Sunday, November 09, 2008

World Fantasy 2008

Nice photo, huh? Calgary looks lovely. Thing is, I spent five days there and I didn't see anything like those mountains. Not from ground level. Not from the sixteenth floor. What's that about? Were the mountains really there hanging behind some haze like here in Fresno, or was this thing photoshopped, or did I managed to just always be facing the wrong way? I may never know. Anyway...

This time last week I was still at the World Fantasy Conference in Calgary. I should probably say a word or two about it before too much time passes. It was, as ever, a wonderful con. World Fantasy was my favorite last year, and I think it will be so again. Some other cons have great panels (Readercon and WisCon come to mind), but it's hard to beat the combination of panels with so many professional writers, agents, editors in the mix. There are great numbers of fans, too, but there's definitely a professional feel to it. I didn't do any business there myself, but I know some that did. (I won't say anything specific, but some careers were advanced over those few days...)

I arrived aware that a lot of the folks I'd hung out with most last year weren't going to be at this one (think Pat Rothfuss, James Patrick Kelly, Kelly Link and the Angry Black Woman, for example), but I figured I'd still connect with some old friends and make some new ones. That, fortunately, is just what happened. Now, I didn't take a camera, so I don't have photos to verify the accuracy of all the namedropping I'm about to do. You'll have to trust me, and I'll just have to pinch images from elsewhere...

The first night I was happy to reconnect with Mary Robinette Kowal, Lou Anders, Jetse De Vries, John Picacio (these last two guys I first met at the Elf Fantasy Fair in the Netherlands) and to meet Paul Cornell (of Dr. Who fame), Marjorie Liu and Diana Rowland.

Day Two I went to plenty panels and readings, and by the end of it I was hanging out with George RR Martin (he'd read Pride of Carthage since last we met!), Steven Erikson (and lovely wife, who kept saying things to intentionally embarrass me), Daniel Abraham (I went to his reading; he came to mine in return; kinda nicely reciprocal), Dave Keck and my British editor, Simon Taylor. Did I say "hanging out"? I did, didn't I? And I mean it. Strange but true, these folks seem like... well, like friends. I guess that's part of the con magic.

By Day Three I was starting to get fuzzy on some things. At some point in here I got chatting with Todd Lockwood. He was the artist guest of honor, and I'd enjoyed watching his slide show of his work. Didn't really expect to talk to him, but then he ended up joining me at a table with others, and next thing you know we're talking about raising kids and art and politics. (Yeah, he's an Obama man.) Great time. Actually, it seems weird that I ended up talking as much as I did with one of the GOH, but so it was...

My conversation with Garth Nix was pretty short, but it was awesome. I'm a fan of his. His The Abhorsen Trilogy is wonderful, and I've enjoyed the several Keys to the Kingdom books that I've read. I'd accosted him last year in Saratoga Springs, and been very pleased that he'd already heard of Acacia. This year, though, it got better. He'd actually read and enjoyed Acacia! He even invited me to go surfing in Australia! (Okay, pause... that last bit might be a... lie. Getting carried away. He did read Acacia, though - I swear.) Needless to say, I was very pleased.

And then there were lots of people I saw in various settings: Nathalie Mallet (who was kind enough to come to my reading), Alaya Dawn Johnson and Doselle Young (with whom I commiserated about being black at a fantasy con - oh, we got hard, ya'll, you don't even know!), Kay Kenyon (who is very refined, and a lovely person to banquet with, and has lovely looking books that I want to read), Daryl Gregory (who was on my other elbow at the banquet, very good to talk to. I'll be checking out his book), Jay Lake (ah, Jay Lake... the first time we met one of us was drunk, while the other was only mildly inebriated and the combination wasn't always good... I won't say which was which, but in any event we've become more and more friendly since), Carrie Vaughn (who I wish I'd talked to more as she was very friendly and fun) and Derryl Murphy (a Canadian in his element). I know there were other folks too, but my brain gets a bit like swiss cheese at cons, full of holes.

On a number of occasions I was approached by people that seemed to be resuming some earlier conversation with me. I had no idea who they were or what they were talking about. Figured it must have been my fault, though, so I managed to bluff. Then came the time after a panel that Minister Faust was on... An older white gentleman approached me, complimenting me on the panel. I graciously pointed out that I had not, in fact, been on the panel. It was the other black guy in the room that had been. Not sure he believed me. Later that night, speaking with Docel and Alaya we realized (or re-realized, since this is a known phenomena) that the same thing had been happening to all of us. We'd each been approached by people that were sure we were somebody else - one of the small number of black people attending such events. We didn't have to look anything like our doppelgangers, by the way. Not body type or complexion or hair or clothing style or facial features. Nope. Just being recognizably black seemed to be enough.

My point: just cause you think you spoke to any one particular black person at a con doesn't mean you really did. Might want to check the name tag. Something to consider...

People I should have talked to but didn't... Two obvious ones come to mind. I went out of my way to hear Minister Faust talk on several occasions, but I never stuck around long enough to actually say hello. I should have. He's a wonderful reader, very amusing writer, and generally an insightful, completely engaging person. Silly me.

Second on the list is Tad Williams. I was elbow to elbow with him on several occasions. He always seemed happy, full of humor and openness, but somehow I didn't break the barrier. Should have. Confession: there's only one reason I didn't, and that's that I haven't actually read him. I'd like to. I plan to. But I haven't yet. Considering that he's sold so many books and was at the con in a prominent roll I just... oh, had a high school moment when a silly bit of trepidation got in the way. Oh, well, next time.

I'm thinking that's about all I have to offer at the moment. There were great panels, yes. A lovely art show. Readings galore. But I guess what I always remember most is spending time with other people that write for a living, people whose work I admire or want to learn more about. At a con I get to be a writer and a fan both. That's nice.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Derryl Murphy said...

I have that problem too! Every time I go to a con in another country, everyone keeps mistaking me for another Canadian. (Rim shot.)

Seriously? People weren't able to tell you guys apart? That's just... sad. And silly.

D

11:36 PM  
Anonymous James Patrick Kelly said...

Hmmm. Don't know whether this mistaken identity syndrome is funny or sad. Going to go with funny, for now, and try to remember that you are ~not~ Samuel R. Delany.

Wish I had been there, D.A.D.!

JPK

7:21 AM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Derryl,

I find it pretty perplexing. I'm not surprised. I've seen it happen many times before. I've heard about it from others. But still, I'm perplexed...

Jim,

I can go with funny, too. For the time being. As for the con - it wasn't the same without you!

11:42 AM  
Blogger jaylake said...

It was very good to see you there, sir, and under more auspicious circumstances than, erm, last time.

11:46 AM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Jay,

Absolutely. I enjoyed your reading, by the way, especially the Marquez reference...

12:22 PM  
Anonymous stephe said...

WONderful post, a lot of good info. Thanks for helping out us poor folk who had to stay home. Sounds like you had a bang-up time.

I feel you on the "black at a fantasy con" business. At my first big writing conference out at Lake Tahoe some five years ago, I was one of only two, and the only one with braids at the time. AND I was in the fantasy pitch line, which totally freaked some editors and agents out. I'd never been an oddity before then. "Look--there she is..."

I met some of the coolest people in the business, though, and learned a lot. It will always be a fond, funny treasure of a memory for me.

6:49 PM  

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