Friday morning began with a lecture on the State of the SF/F Publishing Industry. It was pretty interesting, and covered the period from roughly after WWII to the present day, touching on a lot of the big changes in the industry. One of the most important aspects of this I can share, since it’s been a staple of writer lore for decades now. Yog’s Law says “Money always moves toward the writer.” In other words, don’t publish something “for the exposure,” or other stupid reasons to publish a story (not post on your site, but publish elsewhere) for free. It’s the nicer version of Scalzi’s “Fuck you, pay me!”
Next up was a Collegium with all the instructors, but lead by Debra Doyle and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, on research. We covered lots of useful books and information of use to SF/F writers, got Steven Brust’s recipe for Secret Histories, and a few other tidbits.
After this was an all-hands-on-deck Collegium where we asked whatever questions we had remaining. That lasted nearly two hours, and covered ground from SFWA—the Science Fiction Writers of America—membership requirements to the recent Vox Day controversy to questions about agents, writing woes, etc.
As this part of the day wound down, it was time for one last ritual moment: the taking of the VP oath, which contained, among other things, a promise to write, to revise, and to submit our work to paying markets only. We were each awarded a lapel pin and a certificate giving us permission from The Muse to write badly—so long as we fix it during revision.
Then we took the traditional picture of the graduating class, and it was time for what our program schedule called “Teary Farewells.” There weren’t a lot of tears on Friday night, though. We drank a little, we said goodbye, and we did more singing and talking until the wee hours. I crashed out at midnight; I had to get up pretty early in the morning, and I didn’t want to be miserable when I did so. And there was a little bit of awareness that even if I stayed up longer, I had to sleep sometime. As Tolkien said, you have to leave Faerie at some point, and return to your life. This experience, this incredible rewiring of my brain, had to have a moment where it ended. And it was better to end it when I was happy. So I said goodnight, Bear and a couple of fellow students gave me hugs, and I toddled off to bed, happy as I could possibly be.
The next morning, I had to get up. I had planned to sleep until 8am, but my roommates both left much earlier, so I got up so I could give at least one of them a proper goodbye (the other, unfortunately, had to leave before I managed to wake up). I packed up my stuff, and I swear to you, I heard the “goodbye” theme from the end of Babylon 5’s run in my head as I did so. I got a little bit teary then, but I managed to tamp it back down.
In the staff room, I sat with a few students for a short while. I got hugs from a couple more people before I left, and Mac Stone, bless her heart, nearly broke me when she said goodbye. When my time came to head off to the ferry, I got in the car and went with only a little sadness.
My composure totally ended when I got on the ferry. I went to the top, open-air deck, and I cried. I tried not to, but one of my colleagues, Paul, had tweeted “I will not cry in the airport. I will not cry in the airport. I am crying in the airport.” My ability to hold it in totally deserted me, and the tears, they came.
When my daughter saw me coming down the stairs of the terminal, 3000 miles and 12 hours later, she jumped up and down for joy. My wife smiled in that amazing way she has that totally melts my accustomed reserve, and I imagined our future.
I was home. And it was good.