Wednesday, November 07, 2007

 

World Fantasy Convention

It's Wednesday, right? I'm not entirely sure. Left Saratoga on Monday, stayed overnight in Dallas at my folk's place that night, and drove back to Austin at a leisurely pace yesterday. This morning we're more or less back on track, with Georgia off to preschool, Allison off to the office, and me sitting here at my desk, staring at the hundreds of unread emails and thousands (literally, thousands) of unread posts in Google Reader that need addressing.

If you even slowed down near me this last week you doubtless heard me blathering on about how World Fantasy Convention is the hub around which my year turns, which is something I say so often even I am tired of hearing me say it. But it's the honest, unvarnished truth. I've been attending every year for the last seven, which meant that the 33rd annual in Saratoga was my eighth consecutive. On the flight home Allison and I finally got a chance to pore over the convention souvenir book, and it was a point of some pride to discover that I have actually attended one quarter of the annual conventions in a series that got its start when I was five years old. (Allison was quick to point out that she's attended a quarter of the conventions that started when she was only one.) WFC is the capital city of a nonlocal nation, the town square of a community that ranges over countries and continents, and for which the only citizenship requirement is a love for the fantastic in art and literature. That Allison and I have been welcomed as a part of this community is one of the things about my professional life that I'm proudest, but I shouldn't be surprised, since the fantasy community really is the most open and welcoming group of people it's ever been my privilege to meet, and there are people in it who were as nice and gracious to us when we first walked in the door seven years ago, callow and full of unearned self-importance, as they were this last weekend, when we've managed to attain some small measure of success.

Lots of people come home from WFC and produce detailed convention reports, detailing all of the great conversations they've had, listing all the people they met and the things they saw. I don't even try. Even a cursory summary of the last week would run into the tens of thousands of words, and I couldn't even begin to do justice to what those conversations and late-night rambles mean to me in anything less than novel-length.

To everyone who suffered through my drunken ramblings this last week, thank you for letting me be a part of your convention, and thanks for being a part of mine. The vast majority of everyone in the world who matters a damn to me, outside of my own family, was there in Saratoga for those few days, and it was indescribably awesome to see you all. Getting to see old friends, having past acquaintances transmute like alchemical gold into true friends, and making more new acquaintances than I could count makes up for the long months of the year I spend alone in this room, writing. I'm solitary and curmudgeonly enough that I probably won't make contact with any of you for the next eleven months, content with spending my days talking only to myself, my wife, and a three-year-old, but if any of you happen not to be in Calgary next year for the thirty-fourth WFC, it just won't be the same without you. And for those friends who couldn't be with us this year (Alan and Jude, and Graham, and Charles and MaryAnn, and Justin, and Sean, and on and on), I hope you'll be there next year, because this year really wasn't the same without you.

Thanks again to everyone, and when you get to Calgary next year I'll be there waiting for you in the bar.

Comments:
Well said, as per usual.
 
Dude! I wish we were all still there...although my liver would be dead by now....
 
chris: had a great time hanging out with you and allison. have a good year. see you in calgary.

jeff ford
 
I'm still trying to figure out what conventions I'm trying to go to. I didn't go to WFC this year, but did attend last year in Austin. I did really enjoy it.

I'm going to go to the World Con in Denver next year; this will be my first, so I'm wondering how the two compare.
 
Thanks, John, John, and Jeff. Terrific seeing you guys!
 
The two cons are quite different, Howard. It really depends on what you're after. World Fantasy is a relatively small "professional" convention, with an influence on conversation and networking, for lack of a better term. There is programming, but at times it can seem almost incidental. A significant percentage of the attendees are professionals of one kind or another, whether writers, editors, agents, or artists. The total attendance is normally between 700 and 1000, depending on the year.

World Con, on the other hand, is the Superbowl of fan conventions. It is heavily focused on programming, with a number of different tracks covering everything from scientific papers to genre topics to television shows. There are a large number of professionals in attendance, but they are dwarfed by the number of fans and readers, who typically number in the thousands. The total attendance normally crests into five digits, usually around ten to fifteen thousand if I recall correctly.

I find both conventions invaluable, and try never to miss either, but I get very different things out of each. WorldCon is a place where I have hundreds of terrific conversations, none of which last more than five minutes, while at WFC I spend hours and hours talking to the same handful of people. If you can manage it, you might try attending one of each, and seeing which more suits your tastes and temperament.
 
Was great to meet you and listen to your drunken ramblings. (And for you to listen to mine!)

Gabriel Mesa
 
Gabe, it was terrific meeting you, as well. Talking comics and novels with you was honestly one of the highlights of my convention. And many thanks for the Cuban!
 
Chris

Well, since I have a WFC under my belt (and I really did enjoy it in Austin last year), I'm going to try and go to World Con in Devner next year.

So far, mainly all I do at any convention is go to panels and listen. I thought the Austin WFC was great for that too. I'm sure I don't haven't gotten the full con experience at any con I've been to so far.
 
A tangential correction: Worldcon attendance never breaks five figures. According to Kevin Standlee, domestic Worldcons average around 5500 attendees.
 
Thanks for the correct, Ted. I can always count on you!
 
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