I had the great fortune this past weekend to attend the 2015 World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs, NY. Here is a brief recap of my experiences there.
I drove out on Friday and arrived at about two in the afternoon. I checked in and got a massive bag of paperback books (seriously, there was a small library in there – I think the Kindle is going to go on a bit of a hiatus). As I knew approximately zero people, I wandered about for a bit.
Okay, I wandered around all day.
Going to conventions alone is a tough thing to do, especially if you’ve never gone to that particular convention before. While I’m not exactly shy, I don’t want to be that weirdo who creeps his way into other people’s conversations, so I walked around looking for somebody I recognized – my editor, somebody I’d met before, etc. It didn’t happen.
So, for lack of anything better to do, I bought a couple books on the Sellers Floor (a copy of The Lies of Locke Lamora in paperback for Scott Lynch to sign, a Game of Thrones Coloring Book for grown-ups, and one other novel – I wanted to find a paperback of a Max Gladstone book, too, but couldn’t find one). Then I went to a panel on Politics and Economics in Fantasy Worlds wherein the panelists discussed how important it was to consider such things when building a world (and admitted that most good fantasy authors do, to some extent).
Next up was a reading by Max Gladstone from a forthcoming work (not part of the Craft Sequence – wholly new!) which sounded really cool. I introduced myself to him afterwards, mentioning how we’re practically neighbors. I’m pretty sure that weirded him out. Go me.
Then I went to a panel on the surrealist scifi artwork of Richard Powers, which was really very interesting but I do not have time to go into here. Anyway, it solidified my belief in the strong ties between the Modernist movement of the early 20th century and the science fiction and fantasy genres (something to explore at greater length in a different post, I think).
Lastly, I went to the signing hall that night to get Scott Lynch to sign his book for me, which he did. Then I wandered around and around and around, wondering if I was going to spend the entire weekend not talking to another human being, when, lo and behold, Sarah Beth Durst, a YA/Middle Grade author I’d met in NYC recently, flagged me down. I hung out with her for the rest of the night, pretty much, since she’d been coming for a while and knew all kinds of people. I got introduced around. I met Katherine Addison, ran into Scott Lynch again, and really hit it off with fantasy author SC Butler. We stayed up way past our bedtime telling each other stories, which was fun.
My first day goal – meet new people – was a success!
Saturday, I went to a ton of panels. An absolute ton.
What were they on? Hmm…
- The Quest (and whether it has become passé). The conclusion was that it actually couldn’t become so, since it’s so ingrained in us. The line of the panel was Leah Bobet, who said “Not every quest needs to be David Eddings’ ‘go to each country on the map, find a friend, and slay the giant monster with the glowing blue thing.'”
- Anthropology and Archaeology and how it can influence Fantasy writers. It was interesting, but no real zingers.
- Faerie Courts and Fairy Courts and portrayals of the Fey in Fantasy literature. Much was made of moving away from Victorian Tinker-bell types and getting back to terrifying hobgoblins like Red Cap.
- Violence and the Epic: how to portray violence in Epic Fantasy, why to do it, and when does it become gratuitous. Very interesting discussion. Glen Cook was on the panel and said less than a hundred words, but those he did say were doozies. Line of the panel (and probably the convention) was by him:
We live in a society where we think it’s really really bad to hurt people, but other places and times they’d throw a guy on the fire because it was fun to watch him scream.
I also listened to Scott Lynch read from The Thorn of Emberlain, which was freaking amazing and I can’t wait to read the whole thing.
That night I wandered around the art show for a while. The fantasy artists on display were crazy good. No pictures were allowed to be taken in the gallery (they’re trying to sell the artwork, you see), but take my word for it – jaw-dropping stuff. A lot of airships and steampunky stuff, for some reason. I loved one called “War Griffon” which showed a griffon decked out like a WWI fighter plane with a flying ace holding his reigns – goggles, cap, scarf, the whole thing. Very cool.
While there, I ran into Sarah again, and again I met a lot of other people by dint of my knowing her. Wandered from party to party for a while, then turned in late.
Sunday morning I went to two panels. First was “Genre Tropes That Deserve to Die,” which was mostly hilarious and offered numerous injunctions against having fantasy characters eat stew while on the road (it takes way too long to cook. Frodo and Sam would have never made it out of the Shire if they had to spend a day making stew every time they were hungry). It was pointed out, though, that all tropes can be done well. It just gets harder for some to work once they’ve been overused.
The second panel, and my favorite of the convention, was on weapons beyond the sword and how can be used in the fantasy genre. Very cool stuff, very interesting. Turned out there was an actual bladesmith in the audience who contributed to the panel a great deal. I stayed afterwards to talk with Ian Cameron Esselmont (who let me babble on about Alandar and The Saga of the Redeemed for a bit) as well as Chuck Gannon and the aforementioned bladesmith (whose name sadly escapes me at the moment). Very, very interesting talk.
Finally, then, there was the banquet. I got a seat at the Harper Collins table between my editor, Kelly O’Connor, and author Rio Youers. The table mostly talked about baseball. The awards were fun – all the winners seemed surprised, and pretty much nobody had a speech prepared. There was a real sense of community in the room, which was nice – these were all friends, all who knew one another, all who supported each other. It was a really pleasant atmosphere, and I know I’ll come back. I want to become a real part of this community, not just somebody on the periphery. Goals to shoot for.
But, with that said, the convention is over now. Back to work, both real and fanciful.
Congratulations to all the winners! I’ll be back next year!