World Fantasy Convention 2001
Much as the Worldcon is the must-attend annual event for any serious Science-Fiction fan, the World Fantasy Convention (WFC) is an essential stop for any fantasy aficionado. Though your reporter is generally more well-read in SF than in Fantasy, the 2001 WFC had the particularity of taking place practically in his backyard -globally speaking. Thus his attendance, and this inevitable convention report.
It’s almost impossible to talk about the WFC without mentioning at least once the price to pay in order to attend, and for a good reason: $250C will discourage quite a few casual fans, ensuring that those who remain are really interested in the proceedings. (As if that wasn’t restrictive enough, attendance is limited to 800 people, first-come first-serve) Elitist? Of course, but the result is a convention closer to a professional event on par with, say, an insurance salesmen’s convention than your usual Trek-dominated fan-boy gathering.
The convention took place November 1-4, 2001, from Thursday noon to Sunday afternoon. Practically speaking, the only event of note on Sunday afternoon was the World Fantasy Awards luncheon, which wasn’t included in the basic convention price. Panels began at 10:00 and mostly ended at 18:00 to make place for the mass autograph party (Friday) and the cabaret (Saturday).
The convention took place at the Delta Centre-Ville, a hotel located roughly between Montréal’s downtown and old town sectors. While the area immediately in front of the hotel could only be qualified as "dismal" from an aesthetic point of view, it was within walking distance of several Montréal landmarks like the Molson Centre, Avenue Sainte-Catherine and the Old Port. Unfortunately, it rained a lot during that weekend, which restricted some activities. (Actually, Montreal suffered though pretty much every type of weather during that week, from snow on Wednesday to rain and unseasonable warmth during the days of the convention)
Once There: First Impressions
Anyone used to regional-level conventions quickly found a lot to love about the WFC. Registration was already set up, staff was visible and helpful and everything simply radiated professionalism. It also helped that the registration kit included a plastic bag stuffed with free goodies, up to and including free books. "Everything on that table is free," added the registration lady, "including the hardcover books." Nice!
The convention souvenir book was a handsome object, with a full-color cover by Artist Guest of Honor Donato Giancola (whose artwork was also featured in a full-color four-pages inset in the middle of the book). Glossy with a heavy stock cover, the programme included the requisite guest information and sponsors advertisement, plus remembrances of recent deaths in the field, a listing of past conventions, past WFA winners and fictions by the writing guests of honor. As if that wasn’t enough, it also included a CD-ROM stuffed with short stories, images, biographical information and miscellaneous good stuff. A collector’s item if there was one, the souvenir book was yet another reminder that we were dealing with a world-class convention.
On thing for sure: This isn’t a Star Trek convention for the kiddies. To quote the Programme Guide: "The WFC has a well-deserved reputation for professional and businesslike conduct among it members. We appreciate your help in maintaining this reputation. Please note that this is a literary fantasy convention. You’ll see no hall costumes, uniforms or weapons being worn… In the unlikely event that it becomes necessary, the convention badge is the property of the 2001 World Fantasy Convention and can be requested to be returns through the end of the weekend." So there.
First-time visitors to Montréal were adequately informed by convention staff, who provided an extensive amount of information about the area in the packages, including a specific restaurant guide.
The WFC is run by a pro-level team that knows how to do things. As someone who has taken part in his share of amateurish please-forgive-us regional conventions, it was a real pleasure to contemplate a truly professional operation, from a laminated nametag to tightly-run scheduling.
(Unnecessary disclaimer: This is simply a highly subjective description of the panels that your reporter idiosyncratically decided to attend. Understand that this particular selection is in no way an attempt at representing the whole WFC.)
Generally speaking, panels were usually delightful in terms of content and wit. Participants had worthwhile point of view and could express them in an entertaining fashion. The microphones required to carry their voices across the huge conference room, however, stiffened debates as some of the least confident panelists had to jockey for one of the three microphones before speaking up. The vast majority of panels started and ended on time, thanks to disciplined panelists and time warnings flashed by WFC organizers.
