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Worn Out in the Big City

Just got downtown here in Chicago for the World Science Fiction Convention, Chicon 7. I have a nice room on an upper floor of a good hotel, and pointedly not at the Hyatt, the main convention location. That was deliberate. I like peace and quiet, especially when I try to sleep, and I’ve been to enough Worldcons to know that I’m peculiar in that regard.

Ok, sure, I’m peculiar in a lot of other regards too. But for the next couple of days, that’s the big one.

Crowds have always made me uneasy. This was true even 35-odd years ago when I worked downtown just a few blocks south of here. I was in and out of office buildings all day, fixing Xerox machines, so I was down there on the sidewalks flowing with the trudging masses more than most people do on any given day. After that there was the ride home on the El, packed like bits in a Zip file. I didn’t find it exhilarating. I found it exhausting. I never knew just how exhausting until I bought a very Cleaver-ish white house in a tidy, quiet Rochester NY picket-fence suburb. Carol and I could sit on our patio on temperate days and have supper without hearing anything but birds, lawnmowers, and the occasional truck on Monroe Avenue. Our biggest challenge was keeping Mr. Byte from raiding the strawberry patch when we weren’t looking.

As my friends know, I am not shy and retiring in the least. I’ve given many speeches and seminars to large-ish audiences, including one that must have been close to a thousand people. I even did standup comedy once, though I did have some help and a very workable crowd.

I’ve never been stepped on at a soccer riot, nor squeezed in front of a stage at a rock concert. I can only conclude that a preference for quiet living is genetic. I wonder if it’s maybe yet another survival-selected holdover from my cave-dwelling ancestors, who knew in their guts that when too many Neanderthals hung out in the same place, skulls got bashed and the hunting got thin.

So in a few minutes I’ll throw this thing in the room safe and thread my way down into the pandemonium that is a Worldcon. I have people to see that I don’t see very often, books to buy (and sign; I’ll be at the ISFiC Press table at some point) and a meeting with an editor who has expressed interest in Ten Gentle Opportunities. As always it will be a cortisol thrill-ride, and tonight I will gladly vanish back up here and leave the all-night partying to those better adapted than I.

More as it happens.


  1. Enjoy! I wish I could be there – travel to Chicago twice in a few months is beyond the current budget, and we’re going back to Niles in December for my grandmother’s 95th birthday.

    While you’re there – and I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this before, or if you already know – but I’d have to say that you should stick your head in on anything Seanan McGuire is attending. She’s fast becoming one of my favorite authors – and my 12-yr-old son’s favorite as well, though I don’t know if that says more about her, me, or him. 😉 She is an amazing woman, and I’ll be shocked if you don’t wind up liking her if you have a chance to meet her. (I’ve been following her blog on LJ since before she was published.)

    Hope you have a great time; can’t wait to read the reports from the front lines of WorldCon!

  2. […] if I were walking above the river or wading through it. The con went very well, considering my aversion to crowds. I got to see a lot of people I don’t see very much, granted that I missed a few. I heard […]

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