Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Time and Space Warp

This past weekend, it was my privilege to be the Master of Ceremonies (sounds a lot more impressive than what it actually was, believe me) for the 2012 Bloody Words mystery conference here in Toronto. As always at this event, I enjoyed myself a lot.

 First, is the chance to spend time with people I tend to see only at such conferences. I posted a blog here a few years back about just this. People who write and enjoy genre fiction tend to have conferences and conventions to celebrate the stories we love. People who write Literature don’t get the same opportunities. One really must feel sorry for them. Sitting around with group of authors and fans who love what you love is always a tremendous shot in the arm.

I went to more panels than I usually do. I didn’t want to miss Gayle Lynds two solo performances. She’s a real pro in the thriller game and she did not disappoint. Her panel, Nine Secrets to Writing Bestselling Thrillers, was most excellent and proved how well she knows her craft. It really was one of the most useful panels I’ve ever attended at one of this get-togethers.

But all of that is not what this post is actually about.

Most convention centres, whether in hotels or as free-standing facilities are very odd places. You disappear inside early in the morning and you may not come out again until very late at night. I’ve been to conventions where, if you are also staying in the hotel where it’s being held, you may not go outside for two or three days. It’s as if I’m on a space craft and completely cut off from the outside world. There are no windows, no communications and everyone is focused on one thing only. It is a very odd existence.

Case in point: on Saturday, high drama was taking place at the Eaton Centre, a mere three blocks from our location. I knew absolutely nothing about it until I was just about to leave when another convention goer told me she’d just spoken to her husband in preparation for getting picked up. One man was dead, six others injured (some gravely) and it all caused a horrible stampede when the shooting broke out.

At the hotel, none of us knew a thing about it, and let me tell you, it was quite a jolt.

Like shopping malls, convention centres are designed to focus one’s attention inside, to what’s going on. They don’t want you to be in communication with the outside world. It’s an artificial and ultimately sterile environment. I always feel like a mole, blinking at the unexpected sunlight, whenever I emerge from one of these places. The universe has moved on and I’ve been completely separate from it while inside. Several days later, I’m beginning to feel normal again. It does take that long.

It would be lovely to attend a conference sometime that takes place in a more “normal” environment, maybe even one that would allow panels or presentations to take place in the open air. Remember those times when your teacher might take your class outside in good weather and you’d sit under a tree and have an al fresco class. My fourth grade teacher, Miss Wenzil, did that a lot at the end of our year together. Most of the year’s work had been done due to the fact that she was an incredible teach, so we’d go outside where she’d read to us in the shade of a beech tree.

Perhaps that’s where I learned to love literature and the myriad ways words can be assembled to tell a story. If so, I owe Miss Eva Wenzil a very large debt indeed.

Special thanks to Cheryl Freedman and the whole Bloody Gang for putting on a fantastic event. You done yourselves proud!


John McFetridge said...

Rick, I've been suggesting the "Beach Reading Festival," down here in the Beaches for years, maybe it's time...

Jeffrey Round said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeffrey Round said...

Cheers to Miss Wenzil! And, hey, I'd attend a Beach Reading Fest any day. (Well, any day other than between October and April.)

Anonymous said...

Wait til 2015 Bloody Words in Halifax....

Charlotte Hinger said...

Rick, I agree with the eerie feeling that something has happened to time. I'm determined to make it to Bloody Words some year.