Halloween weekend found writers, editors, publishers, agents, and other professionals gathered in Columbus, Ohio for the 36th World Fantasy Convention. Spanning four days, the Hyatt Regency and Columbus Convention Center hosted panel discussions, author readings, a dealer's room, art show and sale, and after-hours social events. This year's theme was a Celebration of Whimsical Fantasy.
Information on former and future locations, nominees and winners of the World Fantasy Awards, and some history can be found at www.worldfantasy.org. Guests of honor this year were Dennis L. McKiernan, David G. Hartwell, Esther Friesner, and Darrell K. Sweet.
As my first time attending this convention, I had not known what to expect. Making my way through check-in on Thursday, a volunteer at the end of the table handed me a massive black bag. When I peered inside, over a dozen new books greeted me with whispers of strange tales and bizarre creatures. I immediately returned to my room to gloat over my prize, like a dragon with a newly acquired chest of gold and jewels. The weekend was off to a great start.
Once I could extricate myself from my heap of books, I decided to venture into a few panel discussions. Topics spanned many aspects of the field. One way in which World Fantasy Con differs from other conventions is that there are no classes on the mechanics of how to write. You won't find instruction on creating believable characters, using proper manuscript format, or avoiding smeerps, "said" bookisms, or info-dumps. Instead, I enjoyed discussions of Fantasy Gun Control, The Tension Between Art & Commerce, Slaughtering the Evil Hordes, and Why There Is No Religion in Middle Earth.
Having an introverted personality, I was unsure of my ability to socialize in a crowd of strangers in the evenings. Well, it turns out that if you put enough introverts together in one room, conversation suddenly explodes. The Con is a business and networking event in disguise, so it even the introverts are eager to meet each other. Contact information is relentlessly exchanged. For other first-timers--don't forget to bring business cards.
One of the most amazing aspects of this convention among newcomers and repeat attendees alike seemed to be the mutual understanding and love for the fantasy genre. I discovered an esprit de corps among the attendees that I had previously only encountered among my high school D&D group. People there understood that the original Conan was not a movie, elves and dwarves aren't always necessary, and that a book can be about a Torturer, without being about torture.
By that first evening, I recognized why events on Friday began no earlier than 10:00 am. Book launch parties and other social events stretched well into the night, every night. And the attendees preferring the hotel bar demolished all the Guinness on the first evening. Even managing to appear the next morning by 11:00 am required a heroic sacrifice of shut-eye and lucidity.
Despite the timing of the Con coinciding with Halloween weekend, costumes were sparse. However, I glimpsed a few corsets and vampires in the evenings, as well as a publisher dressed entirely in orange. Name badge decorations were more common, and I'm pleased to have come home with two spaceship pins from Tor.
Open mike sessions for poetry and story-telling, an autograph reception, and the artists' reception also took place in the evenings. The autograph reception let attendees meet and chat with nearly all of the authors, as well as receive autographs and purchase books. At the artists' reception, I drooled over paintings I could not afford while snacking on wonderful desserts. A large number of authors gave readings during the days and evenings, and I enjoyed those by Patricia McKillip, Joshua Palmatier, and Nancy Kress. I also managed to escape the dealer's room with only four additional books.
From an unscientific survey of other members, the hotel and convention facilities were deemed above average compared to other years' conventions. Being on crutches and unable to venture far, I had consumed a few meals at the food court in the convention area, and a few in the hotel's restaurant before discovering the con suite. A rectangular chamber of delightful free cuisine had been hidden on the first floor of the hotel. By that time, a horde had descended upon the Italian meal and the line was lengthy, but worth the wait at that price.
On Sunday afternoon, the World Fantasy Award winners were announced at a banquet. Gene Wolfe's acceptance of his award for Best Collection brought the audience to their feet as he made his way to the podium, and I believe was the most touching moment of the afternoon. He spoke only a few words, but appeared to sincerely appreciate the honor of the award.
At the close of the banquet, many attendees headed home. For those of us who stayed through Sunday night, exhaustion tempered our sadness at the end of a great weekend. Packing my books into my suitcase on Monday morning, I thought about all the people I had met, and I hope I will see them again next year. And yes, I managed to keep my suitcase under the airline's fifty pound limit. Next year's convention will be held in San Diego. Get your memberships now--rumor has it that they expect to sell out early.
November 3, 2010
EREADER FUNDRAISER LIVE NOVEMBER 5
In keeping with the Society’s support of literature from and about people of color, the prizes include five eReaders: two Barnes & Noble Nooks, two Kobo Readers, and one Alex eReader from Spring Design. Each eReader will come loaded with books, short stories and essays by writers of color from the speculative fiction field. Writers include: N. K. Jemisin, Nisi Shawl, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Terence Taylor, Ted Chiang, Shweta Narayan, Chesya Burke, Moondancer Drake, Saladin Ahmed, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and more.
“Octavia wanted everyone to enjoy the powerful stories writers of color can produce when we write speculative fiction, so this drawing would have made her very happy. It’s a wonderful win-win event, raising money for a scholarship that helps writers of color while sharing their creations with the world,” said Carl Brandon Society co-founder Nisi Shawl, a winner of the 2008 James Tiptree, Jr. Award.
“It’s so appropriate that booksellers are supporting the development of the next generation of writers, with the next generation of reading devices. This fundraiser will help ensure that great and thought-provoking literature will be coming out of our community for a long time,” added Claire Light, CBS Vice President.
“We’re thankful for the generosity shown by Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Spring Design in donating the devices for this drawing,” said K. Tempest Bradford, Special Events volunteer. “Thanks to them we can offer some of the best eReading devices available.”
The drawing’s tickets will cost one dollar US ($1) and can be purchased at http://carlbrandon.org/
To purchase tickets, read details about the eReaders, or to learn more about the Carl Brandon Society, please visit carlbrandon.org/drawing.html.
About the Carl Brandon Society
About the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship
Carl Brandon Society Website: http://carlbrandon.org