It’s now almost 9 days since I returned home from the World Fantasy Convention in San Diego.
I initially planned to write an elaborate post, with links and descriptions of the many great writers I heard do readings or take part in panels. This list would include, Patrick Rothfuss, Delia Sherman, Holly Black, Neil Gaiman, C.S.E. Cooney, Patty Templeton, Tim Pratt, Caitlin Paxson (okay I didn’t actually make it to her reading, as I was lost in the suburban tangle that is San Diego, but I wanted to), Leah Bobet, and more. I also intended to write up a thoughtful, but funny, discussion of why I go to conventions, as well as some insights I had into e-publishing after talking to John O’Neill, the editor of Black Gate Magazine.
This kind of high aspiration for my blog is probably a big part of why I’ve posted a grand total of two blog entries so far. Also, I got home to remember I’m behind on several projects, not least among them, moving house on Saturday. Still, I wanted to share the pleasantly odd interaction I had with a U.S. immigration agent on my way to the convention.
If you’re looking for more details of the actual convention, fortunately for all of us, C.S.E. Cooney has posted a stellar account of the going ons at the Black Gate blog that she maintains. (C.S.E. Cooney is a great writer who I met at Wiscon last year, when we did a reading together, along with Patty Templeton & CaitlinPaxson, also wonderful writers, also at WFC.)
As for my encounter with U.S. immigration the day before the convention… I’m flying from Vancouver to L.A., so I pass through U.S. immigration in the Vancouver airport. Usually this is pretty fast, as I’m an American citizen. This time, though, I make the mistake of telling the agent I’m going to the World Fantasy Convention. Our interaction went something like this:
Him: Purpose of your trip?
Me: World Fantasy Convention.
Him (giving me a look as though I have spoken in some strange dialect that he couldn’t possibly be expected to understand, and may well constitute some kind of offense under the Homeland Security act. Then, finally): What?
Me: Like Harry Potter and that kind of thing. (pause). It’s less weird then it sounds. (He is still staring at me. I lower my voice and hold up my thumb and forefinger. Mumble) A little bit less weird.
Him: What do you do? For work?
Me: <Pause as I think about and discard the idea of mentioning writing, as that seems certain to pique his further suspicion.> I teach at Kwantlen. (same blank look from the agent.) It’s a university near here. I teach statistics. Research methods. Business Math.
Against all odds, this fails to squelch his interest in me.
Him: What’s that book you’re reading about?
Me: A guy who travels around killing ghosts.
Him: (Same blank look, which I’m starting to recognize as a successful technique to get me to talk more.)
Me: I just started it – so far, I’m not sure I like it.
Him: You just read a few pages and you’re bored?
Me: Not so much bored, but a little annoyed that the main character is like… What kind of books do you like to read?
Him: Um. I like books like with lots of facts in them. Books about facts.
Me: Oh right. Like nonfiction. So –um-probably not with any characters in it. Okay. So this might not mean much to you. But I like books where the main character isn’t perfect. And this guy is like strong and good looking and smart and not scared of anything.
Him (nodding. Evidently, I’m finally making sense): Right. He should be scared of something. Everyone is scared of something.
Him: <stamping my customs card> Have a good trip.