I meandered through the San Jose airport looking at shops and pausing to admire several art installations. I had no one to mange but myself. It was odd. I counted back through my memories and came to the conclusion that I have not traveled solo since I was 19 years old, single, and a college student. Even then my parents came with me to the gate and Howard met me at the other end. (We were dating, but not yet engaged.) I was not afraid to be in an unfamiliar airport by myself. I’ve done enough traveling to know what to expect even when I don’t know the exact locations of the things I expect.
San Jose is a mix of things familiar and things new. I grew up only 45 minutes from here. I see the palm trees, ground ivy, yellow hills, and part of my brain says that I’ve come home. Right outside my hotel window is the Great America amusement park which was the cool place to go when I was a middle school kid. I was looking at the architecture as I rode in a taxi to the hotel. It is quintessentially California with all those early spanish influences. The colors and red tile roofs would be exotic except that they are so familiar.
Baycon itself is also a mix of things different and familiar. Other than Mary Robinette Kowal, with whom I am staying, and John Picacio, whom I’ve met briefly on a couple of occasions, I didn’t know anyone. I do now. Conventions are like that. After the Mingle with the Guests event, I have new blogs to look up and people with whom to keep in touch. The feel of convention hotel is very familiar. The vibe of the attendees is comfortable. Yet everything has a slight spin which reflects the local aesthetic and zeitgeist. The most different part is being completely at my own disposal.
On the first evening I discovered yet another small adjustment I need to make professionally. The very first moment I was called on to introduce myself I said “I’m Howard Tayler’s wife.” It was a useful hook because the other person then connected me with where they’d seen me before, unfortunately it also emphasized the wrong part of who I am. Here at Baycon I’m trying to be Sandra Tayler, writer rather than Sandra attached to Schlock Mercenary. Mary helped me rehearse a better introduction and has flawlessly introduced me to many people in ways that make me sound interesting. There was a moment at breakfast this morning where someone I’d been talking to for an hour finally connected me to Howard and lit up with delight. It made me happy, in part because having someone be delighted at you is always a positive experience, but also because it meant that the respect I’d been getting before was all earned by me rather than bestowed upon me by my association with Howard.
I was at the Mingle with the Guests event and Mary introduced me to a friend. I ended up telling about my writing for a little bit. In a moment when the friend was distracted by something else, Mary leaned over and said “Do you realize that you keep stepping backward like you’re trying to flee?” I looked down and realized that I was indeed at least two feet from where the conversation began. I had been slowly moving the conversation because I’d take a tiny step back and others would step forward to keep within good talking proximity. It wonderfully expressed the tentativeness I feel when presenting myself for my own works rather than the associations with others. I think I shall also find comfort in it because they did step forward so that we could continue to talk.
Thus far my conventioning without Howard experience has been a good one. There are edges of missing home and kids, occasional moments when I feel odd or misplaced, but on the whole I am having a great time.