Worldcon is running multiple critique sessions to allow aspiring writers to work with pros, and John Pitts and I ran one such group this morning. Each of our three critquees had submitted 10,000 words of a novel, which John and I received by email last week, and each now received feedback and suggestions from us and each other. The bar for success at these things can be very low -- nobody cries, stalks out, or rages -- but in fact all three writers were open to criticism and suggestions, and it was a pleasant two hours.
Next came a panel on "What Makes a Good Story." This was packed, with attendees sitting on the floor and taking notes as Scott Edelman led us panelists through the "transition moments" that had changed our careers and "raised them to the next level." Robert Silverberg said that his transition moment occurred when Cyril Kornbluth said it helped to do a second draft before selling a story. A very young Silverberg, who was already selling everything he wrote, said, "So I did, and it worked! The story got better!"
My second panel, in mid-afternoon, was "The Asimov Story," and editor Sheila Williams explained what she wants to see in terms of story (preferably character-driven), length (easiest to sell her under 8,000 words), and emotion (yes). Four of her stable of writers commented on her presentation. I said that I thought F&SF published darker stories than ASIMOV'S, such as Paolo Bacigalupi's "Yellow Card Man." Since it turned out that ASIMOV'S had published "Yellow Card Man," this comment was not very helpful. Connie Willis said she sends all her stories to Sheila because she's afraid of her if she doesn't.
In late afternoon there was held an informal memorial for Charles N. Brown. People gave toasts to Charlie as LOCUS editor, as opera lover, as gourmand, as friend. The toasts were moving and at times emotional. The small hotel room was packed; Gardner Dozois pointed out that if a meteor struck that room, science fiction wouldn't have left very many writers over, say, 50. Buttons were passed out: "Good Grief, Charlie Brown: 1937-2009". Here is Neil Gaiman giving an eloquent toast to Charlie:
The tone changed at dinner, which Jack Skillingstead and I had with Gardner Dozois, Susan Casper, Jane Jewel, and Peter Heck. The question came up of why male stars (in politics, writing, music) get more female groupies than women stars get male ones. This discussion became very raucous, helped by a lot of wine and beer. After it, Susan and I were done for the evening, but the rest of the group went to the SFWA suite, newly relocated on a party floor after being shut down in its original location. Too many of us, too loud, too long.
As always, Worldcon is a mix of SF discussion, business, and partying. I missed the masquerade, alas, but, then, for me Worldcon itself IS the masquerade.