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July 09, 2006

Readercon Wrapup

It's entirely possible there is an industry that is run more incompetently than the airline industry, but if there is I don't have to deal with it on a regular basis. At the moment I'm at in Dulles International Airport, waiting to if and when I might get on another flight. I suspect I'll be here for a while; if nothing else, I'll be on a 8:30 flight tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I'm watching what looks to be an eight-year-old boy bang his head against one of the airport waiting area couches out of what I suspect is pure hyperactive boredom. I do sympathize with his plight, although I wish he would stop, because it's deeply aggravating.

My current travails cause me to propose a new law of airline travel, called Scalzi's Law of Airline Delays: Any airline delay will expand to precisely fill the amount of time between your connecting flights, plus fifteen minutes. I was actually on the ground at Dulles when my flight to Dayton left, but I was trapped on the plane because apparently the ground crew forgot how to extend a walkway. Clearly, the work of insidious beasts. In any event, when the revolution comes, I nominate airline schedulers to be the first up against the wall. If they are, I will take to ground travel henceforth with a song in my heart.

But enough about that. At least Readercon was a lot of fun, and not even the massive incompetence of the airlines can flout me out of my humor. As stated here earlier, one of the reasons I went to this particular convention was because shameless China Mieville fan boy, and I'm delighted to say that in addition to being a marvelous writer and a top-notch intellect, Mieville is also a hell of a nice guy and a lot of fun to chat with. It's always a nice thing when someone whose talents you admire is also a person you like.

But although China was one of the deciding factors in my attending, he was far from the only person I was thrilled to spend a little time with. Some notable moments for me:

* Meeting Infoquake author David Louis Edelman before my connecting flight with Boston and sharing much of the weekend with him;

* Having a cell phone war with Allen Steele and Peter Watts (no, I'm not sure what having a cell phone war actually entailed; nevertheless, we had one);

* Celebrating the birthday of Deanna Hoak, unquestionably the hottest copy editor, like, ever;

* Sharing secret code with Tempest Bradford;

* Discussing pirates and ninjas with Mary Robinette Kowal;

* Bribing Geoff Landis (twenty-six cents!);

* Delving into informational metaphors with Charles Brown, Gary K. Wolfe and John Clute;

* Exploring consciousness with R. Scott Bakker, his friend Roger (whose last name I didn't catch), and Gordon Van Gelder ;

* Discussing the intruiging/disturbing possiblity of Scalzi/Bear slash with Elizabeth Bear;

And generally meeting and/or catching up and/or having a meal with a whole bunch of delightful people including Karl Schroeder and family, John Joseph Adams, Nick Mamatas, Chad Orzel, Kate Nepveu, Lauren McLaughlin, Kelly Link, Gavin Grant, Amanda Beamer, Eliani Torres, Helen Pilinovsky, Scott Edelman, Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Beth Meacham, Liz Gorinsky, Sandra Macdonald, Alan DeNiro, Kristin Livdahl, James Cambias, Ellen Kushner and tons and tons and tons of other people, pros, fans and con staff alike, whose names escape me because it's late on a very long travel day (forgive me), and also, it's not like I've not already name dropped enough. Anyway, this isn't even discussing my own progamming, which I think went reasonably well, especially my reading, at which people laughed in all the places where I hoped they would laugh.

Long story short: I had a great time at Readercon and I'm glad I went, even if I'm currently trapped in airport hell. It was worth it.

Posted by john at July 9, 2006 11:36 PM

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Comments

Justin Johnson | July 10, 2006 12:01 AM

I sympathize. This past May I took a trip and on the way home I had a four hour layover. Fortunately, this was a scheduled layover, not the "accidental" kind, so I knew about it ahead of time. And the only reason I put up with it was because any shorter layover flights were more expensive in the range of the $100 or more. I can wait.

Firebyrd | July 10, 2006 01:32 AM

What airplane gods did you anger and how, John? I don't think I've ever heard of anyone having as much trouble with flights as you seem to have. I don't fly much and just went on a trip that involved flight and layovers. I was completely sure that I was going to have all sorts of problems, since you always do, but nope. Smooth sailing. My flights tended to get in a few minutes early, if anything. I hope you can make amends soon so that you can enjoy more normal flight, if enjoy is the right word for air travel.

Scott | July 10, 2006 01:52 AM

Do you feel at all strange discussing: (quote)Scalzi slash Bear slash(endquote)? Doesn't it irritate your redundancy glands?

mythago | July 10, 2006 02:15 AM

You flew America West, didn't you?

uhura | July 10, 2006 02:49 AM

Your current experience explains exactly why I don't fly Alaska Arlines anymore. First they charge about $100 more to fly out of my town vs Seattle, and then when I miss that connecting flight all of the workers avoid eye contact and mumble incoherently instead of helping me find another flight or arrange for compensation.

It's a sad state of affairs when I'm willing to spend half a tank of gas, plus airport parking fees and schedule an extra travel day just to avoid your airline.

Mary Robinette Kowal | July 10, 2006 04:12 AM

Ugh. I hope you get home without too many more delays. I had a year of bad travel karma and I found that sacrificing a chicken was helpful.

alex | July 10, 2006 10:00 AM

I had the misfortune to fly from BWI to MHT last week. Of my four flights, two were cancelled, resulting in delays ranging from three hours up to nine. While standing about in this particular airline's gates, I also observed: three other cancelled flights, one delay of unspecified length for maintaince issues, and one of the airline's jets landing with fire trucks attending, including Philadelphia city emergency vehicles.