Thursday, 12:00 – Broad Universe: Women in SF, Fantasy and Horror
The first panel of the weekend dealt with women and feminism’s place in Fantasy. Participants immediately discounted any relationship between so-called "hard-SF" male writers versus "soft-fantasy" female authors by bringing up Mary Shelly versus J.R.R. Tolkien. Discussion then moved on familiar ground, with most panelists bemoaning the lack of strong and complex female characters in fiction. "We’ll know women have broken stereotypes" said Esther Friesner "when they’ll be cast as villains again." "Or be weak again" added Carol Berg. Several panelists used the panel to vent about their own personal examples of stereotyping. "In Heinlein’s fiction, women are a problem to be solved" said Matt Sturges, the only non-woman panelist, before adding "But I don’t want to monopolize the discussion… because that’s a very male thing to do." Esther Friesner criticized the attitude by which male romance writers (eg; Bridges of Madison County) are seen as somehow more meritorious that women: "It’s like it’s a surprise; Oooh, he can be sensitive!" Finally, the panel wound down with a discussion on the title of the panel, which is also the name of an organization with the primary goal of promoting science fiction, fantasy, and horror written by women. "We hope that in ten years, it’ll be gone, made redundant." said Carol Berg. The site is at www.broaduniverse.org
Thursday, 13:00 – Adaptations: From Film, TV and Computer Games
If you thought the World Fantasy Convention was only about Fantasy, this panel was a perfect illustration of why not. Of the two panelists (S.M. Stirling and Mark Shainblum), neither was strictly considered as a fantasy writers and most of the discussion discussed adaptations and tie-ins of SF works. "Adaptations are closer to the mainstream," said Shainblum "because you’re not free to invent the universe." It was a smaller panel, but highly interesting due to the diversity of adaptation experience shared by the participants. (Sterling was involved in several such projects, from a failed Babylon-5 novel outline to the hardcover Terminator 2 spin-off. Shainblum has a lengthy track record of comic book adaptations and other projects too long to mention here.) "Shared properties tend to reinforce perceptions, not challenge them." pointed out Shainblum, latter criticizing the "general theme of moronity in en
tertainment media." Lest too many negative perceptions color this report, both participants generally agreed on the fun of writing for a favorite character, and the money received for doing so.
Thursday, 16:00 – How Does a Character Come to Life?
Literary conventions like the WFC usually feature a fair number of what we’d call "technical" panels in which authors like to discuss various strategies and methods for writing fiction. This was the first one, in which an array of authors discussed the importance and methods of creating good characters. While all authors agreed that characters were essential in good fiction, they also had different way of explaining why and how. "Characters are what makes a story" said Laurien Patten, an opinion shared by Margaret Kraus, for whom "character are the first thing, the pivot point" of a story. James Allen Gardener had "to find the ‘Voice’ of the protagonist" before writing, while Joël Champetier revealed that for him "characters define themselves. By mid-book, I know what they’re like." Ellen Kushner discussed the "Young Trollopes" literary movement to which she belongs, "a group of writers who write and publish character-driven fiction, dedicated to the concept that the most engaging plot is made up of action that grows out of the personalities and choices of characters" ( http://www.endicott-studio.com/yt.html ) Methods on how to develop characters abounded. Joel Champetier is a fan of "characterization through rock-throwing", or seeing how a character reacts through reaction to stress. James Allen Gardner said that "there are a million ways to be afraid of cats." Ellen Kushner warned against the "single flashback fallacy" in which the key to a whole character depends on one single event in the past. The panel ended with a discussion on how to use the potential of the multiple point-of-view technique. An invaluable panel for apprentice writers.
