Okay, so that was a pretty great weekend. It ended with getting an award and people clapping. How often does that happen? I mean, if you’re me. (Answer: See blog post title.)
I was in Orlando, Florida, at the 30th annual ICFA, the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. It’s an academic conference invaded by writers, or an SF convention overrun by professors and students, take your pick. Some writers, like James Patrick Kelly, Elizabeth Hand, and Ted Chiang (yes, I’m linking to all of them, because if you’re not reading these people, you owe it to yourself to start) have been going there for years, and I can see why — the weather’s great, the conference is small, and the focus is on the kind of literary SF that those folks excel at.
I got to meet a lot of great people — like Chris Barzak, last year’s Crawford winner. I’m halfway through the novel that won it for him, One for Sorrow, and it’s pretty damn brilliant. Here’s a late-night picture I took of Chris, Chris’ partner Tony, and Locus woman Amelia Beamer (who let me sit at the cool kids’ table with her at lunch when I didn’t have a home.)
Kath and Ian came down with me — daughter Emma was way too busy with a rugby / thespians / academics trifecta to leave town, much to her chagrin — and while I was sitting in panels and listening to authors read, Kath and Ian took time out to go down to Cape Canaveral on two different days — there was that much to see. I did play hooky one afternoon so we could go to Downtown Disney to eat Cuban food and play miniature golf. It was the hardest damn mini golf course I’ve ever been on. Some holes were 90 feet long, and featured long rolling hills. Kath and Ian both kicked my butt. Then we played the easy course — the one where the obstacles are cartoon figures and the greens slant toward the holes, as God intended — and I beat them both. We all have to find out level.
On Friday morning it was back to work. I was on a triple bill with Peter Straub and Andy Duncan, all of us reading from our work. (Here’s a grainy picture.) Thanks to the fame of Peter and Andy, the room was packed. Andy read first, from a new story that’s coming out in the anthology Wizards. Andy, as well as being one of the genre’s great writers, is one of its best readers, and had the room cracking up. Then I had to follow him. I read a scene from Pandemonium and kept it funny and short. Then Mr. Straub read from his novel in progress, and afterward we signed books. I might have had more to sign, if the shipment from my publisher had arrived. So instead, it’s whatever copies of Pandemonium or anthologies I’d been in that people had in hand.
The big banquet was on Saturday, and sometime during it they were going to give me the Crawford Award, which goes to a new fantasy writer with a first book (novel or collection of stories). I actually managed to eat something, despite waiting for the moment I would have to go up and give my speech. Gary K. Wolfe, the award administrator and a great guy, gave me God’s own introduction, a check, and plaque. A chunk of Gary’s intro is cut out of the following video, but my acceptance speech is on there. Kath shot this from our tiny digital camera. The lighting was horrible and the video is barely visible, but the audio is good. So pretend it’s radio:
Other highlights from the weekend:
Meeting Stephen R. Donaldson and telling him about my tragic experience with a Cuban cigar. Getting to know Jacob Weisman and Bernie Goodman of Tachyon Publications. Standing in the book room with Ian as he considers buying Judith Moffett’s Panterra, and the woman next to him says, “I recommend that one”—and of course it’s Judy Moffett, who signs it for him. (Everyone was so nice to Ian, asking him how he liked the conference and what he was reading — like Farah Mendlesohn who saw he had Panterra and raved about it.) Catching up with Sheila Williams and sheepishly admitting that I wasn’t writing many short stories. Meeting Patrick O’Leary. Hanging out with Karen Burnham and Gary K. Wolfe and listening to them talk that critic talk. Seeing Deanna Hoak again, who’s about to start copyediting my new novel. Meeting F. Brett Cox and hearing him and John Kessel read from Brett’s hilarioius 10-minute play, “They Got Louie.” Getting to tell Graham Sleight how much I enjoy his “Yesterday’s Tomorrows” essays in Locus. And on and on…