I had a brief visit to Oxford last month and although I didn’t have a decent camera with me, got a handful of pictures that I was very happy with, with my phone. I haven’t “matted” them, but I’ve concluded if I wait to do that I’ll never post another Photo Friday again, because I’ve just got too many other things going on right now. (I need a Beautiful Assistant to do that kind of work for me. Plus a lot of other stuff. If only I was rich. :))
The University Church (apparently properly called St Mary’s, I am belatedly informed by a local), taken from the top of a bus. I love riding in the front upper seats of buses. :)
I believe this is
theTom Tower, as a friend of mine who knows the town identified it as something Tom-ish when I posted it on Twitter, and Google tells me that’s probably what it is. I am *exceedingly* pleased with this picture, which I feel has Artistic Merit despite being a crappy phone photo. :) (ETA: It’s just “Tom Tower,” I’m told; it’s the bell tower at the main entrance to Christ Church, on St Aldate’s. It is, to quote the above-mentioned local, Very Important and was designed by Sir Christopher Wren. :))
Just a random attractive street scene. Oxford is really extremely pretty. As it should be, since it’s had a thousand years to practice!
Radcliffe Square, Oxford. Again, REALLY happy with this phone panorama shot. Someday I’d love to go back to Oxford with a real camera!
Loncon was pretty amazing.
It was well-run, with the only really visible snafu being that they weren’t prepared for 3000 people to show up at 9am Thursday, imagining, instead, that they’d show up more gradually through the weekend. So Thursday there was a Very Long Line to pick up registration materials, but they handled it super well and kept it moving. A highlight was my friend Kate, after walking from one end of the very long convention centre concourse to the end where Loncon was taking place and then discovering the very long line to stand in, tweeting “Nobody told me I should bring a scooter to Loncon!”
Within seconds Loncon had responded with, “We have scooters. Do you need one? We can get one to you if you need one!”, leaving Kate to say, “No, no, I meant a kick scooter to vroom along with!” Indeed, I saw more than one person over the weekend who had one. :) But they were really on top of their social media and keeping good track of things like that. Kudos!
I will be here the rest of my life if I try to write out the con as I saw it in detail, so to keep it short, my panels all went pretty well (the moderator didn’t show up for one, causing me to take over, and it went–almost as if I’d prepared to be moderator. There were a couple things I failed to pursue that I hopefully would have if I’d actually prepared, but it went pretty well), and I got to meet a variety of people on them (Mur Lafferty! KELLEY FREAKING ARMSTRONG!!! Kate Nepveu!), which was lovely.
I got–perhaps because I was there 4 full days–to actually talk to *nearly* everyone I wanted to, often for a quite respectable amount of time. I caught up with a bunch of writers I’d met at previous Octocons (bless you, Irish fandom, for the access to and subsequent friendships with, so many absolutely fantastic and talented people). That was amazing, since most cons involve shouting, “We must have coffee!” at one another across a crowded room and then never seeing each other again.
I saw my former and current Del Rey editors (and also sat nearby and listened to Scott Lynch talk to said editor about the next Gentlemen Bastards books, all the while thinking, “There are hundreds of people at this con who would flay somebody to be sitting here listening to this,”), which was on both accounts absolutely lovely.
I also, *finally*, got to meet Ursula Vernon. I have known Ursula online for fifteen or more years (“We’ve known each other what, six or seven years?” she said, and I was like, “No, no, we’ve known each other this entire century, Urs,” and she was all WHERE DOES THE TIME GO!?!?!?!?!) and it was freaking. brilliant. to meet her. She’s just like herself. She was also barely inside the door when she saw someone in a Digger Kickstarter t-shirt and went up to the woman and said, “I like your t-shirt.” The woman said, “Oh thank youGLALGDLSIHSGHAGLHGFFFAAAAAH!”
It was awesome. *Lots* of people did things very similar upon realizing that That Was Ursula Vernon, and Ursula was bemused while I was amused. :)
(I did something like that myself, actually, to a woman two people ahead of me on the escalator. She turned to the lady between us and said something like “Are you CE Murphy?” (I have no idea why; I never saw the woman’s badge, so maybe she was a Murphy?) and the woman said, “No,” but happened to be glancing down at me as she said so, and finished, very smoothly, with, “But this is.” The first woman nearly fell off the escalator. :))
On a professional level I made a couple of contacts, one of which was a renewal of an acquaintance and which may prove very fruitful, so I’m so very, very glad I got to go.
