Tag Archives: World Fantasy Convention

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Should new writers know their SF history?

I’m between social engagements, and reading the introduction to The Mammoth Book of 20th Century Science Fiction. Editor David G Hartwell offers a cogent history of the SF genre through the last century, one that considers not just the genre but the field (the former defined as the body of texts, the latter as the people involved with creating them). Hartwell discusses SF as a literary tradition in it’s own right, a position I always argue for given half an opportunity.

(I’m not entirely in agreement with Hartwell’s argument. In particular his statement that SF is a literature that ‘expresses, represents and confirms faith in science and reason’ seems not so much outdated as occluded entirely from the other half of the SF literary tradition that does exactly the opposite. )

I was lucky enough to briefly meet David G. Hartwell (with whom I suddenly realise I share a middle initial!) at the World Fantasy Convention in San Jose, along with a number of other senior members of the SF community including Robert Silverberg. Later, explaining my speechless response to meeting such a legendary author to another delegte, I was met with a look of blank ‘Robert Who?’ In fact I was surprised at WFC by the number of people, many of them aspiring writers, who had a very narrow understanding of the history of the SF genre.

But is knowing the history of SF essential to becoming a writer in the genre? On the one hand SF can be considered as an ongoing conversation spanning decades. It you enter that conversation without knowing what has already been said, you are not liable to say much of interest to people who have been following the arguments unfold for decades. But on the other hand if SF is a genre that seeks to find meaning in modern life, raw responses to that life might be mire interesting than viewpoints filtered through the mirror shaded gaze of the SF genre.

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Serious Fantasy

I’ve been a bit quiet since World Fantasy. Blame it on recovery from jet-lag and reacquanting myself with my day job, which decided to go and get all creative whilst I was away. But I’ve told it what’s what, and I think it’s learnt its lesson.

World Fantasy was head and shoulders the best convention I have ever attended. EasterCon, FantasyCon and Alt.Fiction all have their strengths, the British fan base are extremely friendly and very passionate, but its always been disappointment for me that for many if not most of the fans speculative fiction as literature is a secondary concern to their real passions for Dr Who, Star Trek, Buffy and other mass media SFF franchises. Not only do I primarily like written SF, I also like SF literary and read much mainstream and literary fiction alongside. So I was incredibly happy to find that audience for WFC were very much in the same ballpark as me. There were no Star Trek or any other kind of costumes (with the exception of a steampunk party on one night). The panels all had genuinely insightful themes and incited real discussion about fantasy fiction (and were well attended). The dealers room was full of treasures, and there were no stands given over to self-published authors. In short, WFC was a precisely the professional convention that it biled itself as, that above all took fantasy fiction seriously. (Small whoop of joy for that please)

The greatest reward of my long journey to the convention was to meet so many other people who take fantasy every bit as seriously as I do. I got to meet for the first time many established professionals in the field who I have talked with online including John Klima, Neil Clarke, Ann and Jeff Vandermeer and John Courtney Grimwood. And many others who I encountered for the very first time. But the most fantastic surprise of the convention was rediscovering my friends from Clarion ’08 and our counterparts from Clarion ’09. I found very quickly that Clarion grads seem to share a bond just as strong accross years, and the best moments of the convention were spent in their company.

There were a large number of Clarion graduates at the convention, and also a number of young writers aiming to attend in future. In all there were at least a hundred writers in their 20’s and 30’s (and a little older!) who were extremely passionate and dedicated but yet to really become established. This gave the convention a much younger feel than any British con (Alt Fiction comes closest). There were also many more women at the convention (probably about half the attendance? would be interested i figures if anyone has them) which was a welcome sight. I would love to see this kind of demographic reflected at British conventions, but I have little hope that it will unfortunately.

My moment of the convention? Asking Ted Chiang if he was going to take part in NaNoWriMo this year? Almost fainting in front of Robert Silverburg? Exchanging opinions on how crappy Fosters beer is with Garth Nix? No. The best moment was the look on the till girls face when we filled up a tiny taqueria with twenty or so Clarion kids from ’08 and ’09.

I’ve been hit with SAD getting back from WFC and the California sunshine. My resolutions to tackle this are to get up before dawn and get as much daylight as possible, exercise every morning and blog every night to keep my mind sharp. So expect many more blogs. I’ve also made a long planned writing resolution, which I’ll announce in a few days.

A few interesting links:

Jeff Vandermeer accompanies the launch of his Booklife writing guide with a set of online resources for writers. I received an ARC of Booklife, so can recommend it as thoroughly worth any writers time to read.

Parker Peevyhouse incites a little more debate on the question of the death or otherwise of sci-fi, and reminds me that I need to expand on the idea of Post SF.

 

A Hell of a Ride

I’m sitting in The Art Organisation in Leicester, drinking tea and writing my first real blog post for some time (rather than just linking to things I’m doing elsewhere). The rain is coming down (this is Britain after all) and the troupe of jugglers and hula hooppers who have been performing outside have just run indoors. Things have that rare feeling that sometimes emerges in times of disaster, when people pull together for the common good. Feels appropriate. Continue reading

World Fantasy, Shortfuse and the Hockley Hustle

I’m reading at the lovely Shortfuse event on 20th October. It’s their halloween special so I’m reprising my short story Cthul-You for the occaision.

And I’m taking part with a sci-fi themed panel discussion as part of the Hockley Hustle in Nottingham, alongside Mark Charan Newton.

And after that I will be at the World Fantasy Convention in San Jose. Really, I couldn’t be more excited if you filled me up with sherbet and shook me vigarously.

Electric Velocipede #13

Issue 13 of Electric Velocipede magazine launches tomorrow at World Fantasy Con in Saratoga, US. Among the contents is my short story ‘Momentum’. Its one of the shortest stories I’ve ever written, and just over one thousand words. EV editor John Klima has been nominated for a World Fantasy Award. Fingers crossed that he gets it.

Electric Velocipede #13