Monday, November 1, 2010

Impressions of World Fantasy 2010

As a hard science fiction writer my attendance at conventions has been limited to those focusing mainly on SF, not Fantasy. After all, what possible benefit could I, a hard SF short story writer, get from a freaking Fantasy - for Gods sake - convention? Nobody in that crowd could possibly know me. Worse yet, I feared that I wouldn't know anyone among all the fey folk who would probably be sporting dragons on their shoulders, wearing fairy wings, and lurking about in capes.

Not my sort of thing at all!

So, much to my surprise when I arrived at Columbus I immediately run into four writer friends, who I vaguely recalled were into this fantasy crap. Then there were two more people I'd spoken to at other cons but who I'd imagined were SF writers, not fairy dusters. Maybe they were local, I thought. Probably got comped as well.

Rising early the next morning I found Ester, the WFC GoH, the only early riser in the hotel restaurant who engaged me in a quick lesson on WFC. "It's a fucking BUSINESS meeting," she ever so charmingly said over coffee. At which point a coven of agents and editors, some of whom I knew, but mostly did not, magically materialized. At registration there were more familiar faces, and then more, and more until it finally dawned on my that most of the attendees were WRITERS. Not a dragon among them, not a pair of fairy wings nor wicked capes polluted the convention center. Staggering away from the registration desk with fifty pounds of free books and assorted paraphernalia I ran into some more friends, and then even more.

The first session was a revelation for it was packed by writers, which made for an interesting dynamic, both from the aspect of demeanor and the types of questions being asked, all far different from the fannish type I so frequently encounter at other conventions. That impression was only strengthened by succeeding panels and readings - OMG, the readings! The readings were wonderful! As a fantasy virgin I was swept away by hearing the words coming from the author's own heart, hearing the voice of the stories unfold the way the writer intended, with emphasis at all the right places. Never had I imagined so much richness and, even though much of it was not to my personal reading taste, I was nevertheless impressed.

At the end of the day the bar area turned into an oriental bazaar of haggling and bargaining. A deafening roar of people excitedly exchanging ideas, passing rumors, making requests, and performing all the business of writing heartily, all of which was enthusiastically lubricated by wicked, eldritch drinks. Subject matter aside, WFC was turning out to be disturbingly like so many regular business conferences I'd attended through my corporate career. To the casual passers-by the crowd would appear to seem like any other gathering of mundanes, while they remained unknowing of the magical spells being cast by agents and editors, publishers and writers. Neither would they be sensitive to the heroic battles being waged to gain the prize of significant attention.

Did I mention parties? Oh lord, emerging from the elevator on the party floor you find yourself immediatly shoulder to shoulder with writers on every level and, in the rooms where liquid refreshment beckons like sirens, you find yourself talking to someone who just made SFWA's qualification and, turning around, enter a conversation with one of the giants of the field who is as excited and interesting as everyone else. Hallway conversations include WFC, Hugo, Nebula, Endevour, etc, etc award winners talking about the business, future, and problems of our singularly hermitic life styles. It is like dying and going to the Valhalla of writers.

I drove away from Columbus too soon, leaving so many ungreeted, so many discussions not concluded, and so little work being done: I usually finish a couple of pages at cons in my spare time, but not here, not where so many tempting distractions lurked at every turn. But every good thing ends and the long drive home gave me an opportunity to recover from the three-day adrenaline rush and sort out the actual business that I'd realized I'd practically accidentally conducted with editors, enough potential work to keep me busy for a few more months.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention it. I really, really, really, really freaking enjoyed WFC!!!

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