On a personal level I GOT TO MEET KIM STANLEY ROBINSON OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG ahem and actually–didn’t quite hang out with him, per se, but on Saturday after a panel he remembered me (like, my actual name, not just CE, as it said on my badge) from his kaffeeklatch thing on Friday and invited me to walk downstairs with him for a brief chat and then Sunday I ran into him and happened to know where he wanted to go and he didn’t, so I walked him there and then let him go, but OMG, I actually got to like spend seven or twelve minutes really chatting with him, which was pretty well #diesofsquee.
Also Lawrence Watt-Evans recognized me (from Twitter) even after having just arrived at the con and being jet-lagged. #diesofsquee
Okay, who are we kidding, I had a lot of total fangirl moments this weekend. :) (Michelle Sagara introduced me to Tanya Huff. “Oh!” I said, delighted, “I love your books!” “And I love yours!” she said. They had to pick me up off the floor after that…)
Although actually I think the tip of the hat goes to Kate, who got to buy Brian Aldiss and his wife a cup of coffee and sit and have a chat with them on Sunday, and also had her picture in the Guardian. Twice! That’s pretty well out-of-this-world awesome. :) (She also said to me yesterday, “I was telling Cory Doctorow that my friend CE Murphy had gone to Kim Stanley Robinson’s climate change panel–” but I had to make her stop after the first ten words I had to make her stop and repeat that, because wut. I’m not sure I’d ever seen her quite so pleased with herself. :))
People I did not know came up to me and asked just how much fudge I was going to have to make. (The fundraiser is down to its last 5 days and 11 pounds of fudge now!) And, as it had been requested, I brought fudge, and was offering it to people. The best one of those (besides the marriage proposal) was when I offered Kate Elliott and my friend Camille a piece.
Kate said no thanks, she didn’t like fudge, and Camille (for whom I found & tweaked until satisfactory last year’s ginger-maple fudge) took one eagerly and said “She makes incredibly good fudge.” I said, “I do make incredibly good fudge,” very matter of factly, and Camille said, “See, she can’t even be modest about it because it’s so good,” and Kate said, “Okay, I have to at least try this,” and she took a piece and had a bite and said “Oh my GOD. That’s like a brownie and fudge mixed together. Oh my God. I don’t even like fudge and that’s good fudge.” So that was cool. :)
Um. There was one other really specific thing I wanted to mention and right now I can’t remember it at all, so I think I’ll go ahead and post this and call it good. (Especially as this is a 1200 word post, which, given it’s the *short* version of a con writeup, seems like possibly more than enough…)
Aer Lingus: Fail
My parents had Adventures in Airlines flying to America in October, and have been trying to resolve it since returning home. This is a repost of my Mom’s latest update on the situation:
I’ve been trying for a couple months to get a response from Aer Lingus regarding our trip to America in mid-October. Today I received a “donotreply” from them in which they cheerfully acknowledged that their agent screwed up, but essentially said, “Too bad.” My reaction is to write to the only source available to me, which is Facebook. So I sent the Aer Lingus page this missive:
Dear Facebook Aer Lingus:
I received a “donotreply” response from Aer Lingus moments ago, based on my reference number 242733. It seems Aer Lingus claims no responsibility for its agent’s error on our flight reservations in October. The issue was and is that when we arrived in good time for a flight from Dublin to Heathrow we were offered an earlier flight to Heathrow by an Aer Lingus agent. Innocent us, we accepted it.
However, the agent failed to remove our names from the manifest for the later flight on which we were originally booked. That resulted in our connecting flights – all of them, going and coming – being cancelled as we appeared as “no shows” on the originally scheduled flight. We were held in Heathrow while United Airlines tracked down the root of the issue. They put us on the flight from London to Dulles, but only after they determined that Aer Lingus erred. United’s agent, and her supervisor, said that it had happened several times and only with Aer Lingus flights.
