Sunday, November 27, 2016

Odds and Endings: WFC 2016 Part Three

My notes become much sparser for Saturday and the half-day on Sunday, which may in the end be merciful. Nonetheless I'll put down here for posterity such highlights and attended agenda as I have marked in my program.

First it seems that my final event on Friday was the Starlit Wood release party put on by the editors or the publishers or some such folks. It's an anthology of "New Fairy Tales" by Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone and about a dozen others. The party was very loud and crowded. They had decorated the suite by putting some nifty out takes up on the wall. Here's an example. I also hung out for a bit with some other Writing Excuses retreat alumni, which was cool.

Saturday started a little too early after the party but I wanted to catch a reading by Larry Hodges at 10:00 and I'm glad I did. Larry's short stories are pretty humorous and it's a good way to kick off a day. After that was "The Fantasies of James Thurber" panel. Thurber was a Columbus native and apparently his "13 Clocks" is not to be missed, or so said the panel and also Neil Gaiman who wrote an introduction for a recent reprinting that I heard him read on the drive home from Columbus as I was listening to "A View from the Cheap Seats". Mostly I remember Thurber because my dad loved watching "My World and Welcome To It" on TV.

Next up I listened to artists and Guests of Honor Larry Dixon and Randal Spangler in conversation. Spangler is a pretty regular seeming guy and his art is fantasy but not what I'd call high fantasy. Dixon on the other hand is a character and the combination was entertaining. Dixon has done lots of book covers, been around film and TV (he has a gamers targeted series on YouTube) and is an aviary expert -- that is, he works with birds. He told us about an African Gray parrot that made up a word. It could recognize and say "banana" and "berry" but when given a piece of apple, something it hadn't had before, it said "banan-erry". He also told us that "laughter is a self-massage, electro magnetic pulses run through your muscles when you laugh" and that "calligraphy is swordsmanship writ small".

We also learned that a (fantasy book) cover artist's job is to slow a customer browsing through a store down from 3/4 second per book to 2 seconds; by 4 seconds they are picking it up.

I attended panels on new archaeology finds and how they inform fiction and on middle grade fantasy. I went to a reading by Guy Gavriel Kay. And once again to a panel that tried to define Weird fiction and mostly failed again. Horror editors Ellen Datlow and weird editor Mike Kelly couldn't quite agree. It has something to do with chthulu and the Old Ones (Lovecraft). Or maybe see Van der Meers "Anthology of the Weird". Steve Rasnic: idiosyncratic strangeness of individuals; impossible/improbable but a ring of truth -- not vampires and werewolves. Other thoughts: "bizarro" adds humor. Weird can come from a sad place. Horror must be dark. Weird has deadpan. Sounds a bit like some of my stuff, but not quite on the nose.

Saturday I ate dinner in the hotel restaurant, on my own, which was a nice break from the press of people. Afterwards was the Art Show Reception with coffee and dessert. I broke brownies and had a nice chat with David Boop and Peter Wacks (Peter likes to write amongst activity, like at Perkins Pancake House, one of the only places open late in his town.)

Sunday morning I think the only panel I went to was "Atheist Fantasy? Is God Dead?" The panelists (Larry Hodges, Max Gladstone, Auston Habershaw, Kevin Minerd and L.E. Modesitt) were careful not to tread on faiths, beliefs, or a lack thereof in their fellows or the audience but still managed to be interesting. Someone noted that the latin roots of the word "religion" has to do with a binding of will/self to something larger. I think Auston noted that Fantasy tends to contain powerful magical beings that can create life or grant wishes and sagely asked, "Isn't a god just one of those with a fan club?"

There was another panel with a great title that I ended up skipping out on: "How to Make a Small Fortune in Specialty Publishing (Starting with a Large Fortune)". I packed up my books and commemorative 42nd World Fantasy convention glass and checked out. On the drive home I stopped for a Skyline Chili in St. Matthews, Kentucky.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Secondsies: WFC 2016 Part Two

My second helping of World Fantasy Convention 2016 started at the very reasonable hour of eleven o'clock in the morning, plenty of time for me to have purchased a bottle of grapefruit juice at the convenience store just off the hotel atrium to go with my leftover cinnamon and raisin bagel.

First up was "Keeping YA Weird" with Fran Wilde, Ellen Klages, Rani Graff and possibly Alan Smale -- members of some panels did not quite line up with the printed program due to last minute conflicts and what-not and my notes didn't always cover the differences. My apologies. Here "The Lie Tree" by Frances Hardinge was highly recommended by Fran Wilde, who's opinion I quickly came to respect. Also recommended was "Harrison Squared" by Daryl Gregory along with better known (to me at least) works like Shirley Jackson's "We Have Always Lived in the Castle" and Neil Gaiman's "Coraline". Any kind of a precise definition of the "Weird" genre continued to elude me.

Next I went to Jerome Stueart's bizarre reading of a portion of his "Lemmings in the Third Year" short story, it's about some lemmings doing a scientific study of an owl in their territory and their fatalistic-come-suicidal ethology/ethnography. He left us hanging off a cliff. But I bought his book, so once I'm done savoring the suspense, I'll finish the story.

