phoenix trip report, part 2

(Continued from part one)

I read Hammered when I got back to my room until I couldn’t
keep my eyes open any more, and had one of those awesome nights where I
woke up every hour because I was afraid I’d oversleep.

In fact, I was so afraid of oversleeping, I set an alarm and a
wakeup call on my cell phone, set an alarm on my clock radio, and
ordered up a wakeup call from the hotel, all one minute apart. Then I
woke up a few seconds before the first one went off, and laughed at how
absurd it was as my hotel room turned into a clock shop for the next
five minutes.

I finished Hammered while I ate breakfast (review
forthcoming), then made my way back into the vendor’s room, about 30
minutes before it opened, so I could scout around, and maybe trade some
shiny gold rocks for various geek items.

I made all of my Save vs Shiny! checks, until I rolled a 1 when I saw Flesh Eating Ghouls from Outer Space,
a DVD that looked like a classic B horror movie, done entirely with
puppets. (I still haven’t had time to watch it, but it looks totally
awesome and awesome. Also, awesome.)

I walked around the indie artists area — where my table was set up — before I sat down as the doors opened for the day.

I was sitting at a table next to Felix Silva, who played Cousin It
on the Addam’s Family, and Twiki on Buck Rogers. Next to him was Walter
Koenig, and next to Walter was Tim Russ. On the other side of me to my
right was Steam Crow productions,
a local indie company owned by Daniel Davis, who I would spend a lot of
time talking with over the weekend. His wife and awesome kid were there
with him, and they entertained me with their awesomeness for the whole
show. Also, awesome.

For the next few hours, I met tons of WWdN readers, comic fans, Star
Trek fans, fellow geeks, and tons and tons of teenagers who were
seriously into their anime cosplay, mainly from Naruto and Inuyasha.

The day was a blur of friendly faces, signing autographs and books,
shaking hands, posing for pictures, mutual geeking at scientists (there
were lots of scientists there, mostly astronomers, who listened
patiently to me while I slimed them with my slobbering geekiness) and
my constant excitement and wonder that so many people knew about my
books and wanted to pick them up.

This went on for a few hours. Then, during a lull in the day around
lunchtime, Walter walked over to my end of the table after posing for a
picture with some fans and looked at my books.

"I hear you’re a writer now," he said, looking at Happiest Days, "What do you write?"

I told him.

"What’s this one about?"

I told him, then I showed him the Manga.

"Check it out," I said, opening it to one page, "I totally blew up Leonard!"

He grinned, and I pointed to Dancing Barefoot.

"There’s a story in here about the first time I met Bill, and what an ass he was to me," I said.

Walter laughed and said, "Who hasn’t he been an ass to?"

I laughed with him. I suspect that if WFS had been there, he
probably would have laughed with us . . . before ordering us off the

"If you’re interested, and if you think you’d have time to read it," I said, "I’d love for you to have a copy of Happiest Days."

Walter smiled at me, surprised. "Really?"

"It would mean a lot to me," I said.

"I’d like to buy it from you," he said.

We danced for a minute, me trying to give it to him, and him trying
to pay me for it. It was an exquisite tango, and I won’t reveal the
victor, because it’s not that important. What is important to
me, though, is that Walter has a copy of my book, which I hope he
reads, because there’s this story in it about conventions that I think
he can appreciate on a different level than most readers.

After Walter and I talked, I grabbed my camera and checked out the
rest of the con. After ten minutes or so, it hit me: this con was
exactly like the cons I went to when I was a kid. This con, like PAX,
reminded me what cons could and should be. There were families, couples
young and old, and hundreds of teenagers everywhere, all having a great
time being geeks. And that’s the thing I love about cons: it’s not just
accepted, it’s encouraged, and it’s where I feel home.

I spent the rest of the afternoon the way I spent the morning,
including a rather exciting moment when I unexpectedly sold out of Just
A Geek, and headed back up to my room around 6 so I could eat dinner,
and prepare for my show that was suddenly just two hours away.

While I read blue light special to the pile of pillows on my bed, I had to stop for a minute and acknowledge how lucky I am.

"Here I am in Phoenix," I thought, "preparing to read a
story from my third successful book, after having another awesome day
at another awesome convention. This is fun. This is awesome. This is a
good life."

I finished blue light special, then did Justice,
cracking myself up way more than I should publicly admit, because it
makes me feel like a dick to say so. But it’s really funny, and I’m
really proud of it! When I was touring with Just a Geek, I always looked forward to performing The Trade, because it was so fun to do, and I feel the same way about Justice, now. I love blue light special,
and it can appeal to people who don’t even watch Star Trek or know any
of my other work, so it’s a great piece of material to perform, but Justice is just plain fun to do.

"Just don’t say ‘fucking’,"
I told myself. "Replace it with ‘screwing,’ because it’s funnier that way."

(Of course, when I was performing it, I said "fucking." Sorry about
that, people who don’t like it when I say "fucking," when I could
instead say "screwing" or "care bears.")

