The World Fantasy Convention is a little different from others I've attended. It tries to keep the focus on the literature and art and not on the peripheral stuff, which suits me fine. There are no gaming rooms, for instance, no masquerade, and hardly anyone wears a costume so you don't get freaked out like you do at Comic Con. (I did see one kid dressed in a pretty good steampunk outfit, but steampunk is the exception I would allow.) I must say, it was rather refreshing to go into the Dealers Room and see dealers dealing mostly in books and not a lot of gewgaws. There is lots of programming, some of it even of interest to me. And there's a ritual Friday night 3-hour mass autograph session where all the authors in attendance who want to participate sit at tables while you bring in your ton of books and get them all signed, unless the author is someone with the status of a rock star, like Neil Gaiman, whereas you have to stand in a seemingly endless line during two and two-thirds of the hours allotted, and when you finally get to the front of the line you can only get three books signed by him, and then you rush over to the other tables only to find that all the other authors you wanted to have sign your books in the remaining twenty minutes have left early and are nowhere to be found.
But it pretty much worked out in the end because most of the authors are also willing to sign at pretty much any other time during the convention (within reason). I was fortunate enough to meet Robert V S Redick, one of my favorite authors, who was participating in a panel about ships (both of the air and of the sea) in fantasy and science fiction.
It was an interesting discussion, although, for my taste, there was a bit too much about space ships and the computers that control them and not enough about sailing ships and dirigibles. Still, I learned something. Afterward, Redick was very generous with his time and signed a pile of my books while chatting with me for five or ten minutes.
So, right now, before I go any farther, please take note. Here are the books in Robert V S Redick's Chathrand Voyage series that have been published so far (one more volume is forthcoming):
If you haven't read these books, give yourself a treat and do so. If you appreciate an exciting story told with skillful and compassionate writing, you will be well rewarded by these books.
I also had the opportunity to talk briefly with Connie Willis, another of my favorite authors. I've mentioned before how nervous I get in situations where I'm meeting people I don't know, especially if I'm also asking them for something, like their signature on a book. But Willis has a real knack for making me feel at my ease. I mean, from what I've seen, she's that way with everyone. And I appreciate it because there have been authors I've met who've acted like they can't wait to be done with a signing. That's very disconcerting. Fortunately, amongst all the authors I've met, those impatient ones are in the minority. So thank you, kind people, for being kind.
One of the highlights of the convention was going to Connie Willis' reading of material from the first chapter of her new book, tentatively titled "The Road to Roswell". It's an alien abduction story, and it's hilarious. I'm really looking forward to it.
Aside from the one about ships, the other most interesting discussion I attended was a panel by three of the founding authors of Steampunk literature: K W Jeter (who coined the term "steampunk" back in 1987), James P Blaylock, and Tim Powers.
It was fun listening to them reminisce about how they came up with the stories that would become some of the seminal steampunk works, and to hear what they have planned for the future. Some of the things they said were so interesting that I took a bunch of notes on my program. Then, a few days after the convention was over, I cleaned out the book bag I had been using and threw away what I thought were a bunch of random papers. So, yeah, I have no notes. I do remember one thing James Blaylock said, though. He said he wished the people who were interested in steampunk would read steampunk. He says you go to a steampunk convention and in the dealers' hall there's maybe one table selling steampunk books and 40 tables selling jewelry. I was in total agreement with his sentiment, so I guess that's why his is the one comment that stuck in my memory without benefit of notes. If you've got an hour to spare, you can watch a video of this session here.
The World Fantasy Convention was an interesting experience and one I hope to repeat. In fact, I'm making plans for Brighton in 2013.