Monday, November 5, 2012
WFC 2012, or There and Back Again Part 1
This last weekend was World Fantasy Convention in Toronto. For those who don’t know, it’s a 1000-person gathering of writers, would-be-writers, famous writers, readers, agents, and publishers. Basically, it’s packed with a who’s who of the fantasy and science fiction writing industry, including fans. I’d never gone before, though I have gone to other, smaller conventions. WFC was, in a word, stupendous.
Many other cons are not single-track, which means you’re more likely to bump into a girl in a wizard costume or a guy wearing steampunk goggles than you are to see a writer you actually recognize. WFC has none of that. No media track, no fandom gatherings, no costume galas. Nothing but panels on F&SF, readings by F&SF authors, and F&SF book launches.
(There was one guy who I saw several times consistently wearing the trappings of steampunk - neckerchief, top hat, the ubiquitous goggles - but for all I know that’s how he dresses every day.)
I had a great time. You couldn’t turn around without seeing someone you knew and admired, and I never bumped into a single person, no matter how famous, that wasn’t happy to stop and chat. To do a little name dropping, I got to meet Joe Haldeman, probably the science fiction author I most admire of all those left alive (Isaac Asimov would have bumped Joe to #2 if only we’d cracked that immortality problem before 1992). I had drinks with other such luminaries as Robert J. Sawyer and L.E. Modesitt, Jr. I got to meet Julie Czerneda, my very first editor, who gave me the pages she’d used for her reading, signed of course, and also taught me the valuable con lesson that hanging out in the bar would always lead to positive results.
Who else? Experienced (I say that instead of “old,” as I doubt the ladies involved would appreciate the title) pros like Tanya Huff and Mercedes Lackey were just as friendly and pleasant as relative new-comers Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss (creator of The Name of the Wind, one of my favourites). All three of the editors of “Shanghai Steam” (the newest anthology I’m part of) were present and happy to praise or discuss the merits of the Oxford comma. I was able to reconnect with another of my editors, Barb Galler-Smith, who has the energy of a 20-year old and the sense of fun of a 10-year old.
My friend Chadwick Ginther was there to launch/promote his first book, the excellent Thunder Road, along with his fellow Ravenstone Press author, Karen Dudley. She’s just put out her first fantasy (but fifth book overall, I believe) called “Food for the Gods.” It’s very good and very funny and very inappropriate (you’ll never eat bread the same way, believe me).
It was a place where all these people were on a relaxed and casual stance. They let their head down and just enjoyed themselves, and it was so great to be a part of it all. If I were a wealthy man, I’d go every year and skip all the smaller cons with their cloaks and such. I understand; the small ones need to vary it up in order to stay afloat, just as bookstores everywhere are selling candles and crockery and baby clothes to keep their doors open. Even if I never go again, though, WFC 2012 will always be remembered fondly.
(For the record, however, though the organizers of WFC 2012 claimed the con occurred in Toronto, they were lying. It was relatively CLOSE to Toronto, but not in the city itself but in the satellite community of Richmond Hill. Anyone who lives there was repeating the mantra all weekened: “Richmond Hill is NOT Toronto.” Part of the Greater Toronto Area, yes. Toronto itself? No. For proof I offer the reality of a $70 cab ride from the airport to the Convention, or the fact that the buses in Richmond Hill use colours instead of numbers to differentiate their routes. Route Purple instead of Route 192. Weird. Sensible, but no possible in a city with more than a hundred bus lines.)
Next time: Toronto itself and some of the fun and memorable characters I met at WFC. (Although actually, now that I think of it, that might get bumped as the US Election is tomorrow, and I can guarantee they’ll be some amusing tales to comment on about that.)