Friday, 10:00 – Fantasy Worlds Have Economies, Too
It’s been said that high fantasy is merely hard-SF with a different rulebook. Certainly, most panelists seemed intent on showing why writing fantasy didn’t mean a license to ignore the most elementary principles of economic science. What drove Darrell Schweitzer nuts, for instance, is stories with "giant cities in the desert without visible means of support." James Stoddard acknowledged that for him, economics are another way to "give coherence to the story." Forcefully moderated by L.E. Modesitt, the panel consisted of high-powered intellectual discussions with a quantity of historical precedents. Sara Hoyt turned the table on the panel at one point by stating that "most of current economics is fantasy". Even standard fantasy assumptions came under fire: Hoyt questioned the relationship between supply/demand/scarcity of money/magic and asked why mages were constantly taking second place to noblemen. "If I was the mother of a rich girl, I’d try to marry her off to a mage to ensure that there’s a magic-user in the family and that my grandchildren will be more predisposed toward magic." Ultimately, though, panelists acknowledge that most of them write about other things than economics. Schweitzer had one overriding recommendation for budding writers: "Just don’t do anything stupid."
Friday, 11:00 – Killing a Character You Love.
Few subjects can get readers riled up as quickly as character deaths. Authors were brought in to explain themselves in this panel. When asked about gratuitous deaths, Robert J. Sawyer opined that "Death is cheap when it’s not real, more so than meaningless deaths.", Mark Anthony said that for him, "killing a character acts as a message to the reader." On the subject of fake character deaths, most of the other panelists agreed: "Tolkien did it okay, but everyone else…" Yvonne Navarro had a few heads bobbing in agreement when she said that killing off characters early "isn’t a stunt if it works." Mark Kelly closed the panel by saying that for authors, "Fates worse than death have to be considered very carefully."
Friday, 12:00 – Writing Combat and Fight Scenes
Another technical panel, this one brought together an interesting array of writers with widely differing background. All started by describing the difficulties of translating experienced pain to fictional characters. After a detour through the history of medicine (and a lot of reading recommendation; Marc Finn recommended the economy of Howard), the panel moved on to common misconceptions in fight scenes, from "the myth of being knocked-out" to the unimaginable experience of combat chaos. Joe Haldeman admitted that given his experience in Vietnam, he finds himself unable to write "fun" fight scenes. Audience participation was high, from pointed questions to comments about actual combat experience or the practice of fencing.
Friday, 13:00 – This is the Year That Was! The Year in Fantasy and Horror Literature
It was to be an all-star panel, with David Hartwell, Ellen Datlow, Gordon van Gelder and Charles Brown. Unfortunately, Brown never showed up, and the other panelists were counting on him to do the novel round-up. Most of the panel actually consisted of various general considerations on how to find the best stories. Certainly, criteria vary according to genre: Datlow, for instance, complained about the problems in finding dark-enough stories for her horror anthology. All panelists we prompt in dismissing original theme anthologies as sources of good fiction (Datlow: "not horrific". Hartwell: "Crap". van Gelder: "Deadening Premise") Finally, Hartwell reminded everyone of basic financial considerations: "While there are hundreds of thousands of people supporting novels in North America, there’s a universe of only maybe 20,000 people supporting short fiction."
Friday, 16:00 – Scientific Akkuracy in Fantasy and Horror
Seven panelists and only three microphones made for an uncomfortable panel for the participants, and a mildly frustrating one for the audience. Michael Stackpole began the panel with the reasonable assumption that what’s important "isn’t as much accuracy as consistency and a careful consideration of implications." Cavelos likened "scientific accuracy" as nothing more than "rules for a fight" to ensure cohesion and impact. Tim Powers cautioned against cockiness and the temptation to make it up by pointing out that "readers are smarter than you think, and it will destroy the illusion for them. They want to be in presence of characters, not the author." Stackpole criticized writers who say "I’m not smart enough to write SF, so I’ll write fantasy": "That’s like saying ‘I’m not smart enough to write anything.’ Get another job!" The panel gradually evolved to a discussion of rules and consistency. Said Powers, "Magical realism is flawed because no one is ever surprised."
