An attempt to do a quick (later: hah!) overview of the con before I crash completely. Responses to comments on the last post, panel reports, and miscellaneous substantive stuff forthcoming.
Organizational Problems: My problem with this World Fantasy Con was not what everyone warned me about, people spending all their time networking and not having any fun. Instead, it was that the organizational problems robbed the con of much of its potential.
Things like the free book bags, which had books from two publishers left out; Night Shade's books were at least added later on, but Tor's books were returned to sender (!). And the autograph reception: I might have gone and used the opportunity to say hi to people I hadn't run into yet, but no-one knew who was going to be autographing. I mean that literally: I asked someone about it three hours ahead of time, and she said, "I signed last year and I've heard nothing this year. Is it tonight? I didn't even know that." Since that filled me with no confidence at all, I just went home early that night. (I'm told that the con ended up addressing the "not sure who's signing" problem by printing name signs for every single member of the con. This seems sub-optimal.)
But most importantly, there was the programming. I'd already observed that it looked pretty thin, and I'm told that it was so even by WFC standards. And some really baffling decisions were made. For instance, truepenny was not on a panel on ghosts in Shakespeare, despite having five books out, being a runner-up for the Campbell, and, oh yeah—having written her dissertation on the revenge tragedies of early modern England, including a whole chapter on Hamlet's ghost! And a panel on Native American Spirits had no Native Americans on it, until the moderator saw Joseph Bruchac, an Abenaki Indian author and storyteller and one of the Special Guests, in the audience and invited him up. How do you schedule a panel on Native American spirits and not include him from the start?
There was some good programming, about which more later. But I don't think anything near the full potential was fulfilled, and that's too bad.
I should say that the hospitality suite had a lot of good food, and that the Saratoga Hotel and Conference Center seemed to be doing very well by the con. At one party, I saw a hotel staff member come by—not to ask people to keep the noise down, but to ask whether the party needed anything else! At another, I saw someone come by early on to empty the trash and bring more ice.
Readings: I heard Tamora Pierce read from the forthcoming Beka Cooper book, Bloodhound; Scott Lynch read from the forthcoming Gentlemen Bastards book, The Republic of Thieves; and Guy Gavriel Kay read from Ysabel.
Tamora Pierce's reading: This was substantively what was revealed in this LJ post, plus description of the actual riot. She did talk about a return to the Trickster sub-series, in response to a question: she hadn't planned to revisit Aly because she discovered while writing them that she's much more like Aly's mom than Aly. However, after getting some distance, there are still outstanding issues: the Outer Islands; how the ruler proceeds, including a consort; and (I can't talk about this obliquely, so ROT-13:) gur snpg gung bar bs ure puvyqera vf n yvggyr crefba naq Anjng vf univat n ernyyl uneq gvzr qrnyvat jvgu vg. So she'll be returning sometime, doesn't know when.
Scott Lynch's reading: Lynch said that the odd-numbered books in the series will contain forward-progressing flashbacks to the Gentlemen Bastards' backstory, eventually bringing them up to the time of the first book. He did not talk about the present-day plot at all, but the flashback one is Chains taking a vacation from their adolescent angst by sending them all off to a theater troupe to act in the play of the title. (The play, the overall past plot, and the present plot are, of course, thematically tied together.) Sabetha is finally Ms.-Appearing-in-this-book, y'all will be happy to know.
The excerpt he read was the troupe leader teaching Locke the opening speech of the Chorus, which was very meta: the speech itself is about suspending disbelief, and according to the troupe leader, the Chorus is the only character who knows that he's in a play, and all minor characters think they're really major ones. He did a very good job, including conveying all the variant line-readings.
Guy Gavriel Kay's reading: Kay talked some about the themes and process behind Ysabel. He said that family history is as significant, or more so, than history-book history (my phrase) in the way people live, and he wanted to do a story proceeding on both types of history, where the family history was that of the sisters. The lack of full information on the myth was deliberate, because if the reader fully understands mythology then the writer has failed. This was also one of the reasons for using an adolescent protagonist; plus it was his "life's ambition" to use the line "Google is my midnight lover."
He read the scene in the cafe from early on, up to the bit where action starts. He pointed out that he used the present tense for the mythic characters' POV, to point out the intensity of their living.
Questions after: he was asked whether he had any interest in non-European cultures, and said yes, definitely, but his European grand tour when he was young blew his mind (later he talked about what he saw as common in cultures, but I didn't write down details on that; it was not, as Chad facetiously said (but with a grain of truth), that they all have warrior-poets); also, if that was a delicate way of asking what he was working on now, he doesn't answer that question, because he knows people will speculate and being a competitive sort, if someone guesses right he might not want to do it anymore. He also used this as a way into talking about the way the Internet has changed the nature of discourse and how he's getting used to that.
I asked about Ysabel and the Fionavar Tapestry. I was trying to talk around spoilers, so what I said was that Ysabel explicitly revisits Fionavar, but that I also couldn't help but read the ending as an implicit commentary on Fionavar, and I wondered whether that had been planned, and regardless, what he saw the relationship between those endings as being. Which was too oblique, because he took it as a question about the explicit revisiting and talked about why he did that: to give a reason for the character to be involved, and to give a parallel story that might only be partly understood, like the myth of Ysabel, for those who haven't read Fionavar. What I really meant was (HUGE spoilers for both, ROT-13 again): ubj Svbanine raqf jvgu gur ybir gevnatyr fnvyvat bss vagb gur fhafrg gb or unccl gbtrgure, naq Lfnory raqf jvgu gur ybir gevnatyr whzcvat bss gur pyvss vagb boyvivba. Ur jnf gnyxvat nobhg jul Xvz naq Qnir jrer va gur fgbel ng nyy.
Socializing: some large proportion of the good bits of cons is hanging out with folks, and I was lucky enough to find plenty of people who weren't hyper-focused on business. I got to spend a good bit of time talking with batwrangler and oracne, who is as good a conversation-accretor as Scalzi; have dinner with truepenny; meet lnhammer, janni, and Patrick O'Leary; and fangirl 1crowdedhour. And I usually don't do the name-dropping bit because I find it weird and uncomfortable, but that's the shortest possible version of the list of people who made the con fun for me, so I feel like I ought to give y'all shout-outs.
- Shaun Tan is a fabulous Australian artist, my most exciting discovery of the con. After seeing images from his books The Arrival and The Lost Thing at the art show, I went straight to the dealer's room to see if I could buy them (the prints being gorgeous but out of my price range, and anyway we don't have much in the way of wall space). Unsurprisingly, the dealer's room was sold out.
Go look at his books page to see some of the images. Seriously, you won't regret it. (I think my favorite is "The City" from The Arrival.)
- If you ever get the opportunity to see Joseph Bruchac (website, presently down) perform, definitely go. He did a wonderful performance of American Indian ghost and monster stories, including not one but two cannibal skeletons. Fabulous storytelling, plus informational bits about American Indian culture.
- The cover for Jhegaala, the next Vlad Taltos book, was in the art show. It is very cool, and Stephen Hickman happened to be standing right there, so I got to tell him so.
(I haven't been reading Brust's LJ so I don't know how much is public about this book yet. I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say, though, that we will finally learn what happened to Vlad's little finger.)
Oh, and Chad posted a picture and list of the final haul. And here's live-blogging of Kay's Master of Ceremonies speech and the list of World Fantasy Award winners (we didn't stay for the ceremony—why they hold it on Sunday afternoon is beyond me.)