When we arrived at Dulles, we were told our flight to Burlington VT was gone, and the United agent rescheduled us on a flight from Dulles to Newark and a flight to Burlington the next morning. As a room at the hotel that’s physically at Newark airport went for $324 per night, we, a couple of pensioners, spent the night in Newark terminal.
We had precisely the same kinds of issues trying to return home to Ireland. We weren’t on the manifest. We couldn’t print boarding passes. Once again United went to considerable lengths to arrange new passage so we could get home to Dublin.
Disregarding inconvenience, we are out the cost of a hotel room which we’d booked and paid for in Burlington but instead spent the night in Newark airport. The room in Burlington lay empty waiting for us. We are also out the cost of one day’s car rental in Burlington, and had to pay for a number of meals while we were languishing between flights.
Unless this problem is resolved, and I do not view “too bad, buster” as a resolution, we will be certain to tell everyone we know of Aer Lingus’ efforts to keep its customers happy. Or not.
Honestly, this is *not* something the airlines should be unable to resolve and reimburse, particularly since they’ve admitted they’re at fault.
First I had the Adventures in Airline Tickets, which I will not go into except to say I’ll be making an early-season batch of fudge to send off to people who, while admittedly doing nothing more than their job, did it with grace and humour and helped me immesurably.
Next I got safely into Fargo, where the con-runner (Tony) awaited me along with another of the guest’s handler (Holly). While we waited for my luggage, my friend E, whom I haven’t seen in nigh unto a decade and who was coming up for the weekend laid eyes on me and we attacked each other with what can only be called a roaring hug. Beneath our bellows of joy, I heard the handler Holly say to Tony, “Another guest?” to which Tony replied, befuddled, “No. It must be a friend.” :)
Unusually, many of the guests had arrived Thursday evening, and one of them, author Alan Dean Foster, is an inveterate traveller who had never been to Fargo before. He’d asked if there’d be any chance he could see some of the town, so Tony had arranged for any of the guests who wanted to, to have a drive around Fargo with one of the con volunteers and see the sights.
I’d already arranged for E to be my +1, so Friday morning we appeared in the lobby at the appointed time, where Holly, Alan, and Chase were hanging around with a tall, good-looking young man named Ben who reminded me enough of Skeet Ulrich that I spent a while staring at him convincing myself it couldn’t possibly be Skeet, who was a lot older than this kid, anyway. Then Chase invited him along, and I had this awful idea that he was a fan she couldn’t get rid of and she was too nice to just walk away, but he turned out to be somebody she’d met on the plane the night before and who was speaking at the convention.
It also turned out he’s a 26 year old paleogenomic scientist (studies the genetics of dead things) and the world’s foremost expert on passenger pigeons, which he’s working to bring back, so that was, uh, cool. (Holy shit, man!)
I asked if we could stop for doughnuts, because doughnuts are Not Right here in the Emerald Isle, so we did, and there was a doughnut there as big as your head, and… well… I bought it so we could take pictures with it being as big as our heads. :)
We actually had a *fantastically* good time going around doing touristy things. We went to the tourist centre and saw The Woodchipper from the film Fargo (and obligingly took pictures with it. And with the doughnut.), we went to see their Viking ship (where Chase, upon seeing the wooden statues of trolls with very Ferengi-like ears, immediately went over to fondle said ears (eta: this was apparently E’s idea, but Chase not only didn’t hesitate but totally hammed it up *laughs*)), we went to the *beautiful* art deco movie theatre to admire it, we went down to the park, and we went out to lunch at a local diner (our guide had intended to bring us for pizza, but she mentioned that to Alan, who said, “Why don’t you take us somewhere you like to go, instead?” and she was faintly embarrassed because it was just a diner, but local diners are *exactly* where you want to go in a town you don’t know!). It was a spectacularly good time, and particularly great because guests almost never get to spend any time together, nevermind actually hang out and goof around like that, so it was extra fun.
Alan has travelled all over the world and has a huge number of terrific stories; Ben was utterly fascinating—I mean, we could and did listen to him not only all day but also went to both his lectures in the evenings!—and Chase is an absolute sweetheart whose stories cannot be shared in public. I also got to meet—and not hang out nearly enough with—artist Chris Jones, who I really liked. Total win on the guests at ValleyCon!
There were a few things that weren’t so awesome: the hotel’s food was downright terrible and the restaurant service bad (I ordered a bowl of cereal the second morning because the first morning’s breakfast had been so slow in arriving; not only was the cereal equally slow but it was also *stale*, which, just, wow), and there was a casual air to the con’s organisation which left things lacking (like, for example, books of mine to sell, or name plackards, even printouts, at the tables we were available at during non-panel time), and I found their MC to be fairly appalling.
OTOH, the sets they’d put together were perfectly amazing, and the party rooms were great fun. I got a henna tattoo and hung out at Hogwarts (where I was mistaken for cosplaying Delores Umbrage: a young man came up to me and said “It makes me angry to just look you!” I was like, “…it does?” O.O He was *mortified* when he realised I wasn’t supposed to be Umbrage, and I felt terrible for him, because once I understood what he’d seen me as, it was a perfectly reasonable interpretation of my outfit, especially since I’d just come out of Hogwarts!), and listened to Ben’s lecture at Inara’s Shuttle, and eventually found the con suite where I had rice krispie treats. Nom nom nom. :)
Our Friday night writers’ panel was a lot of fun, and the few lucky people who turned up for my reading got the first two chapters of SHAMAN RISES. I enjoyed doing my “meet the writer” panel (although Alan’s was much better, he talked about his adventures whereas I mostly did a Q&A), and I got to meet several fans and family members of friends, and talk about writing and sort of everything. And and some of my own high school (and before, for that matter!) friends came in to visit, which was *wonderful*!
I didn’t get to meet the final guest, Zoie Palmer, until Sunday, but then it turned out she’s got an Irish connection *laughs*. Small world. So she comes over here often and hopefully next time she and her partner are in this neck of the woods we’ll be able to catch up and hang out, because they were also lovely people. I really felt tremendously lucky to have met such a lot of great people over the weekend, guests and attendees alike. It was all a very good time, and I’ll post pictures as soon as I get them off my phone… :)
many days at once
I had a rather good dream that had the bones of a MG/YA thing, in which there was a (difficult to access) window that led to another time period, and in which Amanda Palmer was the rather alarming Queen of Faerie. The sort you don’t mess with. I can’t, of course, remember any details, which makes me wonder once again if one could achieve dream recollection through hypnosis…
We arrived safely in America, after the excitement of discovering, the night before we left, that my US passport had expired five days previously. Fortunately, the nice US embassy man at Heathrow arranged to extend it through the 11th, and suggested I wait until I get back to Ireland to get a new one. :)
On the plane from Dublin to Heathrow, the man sitting next to me was reading
/Kate Elliott’s COLD STEEL, which made me squeal, “Kate is a friend of mine!” in pure giddy delight. :)
Then at WH Smith in Heathrow I saw a familiar face and gave a decisively friendly, “Hey, mate, how are you!” kind of nod before realising the face belonged to Martin Hayes, world famous fiddler, who presumably has absolutely no idea why I nodded at him like we were old friends. :)
I spent quite a while raking leaves yesterrday, and silently apologising to the trees for messing up their patterns, a peculiarity I have had most of my life and for which I blame Diane Duane. Those of you who know why will understand. :)
Let’s see. I’ve got a bunch of Recent Reads I should write up, but just in case I don’t let me like picoreview them here:
KING KHAN, by Harry Connolly: I think this is far and away the best of the Spirit of the Century novels I read. I thought Harry really nailed the outrageous leaps from one pulpy set piece to another, while putting together a story that could *only* work in pulp fiction. Also, the in-jokes and nods to various names and creations were just terrific, so my hat is off to Harry.
And since I’m mentioning him anyway, his Kickstarter has 6 days left and has just hit $35K. I have hopes of seeing it hit $40K, for the delight of seeing Harry’s head explode. Again. :)
THE DEAD GIRLS’ DANCE, Rachel Caine: I’m more than a little late to the Morganville Vampires books, what with there being like 15 of them out now, but they’re really entertaining YA urban fantasy. The lead is a precocious 16 year old who’s gone to college early, only to find the school she’s been accepted to is in the heart of a vampire-owned town. Things pretty well go to hell, and they’re fun reads.