We actually haven't been on a train in a about two or three years. Although we like train travel, our most recent trips to New York City have been via the Limoliner. So we were disappointed to learn that our favorite redcap, a Spanish-speaking gentleman by the name of Castro, had retired last year. Our redcap told us that Castro routinely comes by to see his old friends, and we asked him to pass on our greetings.
The trip was a nice one. Unfortunately, they no longer seem to have sleeper cars on the northeast corridor, so we had to spend the trip sitting in seats. We had chosen to go business class, so we could have roomy, more comfortable seats, but they still weren't conducive to sleeping. But we had planned for this contingency by bringing the DVD set of Stargate SG-1 season one with us. We watched a few episodes when we weren't able to nap, which was often.
And, as I already reported, we had one interesting experience around 2 in the morning on the tracks in Queens. The train stopped for about fifteen minutes while members of the FDNY put out a tie fire. When they finished, we gave them a lift back to their truck. So just imagine the surrealism of being on a train at 2:15 AM when suddenly firefighters in full regalia with their equipment start walking through, and you'll know what it was like for us.
We arrived at Richmond's Main Street Station in Shockoe Bottom right on time, around 10:15 AM, and we were picked up by Brandon Blackmoor, a member of the RavenCon committee. Brandon was friendly, warm, and welcoming. As a bonus, he knew a lot about the history of the train station, and so we got a little tour before we headed out. Apparently the Main Street Station, as beautiful as it is, is rarely used. For a while there in the 1980s they were planning to turn it into a mall, but a fire and a flood stopped those plans. Today the station is used by Amtrak, but only as a secondary station; the main Amtrak station in Richmond is in the suburbs.
Brandon drove Nomi and me to a Ukrop's, which is a supermarket chain, and there we made the important discovery that one cannot find kosher meat in Richmond. I wasn't expecting a kosher butcher, but at the very least, I thought that the deli section where stores keep Oscar Meyer and other such brands would also have Empire kosher deli slices in the same sort of blister packs. Boy, was I wrong. Since I doubted that madwriter would have any better luck finding kosher meat for us, I made sure to pick up some packets of tuna fish. (Mental note to self: next time a friend does you the favor of picking up food for shabbat, be sure to give him plenty of other options if the city might lack a supply of kosher meat.)
After stocking up on some supplies, we drove to the Doubletree Hotel Richmond Airport. Although we arrived at 11:30 AM, they had a room ready for us. I have to say that of all the hotels I have ever stayed in for conventions, this one was the most solicitous. The staff was always warm, friendly, and eager to be of assistance. It's a shame that the hotel is so small, but then again, maybe that's part of the reason why the staff was able to be so helpful.
Nomi and I had told Michael Pederson, the Con Chair, that we would help out after arriving, but the train trip had been too exhausting. Instead, we tried to catch up on sleep in our hotel room. Nomi managed a little better than I did, as I was overly conscious of needing to be awake in time for my first panel. She woke up in time for the panel, but still felt exhausted, so I told her to go back to sleep.
3 PM. Panel: "Too Much Tech -- Can Society Handle Science?" Panelists: Jagi Lamplighter (moderator), Michael A. Burstein, Alexis Gilliland, CJ Henderson, Joy Ward. I'm sorry to say that due to my lack of sleep at the time, I don't remember much of what we discussed. I do recall bringing my laptop, cell phone, and Palm PDA to the panel as visual aids. Also, some of the discussion veered away from the idea of too much tech in real life to the idea of too much tech in fiction.
After the panel, I checked the Dealers Room briefly, and I think it was at this point that I met nightwolfwriter. Eventually, I returned to the room to rest, and then Nomi came with me to my 5 PM autographing session. I don't usually schedule autographing sessions for two reasons. First, much of any con takes place on shabbat, when I can't sign anything. But more importantly, I'm really not that big a draw for autograph collectors. So I don't see the point of sitting at a table for an hour, doing nothing. Especially if the table is behind the main drag.
But because Nomi and I rarely get to a small, regional convention outside the northeast, I had decided to sign up for a signing slot. And I'm glad I did. Two fellow fans, Harvey Roberts and Marian McBrine, came by with a whole stack of Analog magazines for me to sign. I was delighted to sign my name over and over, and I struck up a conversation with the two of them. They had a lot of interesting things to say, and I think I may have come up with a story idea or two from talking with them.
On a more somber note, however, I asked Harvey whether he still subscribes to Analog, and he said he doesn't and gave a few legitimate reasons why not. Now, this may only be anecdotal evidence, but I've been meeting a lot of people recently who "used to" subscribe to the short fiction magazines but don't anymore. It's another data point that has me worried.
The signing ended at 6 PM, at which point fellow writer Danny Adams (madwriter) was supposed to have met us with the groceries he had bought for us. But Danny was nowhere to be found, and he hadn't yet registered for the convention. So we went back to our room to rest again.
At 7 PM I went back out to the registration table to look for him, and found him registering. I gave him our room number and went back to tell Nomi that he had arrived. He came by very soon with our groceries and stayed for shabbat dinner. We explained the rituals to him, and he was genuinely interested.
After dinner, I had another panel.
9 PM. Panel: "Comic Books or Graphic Novels -- I'm So Confused!" Panelists: Bryan Prindville (moderator), Michael A. Burstein, Robert Jeschonek, Peter Prellwitz. This was a fascinating panel. The four of us interacted quite well. We tried to create a distinction between a comic book story and a graphic novel story, and we made the point that the medium is not necessarily the message. Or, in other words, just because something is published as a "graphic novel" does not mean that it tackles the themes we expect of such, and vice versa.
After the panel, Danny Adams returned to our room for more conversation. In his own RavenCon Report, he did an excellent job of summarizing our conversations throughout the convention. I will quote him here: "From about ten till midnight I was hanging out in Michael and Nomi's room, where we had detailed talks about some of our mutual favorite interests: religion, history, and politics mostly, with some bouts of science and a lot of shop talk thrown in too. I quickly discovered that they're very much like me in many respects, such as the fact that saying one thing, the right thing at the right time, can spin off another 10-20 minute conversation, and we kept looping and threading our various conversations around each other simultaneously. (The next night I would feel almost sorry for the couple of folks who would join us...) I already wish we could've spent a lot more time hanging out together and discussing matters great and sundry than we were able to." In my reply to him, I've noted, "I find it fascinating that we have so much in common when we have such different backgrounds."
Midnight had arrived; Nomi and I had been awake for quite some time. Danny left, and we crashed.