That Right Turn at Albuquerque

It was my great honor to be invited to Bubonicon as their Art Guest of Honor, along with Author Guests of Honor Rachel Caine and David Gerrold, and Joe Lansdale as Toastmaster. If I could travel back in time and tell my sixth-grade-self that I would someday see my name next to Gerrold’s (author of childhood favorite Star Trek episode, The Trouble with Tribbles) I wouldn’t have believed it. And to see our names on a shirt I’d drawn? Truly unbelievable.

Shirt1The flight to Albuquerque was swift – and we admired their tiny (but open and spacious) airport. After checking in to the hotel, we set out on foot seeking a new black shirt (my last was sacrificed to Garnet of the Crystal Gems). We chose among the adjacent 3 malls, and found ourselves in a windowless maze of merchandise – astonished by the incursions nerd culture has made into stores like Hot Topic (Venetia only wished it had happened when she was a teen). We helped a color-blind man pick out a new business shirt in Macy’s and the whole dressing room joined in advising us about the neighborhood and making us feel welcome.

On our way back through the concrete desert (where no one else walks), Venetia dropped her phone. The screen shattered, but all was not lost – for there, across the street, was an Apple Store. We took advantage of our AppleCare+, dropped off her phone and headed to dinner.  Garduño’s made for a delicious welcome, and the sweet corn treat that came with Venetia’s dinner was especially toothsome. After dinner we retrieved her phone – good as new.

Everyone we encountered in Albuquerque was so sweet and friendly – from the workers in the mall to the employees at Trader Joe’s (who gave us the beautiful New Mexico bag we’ve used throughout our trip). After our adventures in retail, we decided the most sensible thing we could do was to binge watch the entire last season of ‘Game of Thrones’. After all, Bubonicon is Santa Fe author George R. R. Martin‘s “home” convention, and we feared accidental spoilers.

We spent most of the next day luxuriating in our hotel room, devouring episode after episode. It was glorious. After a brief break to meet with Caci (one of the convention chairs), and tour of the facility, we returned to find that our room had a new occupant! Venetia’s scream was thankfully less than ear-piercing.

RatThat evening we drove north with Caci and her husband to Patricia Roger’s house for a chili dinner. There we met my longtime Facebook pal Serge Broom and many of the other convention committee members and volunteers. Pat gave us the tour of her wonderfully eccentric houseful of delicious objects (toy robots, faience hippos, and signed photos of so many favorites). Tales were told, and much delicious food eaten. Before we left she presented us with a small podium for displaying books. It would be the first of many delightful acquisitions (the giant skeletal rat not withstanding).

Friday was the first proper day of Bubonicon. But before the show began it was time to take the lay of the land. Geneva Schult drove us north and we took the aerial tram up to Sandia Peak.

Sandia 2SandiaWith no memory card in the camera, we settled for the iPhone. It lasted for most of the morning before becoming impossibly clogged with photos. The trip up was smooth sailing all the way, and beauty abounded – the clouds changed every few minutes, with fog and rain one moment, and bright sun and white clouds the next. Many fat ground squirrels sat languorously on rocks eating. We also saw (and heard) the silhouettes of crows feeding their babies in a tall conifer.

Then, from inside the visitor’s center on the tip-top peak, we looked down and saw the clear highlight of the day – a ringtail (also known as a ringtail cat or miner’s cat, though of course not a member of the cat family at all). I was unable to get a picture but here are some examples we found online:

RingtailsRingtails are nocturnal, so what on earth was this one doing? He or she was on the flat roof of  a small cinderblock building at the head of the ski-lift (the eastern slope of Sandia being a gradual slope that features skiing, not the violent cliff faces of the Rio Grande Rift Valley we’d travelled up), and it appeared to be licking the building. Was there something salty on the roof? We’ll never know.

IMG_4596Back to Bubonicon via Lyft, we moved straight to setting up the art show. It was a breeze – the staff was wonderfully efficient and helpful, and the paperwork templates were so good that Venetia couldn’t stop raving about them.