Friday, 17:00 – Moral Responsibility in Writing
To avid fantasy readers, it seemed like too good a panel: Joe Haldeman, Stephen R. Donaldson and Ellen Kushner discussing moral responsibilities of authors? It lived up to expectations. After hearing Haldeman state that moral responsibility varies by who you are (gangsta rappers uphold different standards than hard-SF authors), Kushner also specified that moral responsibility can also mean different things to different audiences. A World Trade Center reference by Haldeman was cause for a detour to explore the relationship between terror and fiction. (And Kushner to say "I’d like to penalize Joe Haldeman for hitting below the belt.") Kushner saw the question of moral responsib
ility as a false question: she saw the writer’s obligation to tell the truth, however unpopular it may be. When the moderator asked about seeing violent fiction turned in reality by a random psychopath, Kushner likened it to "the worst review you’d ever have! The nut would misunderstand it so completely that he wouldn’t even get it’s not ok to kill someone!" When came in the inevitable question from the audience to Stephen R. Donaldson about his Covenant series, Donaldson switched nameplates with Kushner.
Friday, 20:00 – Mass Autograph Party
During most of the WFC, it’s possible to maintain the illusion that everyone at the convention is a respectable fan of the genre, with no regard to publishing credits or fanboyish glee. Such a socialist dream is impossible at the autograph session, where readers are carefully segregated in a pit, surrounded by tables and, on the other side, the published authors willing to undergo the signature session. Difficult to see who’s most uncomfortable; the anxious readers waiting to speak to the authors or the authors waiting to speak to readers—any readers. Some of the readers are a tad demanding, pushing around boxes full of books all waiting to be transformed in autographed collectibles. There were long lines for the superstars present at the convention; Tim Powers, Fred Saberhagen, Charles de Lint, Guy Gavriel Kay. Others, like Joe Haldeman, Robert Jordan, China Mieville or Stephen R. Donaldson never showed up. Your reviewer had most interesting conversations with Robert J. Sawyer, as well as Joel Champetier and Donato Giancola, but compensated by making a total fool of himself with Esther Friesner. (Details below)
Saturday, 11:00 – E-books—Is there a Napster in Your Future?
A scant year before, you couldn’t throw a rock at a convention without hitting True E-Book Believers. This panel illustrated how perceptions have shifted with the recent dot-com upheavals and associated effects on all things electronic: even E-Book fans now recognize the limits and problems of the format. It’s now widely considered as a complement, not a replacement to traditional paper books, much like audiobooks. It was definitely a rah-rah-rah panel to convert skeptic newbies authors or readers; skepticism seemed too easy after hearing all those reasonable opinions. Maybe indicative of the reduced expectation was the panel’s big success anecdote: Panelist Kuo-Yu Liang recalled how he was able to read an e-book when stuck in a bus seat without a working reading light.
Saturday, 13:00 – Editing Magazines and Anthologies
Anyone looking for a look at the gritty, unpleasant side of the SF publishing industry only had to show up at this panel to hear about the trails and tribulation of small-scale publishing. All panelists vigorously upheld that editing is a labor of love, though some warned to never underestimate the fun of making money. An exchange of tales from the slushpile lead Northern Frights editor Don Hutchinson to remark that while his original plan was to publish one anthology per year, he’d only managed five books in eight years, "because I wanted them to be good!" Solaris editor Joël Champetier mused that he couldn’t decide which was harder in the life of a fiction editor; rejecting friends or accepting enemies.
Saturday, 14:00 – Artists and the Internet
Panels with fewer members can often turn into spirited discussions with the audience, and that’s essentially what happened with this discussion on how to be an artist on the Internet, with Tom Kidd and Donato Giancola. They explained the rewards of having a web site (Kidd even mentioned how he got more commissions as well as sold more prints and original artworks through his web site than through shows and annuals) and then moved on to the inevitable problems. By far the worst problem is the issue of copyright, where people will simply re-use their pictures elsewhere without acknowledgement or compensation, often for lucrative purposes. Much of the panel (perhaps too much) was dedicated to this issue. Giancola explained how he deliberately scales down the pictures on his web site to prevent such things, and described how he successfully stopped someone from making T-Shirts featuring his artwork. Apart from the financial rip-offs, both artists expressed their fear of being artistically embarrassed by unauthorized reproduction, such as in the recent case where an artist saw one of his pictures unknowingly being used as cover illustration for the first novel "by" Saddam Hussein. Given the few panelists, this panel turned into a more freewheeling discussion, with the artists asking as many questions to the technically-savvy audience as vice-versa. After warning potential web-artists against too much paranoia, both participants agreed that being on the Internet was well worth the trouble, especially given the potential financial rewards and exposure.
