So a week ago I went to San Antonio for World Fantasy Con. It’s my first year going, and I basically decided to go because I heard it mentioned on Writing Excuses and I wanted to get some experience with specifically fantasy focused conventions.
I was rather apprehensive because, while I’ve been rockin’ the convention scene since 2000, with Otakon and a few other anime conventions, I’ve never been to one focusing on books and truthfully I didn’t know what to expect. Otakon is huge and so my biggest change in expectation is that I knew it wasn’t anywhere near that large.
On the first day I was able to talk to someone who had been there before over breakfast, and she told me a few things to expect, like there is very little cosplay at WFC, (which is a change from Otakon) about the con suite (where the serve you food), and the readings.
After I got my badge they directed me to a room where I got a shoulder bag full of books. I was pretty surprised and happy, even though I couldn’t take them all home on the plane. I read several of them before I left and had to leave the others behind. The ones I did keep/read were enjoyable, and it opened me up to some books I wouldn’t have picked up on my own.
I went to the Opening Ceremony Panel where they had their guests, Martha Wells, Tananarive Due, Karen Joy Fowler, Gregory Manchess, and David Mitchel, all talk a bit about secret history, which is the theme of the con. It was a good introduction.
I then went to a reading by Curtis Craddock, who read from a swashbuckling style book called An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors which was a very intriguing read. I went to his reading just because there wasn’t a panel I wanted to attend at that time and I wanted to experience some live readings so I have ideas for mine in the future. And now I am adding that book to my ‘to read’ pile.
There was a panel called Beards and Intrigue: Queering the Historical Fantasy where the discussion was on LGBTQ+ protagonists in fantasy. The panel itself was great and the panelists included in their introductions their gender and sexual preference and it wasn’t until question and answer time that someone pointed out how cool it was that they had done that, and the entire audience just accepted it.
But that really was an overall theme that I noticed for the weekend. Fantasy people …I dunno, we’re just hardwired to accept things. We’re so used to reading about protagonists that are different, if they’re even human at all, and then being drawn into a story where we sympathize with those characters. So it gives us a leg up on the ‘live and let live’ style of existence.
The next day there was Exploration of Gender in Fantasy panel, where I found out about the Tiptree Award, which is “an annual literary prize for works of science fiction or fantasy that expand or explore one’s understanding of gender.” (from wikipedia).
And there was a panel Hild and Hilt: the Female Monk, the Lone Woman Protagonist where they talked about what it took to be a ‘lone woman protagonist’ and how that was different from a male protagonist.
I went to a number of other panels and readings and really enjoyed most everything I interacted with. And at the end of it all, when I was at the Awards Banquet and I was listening to Martha Wells speak, I realized something about the weekend that had sort of flitted at the edges but not really hit me. Unlike writing conferences I’ve been to, these were my people. I could feel it in the air and in the way everyone interacted with each other. Everyone was interested in fantasy books, they read them and brought them up as examples, and talked about them with such fervor; unlike at conferences where I feel like genre sort of sits on the sidelines and sometimes gets mentioned and usually by lumping fantasy together with science fiction. (Not that I have anything against science fiction, but it is different.)
After the Con was over, I had some extra time to go around San Antonio and experience the Riverwalk, which was amazing. Unfortunately I got sick on the way home and I still can’t breathe through my nose, but it’ll pass. But all in all, I was very glad I went and experienced it, and not only because of the free books.