I’m home now from teaching at Alpha, the Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Workshop for Young Writers. This was my third summer there. This year, the sheer awesomeness of the workshop was pumped up to near-apocalyptic proportions by the addition of my onetime Clarion classmate and perennial partner-in-crime Tobias S. Buckell. Toby and I tag-team-taught a number of lectures, including ones on Originality & Ideas, Character & Dialogue, Plot & Structure, and Titles. We also critiqued stories, organized after-dark frisbee games, and stayed up late dispensing almost terrifying quantities of wit and wisdom.
Then after that was Confluence. I did a couple panels. I wasn’t scheduled to do a reading, but due to overwhelming demand, I offered to do one in my room. Since I was reading my scary demented pirate story, I decided to trick out my room in haunted house decor. I downloaded scary sound effects off of iTunes, and then, in less than an hour and using only common hotel items, created a freakishly glowing throne fronted by a spooky altar, placed one gruesome corpse under the covers of the bed and hung another (well okay, it was a bathrobe) from the the sprinkler. I also conjured up a squamous fiend, the Lurker in the Bathroom, to devour anyone foolish enough to disturb my toiletries. Unfortunately, one student dared its wrath. Aside from her hideous shrieks of undiluted terror, she was never heard from again.
Then yesterday I hugged everyone goodbye, shuttled over to the airport with a bunch of people, said goodbye several more times, and flew home. The view out my airplane window was staggering. I mean, I’ve flown on hundreds of planes, and I’ve often looked out the window, but I’ve never seen anything like this. Huge — I mean just gargantuan — columns of black thunderheads stretching for miles, and behind them a blazing red-and-yellow-streaked sunset. Then later we flew among the lightning, which lanced toward the earth and lit up the clouds above like bright-white fireworks. It was the first time I’ve ever really been tempted to skydive, to be just plunging among all that beauty and power and majesty.
Then, walking out to the airport parking lot, I found a $100 bill lying on the floor.
Update: And hey, if there are any Alpha students reading this, I am making the super secret Alpha gang sign at y’all.