Readercon Next Week
I hate flying. I'm overweight. Seat are narrow. I can't cross my legs without kicking the person next to me. Luckily, the person next to me this time will be Bob. I can kick him--we're married. Of course, he gets to kick me back.
Most of my fandom/prodom experiences are East Coast fandom/prodom. This isn't to say I don't know people from the West Coast. Some of my favorite people are west of the Mississippi River. But most of my travel has been east. So there are a ton of people I'm looking forward to seeing at Readercon. John Kessel, Jim Kelly, Ellen Datlow, Greg Feeley. I used to live three houses down from Lucius Shepard when we both lived in Staten Island--although I was just an unpublished kid and he was writing Life During Wartime. Paul Park, Alexander Jablokov, Paolo Bacigalupi, and Cat Valente. I hope to meet Jim Cambias, who I've worked with but never actually met. I hope to meet Nathan Ballingrud, whose story, "You Go Where It Takes You" so impressed me years ago when I was judging the Fountain Award. And of course, Link & Grant.
And then there are the jet setting westerners I also love to spend time with. Karen Fowler (who might be busy this time around.) Ted Chiang, Nina Kiriki Hoffman.
The problem is there isn't enough time and there aren't enough meals. Conventions are a weird way of maintaining friendships. Half a conversation here, a panel there (I know I'll see Alex Jablakov because we're on a panel together. I'm hoping he has kid pictures.) It's an absurd system, really.
I'm reading a new story. I had originally planned to read it at Wiscon, but the plane was delayed. It's called "The Lost Boy: A Reporter at Large." It's an expository lump occasionally interrupted by narrative. Exposition isn't so bad. If it was, we wouldn't read non-fiction. It's just that bad exposition is bad. It's going to be in an anthology called Eclipse, edited by Jonathan Strahan and published by Nightshade Books.
It opens like this:
On June 13, 2014, Simon Weiss came into the mechanic’s shop where he worked in Brookneal, Virginia. He was a quiet kid in Carharts overalls. He had started working at Brookneal Goodyear two years before at 16. He was enrolled at the vocational school and living with a foster family. His auto mechanics teacher had found him the job after school. In the aftermath of the Baltimore attack, Brookneal had taken in more than its share of Baltimore homeless. Jim Dwyer, who owns Brookneal Goodyear, said that some of those people were problems. “A lot of those people were not used to working for a living,” Dwyer says. “They expected to go on in Brookneal pretty much the way they had in Baltimore. I guess a lot of them had drug problems and such.” But not Simon. He never missed work. He was always on time. Dwyer thought that work was the place Simon felt most comfortable. On Saturdays while he was still in high school, Simon arrived early in his lovingly maintained ’08 Honda Civic. He made coffee and read the funnies while waiting for everyone else to arrive. He looked up to Dwyer and had asked Dwyer advice about a girl. The girl hadn’t lasted. His foster parents were, in Dwyer’s words, “decent people” but they had two other foster kids, one of whom had leukemia from the effects of the dirty bomb.
On this hot summer Friday morning, two weeks after Simon’s graduation from high school, a couple came in at about 9:30 and asked to see Simon. There was something about them that made Dwyer watch closely when Simon came in from the back where he was doing an oil change. “When he came through that door,” Dwyer said, “his expression never changed. He thought it was something about a car, someone complaining or asking a question or something, you could tell. He had a kind of polite expression on his face. But there wasn’t a flash of recognition or anything. There was nothing.”
When the woman saw him she started sobbing. She called him William. He looked at Dwyer and then at her and said okay. She was his mother and she had been looking for him for five years.
“Why didn’t you try to find us?” she asked.
“I don’t remember,” Simon said. And then he walked back into the garage, to the Lexus he was doing the oil change on. Dwyer followed him back. Simon did not respond when Dwyer spoke to him. He stood there for a moment and then he started to cry. “I’m crazy,” he told Dwyer.