Somehow I think it may be a while before I get back on one of their planes.

David Louis Edelman | July 10, 2006 10:09 AM

Clearly, John, the gods are just getting all the bad karma out of the way so they can shower you with good karma in August by giving you the Hugo, the Campbell, and, what the hell, a Tony Award as well.

Great meeting you this weekend too, John! Whatever readers, I should mention that Mr. Scalzi is indeed the smoldering sexpot you have been imagining all these years.

Diplomachismo | July 10, 2006 10:29 AM

There is a beautiful irony inherent in the misspelling of the word "incompetently".

John Scalzi | July 10, 2006 10:49 AM

Actually, no, there isn't.

John Klima | July 10, 2006 11:11 AM

John, I'm surprised you didn't mention that at one point, China was jealous of you.

JK

John Scalzi | July 10, 2006 11:42 AM

Well, I do try to moderate my self-serving anecdotes from time to time.

Ted Lemon | July 10, 2006 11:51 AM

Look at it on the bright side. A couple of nights ago, Andrea and I, after driving for twelve hours from Dharamshala, trying to find a hotel for our friends who shared the car, and finally being dumped in Delhi airport, found that our flight (a 777 from Delhi to Chicago) had been canceled, and that all the people on the flight were now stuck in the airport in the Line from Heck (total of four people running the entire line, none of whom had that "let's get this over with quick" work ethic). We personally witnessed one woman standing at the desk for *an hour* working on getting her flight. There were still people in line at 4:30 am when the check-in for British Airways opened (I know, because we'd been fortunate enough to get scheduled on the BA flight, and you could see the AA counter from the BA line).

I don't wish to induce any sort of schadenfreude in your mind, but if you can think of your experience in your airport as having dodged this bullet, maybe some good came of it. Andrea and I were longing for some good old-fashioned American service. :'|

Tripp | July 10, 2006 02:56 PM

Flying during the afternoon or evenings in the summer can be dodgy because of thunderstorms.

I say this as a guy who hasn't flown for a couple years now and I miss it. Of course flying is best done alone with plenty of time to spare. I feel sorry for parents with children and the people around them. I also feel sorry for the people going somewhere under a deadline like a business meeting or a wedding.

Chris Billett | July 10, 2006 04:10 PM

Bakker is insanely smart, hey?!?

Chris Billett | July 10, 2006 04:13 PM

Bakker is amazingly smart, eh?

!

Hugh Staples | July 10, 2006 06:25 PM

You should have done what I did, namely *drive* from SW Ohio to Boston. You're the second writer in the past few months I've heard complain about United. Rob Sawyer failed to show at Eeriecon (in Nigara Falls) back in April thanks to a missed United connection in DC. I'm still in New England, but that's by choice. ;-)

My suggestion for Worldcon - Frontier irlines. They fly out of Dayton and will take you to the Santa Ana airport with one stop in Denver. I flew Dayton to Denver to Seattle for last year's NASFiC, and everything went smoothly. Or you can fly out of Indy, if you prefer, which is what I'll be doing.

Anyway, I agree with you 100% - Readercon was a lot of fun, and it was great to meet you. Thanks for the opportunity to have my copies of OMW and TGB signed, as well as Agent to the Stars personalized. :-)

Ohako | July 10, 2006 06:57 PM

You know why airlines are crap? Because the air travel IT was invented in the fifties, and _never turned off_.

Imagine an IT system that has never had a planned shutdown, and never had a soup-to-nuts upgrade. That's what the airline industry is running on.

I'd wager that if the US government said it was going to shut down all air travel in its space for 4 hours, say, 3 years from now, that we'd end up with a much better airline industry after the shutdown.

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little | July 11, 2006 12:57 AM

It's all part of an insidious plot to get us to travel by train. I for one welcome our new Amtrak overlords--or I will, just as soon as they bring back some of the other passenger lines that used to go through Denver besides the California Zephyr. In the meantime, I've seen pretty much the whole route between Emeryville, CA and Chicago (but not all on the same trip).

John Hodges | July 11, 2006 08:28 AM

Dear John,

Sorry to hear about your travel trial. When I can't go direct, I've been choosing longer and longer layovers and mostly avoiding the missed connection problem. It does mean I've substituted the long layover problem, though. I can usually make it living time, instead of waiting time, but every once in a while head banging seems like a good idea.

LOVED your reading at Readercon. Hope to hear more about Yonta's political intrigues. A ruthless manipulator who's funny, a hot date, and keeps our sympathy, despite the repugnant rash.

As a Readercon regular, please do consider it a regular part of your con calendar. It was great to meet you, and I'm glad you had a good time.

David | July 11, 2006 09:34 AM

Ah, but you greatly underestimate airlines!

Just consider how much time, talent, effort and dedication it requires, to take something as fundamentally thrilling as flight(we're actually flying! Through the air!), and turn it into something deadly dull, painful, boring, and so annoying that you'd go far out of your way to avoid it when you can.

Now THAT is skill!

David Huff | July 11, 2006 01:41 PM

Scalzi wrote, "Celebrating the birthday of Deanna Hoak, unquestionably the hottest copy editor, like, ever

Well don't just tease us by talking about it! Pictures, Man! We need pictures! ;)

Deanna Hoak | July 11, 2006 04:11 PM

I just posted some pics on my LJ, David, if you're that curious. John's a flatterer, though.... :-)

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