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Lunacon@50 by The Lunarians
Review by Ernest Lilley
Lunarians Con  ISBN/ITEM#: 0703LUNA
Date: March 16-18, 2007

Links: Lunacon Website / SFRevu Flickr Gallery / Show Official Info /

I held onto the control wheel with a deft but firm grip as my silver craft sped through the treacherous miles. Tiny particles bombarded my craft's skin, testament to the hellish conditions outside my tiny speedster. As the hours went by the strain on both man and machine mounted. One slip and both could go spinning out of control, lost forever. Straining my senses to their limit, I tried to make out anything in my path through the darkness of the void. On I went, determined to complete my mission. I would return to Luna(con). After all, it was its fiftieth anniversary, and its first year back in the "Escher" Hilton. Would a little thing like a nine hour drive through sleet, snow and hail stop me?

(Lunacon*50 Book Cover by Dave Seeley)

Return to Lunacon

Eventually I did made my way from DC to Rye, New York, where Lunacon had just returned to the Rye Hilton. I pulled into a parking lot full of cars and ice. It had never quite managed to snow, but tiny ice cubes rained down until well after midnight leaving a layer several inches deep, but much denser than snow, which would have been several times as deep.

The "No-Flash" edict imposed by the Con Committee cast a soft light on the guests - LR: Andy Porter, Nuance Shaffer (Talk Nerdy To Her), GoH Chris Moore, David Mack (looking like something out of a Twilight Zone Episode), Post Masquerade Shoot (where flash was allowed...or at least not penalized).

Since the storm slowed me down considerably, by the time I arrived the "Meet The Pros" event was well under way and I circulated a bit chatting up friends and acquaintances. SFWA organizer Jane Jewel was talking to photo maven Sally Grotta, who's doing a series of writers portraits for her "Wordsmiths" project. Daniel Grotta, her guy, showed up shortly after as well. Dan's a Tolkien fan and authority, and was doing a panel later. The Grottas jointly write about digital photography for PC Magazine, and I frequently run into them at both consumer electronics conventions and SF ones. Great folks. Lee and Alexis Gilliland were there talking to former SF Chronicle editor Andy Porter, Jan Michael "Wombat" Finder was regaling friends with marsupial tales. There were a lot of late arrivals due to the weather, but it was respectably attended. Check the photo gallery (see Flickr link above) for shots from the event.

I had several heated discussions with the con committee, because they had decided to ban flash photography, and of course the hotel is softly lit for a subdued ambiance. Although it really does appear in the program as a con rule, there was only one other photographer that was aware of it. I'm pretty sure that they only told you if you had a "big" camera, ignoring the profusion of small point and shoots that kept going off as I walked around. I may just become a scofflaw, though in only a modest fashion.

The official hotel was booked solid, and the few weather cancellations were more than offset by the press of people who wanted to cancel out of the alternate hotel. If you've been to Lunacons in year's past, the return to the Rye Hilton is a welcome event. Yes, the café/restaurant only serves a truly bad dinner buffet during the con, and with the weather you're more or less doomed to it, but the parking is free, there are plenty of rooms for programming, and it's geometry is truly science fictional. The slope of the land and sequential construction have conspired to make one floor connect with another on (nearly) the same level, performing in real life (or at least fannish perception) the same feat that illustrator M.C. Escher had done in his drawings.

The hotel crew worked to free cars from the snow, but were over matched by the forces of nature and unable to do much more than plow cars in where they were parked. The snow/ice was so dense that it was easy to get your car stuck on top of the snow birm left by plows...and much fun was had by all.

Saturday In Space...

As I hadn't been sure I could make the con, I was grateful to the con committee for being able to add me in to a few panels. Nathan Lilly moderated "Space Cowboys" and I panned for treasure in the genre of space westerns for an enjoyable hour with Keith R.A. DeCandido and others. Nathan is kicking off a Space Cowboys website that I'm sure we'll be covering shortly in SFRevu. I also filled out the Hugo Review Panel, which has previously been a Lunacon staple, coming just before the nominations deadline, but this year came just after. John Hertz moderated, while, John J. Pierce, Ben Yalow, and I held forth on what was eligible and worth a closer look. Ben talked (at some length) about the rule changes which have made Best Editor two categories (long and short), and John Hertz kept us on time and mean feat.

There was plenty of excellent literary programming around, though I only dropped in on panels to see how things were going. I did manage to stir up a pro/anti Disney squabble in the Writing Fairy Tales panel, which I'd wandered into while looking for the Libraries in Fact and (Science) Fiction one room over. One comment I took away from the panel (Oh, was mine) was that updating fairy tales to fit modernity was all well and good, but much of the world lives in cultures in which the old tales still speak richly for, and while its fine for us to want new stories for ourselves, we should keep in mind that not everyone lives in the same fairy tale.