Saturday, 15:00 – World Building
Another panel in what I’d call the "writing fantasy is like writing hard-SF with a different rulebook", this panel featured seven panelists on the quest for the most convincing world-building. While all panelists were obviously all fans of word-building, some were more convinced than others. "You write SF&F as an excuse to build worlds" said Glen Grant, adding that for him, "world-building served as an outlet for otherwise useless knowledge." On the other end of the relative scale, Michael Stackpole argued that for him, world-building is simple coherency, though he later admitted that it was also an excuse for him wanting to tell all the cool stuff about his imagined world. Considerable time was spent by the panelists on techniques to achieve more believable worlds. Julie Czerneda suggested "the shopping trip as a world-building exercise": send off your characters to the local supermarket and see what’s available. Anne Leslie Groell reminded everyone that world-building never stops and should go on even in character dialogue. When asked about "the telling details", Czerneda suggested the content of garbage cans, David B. Coe voted for curses, Grant said "Sewage" and Stackpole was interested in what was exciting to the characters. Finally, William Sarjeant discussed the art of mapmaking at length, stressing the need for coherent, relevant and legible maps. He got the best laugh of the panel with his answer on how to modify maps after the first volume of the series is published: "Earthquakes, earthquakes, earthquakes!"
Saturday, 16:00 – Apes and Monkeys in Fantasy and SF
WFC attendees should be ready for all sorts of bizarro panels, and this was maybe the strangest of the whole weekend. Robert J. Sawyer moderated this exploration of the role of primates in SF&F, and he probably got more than he’d expected as the panel moved on racism, sentience, monster myths, repressed urges and all sort of unsettling subjects. On the subject of how to detect sentience, one member of the audience opined that beyond tool-making or laughter, "they use ‘fantasy writing’ now!" Beyond the expected focus on PLANET OF THE APES and associated issues, the panel also tackled the fascination of SF with uplifting primates. All in all, a strange but depressing panel. Charles de Lint summed it up best at the end by pointing out that "this was supposed to be a funny panel!"
Saturday, 17:00 – Artist GOH Slide Show with Donato Giancola
It would be easy for an artist to turn into an hermit with few contacts with the outside world beyond the confines of his studio, but Donato Giancola turns out to be anything but antisocial, with a presentation that was both fascin
ating and hilariously funny. After a small delay during which they found a way to shut down the lights, Giancola began his presentation, featuring a slide-show of assorted pictures. First up; a childish doodle drawn at age six: "I’ve made some progress since then." After detailing his influences (MAD Magazine, high-detail realism), Giancola described his early career and how he broke in the business with a cover for Wal-Mart’s edition of "A Yankee in King Arthur’s Court". The illustration was, of course, mangled beyond recognition. The presentation featured several inspirational works, most of them from classical masters. Giancola took the audience through a step-by-step explanation of the process of turning in a painting, describing how his first sketch is usually followed by a "color-by-number" of a sketch photocopy on masonite, layer-by-layer. He also pointed out his cameos as "guys who die or fake death" in his own paintings. All in all, a great presentation by a capable public speaker. Don’t miss it if ever you have the chance to attend.