I had lunch and then attended Fran Wilde's presentation on human self-powered winged flight. A surprising number of people killed or crippled themselves in this pursuit over the centuries, though one or two had some degree of success only to get shunned by their rulers. I'm also looking forward to reading her fantasy novel that includes this subject, "Updraft".

I listened to the Guest of Honor talk by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. He has written a lot of books. I haven't read any of them and I'm not yet in a rush to do so, though he is obviously quite popular it just doesn't seem quite my cup of noodles.

I attended an author reading by Ellen Kushner and a panel on "A Golden Age of Contemporary Asian Fantasy" wherein all the panelists were of Asian decent but none published in an Asian language or had even lived all that long in an Asian country. Panelists included Brenda Clough, Amal El Mohtar, and Mimi Mondal. I took no notes, though the discussion was interesting if not particularly memorable.

The "Mass Signing" rounded out the day. Dozens of authors set up in the ballroom and signed (and sold) their books. Larry Hodges signed "Campaign 2100" for me and we decided that we could most definitely defeat any other duo at the convention in a doubles table tennis match. (Larry is a national champion and I am a state champion in the sport, and between us we know most of the players at that level and none of them are this involved in fantasy genre books.) Later he signed "The Spirit of Pong" for me. I also chatted here a bit with David Boop about "weird" and short stories and bought an anthology, "The Weird South" from him that contains one of his stories. I'm enjoying all the stories in the book quite a lot. L.E. Modesitt signed two of his books that had been included as part of the convention package for me, "Imager" and "The Magic of Recluce".

Heavy hors d'oeuvres were served in the lobby outside the ballroom which made a lovely dinner for me, especially when topped off by a brownie from the dessert table and a cup of hot chocolate in lieu of coffee. I don't drink coffee, but the rich, warm beverage hit the spot and I trundled off to my room.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

WFC Not To Be Confused With WTF

For some people it was a long flight, and I'm sure their arms were very tired (or their legs were broken, if so, they should have seen Fran Wilde's presentation "Man Made Wings in Fantasy and Fact" before attempting self-powered flight -- I bought her book Updraft), but for me it was a long drive. So I traveled on Wednesday though the convention started Thursday afternoon. My back was stiff but I played table tennis at the Columbus club before going to the Hyatt hotel Wednesday night.

The fun started with my first panel, where Peter Wacks was a bit wacky as Eric Flint (or was he S.M. Stirling?), who was running late. It was on alternate history and beyond Peter I was impressed by David Boop and Alan Smale, I later bought their books and had them sign them for me. Jim Minz and Elizabeth Crowens rounded out the panel. Alan referenced Tolkien and the theory of "the second belief": Readers will go along with one whopper but not a second one, even if it's smaller. And we also learned: "get your reality right if you want readers to believe your fantasy." (Smale's current book is "Clash of Eagles", an alternate history about Romans invading North America while it's still just Native Americans here. I'm looking forward to it.

As part of joining the convention attendees were given a passel of books. The hope of course is that we'll read the authors and get hooked and hook our friends. I'll definitely read a couple, but others I'll surely never get to.

"Fantasy of the American Heartland" was next with Gary K. Wolfe (erudite), Karen Kovenmyer, Rob Howell, Lynne Cantwell and Stephanie Loree. They talked about everything from native American creation myths to Tom Sawyer to American Gods. Sometimes sheer belief will make fantastic a reality was a theme: Field of Dreams.

During "Costume Makes the Character" with Delia Sherman, Madeleine Robbins, Cinda Chima, Mercedes Lackey and David Levine (his Arabella of Mars sounds interesting) we heard that a POV character noticing garments of certain other characters is an indication of how interested they are in that character. And that characters are affected by the clothes they wear, e.g. shoes impact gait, stance, self-perception. Other garments impact interaction: weapons to a hijab. Describe details when needed but leave room for the reader, too.

As we settled into our seats for the "Fantasy Writer-Artist" panel, a young man turned to me from the row in front of me and asked if I would sign his book. I was just about to tell him he must have the wrong person when he handed me a copy of "Rocket Dragons Ignite," the second anthology from Daily Science Fiction, in which I do indeed have a printed story. I was happy to sign for him, my first such request from someone that I wasn't already friends with. Thank you, Alec.

This panel included Jerome Stueart, Charles Vess (of Neil Gaiman collaboration fame), Sally Grotta, Brenda Carre and Seth Lindberg. Sally told us that we "Need to know where the light is shining onto a painting. Need to know that too for your narrative." Also that Jerome would draw a custom beast for you over in the vendor area where he was selling his new book "The Angels of our Better Beasts". I had him draw a carnivorous goose munching on bees, beetles and crawfish. Another day I went to his reading where he read from a wild story about lemmings that I am savoring finishing after I plow through a couple other books in progress. And that Charles Vess is doing a series of drawings for Ursula K LeGuin's Earthsea books and that he had sketches on display in the vendor room. They are very cool.

Before calling it a night I went to the Open Mic Poetry Reading session. Heard some interesting stuff, the limericks were the sharpest (and dirtiest). I didn't read.