There was some sexy programming held late at night to liven things up a bit, including the "How to Get Laid at a Con" panel, billed as "Blunt advice for fen. Adults only." and "The New Cybersex -- Help or Hindrance?" which explored the realm of sex in Second Life, the popular virtual community...and now you know why. Actually, I was reminded of a line I read in an article about Second Life recently which said that "sex in Second Life wasn't arousing...but you kept going back to make sure." In fact, there was a plethora of programming, all of it excellent, and if you're organizing a con, the Lunacon Programming grid is well organized and an excellent place to steal ideas (or gather inspirations) from.

Sunday - Chris Moore Doesn't Do Readings

The GoH doesn't do readings, largely as I recall, because he says he just doesn't like the way they come out. He did do a panel on why he doesn't do readings to make up for it, and he did an interview, with Jim Freund, who hosts WBAI's Hour of the Wolf, which has to be the longest running show on radio about science fiction anywhere. He recorded the interview for a later show. I'll close out this con report with a few bits from the interview, with Jim's permission:

Jim: When did you start working on Practical Demon Keeping?

Chris: I came up with the idea about 1985...I guess...and the book was finished in 1990. It didn't take me five years to write it, it just took me five years to figure out how to make myself write it because discipline was always a big problem. I was in my twenties then and spent pretty much all of my twenties drunk. It turned out that was part of the problem. Who would have thought?

JF: You say it sold almost immediately. How difficult a book was it to sell, as you were a first time writer at that point.

CM: Because it was not traditional, and it didn't fit into a genre very easily, it wasn't an easy sell for my agent. I was fortunate enough to have an agent at that point, and it wasn't a slam dunk. It sold in Europe before it sold in the US, and finally it was picked up by St. Martins, an quite honestly I owe an homage to Tom Robbins and Kurt Vonnegut because I know that the people who bought it said, "We don't know what this is, but Tom Robbins and Kurt Vonnegut do goofy stuff, and they do ok." And that was the rational for them spending the money to buy the book.

JF: Coyote Blue. Where did that come from?

CM: When I was researching Practical Demon Keeping, and we were still using books in those days, I kept seeing a reference, "see Trickster" under demons. So to avoid writing, I'd go, "Oh yeah, I'll see Trickster. I started to realize that there were all these different gods in different cultures as avatars of irony. They existed simply to goof on people, and to visit that sort of bite you in the ass irony not rhetorical irony on humans. So I thought that's certainly timely, so what if I brought one of these tricksters into the modern world. And by a sort of reduction I thought, native American trickster, and Coyote is the one that's most prevalent in the different tribes so I started looking for Indians and I wrote, through a series of mishaps, I'd have to say the actions of Coyote medicine, I ended up studying the crow and living in a Crow reservation for a month. And sort of seeing how modern Native American's live. And they have a saying for this, which is that there are Indians and there are Crow. They see themselves as distinct, unless it furthers their interest to be part of the Native American community. But it's understandable too. They were all enemies with everyone else in that area and they were wildly outnumbered by the Lakota and the Blackfoot and the Pawnee and all these different tribes.

So when the French discovered them and wrote home, they said, "We're not even going to tell you about these guys, because by the time you get here they'll have been wiped out." So the Crow have this very sort of in your face attitude toward the world, and that famous quote from Custer's scout was from a Crow Indian, who said, "There's twelve thousand Cheyenne and Sioux in this next valley", and Custer responded, "There's not that many Indians in the entire world." To which the Crow answered, "It's a good day to die."

So they were perfect for bringing Coyote back into the modern world on. So the rest of the book is taking a guy who's pretending not to be Crow, and having Coyote jump into his life and bite him in the ass and make him realize who he really is. And that took me to Montana for a number of month's researching, and then all the reading inherent in that. It was the first time that I had to write physical comedy, because the problem with Native American Tricksters is they don't tend to be that eloquent, their humor tends to come from very physical means so I had to learn how to do that. I wasn't sure it could be done, so it was quite a bit of work to figure that out. An it turned out I was reading guys who wrote cowboy novels, because they were really good at it, guys like Louis L'Amour who could describe action like nobody's business because he'd written four hundred books with nothing but gunfights in them. So he really had a way of moving people around on a page physically. So strangely enough, because I never read Westerns, he was really a big help in learning how to write physical humor.

(Chris Moore's current book is: You Suck: A Love Story which we reviewed in our Jan '07 issue)

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