On November 1-4, 2012 I did a cool thing: I participated in a world event about the fantastic. Since its inception in 1975 in Providence, Rhode Island, World Fantasy Convention (WFC) has been held in a different location in the world each year (next year the WFC will be held in Brighton, UK, returning for the first time to England since 1997 when London hosted the WFC). This year, World Fantasy Convention happened on my doorstep: Toronto, Canada. Despite being primarily an author of science fiction, I just had to go. Besides, I’d just released my first fantasy novel “The Last Summoner” (Starfire), currently enjoying some popularity in Canada and the United States.
Themes & Other Terribly Wonderful Things
This year Northern Gothic and Urban Fantasy were featured themes. Special guests included the current deans of urban and gothic fantasy: Patricia Briggs; Charles de Lint; Larry Dixon; Tanya Huff; and Mercedes Lackey; with author guest of honour Elizabeth Hand, recipient of the previous year’s world fantasy award for her novella “The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon”.
Convention Chair Peter Halasz and his team of volunteers pulled off another awesome convention. Toastmaster Gary K. Wolfe officially opened the convention Thursday evening to an enthusiastic crowd. Events included an art show and auction, the 2012 World Fantasy Awards and banquet on Sunday to announce and celebrate the winners.
The World Fantasy award for best novel went to Lavie Tidhar’s “Osama”, published by British small press PS Publishing. Tidhar’s story, said to stretch the boundaries of the genre, beat out stiff competition from Stephen King’s “11/22/63”, George RR Martin’s “A Dance With Dragons”, Jo Walton’s “Among Others” and Christopher Buehiman’s “Those Across the River”. For a full list of nominees and winners of the 2012 World Fantasy Awards, go to the Tor site.
2012 World Fantasy Awards and Lifetime Achievement winners included Alan Garner and the prolific and well-loved George R. R. Martin.
The con also hosted an immense book signing, in which zealous book collectors had a field day. Snaking line-ups of eager readers with stacks of books under their arms cued for the likes of Elizabeth Hand, Patricia Briggs, Larry Dixon, Charles de Lint, Mercedes Lackey, Patrick Rothfuss, Tanya Huff, Guy Gavriel Kay, Jo Walton, Alan Garner, Joe Haldeman, good friends Robert J. Sawyer and Julie Czerneda, and so many more (too many to name them all).
Panels & Other Possibilities
Between important meetings at the Hotel’s Spirits Lounge and the nearby Fox & Fiddle drinking establishment with friends, colleagues, future colleagues and strangers who would soon be friends, I attended a few choice panels. Panels were wonderfully diverse and interesting. Subjects included the obvious media topics of Urban Fantasy and Steampunk but also explored more erudite literary areas such as editing, self-publishing and the moving target of other publishing paradigms.
A panel entitled “New Twists on Accepted Myths” moderated by publisher Virginia O’Dine and made up of authors Marie Bilodeau, Mercedes Lackey, and anthropologist Meg Turville-Heitz, had me both laughing and thinking with the lively banter between authors, publisher, and academic. Panelists happily wandered rich territory from the traditional application of classical “King Arthur” to the irreverent slanting of Ragnarok.
Several panels were devoted to the blur in fiction between reality and the fantastic. In an early morning session that was mysteriously well-attended, called “Reality Made Fantastic or Fantastic Made Real”, L.E. Modesitt moderated an eclectic and international panel of authors, academic and literary agent. He asked panelists Isobelle Carmody, Sally Harding, Delia Sherman, and Greg Wilson to discuss topics from world-building, urban settings and characterization to why there is always a bowl of unrecognizable green dip in the hospitality suite at world fantasy cons.
Several panels discussed the changing face of the industry. Panelists including seasoned professional editors such as Ellen Datlow and Gordon Van Gelder to academics such as Robert Runté discussed topics that ranged from the role of the editor to e-publishing and the rising wave of self-publishing. At some point, discussions naturally slid to personal gripes about anything from devices like Kobo and Kindle to why you should love—or hate—Amazon and the alien-wisdom of Apple.
Hospitality & Why I Really Came
Speaking of the hospitality suite—well, I was a paragraph ago—the food and drink provided to attending members was outstanding. The suite, large and cozy with French-style furniture and tiny tables, became a focal center for foraging nomads. Most times, I had to pick my way through the snaking line of outstretched legs as parked members blithely ate and chatted in the hallway. The suite was a microcosm of the convention, where members met, drank coffee, visited over the food and traded stories from around the world.
It is called a World Fantasy Convention, after all. I met people from Sweden, the UK, Iceland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Israel, Australia, USA, and Canada. We discussed anything from the mysterious green dip and American politics (no connection, really) to why American writer Suzanne Collins’s “Hunger Games” became so popular in North America but not in Europe and Asia.
I met old friends I hadn’t seen since I moved from the west coast to the east coast of Canada and renewed my contacts with colleagues, editors, publishers and fellow authors.
In a way, the World Fantasy Convention is really a giant annual business meeting. It is a place and time for professionals in the realm of the fantastic—authors,
publishers, editors, reviewers and artists—to congregate at an excellent venue and trade ideas, stories, and history, conduct business, make new contacts, network generally, and have fun. It is an opportunity for those involved in the world of speculative, fantasy, and science fiction literature and art to renew, cross-pollinate and come away changed, vitalized and … well … fantastic.
I traded my business card with more people than I can remember, discovered some interesting opportunities, and counted my experience at this year’s world fantasy convention a great success. I was feeling pretty fantastic.
Next year, Brighton!