Guest at SoonerCon, airport langoliers

This month I found myself jetting off to Oklahoma as a featured guest for SoonerCon 28, held in a particularly snazzy Hilton in the pleasant city of Norman.

Sold almost every copy I brought of TEN THOUSAND THUNDERS, attended and participated in a diverse array of panels, and met some truly wonderful people, including (but certainly not limited to) Leonard Bishop, Tex Thompson, Michelle Muenzler, Marguerite Reed, Seth Skorkowsky, Kevin J. Anderson, Maureen McHugh, Michael Shannon, Jan S. Gephardt, and so many others who made this Connecticut Yankee feel so welcome in Oklahoma!

Kevin J. Anderson and I in a friendly corner of the Death Star, talking about Dune, while I’m wearing my Portal shirt.

Particular thanks to the remarkable Tex Thompson, who runs a hands-on, gloves-off research camp specifically for writers, called “Writers in the Field”. At this not-so-little series of workshops, writers can experience first-hand a host of activities, like archery, smuggling, herbalism, field triage, autopsy, ballistics, forensics, and lock-picking. Speaking of, her SoonerCon expo challenged people to try picking a variety of locks, during which I may have discovered a secret skill-set, dispatching each challenge with an ease that surprised no one more than myself.

Great Plains Robbery, here I come!

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The return journey from SoonerCon was quite the opposite experience. With my flight out of Oklahoma delayed, I ended up missing my connecting flight in Chicago and arrived in the Windy City at the tender hour of 11 p.m. The clinically morose lady at American Airlines’ reception proceeded to inform me that the next available flight was 6:50 a.m. in the morning.

Passing quickly through the stages of grief, I resigned myself to the new experience of sleeping overnight in an airport. A narrow corridor had become a kind of refugee camp for other passengers like me who found themselves caught in this Neverwhere-like Limbo. We were provided cots, paper-thin blankets, and tiny pillows. Between the ceiling’s merciless interrogation lights and the relentlessly punctual loudspeaker decree that Chicago O’Hare is a non-smoking airport, sleep proved impossible. I did some reading, some writing in my notebook, and a good deal of wishing that langoliers would come rolling and chewing their way into the facility.

The good news is that I came up with what I think is a very decent idea for a story resulting from all this.

And hey, I came home to complimentary copies of The Year’s Best Military and Adventure SF Volume 5, marking my second consecutive appearance in that series. “Crash-Site” (originally published in Fantasy & Science Fiction) is featured in its pages, and remains one of my favorite stories I’ve had published to date.

“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”
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