I’ve just got back from a two week trip in the US which included attending the World Fantasy Convention. I had a great time catching up with friends, meeting other authors and attending panels. Unfortunately I won’t be going back to the World Fantasy Convention for a while, mainly because I can barely afford one international convention a year and I might be going to Worldcon in Helsinki next year.
Things I loved
The best part of any convention, big or small, is getting to know other creative people. I got to catch up with Michael and Carolyn Kelly, who I have total respect for; last year Michael had really reached out to me as a first time attendee, so it was lovely to meet his wife and buy out many, many Undertow Publications books.
JS Breukelaar was another surprise author I got to meet. I’d read a review of American Monster on Weird Fiction Review earlier this year, put the book on my to read list thinking they were 1) American 2) a man. You know what they say about assumptions… so I was pleasantly surprised to find that JS was not a man and from Sydney, Australia! Go the weird sisters. We had a blast together and she’s written up a great summary of WFC on Lit Reactor (which features me and a reference to giant squids).
I roomed with Emily Randolph, who is not only an up and coming epic fantasy writer but a very talented musician, snappy dresser and all round classy lady. Basically all round awesome. Also a fantastic fashion friend for the World Fantasy Awards – she made me wish I’d brought my femme fatale hat too. The highlight of the awards was the sign language interpreter who stole the show with her fast interpretations of everything from US politics to fantasy literature. Last year Jake Wyckoff, Michael Kelly and myself formed an council of weird, so we welcomed JS Breukelaar to our super-official council at the gala event.
Other fantastic authors I got to talk with were Nate Green, who showed off the snazzy cover of his new book, Andy Rogers, who amazed me with his stories of Alaskan moose, artist Chris Roberts, with his unique collage art style and matching sense of humour, Max Gladstone, talking everything from ethics in fantasy systems to the Spice Girls, and Amal El-Mohtar, who I can’t think of anything snappy to say about except that she’s a lovely person (my brain is still jetlagged). As always, Deanna Sjolander and Blake Hausladen kept me entertained, especially with their mad language skillz. There are a heap more people I could mention, but as you know what goes on at WFC stays at… I was reminded how important it is at conventions to surround yourself with good people; it seems like obvious advice, but surrounding yourself with positive people at a con makes all the difference.
Got some great book swag which included the Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016. I bought a copy of Charles Beaumont’s The Intruder (I have a soft spot for Beaumont after writing about him for WFR). I also picked up a copy of the beautiful The Starlit Wood, edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe, at their book launch. The table of contents in this book is amazing. Then I had to schlep it home (I love the word schlep, all the Americans kept saying it to me).
Other things: I got trapped in a cage with a plush squid in a bid for NZ 2020. Hells yes.
While I’m going to post my panel notes for anyone interested, one of the most interesting panels was on cover art, from working artists and art directors talking about their process. I’d love to see some more professional panels at the World Fantasy Convention. Yes, keep the conceptually based panels, because I find the good ones thought provoking, but add in panels on contracts, taxation, building a fan base, writing for digital platforms, social media and writing tie-in novels.
It was also a good challenge for me to put myself out there as a writer more. I didn’t volunteer for any panels or readings because I can get quite timid about promoting myself, and I realised I shouldn’t be that way. I could’ve read from some work in progress, I could have talked about the occult detectives on a panel. I don’t like to regret things, but for me in the future I’ll be forcing myself to put my hand up as a writer. I was talking with a friend afterwards and it’s about seeing yourself as among peers not superiors. But conventions like World Fantasy can be intimidating when you don’t know a lot of people, especially if you’ve come from overseas. Which leads me into…
The convention was under-attended and there weren’t a lot of international visitors at the convention. As far as I know there were only five Australians at the convention, myself included. I met three people from Europe and one from India. Of course, this survey isn’t scientific, but let’s face it: it’s easier for North Americans to attend a US convention. I would love to meet some more writers and editors from Asia; it would be great to have a World Fantasy Convention in Singapore, Hong Kong or Tokyo.
Although attending the con was a lot cheaper than last year as I booked it in January, it cost me around $2500 AUD to come to the con this year. I did enjoy the venue at they Hyatt Regency in Columbus – it was well set up and the staff were very helpful. While I love travelling, it took me two days to get back to Australia in transportation alone. Let me break that down for you:
- one car trip
- nine hours on the Amtrak
- three subways
- an airport bus
- three flights, including a 13 hour flight over the Pacific
- another airport bus
- a taxi
- lots of leg power, especially with the 8kgs of book swag under my arm
The World Fantasy Convention should embrace social media to broadcast panels, awards and guest of honour speeches so that people who are unable to go can attend virtually. This technology is now free and easy to use through Facebook and Youtube, and would open up the convention to a whole group of writers around the world.
Anyway, that’s all the news that’s fit to print. I’m still going to do my panel write ups, but I want to post them separately. I hope to see many of the wonderful writers and editors I met at Helsinki next year!
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