7:40 p.m. Friday, and - after a change in Dallas - I got to Austin at 2:40 a.m. A short cab trip to the hotel ($4.25 - I'm not sure the cabby was happy about such a small fare) and I woke my room mate Keith West up. My first panel wasn't until 11 a.m., so I had time for some sleep. We caught breakfast in the hotel.
The first panel was "Using Softer Sciences in Genre Fiction", with Steve Utley as moderator. It seemed to go well, and was a good opportunity to visit with Steve, who I saw for the last and first time as last year's con.
I thought the panel at 1 p.m. on "Short Fiction" was very helpful to the audience. Don Webb, Carrie Richerson, Alexis Glynn Latner, J.K. Cheney, Mikal Trimm and I all had useful insights and stories to tell.
The panel at 4 p.m. on "Texas" was, I think, a highlight of the convention. Given the subject, Joe Lansdale was the right guy to moderate it. Elizabeth Moon, Scott Cupp and Neal Barrett all had interesting stories to tell - Howard was a bit subdued, I thought. Joe pointed out that some Texas writers are really Yankee transplants, but I pointed out that us transplants are a big part of Texas now, also, and I matched his grandparents coming across the prairie in a covered wagon with my chugging along I-30 in a '74 Gremlin back in 1985.
I had promised Howard I would buy him dinner for writing the intro for my book, and we had a bunch of us go to Fuddruckers at 6 (it was within walking distance); me, Howard, Keith, K.D. Wentworth and Doug Potter. Howard seemed to be in good health - so much better than the same time as last year - and he really seemed to enjoy himself; a number of people commented on how happy he seemed at Fuddruckers.
My reading was at 8:30, and I had three amigos - Bill Ledbetter, Adrian Simmons and Tam Thompson - there In my rush to leave town I had forgotten to run off an unpublished story, so I read "The Cast Iron Dybbuk" from ASIM No. 19. Everyone seemed to enjoy it.
Afterwards, I caught the last half of the "Fireside Chat", which featured - among others - James P. Hogan and Howard. Hogan told a joke that struck me so funny I laughed until I fell out of my chair.
Hogan chaired my final panel of the day, "Is Hard Science Fiction Getting Harder to Write". By 10 p.m. the panelists were beginning to fade, but I think we did well by the hard core fans who were there. Adrian Simmons was on this panel with me.
Sunday I didn't have any panels. Went to lunch at a nearby Chinese restaurant with my younger brother, who lives in Austin. That afternoon a student from A&M buttonholed me about being a panelist at AggieCon. I had gone in 2005 and 2006. Unfortunately, it will be a week before ConDFW. I told him to send me a formal invite and I will weigh my options. I sat at the autograph table in the dealers' room from 2:30 to 3:00 and watched people packing up. It will be nice in the future after "Fantastic Texas" comes out for me to actually have a book to sign.
Keith and I watched Howard read his story from the "Dying Earth" anthology, "Frogskin Cap" at the con's conclusion, and we were on the road by 4:30. We rolled into Commerce about 10:30 and I got home about 11:45.