When last we left the Swinetrek
Before heading to Readercon, I visited Boston's Museum of Science to see their exhibit on The Dead Sea Scrolls
. I took a wrong turn en route and found myself at Edgar Allan Poe Square
, conveniently across the street from a large map that sent me in the right direction. This didn't leave me much time to see the rest of the museum, but the exhibit was worth the visit: the actual scraps of parchment weren't overly impressive, and while it included the James Ossuary
, that came with a rather emphatic disclaimer - but I was intrigued by the collection of Asherah figurines
collected from ancient Israelite homes.
Readercon was an excellent convention, literary without being academic (though I did become embroiled in a few conversations about great film soundtracks and enjoyably bad B-movies, mostly in the con suite), and I can see why some of the writers I spoke to describe it as their favourite annual con. Panelists included Ellen Datlow, Margo Lanagan, Sheila Williams, John Shirley, Scott Edelman, David G. Hartwell, Howard Waldrop, Cecilia Tan, Scott Lynch, Elizabeth Bear, Peter Straub, Nicholas Kaufmann, Paula Guran and Maureen McHugh. The latest idiocy from Texan lawmakers provoked an understandable level of ire (Howard Waldrop expostulated at one panel that he'd never imagined a future that included the Republican Party), and Peter Straub's expression when he was informed of the existence of zombie romances
would have been hilarious but for the fear that he was about to go into shock. I attended the Shirley Jackson Awards ceremony as Margo's proxy, but never had the opportunity to read her acceptance speech; however, I was delighted that Kaaron Warren's 'Sky' and Exotic Gothic 4
won in their respective categories. I resisted the temptations of the dealers' room as best I could (Margo tapped me on the shoulder one time, and pointed out that I'd have to transport the books back home), but was unable to resist a chance to get books signed by James Morrow and Elizabeth Bear or to complete my collection of The Year's Best Horror and Fantasy
. The con was capped off with a delightful late lunch or early dinner with Jack Haringa, Brett Savory, Nicholas and Alexa Kaufmann and others before I caught a bus down to New York.
I had less than 48 hours to spend in NYC, and I was determined to see the AMNH again: other museums I've seen in my travels have better collections of dinosaurs and Cambrian fossils, but the AMNH beats them all when it comes to prehistoric mammals, including the type specimen of Andrewsarchus
. After a dinner of New York pizza, my host Alexandra Honigsberg suggested we catch the Staten Island ferry to see the Statue of Liberty at sunset, then catch a bus back uptown to see at least some of the sights by night.
My flight to Japan on SwissAir included an overnight stop-over in Zurich, a city which didn't particularly impress me - though that was partly because I was too tired and jet-lagged for much sightseeing. Even taking that into account, though, I don't think Zurich and I are a good match. Alain de Botton once described the city as bourgeois, but insisted he meant this as a compliment; I agree with the label (though 'mercenary' and 'hideously overpriced' might be more accurate), but not the sentiment. I much preferred Lausanne, which I visited about eight years ago; the main impression I had of Zurich, apart from a few attractive old buildings, was of billboards for private banks and presumably expensive "gentlemen's clubs", plus dealerships for Bentleys, Lamborghinis and McLarens. If I ever fly from the east coast of the US to Japan again and have to stop overnight in a European city, I'll hold out for Amsterdam.
I was more impressed by SwissAir, who combined politely efficient service with a sense of humour as dark as my own: their map of our Atlantic crossing included the sites of famous shipwrecks, and when I told the woman at check-in counter that the ticket machine wouldn't confirm my booking, she joked, "Then you'll have to stay here." For a long horrible moment, it seemed as though this wasn't just a grim joke: my travel agent had inexplicably cancelled my ticket to Tokyo. Fortunately, the plane wasn't full and I was able to pay for the ticket to be reinstated and arrived safely in Japan this morning.