Sunday, September 2, 2007



After being at home and sleeping in my own bed for three days (no chance for a hike, alas, after the three-week SANDWORMS OF DUNE tour), Rebecca and I flew off to Atlanta for DragonCon, the world's largest science fiction convention, with (reportedly) 61,000 attendees this year.

And it certainly felt like there were that many people! The three hotels -- Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott -- were all packed, with dealers rooms, bands, art shows, panels, "walk of fame" celebrities, autographs, readings, dances, banquets.

We got in on Thursday evening and checked into the hotel. Rebecca unpacked for us while I went off to pick up our badges and guest packets. I had invited a young man I've been mentoring (mainly hiking, helping him a little with writing) and his mother as our guests, and we arranged to get them their badges. We all met in the Marriott lobby (already crowded, and it was a full day before the festivities began), then went across the street to a local brewery restaurant, Max Lager's.

Max Lager's has a fond place in our hearts. Ten years ago, Brian Herbert and I were co-guests at DragonCon, where we launched HOUSE ATREIDES. Our editor Pat LoBrutto joined us for the convention, and one night we went to the brewery just as they were closing. We had started going over the manuscript for HOUSE HARKONNEN, page by page discussing ways to improve it; the manager of the restaurant was shutting down for the night, but he was also a big DUNE fan. When he realized what we were doing, he let us stay in one of the side rooms for several more hours while the workers cleaned up and shut everything down. Since that year, I've always made a point of going over there and bringing the manager, and the brewmaster JR, one of our books. This year JR recognized me right away and came over to chat for a while, then he took me back to the brewery tanks where I got a sneak preview of their super-hoppy new Imperial IPA, which wouldn't be released for another week. Delicious.

On Friday morning, the official start of the convention, we had breakfast with Cathy Bowden, who has run the Star Wars track for years; Rebecca and I have been guests since before JEDI SEARCH came out (in 1994). Rebecca presented a panel on young adult fiction after lunch that day, then we did a very busy signing in the Walk of Fame area. HarperCollins had shipped us 50 more t-shirts for LAST DAYS OF KRYPTON, and we gave out most of them at the autographing; we had a constant line for 90 minutes, when the hall was shutting down. That night we joined our "other" editor from Tor, Paul Stevens, along with editor Claire Eddy and new Tor author William Drinkard (forcoming novel next year, ELOM) for dinner in the hotel steak house. We spent the rest of the evening with other writers and DragonCon staff in the green room.

Saturday morning our niece Sarah drove in to join us for breakfast along with her husband Joe and daughter (our god-daughter) Maren. Sarah, Joe, and Maren have been coming to DragonCon for several years as our guests; the first year I think they were a little uncertain about the mobs of strangely garbed people, but now they have lots of fun. They went out to see the DragonCon parade through downtown Atlanta, while Rebecca and I had a book signing in the dealer's room. I joined my friend and short-story collaborator Mike Resnick for lunch, then gave a panel on Star Wars comics with fellow Star Wars author Mike Stackpole. Rebecca and I presented a workshop on "How to increase your writing productivity" for the writing track, in a packed room, where we also saw some of our students from previous Writers of the Future years. After we finished the Saturday evening awards banquet (at table with artist guest-of-honor Todd Lockwood, best known for his Dungeons and Dragon's work, and Manga editor and publisher Jake Tarbux, and fellow author AC Crispin), we went out for a drink with Terry Brooks and his wife Judine...where they offered us some very helpful tips on how to stay sane during book-signing tours.

Rebecca and I donated some items for the Star Wars charity auction the next morning -- a hardcover first edition of THE ILLUSTRATED STAR WARS UNIVERSE autographed by myself and artist Ralph McQuarrie, a baseball cap given to me by a member of the ILM effects crew for THE PHANTOM MENACE, and a character named after a winner in an upcoming novel -- which altogether raised $500 for diabetes research. Fellow Star Wars authors Timothy Zahn and Mike Stackpole also donated memorabilia for a very successful auction.

My last panel of the convention was a "spotlight" hour for me to talk about the DUNE novels as well as my other projects. We gave out the last of the KRYPTON t-shirts, and then we had to race back to the room, grab our suitcases (packed before breakfast), and catch the ride to the airport.

Now Rebecca's already asleep, crashed within hours of getting home, and I (foolishly) decided to check email "just for a minute." I need to catch up on my rest, too, before we fly off to Australia and New Zealand in three days.

-- KJA


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