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Monday, April 19th, 2010

Time Event
Outnumbered! Surrounded! Thank You!
The Broad Universe group reading at the Library of Congress went beautifully.

There's never a guarantee that the audience will outnumber the authors at a reading. Even if there's only one author. In fact, the magnificent George R.R. Martin once gave a reading that was attended by -3 people. (This was before he was a massive bestseller.) How can a reading have negative attendance? If the author goes to the Barnes & Noble where he's doing the reading and he sees three people at the cafe, he thinks Oh, good, at least three people have come to hear me, and then once the bookstore manager introduces him all three people in the cafe flee, that would constitute negative attendance. If it can happen to George R.R. Martin, it can happen to anyone.

As it turned out, we broads were outnumbered maybe three to one. It helped that my family made a strong showing, but most of the attendees were actually librarians at the LOC, plus the writerly teenage daughters one of those librarians had excused from school so they could see Real Live Writers (yay librarian dad!), and a couple of local SF/F writers. There were lively questions, mostly about how we did our research, so that I found myself asked to describe great funeral rites in the history of the Theosophical Society (a wackier, more exciting topic than you might guess).

The tour of the library was stunning, and our guide made many kind efforts to sneak us into staff elevators to spare my mother and sort-of-aunt, both cane-bound with arthritis, all those glorious and painful marble staircases. The library's grand public spaces are, well, grand, but I especially admired the rooms reserved for, and almost never used by, actual members of Congress. Admired those rooms enough to fantasize about running for office. I need to put something in the Beltresin books about ceremonial palace rooms that haven't been used for their intended purpose in decades. If the intended purpose isn't what happens in there, what does? At the LOC, the answer is, the library staff stores tables and chairs in one of them, and C-Span runs with the sound muted on a perpetually unwatched television in the other--profound ordinariness unfolding in gilded, muraled, mahogany-inlaid splendor. In Beltresa, far more transgressive things might occur in such neglected spaces.

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