Sunday, August 23, 2015

Meeting People at Sasquan

I went to the Nippon 2017 bid party on Wednesday night.  I wanted to see the 2017 selection go to Shizuoka, Japan.  
There was a lot of people there, which was encouraging.  After greeting the host at the door in Japanese, I went inside and walked around.  
I'm not very good at parties where I don't know anyone, I have to admit.  It takes me a while to get to know people or me to know them.  I wandered the rooms of the suite the party was being held in, listing to bits and pieces of conversation, then moving on.  
In one of the bedrooms, I found a pile of snacks on the dresser.  I watched as one guest after another picked up a package, looked at it, asked what it might be, then returned it to the pile.  After I while, I stepped up myself and picked up one of the snacks myself.
This was the name of the snack.  In English it's spelled, "Umai," and means "Delicious."  The flavor was written above Umai in katakana.  I had picked up "tako," or octopus flavor.
I knew enough above Japanese snacks to not be surprised at this, to an American palette, odd flavor.  I also found "Beef Tongue," "Veggie Salad," and "Natto," which is fermented soybean flavor.  "Pizza" and "Cheese" flavors were the most normal to American tastes. 
I opened the tako flavor.  What was inside was one large, tube-shaped, cracker or biscuit.  It was similar to a puffed Cheeto in consistency.  It tasked like takoyaki, cooked dough-balls stuffed with grilled octopus.  Not bad.  
"What's this?"  
Another of the English speaking guests grabbed a package of Umai! from the pile.  I stepped in and told them them the type of snack it was.  The flavor in their hand was the "Spicy Fish Roe" flavor.  
"Really?"  He was looking at me as if I was trying to make a joke.  
I assured him I was telling the truth.  I went through the other flavors there.  He ended up picking the "Grilled Chicken" flavor.  We chatted a bit while he tried it.  It became my unofficial duty for a time to translate the Umai packages for the curious guests.  I got to meet a number of people because of it.
WorldCon is about meeting people.  Yeah, it's about science fiction, what's being published, the various aspects about creating stories, the science behind them and the history of the genre.  But any convention is about meeting other people who are interested in the same field as you.  
The first person I met in Spokane was Shigenari-san.  He was on the same bus from the airport.  He was smiling at everything as he looked around.  He told me he was on the Nippon 2017 bid committee and gave me his card, which said he was also on the Hal-Con Convention committee, a science fiction convention in Japan that moves to a different city each year, similar to WorldCon.  He invited me to the Nippon 2017 bid party.  He also told me I should come out to attend Hal-Con next spring, which was being held in Shizuoka as well.
When I commented to Shigenari-san at the party on how much he smiled, he gave me this saying: 笑う門には福来る.  Good fortune will come to the home of those that smile. 
I met someone for the first time that I've known for years.  Russ is a member of the Anticipation online writing group that I'm no longer active in, even though I'm still officially a member.  I didn't meet him when the group was formed at the 2009 WorldCon when it was formed in Montreal, but I got to know him through exchanging stories and critiques over the years that followed.  We had lunch at a Japanese restaurant and talked about what we do for real work, writing, the people in the group and stuff like that.  Russ does not go to WorldCon very often because it often conflicts with the start of school (he's a professor of geology at a university in Minnesota.  He's creating an online course, Science for Science Fiction writers.  Pretty cool.  I hope he comes to WorldCon more often.  
There was a woman who moderated a panel on Science Fiction and Futurism.  She works for a consulting firm called Sci Futures.  Their clients are large corporations that are trying to determine trends and changing technologies in their field over the next 15 to 20 years out.  What makes them different from other consulting firms is that they take what they've researched and present it in a creative fashion, as in putting together a comic book, short film or short story, to illustrate the "ideal future" they believe their client should follow.  Her title on her business card is "Sr. Writer and Creative Futurist."  It's the first company I've heard of that has science fiction writers on staff.  Very interesting.  
Since I spend most of my time going to the panels focused on writing, I hear a lot of questions and comments from people who want to be writers but haven't gotten anything published yet.  I was struck by the number of comments I heard that were the equivalent of, "I want to write stories, but..." followed by any number of follow-ups in that blank.  But...  I think I need to learn more.  But...  I'm not sure how to finish what I'm working on.  But...  I don't know how to come up with ideas.  But...  I'm not good enough yet.  
Most of the time, I didn't say anything to them.  They were talking to someone else, a friend, another convention member they met at a panel, the panelist they'd come to listen to and ask questions of.  I wanted to say something, but didn't.  
The only person I did reply to was someone I met at one of parties.  The second Nippon 2017 bid party that took place on Wednesday night.  It was a young woman from China, who had "Kike" written on her name tag.  It was the name she was giving to the Americans she met who found her real name too difficult to pronounce.  She is a graduate student with a major in...  Science Fiction.  Very cool.  I might have majored in that had they had it at my school when I went there. 
I said to her when she told me she wanted to write, "but...", what I wanted to say to those other people I'd overheard.  That you should just start writing.  That the time will past whether you write or not, and if you start writing now you'll be that much better later on.  That writing is like riding a bike.  You don't get good at riding a bike by sitting there and studying it.  You get good by getting on and pedaling.  Sure, you'll suck at first, and maybe fall off a few times, but if you keep at it you might get somewhere some day.  
I think I said it pretty well.  Kike asked me for a hug before she left.  It was a pleasure to meet you too, Kike.  
The one disappointment at Sasquan has been the results of the 2017 site selection.  Helsinki won by a wide margin.  They were about 500 points behind the second place finisher, Washington DC.  Montreal came in third.  Shizuoka, Japan, my choice, was fourth.  Helsinki ended up with over ten times the number of points Shizuoka did.  Ouch.  
It was sad.  The Nippon 2017 both was abandoned when I walked by this morning.  I've seen none of the members of their site committee around the convention today, after being so very visible for the three days before.  I wonder if they might have packed up and gone home.  
That would be too bad.  But it does have me thinking that perhaps I should take my own advise that I gave to Kike.  I've been wanting to go again to Japan since returning from my first trip in 2007.  Having the convention return to that country ten years after my first trip seemed like a magical sort of thing, just like the first time when two long held desires, going to Japan and attending a full WorldCon, combined before me when I walked into the dealers' room at the 2006 convention that Saturday in Los Angeles.  
Maybe I should tell myself that one doesn't go to Japan by sitting down and thinking about it.  One goes there by going there.  
Shinegari-san told me that Hal-Con is going to being in Shizuoka in April next year.  They are trying to get some well-known American authors to attend.  
I might not be that well known, but he did invite me.  Anyone care to go with me to Shizuoka in the spring next year?  


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