I went downstairs and saw that, fifteen minutes before I was
scheduled to start, there was already a line around the corner and down
the hall to get into my show.

"I used to get nervous, right about now,"
I thought, "but I’m excited. Yeah, I’m really excited!"

I couldn’t wait to get out on stage. I felt good.

The panel before mine emptied out, and I walked into the room. It
wasn’t that big, probably held about 100 or 120 people or so, about the
size of ACME, and if it filled up, it would feel like more — perfect
for comedy.

I walked through a doorway at the edge of the stage, and waited in a
hallway behind the room. I reminded myself what I wanted to say when I
started, before I started reading, and then I just . . . relaxed for a
minute. It was pretty awesome to not feel nervous and terrified, like I
did before my PAX keynote, and pretty much every other time I’ve been
on stage since I started doing stuff like this again so many years ago.

I heard my introduction, and walked out on stage.

The room was about 80% full, with a few people standing in the back.

"This is going to be fun," I thought, and it was. For the
next hour, I had a great time, entertaining a great audience who was
with me the whole time, even when they pretended to turn on me during Justice.

At the end of my performance, most of the audience went to hear Tim
Russ get his rock and roll on, and I sat down at a table in the hallway
to trade books for shiny gold rocks. This is when I had my most
emotional moment of the con.

A young girl, probably no older than 10 or 12, wanted to buy a copy
of Happiest Days. I didn’t think she’d like it as much as the Manga, so
I asked her if she wanted to have that, instead.

"It’s in the vendor’s room down the hall," I said, "so let me send someone to go pick it up for you –"

"This isn’t for me," she said, "this is for my stepdad. He’ll really like it."

I almost started to cry. For the first time since I’ve been raising Ryan and Nolan, I’ve recently been made to feel the step in stepdad, and it hurts more than anything.

"I’m a stepdad," I said to her, taking a deep breath to steady
myself, "and I think it’s the greatest thing in the world that you want
to do something kind for him."

I blinked back tears as I signed it.

"Here ya go," I said, "You’re both very lucky."

I know I signed other books that night, but after that, nothing stands out.

39 thoughts on “phoenix trip report, part 2”

  1. You have got to come to Saint Paul (or that OTHER city across the river).
    I’ve said it many times, but when my step son says to me “you may not be my father, but you’re my dad” I get choked up. You’ve done it right, Wil!

  2. You totally rock, Wil. Thanks again for coming to Arizona. I thoroughly enjoyed basking in your awesomeness. I loved the story about Walter wanting to pay you for your book.

  3. Sounds like a great trip all around.
    That last little bit there brought tears to my eyes. You know, I’ve had 2 step-dads, and either one of them separately were more of a dad than my real father ever was to me. The fact that I was lucky enough to have not only one, but two men in my life that were there for me as long as they could be (the first passed away when I was 20ish), and loved me like their own, is something that means the world to me. I have no doubt that it does (or will when they’re old enough to appreciate it more!) to Nolan and Ryan as well.
    They’re very lucky too.

  4. I just finished the book (HAPPIEST DAYS) last night. Loved it. And I’m very impressed, Wil.
    My own brother is also a Jeremy – and I’m your contemporary, so many of the stories hit home.
    I’m glad you felt the way you did about the con. I did, too. Those people make it feel like coming home. And it sure didn’t hurt that you were next to Daniel, who is a world-class nice guy!

  5. Flesh Eating Ghouls From Outer Space…awesome? Not so much. Maybe I’m a puppet snob (and I most likely am), but I saw a lot of failed potential in it.

  6. Wow! That sounds like an absolutely awesome con! What great stories. It sounds like the entire time was awesomeness wrapped up and sauteed with total win. (Internet speak aside reading how great it went, the part about Walter Koenig, and the little girl made me very happy. It sounds like there was a lot of joy there. And that’s beautiful.)
    It makes me want to go to a great con. Maybe I’ll beg time off from work this year and go to PAX.
    So glad you had a good time. P.S. Your ficlets (care bears) rule.

  7. Damn you Wil!
    I’ve learned to recognize from tone that there are certain of your posts that I just can’t read at work due to the emotional reaction they’ll bring out.
    And then you went and snuck that last bit in there.
    fucker. 😉
    Now I have to close my office door for a few minutes…

  8. Wil, I’ve long been a fan of yours because – well because you’re awesome. Your blog, your books, your attitude, everything. That last bit about the stepdad prompted me to post just because it got to me so much. I don’t even know why I’m posting other than just to say I identify with it and I appreciate you sharing it with me, and everybody else who reads your blog. As cheesy as it is to say this, I hope you never stop being you.

  9. Wil, you’re awesome, and you are a DAD. Never forget that! You may be a step because they aren’t biologically yours, you’re still a dad. You don’t write about those boys like they some kids who came along with Anne. They are as much a part of you as biological kids would be.

  10. My stepdad David was a much bigger influence on my life than my “real” dad. He died when I was 12. I still miss him all the time. I think, Wil, that anyone who is willing to put in the kind of time and love and energy with their kids that you are is a great parent first and foremost, and a “step” anything only a distant second.