Sunday, 10:00 – Critics’ and Reviewers’ Roles, Rights, and Responsibilities
It’s relatively easy to get a panel of opinionated SF&F readers, but much harder to get a panel of professional SF&F critics. Here, six pro reviewers took some time to talk about the state of the industry and associated considerations about SF&F criticism. Fred Lerner began the panel by affirming that familiarity with a genre is essential to identify the freshness and usage of concept, hence good criticism. Paul Levinson countered by saying that even neophytes can contribute sense of wonder, though he acknowledged that sophistication was definitely worth it in effectiveness. Helen Siourbas briefly commented on the dismissive attitude of the comments about Harry Potter at the WFC versus those made elsewhere. When Jean-Louis Trudel asked if the same attitude that work in SF&F criticism can be applied elsewhere, most panelists agreed. "Some human truths remain the same" said Scott Edelman, while Levinson said that the audience of a review is the universe; if you’ve commented honestly on the book’s truth, it should be worthwhile for everyone. When a member of the audience asked if the panelists only reviewed the good books, one panelist worried that by doing so, some would devaluate the good reviews. Scott Edelman digressed briefly to express his admiration for "The Ultimate Reviewer" Paul di Filippo, who will read as much of an author’s works before reviewing his latest, to put it all in context. Edelman also quoted di Filippo by saying that the job of any critic is to find under-appreciated gems. To which Levinson answered that even a scathingly bad review is better than no review. A member of the audience agreed, telling how their publishing house had once received a bad review clipping in the mail… with an order form.
Naturally, your reporter couldn’t attend all panels. Here’s a brief overview of what else was discussed over the weekend:
- Can’t We Root For the Villains For a Change?
- Adapting Real History and Anthropology as Backgrounds.
- Finding Time to Write While Working a Day Job.
- Morality and Ethics in Heroic Fiction.
- Spirituality and Writing.
- How does Family Structure Affect What You Write?
- My Personal Nightmare.
- Is all Fantasy Essentially Monarchistic?
- Dark Heroes, Are They Necessary?
- How Manuscripts Become Books.
- History of Fantasy – Early Writers.
- The Research Phase of Writing a Book.
- Writing and Publishing in the UK today.
- Erotica and Sexuality in Fantasy and Horror.
- The Web and Literature and the Stigma Against Self-Publishing.
- Why is our Fantasy Based on Medieval Europe?
Elsewhere At The WFC
The 2001 WFC could boast of the most efficient hotel setup ever seen at a convention by your reporter: All activities were concentrated in the basement of the hotel, so that every participants could efficiently move from one of the three panel rooms to the registration table, goodies table, art show or dealer’s room. Furthermore, the vast basement lobby acted as a valuable meeting place where one could efficiently meet and chat with other participants. It also meant that few "civilians" could accidentally disrupt the convention. Truly an exceptional setup, thanks to a good hotel layout.
The dealer’s room was a success in that it succeeded in facilitating the flow of cash from client to dealer. Still, there were few bargains to be had in a room where one could easily pay more than a hundred dollars for an unsigned hardcover edition of Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon. Despairing wails were heard from casual browsers when they discovered recent British SF novels… all hardcover, all signed, all more than $50C. A good place to find that H.P. Lovecraft first edition, but only if you simply must have it.
The art show was quite impressive, though the artwork by Donato Giancola, Tom Kidd and Québec’s own Jacques Lamontagne and Jean-Pierre Normand overshadowed the other artists. Visitors were encouraged to vote for their favorite artist. Prints were also available.
Newspaper junkies were pleased to note an extensive write-up on the convention in the Saturday edition of The Gazette. The mostly-positive piece "Bookworms revel in fantasy: Members-only affair abuzz with devotees of ‘unfashionable’ genre" featured quotes by David Hartwell, Robert Jordan, Lee Modesitt [sic] and Adams Nichols. Readers unable to handle the amateurishness of this report are advised to look for page A4 of the November 3rd, 2001 The Gazette for a better report.
Top ten notable anecdotes featuring your fearless (but, all-too-often, shameful) reporter. If you’ll excuse the abrupt passage to the chatty first-person mode…
1. As I’m browsing the dealer’s room at a dealer’s table, wearing my omnipresent jacket, said dealer looks at me suspiciously and asks brusquely if I’ve got my convention badge. As I pull the coat half-covering said badge, I vow not to buy anything from anyone with such poor salesman techniques; had I been interesting would it had mattered if I’d been attending or not? (Not that it would have mattered, at the exorbitant prices even his unsigned books went for…)
2. Still in the dealers’ room: I’m looking at the British SF Hardcover table (and groaning at the prices) when, suddenly, a booming voice states to the dealer "Just wanted to let you know that I’m here, no matter what anyone says or if you don’t see me again during the weekend: I’m here!" Just as I was about to look and find out who this arrogant person was, the dealer says "Oh, I wanted to make you sign a novel of yours…" …and reaches within my sight to grab Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time.
