I’m in D.C. for the Nebula Awards weekend. The hotel got overbooked–apparently an enormous tour group decided to stay an extra day, and once people have rooms you can’t kick them out–so a bunch of us were shunted off to a very posh hotel several miles away for Thursday night. This is a bit puzzling, as the original hotel is surrounded by other hotels and presumably they could have just sent us across the street, but whatever. Alas, the very posh hotel put all its money into building an enormous atrium with house-sized shops and restaurants inside of it, leaving none for soft beds.
This entire place–not just the apocalyptically empty and echoing hotel but the surrounding extruded-plastic “walkable downtown” with meticulously kept-up lawns and a complete sucking absence of soul–feels grotesquely fake. I could believe that it was once a movie set built from a demented megalomaniac’s dim, warped recollections of childhood vacation fantasies. Now the (undoubtedly dystopian) movie is done and the set has been abandoned, to be intermittently occupied by confused, wealthy squatters. The bars outside the hotel, where we went in a futile search for non–room service food, were packed full of the most desperately intoxicated people I have ever seen in my life. There is no dirt anywhere. There is no sense that anyone who had a hand in designing this place put the slightest thought into human comfort and enjoyment; it all exists simply to make an impression. It’s the architectural equivalent of someone who has undergone so much plastic surgery that none of their original face is left. It’s the suburbia that Information Society wrote “On the Outside 2.1″ about, the sort that recalls the man with red eyes and the regimented children from A Wrinkle in Time. It is profoundly discomfiting and I will be glad to leave.
The one redeeming feature is that I ended up with the magnificent D.T. Friedman as my last-minute roommate, which is lovely. If I were in a room all by myself I’d be missing my partners a whole lot. I’m still missing them, of course, but it’s tempered by slumber party fun.
There’s hardly anything on the program that interests me (no slight to the organizers; I have this problem at all non-Readercon conventions, and this one is mostly geared toward fiction writers, a group I don’t really belong in), so once I get back to the conference hotel, I plan to spend the next three days alternating between hot tub and bar*, using my phone to record interviews, with a break to put on my pinstripe suit and liveblog the Nebulas. I love my job, even when it sends me to strange, disturbing, non-real places.
* Because it’s where people congregate, not because I’ll be drinking. I don’t drink when I’m working.