At the beginning it is hard to imagine the end. You’ve been looking forward to something for months. You can barely believe it has begun. How could you possibly even start to understand that it is going to end?
If I could have wrapped my head around it, I would have had a picture taken with S.M. Stirling, sitting on the plush Iron Throne on which he perched to read the first two chapters from the as-yet unpublished Emberverse book. All the same, it is the enjoyment of the moment that really matters, the memory of seeing him rush past the table where I was having a snack before his reading to get set up, of sitting in the front row and listening to him do all the accents of the characters who I have followed through 11 books.
He is a really good reader.
The next book brings in Japan.
He doesn’t seem to have any idea if or when the series if ever going to end. (I asked.) What he does know is that he is contracted for three more. What I know is that, despite having read 11 of the 12 published books in the series, the first thirty seconds of his reading contained a massive spoiler. It isn’t that I didn’t see it coming. It’s just that I didn’t know when it was going to happen. Whoops. I still wouldn’t change a thing. I am still going to read the next trilogy. Even though I am starting to get a bit frustrated with the scope of the story, with the weird chronology, with the cartoon-ishness of several characters and their relationships. I still wouldn’t change a thing.
It is hard to remember what else I did on that first day. (Read about day one at the World Fantasy Convention here.) I have notes, but to hell with notes. I attended a panel discussion about e-books, I dropped by the newbie table at the bar, and I scouted out the dealer’s room, purchasing the hard cover copy of Dies the Fire that I would have S.M. Stirling sign. I wandered and read the program and felt generally awed at how many fucking awesome things were about to happen. But first I had to meet up with my couchsurfing host. Because what is an epic adventure without a little drama, a little anxiety, a little waiting out in the rain?
The walk to her apartment took thirty minutes. My luggage was annoying–we had all been given about 15 books at registration and I had already bought several more in the dealers’ room and during my used book store tour of Brighton–but I was giddy. I was going to drop off my luggage, meet the awesome person I had been emailing for the past few weeks, and then go to a Patrick Rothfuss reading at the local Waterstones. I had just heard S.M. Stirling read! I had just sat next to Scott Lynch and Elizabeth Bear on the train! The world! My oyster! I arrived at the apartment. I rang the bell. And no one answered.
I sent text messages. I called. I sent an email. I left a facebook note. I rang the bell some more. When a neighbor showed up and let me into the building, I banged directly on the door, behind which lay only darkness and silence. I left a note. I knocked shyly, then desperately, then resignedly. I contemplated my options. How long should I wait? I knew I had her number right because I had received a text from her earlier, asking “Is this Nikki?” Were my texts getting through? And if they weren’t, why wasn’t she home when we’d agreed to meet? Worst couchsurfing nightmare. Worst couchsurfing sin. I imagined her saying “ah fuck it,” and skipping off to get drunk with the rest of the costumed hordes roaming the city streets (Happy Halloween!). I despaired. I contemplated sleeping in the hallway. She would have to come back eventually, wouldn’t she? Was this even the right place? The mail in the hallway with her name on it said it was. I waited for an hour. She did not appear. I took a deep breath, thought, “well then, punk rock it is,” and I dragged my suitcase to the bus. I could figure out my sleeping situation later. I had a reading to attend.
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