  11. Wil, I’m a biodad, and I have to tell you, there’s a difference between a biodad and a stepdad.

    The stepdad knows who the kids are ahead of time and chooses to be their daddy.
    Other than that… Being a father has nothing to do with sharing genes. And the longer I’m a father, the more certain I am of that fact.

  12. The Flesh Eating Ghouls reminds me of the old “mad monster party” perfect – Halloween night viewing. I thought it was a classy move from Koenig to offer to buy your book rather than simply take it but the conversation you had with the young girl was genuinely heart-tugging. You are truly awesome sir.

  13. Dude, you are a first class dad to those boys and they know it. It gets proven time and time again in your writing.
    And it sounds like you are getting more and more happy being a writer than you ever were or, in my opinion, could be, being an actor. I am very happy for you :)

  14. “I almost started to cry. For the first time since I’ve been raising Ryan and Nolan, I’ve recently been made to feel the step in stepdad, and it hurts more than anything.”
    I’m a stepdad also, and I know exactly what your talking about. Thank you for putting it in words.

  15. I muat agree with everyone and say that you do not have to be a “bio” in order to love your children. I too am a step-parent (as well as having an adopted mother and a step-father) and I love my daughter like she’s my own. As a matter of fact we normally attend cons together, but this time around she couldn’t time off from work(I’m sure you didn’t need to know that, but I had to throw it out there). She’s 19 and I’m very proud of her being on her own, going to school, and working. As I am sure that you are very proud of your sons.
    Keep up the great work and I hope to see you again. Until the next con!

  16. From one of the astronomers you slimed with your geekiness, thanks for taking the time to chat with my friends and I. It was totally…well, awesome! Your Wesley picture hangs next to the signed Max Rebo in my office and I’m halfway through Happiest Days. I’m loving it. :)

  17. Last week I spoke of the man I am in love with using his first name in front of my daughter. Since I usually use his more formal title around most people, my daughter was confused for a moment. When I clarified who I was talking about, she said, “Oh! I always think of him as a ‘Dad’.”
    A few days ago, they were in the building he works in, near his office, and he came out to greet them and helped them with something. When they came back to the room I was working in, in another building, my son teased my daughter, saying she couldn’t have a crush on the guy because I already did. She defended her adoration firmly.
    The truth is, he’s told both my kids that they can always talk to him and my son has taken him up on that once or twice. They have more respect for him than their own father. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone so wonderful to me.

  18. I’m neither a stepchild nor a stepparent, but that last bit totally made me tear up. At work.
    Thanks for a great glimpse into you experiences.

  19. Great story Wil,
    MrSpock and I still feel your reading of Justice and BLS at the VegasCon ’07 was one of *THE* highlights of our week.
    Don’t know if we mentioned it in person or not, but MrS even went up to the brass before your show started there to ask if they could fix their damn typo in your name on the projector before it started. I still laugh thinking of the “go to hell” look we got from them.
    Walter seemed like a really approachable person in Vegas too, although when I crossed paths with him at some point in the hotel, I had a homina-homina-homina moment :/

  20. After reading that, I feel like my head is going to melt off if I start to cry a bit, like the British robots in the episode of the Simpsons where Lisa almost marries Hugh.

  21. “From one step dad to another” thank you for taking care of my little girl and the book. Thank you for signing it and thank you for giving her a memory that she wont forget. Miranda says “hi”

  22. Miranda’s step dad… From Wil’s writing, it looks like she really touched him. And she’s immortalized forever here. That’s pretty cool in my book. Miranda sounds like a great kid!

  23. canuckotter wrote:
    The stepdad knows who the
    kids are ahead of time and
    chooses to be their daddy.
    Other than that…
    Being a father has
    nothing to do with
    sharing genes.
    and other has similar comments. Kids can be pretty smart and aware of the situation. This reminds me of the best comeback line I’ve ever heard…
    A friend of the family had an adopted daughter. When she was in kindergarten, the kids at school teased her about it and she riposted, “MY parents wanted me!”

  24. Wil
    You are the fucking awesomest step-dad, awesomeness of all awesome. Nolan and Ryan are awesome to have you as an awesome step-parent, awesome. (sorry for the geek-out, but thanks for sharing this with us!!)

  25. ah, Wil W.! You and your blog…you entertain me, make me laugh, and then when I least expect it, you get me again. I think I have something in my eye…
    *sniff* I better give my step-dad a big hug next time I see him.

  26. “This con, like PAX, reminded me what cons could and should be. There were families, couples young and old, and hundreds of teenagers everywhere, all having a great time being geeks. And that’s the thing I love about cons: it’s not just accepted, it’s encouraged, and it’s where I feel home.”
    Just got home last night from a week-long convention-style cruise with my favorite bands, and that made me tear up with how much I miss everyone already. Thanks.

  27. Aw, man! I’m so ashamed that I completely forgot about the con! I live literally less than a mile from the site, but I didn’t remember it until that Sunday afternoon. Glad you had a good time, and I’ll have to get the books some other way now.

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