3. So the dealer’s room wasn’t a total loss: I managed to find both a nice art book (Techniques of the Fantasy masters) for $20C, and a British hardcover version of Clarke and Baxter’s Light of Other Days (signed by Baxter) for $12C.
4. I totally embarrassed myself trying to talk to Esther Friesner about her novelization of Men in Black 2. She takes her non-disclosure agreements very seriously.
5. I totally embarrassed myself talking to L.E. Modesitt about The Green Progression. A touch too much fanboyishness (I really do love his books), and a mistaken assumption that the newspaper’s interview with "Lee Modesitt" was a typo. Not so, was I corrected. Fortunately, his publisher’s press agent (?) started to talk to him and allowed me to exit gracefully.
6. I totally embarrassed myself (notice a running theme?) by asking Ellen Datlow why she was so self-conscious about her glasses. (On the "best of yea
r" panel, she kept putting on her glasses to read her notes, then taking them off as soon as her head came up, driving a few people nuts in the audience.) She answered quite reasonably that if she didn’t take them off, she couldn’t see anything. Fortunately, I had the good sense to mutter a half-apology instead of mentioning bifocals.
7. In fact, pretty much the only time where I didn’t embarrass myself talking to an author was at the Mass Autograph Party with Robert J. Sawyer (who I know simply by virtue of attending conventions in the Ottawa-Montréal area.) I mentioned my shock at seeing him at the panel on killing characters earlier that day, the lone writer among six not to have a book exhibited in front of him. (This is funnier if you know about Sawyer’s gift for auto-promotion) He answered that he was at a point where he didn’t need such crutches. I answered that he better watch himself, because that’s how you start slipping. Wish I could have given him a book to autograph, but -alas- I already own all of them, pretty much all signed too.
8. I also had a great conversation with both Donato Giancola and Joël Champetier. Both were at the honor table at the mass autograph party, but Joël’s books are almost all in French, and Giancola hasn’t published any retrospective of his work, so both were eager for some conversation. (It helped that Joël and I know each other quite well through Solaris magazine and various Boréal conventions.) I mentioned to Giancola how his cover art alone had driven me to buy a copy of Emily Devenport’s Eggheads. He answered that it was one of the paintings he wasn’t offering for sale, keeping it for his family instead. Overall, Giancola is one of the coolest persons I’ve met at the WFC, at the possible exception of Ellen Kushner.
9. Was it fun to rush through two of the city’s biggest bookstore to find a paperback copy of Ventus for Karl Schroeder to sign? After sunset? Through rain? Well, yeah.
10. Seen at the WFC: Editor David G. Hartwell wearing a FENN cap. Talk about branding: HB Fenn is the Canadian distributor of Tor Books, where Hartwell works.
So, was it all worth it, at $250C simply to enter? Was it worth it for a science-fiction fan to venture forth in fantasyland? Was it worth missing two days off work to do sp?
Well, of course it was.
Even jaded con-goers could find extreme satisfaction in the professional setup of the WFC. The content and quality of the panels was energizing to readers and writers alike. The discussions were sufficiently wide-ranging that people with even only a passing knowledge of genres couldn’t help but be fascinated. The occasion to see, hear and talk to well-regarded names in the SF&F field was immensely valuable. In short, there isn’t much to complain about and a lot to admire. Though your reporter’s fanaticism for the genre isn’t strong enough to make him attend the next WFC wherever it will be, don’t let that stop you if ever it takes place near your home town.
As for me, well, just watch me send out my check for Toronto’s 2003 Worldcon… (but that’s another report…)
(You can find more information about the World Fantasy Conventions at http://www.worldfantasy.org/ including next conventions and -as of December 2001-, quite a few pictures of the Montréal WFC.)