Quote of the Moment

"It's never wrong to hope, Byx," said my mother. "Unless the truth says otherwise."
- from Endling #1: The Last, by Katherine Applegate

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Cons and Miracles: A 2-Part Blog Entry

First, the Con.

This past weekend, I attended Norwescon 31, because one of my favorite authors was Special Guest of Honor (Naomi Novik, author of the Temeraire series) and because it had been a few years since I went to a con. Unlike previous cons, however, I was essentially going by myself, for myself. Well, I was giving Dad a ride there and back, but we had our own schedules, and aside from agreeing on a time to meet and leave we did our own things. I only went two days - Friday and Saturday - but I feel I got my money's worth out of it, and the con certainly got its money's worth out of me. (Translation: I spent way, way too much, and I could've spent more if I hadn't put my foot down with myself and decided, no, I don't need that second T-shirt... or the McFarlane dragon figurines... or discounted Windstones... or... or... I think I'll stop now. Budgets are as depressing as limited storage space.)

My personal high points were getting four books signed by Naomi Novik (the first three in the series - bought in a box set - were personalized by the author, and the last was presigned when I bought it from the book dealer) and the Liars Club panel on sure-fire ways to sell your 1000-page first novel (which got a bit off-color, but was laugh-out-loud hilarious.) The low point was the panel entitled To Build A Dragon. Ostensibly, it was for artists and discussed creating dragons by "borrowing" from existing or extinct creatures. Some of the panel touched on that, but mostly it was wandering and pointless, and the three panelists not only had poor speaking voices but a very shaky grasp of dragons in general. They insisted, for instance, that Draco of Dragonheart had a "kitty-cat" face, mostly to make him likeable and good; I recall reading that Draco's face was actually hybridized off a mountain gorilla muzzle, and largely for the purposes of animating his speech and expressions, which was naturally much easier with a modified primate face. They also referred to Tiamat as a "neutral" dragon (true, She didn't try to destroy everything until her husband was murdered, but can a Goddess of Chaos ever be considered "neutral"?), completely missed the point of several dragon tales, and ended with a half-hearted "demo" by inviting a somewhat talented audience member - who, since I was sitting next to her when she was sketching, I happen to know from personal observation practices little to no sketching, nor does she have any real grasp of building up from the bones - to draw a dragon based on suggestions from the audience... which she did in pencil (not a good idea for a very large room with bad acoustics to boot.) Disappointing, but I was mostly there to kill an hour before the last panel I wanted to see on Saturday (about alternate history.)

Of course, no con is complete without the colorful characters and in-hall costumes. I saw (but failed to photograph) all sorts of beings from all sorts of genres, from the cheaply-made "Jedi" robes to the elaborate full-body-plus-makeup-prosthetics efforts. One of the most imaginative was the Kitchen Witch, a wizardly witch with a tall wooden spoon as a staff. Most were happy to pose for photographs, but being a coward and distrustful of my skills in the poor lighting of the con hotel, I was too chicken to even try. Speaking of lighting, I frequently wondered, looking up at elaborate chandeliers that were easily six to eight feet across, how such huge lighting fixtures could produce so little actual light. (Ah, well - it was a sci-fi/fantasy con, after all... there have to be a few mysterious warps in the normal fabric of space and time to contend with.)

All in all, I was very glad I went to the con, even if my pocketbook is glaring at me reproachfully. I suppose I'll just have to crank out more ornaments to appease it... or maybe I'll finish a story. Cons always put me in a writing mood...

Now, the Miracle.

Today being Easter, we headed out to Grandpa's for "dinner." (I refuse to call any meal eaten at 1 PM dinner proper, no matter what the rest of the family says.) Having had thirty-odd years' experience at dealing with family gatherings, I dutifully packed my Boredom Prevention Kit (a canvas bag with my sketchbook, my digital camera, and a book or two - in this case the unsigned copy of His Majesty's Dragon, book 1 of the Temeraire series) to keep me from going stark raving mad. I depend on my Boredom Prevention Kit. I guard it jealousy. I refuse to let it leave my side save to eat. I know where this bag is at all times. (Slight exagerration, but you get the gist of it - it is not something I leave laying around.) So, with the food we were taking and my Boredom Prevention Kit, we climbed into the Sable and headed off.

The gathering went as most family gatherings go; I'll spare you the details, except to say that several times I poked through my Boredom Prevention Kit, as I'm less an active participant in family events and more a weight to keep furniture from floating away. So I know it was there. I know where it was. I know what was in it.

On the way home, since I was carrying leftovers and didn't want anything to spill on my digital camera or sketchbook (I'd handed off the book to my aunt's husband, which was one of the reasons I bought two copies at the con to begin with), I placed it in the trunk, knowing that it, being in the same part of the car that carried the leftover cheesecake, would be well protected and looked after. It was raining when we left Grandpa's, and the rain steadily worsened on the way home, until it was nearly hailing as we hit our driveway. Mom, Dad, my sister and I - four alert, intelligent adults, in theory - left the car without going near the trunk, the better to get into the house before the weather got worse. We did not stop and admire the rhodies. We did not check the tire pressure on the Taurus. We did not pass Go, nor did we collect 200 dollars. We went straight from the Sable in to the house, as fast as humanly possible. To emphasise, it was pouring down rain, and not even Dad - who would happily stand outside in a blizzard to sort recycling - wanted to deal with the trunk in that weather.

About an hour later, we noticed that the rain had slackened, so I figured it was a good time to retrieve my Boredom Prevention Kit. Out I went to the Sable with the keys.

It was not there.

Not only was it not there, but it wasn't in the house. Anywhere. We looked upstairs. We looked downstairs. We looked in the trunk. We looked in the Sable itself. We looked several times in each place, so we know it wasn't here. We called up Grandpa to see if it had been left there, or if it - impossibly - fell out of the trunk in the driveway. I wondered if I'd hallucinated laying it carefully in the trunk. I wondered if I'd hallucinated having it with me at all. I wondered if the world's dumbest criminal stood around in the pouring rain to pick the lock on the Sable trunk and steal the item of least potential value. And then Dad came in from one last search, wearing a peculiarly puzzled expression and holding the Boredom Prevention Kit, which he had found...

Wait for it...

In the Taurus.

"But wait," you say (because you talk to your computer screen - 'fess up, you do too!),"you guys drove the Sable, not the Taurus!"

Yes, I reply (typing it, so I don't need quote marks), we did. He only found it because he noticed that my sister had an unusual number of reusable shopping bags in her trunk and decided to transfer a few to the Taurus since he was outside and it wasn't raining. (The shopping bags in this house are more or less community property, and get transferred to whatever car happens to be convenient to shop in at the time.)

And nobody went near the Taurus since yesterday afternoon.

And never did I remove my car keys from my purse.

And nobody, not one of us, would have any reason to double back to the Taurus for any reason, before, during, or after our trip.

And the Boredom Prevention Kit could not have come home save by the Sable, as it could not have left the house save by the Sable, nor would it have been anywhere all day were it not for the Sable.

And in the recycle bin were still all the little con flyers and leaflets I'd unloaded from the Boredom Prevention Kit just before leaving the house this morning, proving that I did not fabricate the memory of having it with me all day.

We don't have any idea how it could've gotten there. But we saged the bag down thorougly... just in case.

And that is my Easter miracle story.