Yesterday was graduation for the Clarion West class of 2011. Leslie Howle conducted a simple ceremony in which (to a CD of "Pomp and Circumstance") each student received: (1)from Leslie, a certificate of achievement, (2) from Charlie Stross, a poster signed by all six Clarion instructors, and (3) from me, the Clarion Secret Decoder Ring. This flashes blue light at steady intervals and with enough disconcerting brightness to induce epileptic fits in the susceptible. Students had already received their tee-shirts, the back emblazoned with memorable lines from critique sessions. Then there was cake:
In the evening the last Clarion party was held, at Eileen Gunn's. Students wandered around with their rings flashing like so many electronic fireflies. Somewhere across town George R.R. Martin was giving a reading, but for Seattle SF, Eileen's was the place to be. I sat in the cool evening on the front steps with a small knot of people lamenting the state of publishing. Or maybe just our publishing. Or not. There was wine involved.
Clarion is sometimes a traumatic experience, after it's over. Some students are unable to write for months afterward, until they process all the (sometimes contradictory) advice they've received. This group, however, seemed eager to keep on writing. Today they fly home to D.C. and Canada and the Netherlands and Australia, ready to become the next generation of George Martins in our unpredictable genre.