(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
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
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
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.