I promised a number of people that I’d write a World Fantasy Convention Report.
So, World Fantasy Convention (WFC) was held in Madison this year, which is practically on my doorstep. I still don’t know if I have enough for a real diary since it wasn’t that coherent an experience, but here goes. This was my third WFC, so I’ll lay things out about WFCs in general then this one in specific.
WFC is different from any other con I’ve ever been to. It’s deliberately expensive and the membership is capped at 850. Both are measures designed to keep it as professional as possible. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a name writer, an editor, or an agent. You’ll also hit one gonna-be and three wanna-bes. I don’t mean that in a negative way. I’ve been both a wanna-be and a gonna-be, and have moved up to a low slot on the “is” list. Fantasy artists, reviewers, publishers, and book store people are there in abundance as well. Of that 850, there are maybe one hundred folks who don’t fall into the above categories. These are by and large very serious fans. Many are SMOFs – the secret masters of fandom, who hold the F&SF world together in many ways. They’re also the folks (often overlapping with bookstore people) who do most of the volunteering and make sure the convention actually happens.
WFC is very much about making connections and networking. I’m decent at doing both of these things when I’m motivated, but I don’t enjoy it as much as some do. That’s why I try not to go with an agenda. If I don’t have to meet people, I tend to meet more of them and stress about it less. My first WFC got me an invite to write Star Wars short stories that was eventually rescinded by Lucas Film because I didn’t have the right credits. It was a surreal ride. My second WFC is kind of blurry because I came down with the flu in the middle of it.
Parties. I spend a lot of time hanging out in the publisher parties where things really happen at WFC. There are also secret pro parties where many of the mighty hang out. I’m currently not cool enough to get invited to those at the WFC level. I’ve been to them at smaller cons though, so I know they exist, and the fact that there were a ton of pros that I didn’t see until the very last day suggests they were somewhere I was not. I did have fun at the parties I went to, and Laurel Winter (outstanding YA author and long time friend) talked me into a long pink wig. There were a couple more wigs as well and Charles DeLint took pictures. I suppose that since I mentioned them, I have to post them. See below.
There is also a lot of programming, mostly panel discussions. I rarely go to programming that I’m not on any more. I used to go to tons and somewhere along the line I burned out. Instead I spend a lot of time lounging, often in the halls, and always with a fairly good sized group of friends. I’ve heard them described as my entourage, but that’s just silly. I’m just a social soul and have many friends in the F&SF community. We tend to have a lot of silly fun. We spent three hours playing with a couple of superballs and a cup on Saturday night and acquired a number of new friends. If you’re having silly fun in a serious place, other people who like silly will quickly join you.
Shmoozing. As I mentioned above, shmoozing is a key activity at WFC. I did some, but not really very much. Less than I usually do, and probably less than I should have. The odd thing is realizing that over the last two years or so I have become a shmoozee instead of just a shmoozer. And perhaps even more odd, it makes some sense, as I’ve been at this long enough to have the sorts of useful information that are worth seeking out. The dangerous side to this is that shmoozing often involves the buying of drinks and I’m the world’s cheapest date. 1.5 beers and I’m into frame dragging land, so I have to be very careful.
Lounging. This is what I did the most of. The hot tub was hot, the drinks were cold, and the company was fabulous. With the aid if a friendly bartender I perfected the Snarky Booswarm which is a shot of Citron, a shot and a half of Midori, a shot of lemon juice, and about as much sour as the rest combined, all served over ice. I also had Spotted Cow and Fat Squirrel, two of Wisconsin’s finest beers.
Pros. I hung out with or at least exchanged greetings with a ton of writers and artists. Here’s the list:
Published Writers with whom I had some interaction more than hello and goodbye: Barth Anderson, S. N. Arly, Elizabeth Bear, Tracy Berg, Charles de Lint, Alan DeNiro, Matt Forbeck, John M. Ford, Terry A. Garey, Paul Genesse, Laura Anne Gilman, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Nancy Holder, Naomi Kritzer, Ellen Kushner, Jay Lake, David D. Levine, Sandra Lindow, Kelly Link, Catherine Lundoff, Rebecca Marjesdatter, Sarah Monette, Hilary Moon Murphy, Darrell Schweitzer, Delia Sherman, Carrie Vaughn, Joan Vinge, Anna Waltz, Terri Windling, Laurel Winter, Jane Yolen, Sarah Zettel.
Published Writers, with whom I exchanged hellos: Holly Black, Ted Chiang, Ellen Datlow, Stephen R. Donaldson, David Drake, Carol Emshwiller, Esther Friesner, Gregory Frost, Gavin Grant, Eileen Gunn, P.C. Hodgell, Ellen Klages, Eric E. Knight, Patricia McKillip, Garth Nix, Kristine Smith, Midori Snyder, Michael A. Stackpole, Caroline Stevermer, Terri Windling, Gene Wolfe.
In closing. One of the best aspects of the F&SF community is that it is a community. We have a very strong tradition of welcoming new writers to the fold and of mentoring. That means that I get to spend time just hanging out with some of my heroes, including many who couldn’t make this particular convention. It also means that my answer when someone asked me how long before my students cut the apron strings was a blank look. As long as they stay in the field they’ll be my proteges, even if some of them go on to far surpass my own humble career.
I was particularly excited this month that two of my students have taken the next big step in their writing careers and actually survived submission to a major magazine and the following rejections. It’s the only way for them to go on to next level which is acceptance and publication, and I’m very proud of them and of the two others who have stuff out but haven’t heard back yet. The other thing I’m proud of is that my entire class is still meeting together twice a month as a writers group to support and critique each other’s work. That’s really exciting. They’re currently discussing names, and the one I most favor is the Glitter Glam Rainbow Bunny Death Pixies, in part because I want the t-shirt that names me an Honorary Glitter Glam Rainbow Bunny Death Pixie.
Oh, and you haven’t forgotten the pics, have you? Didn’t think so: