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World Fantasy Convention: Chapter III

Posted on 2007.11.13 at 16:48
Current Mood: nervousnervous
In which I Nearly Come to Blows with Tim Powers, and am Chilled to the Bones During a Ghost Walk

First, although this is totally irrelevant to the last bits of WFC recap, it was an absolutely GORGEOUS day here in KC today--warm, sunny, beautiful.  I took a dog for a walk through the park this afternoon, and the trees were just *perfect--* blazing orange, red, gold.  One of my favorite things about Kansas City is the weather--we have four real seasons--fall and spring are long and beautiful, not just little blips between summer and winter. :)

Ok, back to the regularly-scheduled WFC recap.

I liked kmessner's recap of the NYSRA meeting so much, I'm stealing her format.

1. Saturday morning I got to attend a reading by my Current Favorite Author, Sharon Shinn, who read from her new high fantasy release, READER & RAELYNX.  Sharon also has a new YA release out from Viking, GENERAL WINSTON'S DAUGHTER--kind of a historical fantasy (with no magic!) about colonialism.  I'm trying to be very good and get some work done before buying loads more books (wait 'til you see the stack I brought home with me!), but I am starting to feel kind of twitchy knowing there's a Sharon Shinn book I haven't read yet.

I also have to say that Sharon kindly agreed to read a galley of CURSE, and she offered a lovely blurb that is even now being printed on my new covers!!  Unfortunately, she and I never managed to hook up long enough to have a whole conversation (although we did bond briefly over a mutual love for suede). 

2.  Saturday afternoon, I spoke on a panel with Sarah Beth Durst, Margo Lanagan, and fellow debutant, Mark Ferrari.  We were moderated by the deft and erudite Tim Powers.  Now.  Before I tell you what happened, I have to say that I was Grossly Misled in my expectations for this event.  And it's all Sarah's fault.  First, she said (and I quote), "I've met Tim Powers.  He's really nice."  And, "We don't have to prepare anything for the panel.  The moderator prepares and asks us questions."

Whoa-ho-ho!  I should have known better than to trust someone who could conceive of a scene of gruesome lupine gastronomy in Elvis's bedroom.  Because not only did Tim Powers turn out to be (well, ok, he was "nice," too... in the way the dentist is nice before he jabs you with the novocaine needle.)  positively BRILLIANT, he was also very, very, very, VERY well-prepared to moderate a panel on archetypes.

I was laboring under the foolish misconception that the archetype discussion would smoothly segue into a conversation of using fairy tale and mythological elements in fiction.  It never did that.  It stayed fixed with archetypes for the full, stimulating hour.  When Sarah started quoting Bruno Bettleheim, I knew she'd betrayed me.

Fortunately, I was able to dust off my anthropology degree and fairly held my own.  But when Tim chose to use the examples of Dionysus and the Fisher King to illustrate the idea of universal, almost genetically-coded archetypal patterns fixed in the human brain, I timidly suggested that those particular examples perhaps had too much Western resonance to be truly universal....

And, well, the civility declined from there.  From then on, whenever Tim said anything, he turned to me and said, "But Elizabeth disagrees."  I kept thinking, Wonderful.  My first words on my first panel at my first con, and I get into a fight with the moderator!  Brilliant!  Fortunately, Margo Lanagan was able to pry us apart before anyone was injured, by making the very astute point that perhaps the archetypes themselves are not coded in the brain--but that it is the need for such patterns, and the ability to recognize and sort our observations according to those patterns, that is hard-wired into us.

With grace, wit, and acumen, Mark and Sarah were able to rescue the discussion, and with lively audience participation (it was quite crowded--I think there were a good 120 people there!), it really turned out to be a fantastic event.  I haven't had a good intellectual duel like that in ages, and hadn't even really realized how much I missed that sort of discourse--the shaping of ideas as you talk them out.  Lovely.

And Tim Powers is a very fine fellow, and I am thrilled to have been under his fine guidance for my con panel debut.

3. After our panel came the group YA reading with Sarah Beth Durst, Tiffany Trent, Holly Black, and Cassandra Clare, reading from their new or upcoming titles.  Sarah debuted a totally gory and bizarre scene from OUT OF THE WILD (Razorbill, next summer) that could *only* have come from her zany mind, but for which you all, alas, will have to wait.  Holly Black read from IRONSIDE, Tiffany Trent from the next HOLLOWMERE novel, and Cassandra Clare from her upcoming sequel to CITY OF BONES.  I have to say that hers might have been my favorite of the passages--she's new to me, and it was hilarity on a level that is difficult... well, you had to be there. :b

4. I also attended Margo Lanagan's reading for her collection RED SPIKES, which was up for the World Fantasy Award this year!  I had heard of her work, but not read any myself, and she treated us to a downright chilling tail blending Wee Willy Winkie with the Bogeyman.  Now, the brain that can do *that* with finesse and grace definitely knows a thing or two about archetypal patterns and how to manipulate them. :)

5. My last event of the con was a "Haunted History Ghost Walk Tour" of downtown Saratoga Springs (for which I needed the mittens I mentioned in Chapter 2).  I was so excited to go--it was a spur-of-the-moment thing I found out about when I arrived, and I signed up straightaway.

For this I have to back up a little.  The whole reason I decided I *had* to attend the WFC this year was the theme: Ghosts & Revenants, Memory, History & Folklore."  Ghosts and folklore?  They had me.  I am a sucker for a good ghost story--loved them as a kid, and have only realized in recent years how very much I *still* enjoy them.  Driving into Saratoga Springs the evening of All Saint's Day, it was obvious how perfectly the setting matched the theme--we drove through tree-shrouded streets of Victorian houses with their porches decked out for Hallowe'en--cobwebs, scarecrows, jack-o-lanterns aflame.  It looked haunted--or like it should have been!  You could totally see how Washington Irving could have been inspired by the location.

So.  The actual ghost walk was a little disappointing.  I sort of expected that we'd stroll to "famously haunted" locales, and be treated to a well-crafted and cunningly delivered ghost story at each one.   Our tour guide, though, was really interested in the science of "haunting phenomena," which made him sort of an open-minded skeptic, if that makes any sense.  He took us from place to place in downtown SS, talking about the sorts of phenomena that had been recorded, what witnesses had reported, etc.  It was interesting--don't get me wrong--just... not as chillingly entertaining as I had hoped.  The real problem, though, was that it was absolutely FREEZING that night, and despite my wool jacket, tights and extra socks, and my new fluffy wool mittens... I froze.  Halfway through the 90-minute (which became 2-hour) tour, I was so cold that I couldn't concentrate on what our tour guide was saying.

But.  It was not all a loss.  He did take us to one location famous for producing "orbs" in tour participants' photographs ("orbs" are light phenomena that are said to accompany hauntings). 

And... I took this picture:

But, before everyone gets all excited, I also took *this* picture a couple hours later at the convention center, which, by all accounts, isn't haunted:

My last digital camera had "orbs" so often that one might assume *it* was haunted.  Oh, well--it's a nice souvenir, nonetheless.

6. (We're on 6, yes?) The Infamous Book Haul

These are the free books we got just for coming:

... And these are the books I bought while I was there:

(That does not include a couple volumes purchased after I took the photograph, nor does it include those books brought *to* the con, just to get signed.  So.  You can maybe see how I'm managing to restrain myself from going crazy at Amazon right now. :))

And... that's it!  That's my First World Fantasy Convention Recap.  Sooo much got left out--the people I met, the conversations I had, the con volunteer who smuggled me extra bagels....  There's just no way to fit everything in.  But I will say I am never going to one of these without a laptop again--it's too hard to remember everything after the fact, if you're not emailing or blogging *during,* the way jo_no_anne did last year.

Thanks for reading!!


(Anonymous) at 2007-11-14 02:23 (UTC) (Link)

You done good!

Hi Elizabeth,

I have to tell you how civilised and articulate you were on the outside, even if you were freaking out on the inside during that panel. And I have a feeling Tim was going for the laughs with the 'Elizabeth disagrees' thing (and he got them, too!) rather than (or perhaps, as well as) having a go at you. And I would have to say, your anthropology degree prepared you well and truly for that appearance. I was impressed - and the whole discussion surprised me, too. That was one of the smartest panels I've ever been at, either as participant or audience. Weren't we clever? I impressed myself - I managed to think on my feet, a little!

I'm glad you liked the 'Winkie' reading, too, and I'm delighted you got yourself a copy of RED SPIKES! And that it's on top of the pile - although, I guess that could change pretty easily...

With the orbs - who knows that the place that was demolished to make way for the convention center wasn't haunted? Also, I like the idea of a haunted camera, although I think I may have seen it in a story already?

Anyway, thanks for helping make my first major con experience so great. See you at the next one!
Melinda R. Cordell
rosefiend at 2007-11-14 04:28 (UTC) (Link)
Good job with Tim Powers. I agree with you, that the western world ain't the keeper of the archetypes.

Girl, you must go and get a copy of Margo Lanagan's Black Juice and read the first story, "Singing My Sister Down." That story is a good one. But OMG it sunk its hooks deep into my brain and it will not let go. I can't believe you got to sit on a panel with her! That is too awesome!

lyriclemon at 2007-11-14 05:19 (UTC) (Link)

Books & Dogs

You flew to the WFC, right? How did you manage to get all those books on the plane without paying extra for too heavy luggage?

Also, I loved the weather here today and last week, too! You can read on my blog about my trip to the Dog Park.
Rose Green
olmue at 2007-11-14 05:56 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for sharing! It looks like it was a lot of fun!
faerie_writer at 2007-11-14 12:46 (UTC) (Link)
Great report! But I hope you had a suitcase with wheels or something to haul all those books around with. ;)
jo_no_anne at 2007-11-14 15:26 (UTC) (Link)
One thing I have to say about WFC...they give excellent schwag bags. Good recap! Way to hold your own on that panel!
kellyrfineman at 2007-11-14 16:58 (UTC) (Link)
Looks and sounds AWESOME! I hear that Winkie is one of the scariest short stories a lot of folks have heard in a long time. Can't wait to pick up Lanagan's book. Or yours, for that matter. WHY isn't it out yet, WHY???
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