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.

 

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4 thoughts on “Serious Fantasy”

  1. Thanks for the WFC update. The setting you describe sounds perfect. Klingons and Jedis are great, but if I want that I’ll go to a gaming convention. The idea of the accomplished fantasy writers of our time talking about the various aspects of writing fantasy is well worth the registration fee. There is no doubt in my mind that there is plenty of fantasy and sf fiction that is “literary quality”, by which I mean there are layers, well-developed characters and universal themes explored.

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  2. Sounds like this is a must for future years. It’s great to hear of a growing regard for fantasy as a professional literary genre.

    Thanks for the report.

    Chris Warren
    Author and Freelance Writer
    Randolph’s Challenge Book One – The Pendulum Swings

    Like

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