This was the day we packed out. There was a 14-hour drive back to Seattle that needed to start early, so we debated whether or not to go to the panels that morning. Eventually we decided we should, as Jessie said that it was the panel that she most wanted to go to, and I was eager to stay as long as possible.

How Many Roads? (Reading multiple-viewpoint stories): A great panel, led by L. Kimmel Duchamp, with LeGuin, Vylar Kaftan, and others on the panel. Very informative, with lots of good points about both reading and writing multiple viewpoint stories. Best line of the con was Kaftan, discussing the difficulty of describing a first-person viewpoint character: “Nobody looks at themselves in the mirror and thinks about what they look like. But if you do, come up and talk to me afterwards, because I want to put you into a story.”

Driving home: Did I mention that I got a ticket on the way down to CA for going 90 mph in a 65 mph zone? Anyway, as we’re driving home, we pull into a gas station and at the pump next to us is the same cop that pulled me over. He was in his civilian clothes filling up his truck… just where we happened to pull in. He refrained from getting us another ticket, but he did wink at me as I was coming out of the bathroom, which creeped me out.

We got in at about 2am, and promptly collapsed into bed. Everyone agreed that it was a fantastic weekend, though.

(I’ve been incredibly busy for the last several days, so I haven’t had time to blog anything. So this Potlatch follow-up post is late. Sorry!)

Potlatch day two is the main day of programming, and I spent most of the day going to panels and listening to interesting people speak. The main attraction, of course, was Ursula K. LeGuin, who spoke on many panels, and was spoken of on many more. I managed to wrangle a book-signing and a photograph out of her!

The programming for the day can be found on this page. Here’s some brief thoughts on each panel:

Graphic Novels: not something that I’m all that interested in myself, but I was surprised and delighted to see LeGuin leading it. I learned lots about the history and current trends in graphic novels and comics, and saw panels from some very nice webcomics.

The Scalzi Rule: So our little panel attracted the attention of the great John Scalzi himself! I didn’t stay for the whole thing, as I had to go out for lunch, but this was an interesting panel of con etiquette, and what to do about That Guy. You know, the one who wants to soapbox and won’t shut up. I suggested that the Scalzi Rule was appropriate, even necessary for large groups, which garnered lots of disagreement.

Lunch: Delicious sushi with a childhood friend who lives in the Bay Area!

Good Reads: Got only the tail end, because of aforementioned lunch.

Ursula LeGuin’s reading from Always Coming Home: Exceptional. The readings were fine, and the questions were surprisingly insightful and interesting. The last question, about hope, was so inspiring and appropriate to end the reading that I could hardly believe that it wasn’t planned.

Poetry Reading: Entitled Invocation Against Entropy: A Chiastic Farrago of Poetry from John M. Ford and Ursula K. LeGuin. This was the surprise hit of the con, for me. I have little ear for poetry and low expectations from readings. But this was organized into a quasi-dramatic presentation, with gorgeous writing, good readers, and a beautiful chiastic structure.

Auction: Led by Jay Lake and… somebody whose name I really should remember but can’t right now. Entertaining, but I didn’t buy anything.

Scotch tasting: Not an official event, but a Potlatch tradition and a great time nonetheless. This was the best conversation I had the whole con, covering Gene Wolfe, cruelty and beauty, scifi bookstores, and intelligent moles.

I’ll have the brief recap of day three up this evening. Hopefully.

I’m in the lobby of the Domain Hotel in Sunnyvale, California, during the lunch break between morning and evening sessions. Yesterday, Larisa and I drove down from Seattle with our friends Jessie and Rob, who form part of my real-life writing group. Actually, Jessie and Rob did most of the driving. I got a ticket for going 90 mph in a 65-mph zone, after which they didn’t let me drive any more.

Potlatch has Books of Honor, rather than guests of honor, and the Books of Honor this year are Always Coming Home by Ursula K. LeGuin and Growing Up Weightless by John C. Maxwell. As I mentioned a few days ago, Always Coming Home is one of my favorite novels, and getting to be here to discuss the book and meet LeGuin was one of my major reasons for coming. So far, it’s been completely justified. During last night’s discussion of Always Coming Home we heard some great comments, and I raised a point that elicited response from LeGuin herself. (She wasn’t actually on the panel, by her own wishes, but she spoke from the audience.) Afterwards I was able to talk to her for a few minutes at the con suite, where I did not actually pee my pants and squeal like a fanboy. I said a few things which may even have included complete sentences! And I got a good answer to my question, and learned something I didn’t know.

Most surprising thing about LeGuin: she’s light-hearted and jocular. (And not as old as I thought she was–only turning eighty this year.)

Of late I’ve been rereading Always Coming Home by Ursula K. LeGuin, in preparation for Potlatch 18. It’s my second time through the novel, and I have to say that it’s as good upon reread as it was the first time–maybe better.

LeGuin is my favorite author. That’s putting it badly, though, because I don’t just enjoy reading her books: her writing embodies everything that I would want to accomplish as a writer. Ursula LeGuin is who I want to be when I grow up. And Always Coming Home is my favorite of the books of hers that I’ve read (which is most, but not all, of everything she’s ever published). It is the perfect combination of those traits that make her admirable: a piercingly beautiful description of a place that doesn’t exist, painted with such realism that one can hardly believe she didn’t actually go there; a fierce and overwhelming critique of modern civilization, not at its margins but at its core; a story of a place so unlike this world that it seems impossible to achieve, but nonetheless not a utopia or a city of angels, but a place inhabited by people with dirty feet. The first time I read the book it changed the way that I looked at the world. The second time has changed me again.

LeGuin is often polemical but not political, didactic but not condescending–but her politics and her teaching conflict with mine in many places. This makes it a hard book to read. It cuts me to the quick. It bites against things I believe deeply to be true. It speaks honestly, and forces me to be honest. I come away from reading it exhausted, spent and sweaty and in love. Rereading it was exhilarating but tiring, and leaving me with the need to process and consider what I saw. Hopefully, over the next several days I’ll be able to post a few articles discussing this book and my reactions to it. If I’m not too lazy, and if my thoughts settle into a pattern that fits into words.