BoucherCon Revisited (II)
(BoucherCon 2010 starts Thursday in San Francisco—you can still register, or get day passes, including for Saturday when I am on a panel talking about that Holmes fellow. In the meantime, I’m posting a few BCon memories.)
BoucherCon 2001 took place in Washington, DC. A city reeling from the September 11 attack on the Pentagon, then a week later by the anthrax letters. My daughter was one of the many university students doing internships in DC that fall.
It was beautiful and warm. Windows had Jack-o-Lanterns in them. Many conferences scheduled for DC cancelled entirely. BoucherCon decided to go ahead, although a fraction of its normal numbers came. Those of us who did go were as uncertain of the ground under our fee (and of the air overhead: remember how we winced at every low-flying plane?) as the rest of the nation was, and went more as a mark of solidarity with the residents of New York and DC than for any pretence of business as usual.
At the best of times, a conference is a highly artificial setting for human relationships. No one is at home, no one is fully rested or living normally. But this, even more than usual.
And then one night we circled our wagons. A group of about fifteen or twenty writers, friends who saw each other once a year and kept in touch as best we could in between, met in the bar and started dragging the big, comfy chairs into a group, then a larger clump, and finally a wide, lopsided circle. Arm-rest to arm-rest, drink to elbow, heads together and backs to the world, we just sat and talked. Many of our editors and agents hadn’t come, many of our plans had fallen through, and we had an hour to ourselves, to circle our mental and emotional wagons.
It was rude, yes. We stole most of the bar’s chairs, and anyone on the outside was forced to hover and wait to be offered a perch on an arm-rest. It was also incredibly restorative, a rare moment when writers were permitted to be colleagues, rather than writers. It didn’t last long, just a drink’s length of time, and when we stood up, we pushed the chairs back into place and went on with what survived of our evening plans.