Later, Joe Lansdale was especially delightful at the opening ceremonies – there’s something profoundly dangerous about East Texas accent when wielded by a life-long pro. Later that night, I moderated a delightfully fractious panel about the ways and means by which the works of HP Lovecraft have become adorable and comedic. The highlight was an incensed panelist railing that the rest of us were “just not doing it right!”.

This segued nicely into the first of the convention’s two charity auctions. We won a first edition of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s ‘The Firebrand’, Sheri Tepper’s ‘Raising the Stones’ for our pal Tracy, and two books by fellow guest Rachel Caine – a fantastic woman who is co-writing with our friend Ann Aguirre. Venetia especially loves Ann’s writing and looks most forward to diving into Rachel’s vasty catalogue. Rachel instantly became a favorite, and her grace under pressure was amazing. Earlier, she’d fallen on the street, bled profusely and sported two black eyes throughout the convention. And to commemorate the occasion her husband Cat had taken photos of her collapse that looked like something from a CSI episode.

By Saturday we had a refrigerator in the room and had done enough shopping at Trader Joe’s that we could dart back to the room between events to eat a healthy lunch and watch the final two episodes of Game of Thrones. Goodness but they were intense! It’s clear they spent a year of production time and much of the season’s budget on that finale.

But our day wasn’t just dudgeon and dragons on the iPad. First, I led a well-attended docent tour of the Art Show – the whole show was full of amazing work in a variety of media and styles – from fractals to oil paint and featured many artists I don’t see nearly enough – from Elizabeth Leggett and Eric Velhagen to David Martin and Nene Thomas. The celadon pottery of Peri Charlifu was especially fine, and later took home a well-earned Best in Show.

My first panel of the day was about the intersection of Mythology and Comics (a.k.a. my happy place). I got to speak about ‘Watchmen’ and Alan Moore’s cunning use of Indian religion to add archetypal heft to otherwise unmoored and largely unappealing Charleston Comics characters, Walt Simonson’s literally epic run on ‘Thor’ and his Norse inspirations, G. Willow Wilson’s creation of a fantastically nuanced Islamic heroine in ‘Ms Marvel’, M. Night Shyamalan’s use of Aztec religion to personify the idea that superheroes are America’s true native religion in  ‘Unbreakable’, the Golem as symbol of the people’s will in ‘The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay’, and why Superman is not really a convincing stand-in for Jesus.

The mass autographing was next, and I sat at my table with the Guests of Honor (as well as George RR Martin, Connie Willis, S.M. Stirling, Stephen R. Donaldson, and Victor Milan, among many others). Watching the lines of people waiting for Joe Lansdale or George RR Martin is a curious feeling – sympathy mixed with happiness for the attendees, and a clear acknowledgement that while fame can be a very mixed blessing, this convention is one of the very best for pros and fans alike.

I signed some books, answered questions about my calendars (yes, I hope for a 2017), and talked a little bit more about myths old and new. I met up with Facebook friend Bethany Sankot who bought my portrait of Bunnicula in the art show and brought me delicious gluten-free cookies (Thanks Bethany!), and best of all hung out with dear friends Jon and Agnes who had come down from Durango just to visit! I hadn’t seen them in more than 2 decades and it was surreal how much and how little had changed. We dined with them before they headed back north. Hopefully we’ll see a lot more of them in the future!

IMG_4256 1Sunday was the truly busy day. First there was a spot of technical trouble as the adapters between iPad and projector failed to work properly (thank heavens for the Cloud!). I squeezed two slide-presentations into an hour (a huge retrospective of my work and the Infamous Bad Book Cover Show). I also served as intermittent auctioneer in the Sunday Auction when I wasn’t moderating a panel on SF tropes through the ages. While I was auctioneering, Venetia scored a signed, numbered, limited Subterranean Press edition of Six-Gun Snow White by Cat Valente and Charles Vess. By the end of the day the only thing we were capable of doing was collapsing into deep sleep for two hours before dinner. We dined with the convention committee in a private room at El Patron and Venetia had her first (and last, sad to say) sopapilla. Gluten really is a problem, but everyone should experience a sopapilla!

Bubonicon was fantastic.
I met so many lovely people, my small gallery of art (and especially my Small Gods) was greatly appreciated. Time simply flew by and the whole show was wonderful. I hope to get back soon!

Swag

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