This World Fantasy Convention was a new, greater experience for me…
Don’t get me wrong, last year’s WFC was a very special one as well:
I had the pleasure of meeting a number of the writers from Baen Books, some of whom I have read since my teens. David Drake is a font of information and very willing to inform and educate, at least before the asteroid takes him out.
One, a man whose work I was not familiar with before the convention, has become something of a mentor for me. I mention him quite often here. Thank you, Mark Van Name.
Peter V Brett, who is not a Baen writer, is a phenomenal fantasy writer I had not read before the convention. He and his friends are the New Yorkers those of us who are not from that city never hear about; they are uniformly kind and generous. Then again, that might be a product of the man they call friend. I returned home and read his work, posting about it immediately after.
I briefly spoke with several editors, discovering that, despite my cringing desire to bow and scrape before them, they are people too, with all that means.
Last year I was in a bad place at the end of the con, and came away upset yet lit up by the experience.
So, 2010 rolls around, and I know I have to go.
This year was exceptional: Despite my behavior, I am not a true extrovert. I must run up a charge to fully engage. It is far easier to do this from a place of comfort, such as surrounded or at least in the company of friends. Casting about for such a network at the con, I asked my friends, all of them, if they would be able to come and share the experience with me.
All but one couldn’t make it. Kyle is my oldest friend. We’ve known one another for 28 years. We hadn’t seen each other in about three years, when another of our friends was leaving for Afghanistan. Holding my breath that he, too would somehow be prevented from coming at the last moment, I planned my attendance.
I began the con with a small circle.
This year I attended a few panels, being both educated and enjoying them.
The first one, Fantasy Gun Control, was moderated by Chuck Gannon and had as one of its participants Walter Jon Williams, a writer both Kyle and I have been reading since we were fifteen. Gannon was an excellent moderator, and the panel exceptional despite one audience member failing to show common courtesy and eat his breakfast elsewhere. Another member of the audience, Alistair Kimble, displayed a similar mindset to my own in his questions to the panel. After the panel I had an opportunity to speak to Chuck Gannon, Kimble, and Walter Jon Williams.
I will not bore you with a further list of who I met and where, but instead present to you why these panels and the minor events that spring from them have significance.
Kimble was the gentleman I mentioned in an earlier post who, based on my t-shirt the night prior, believed me an asshat. Why his low opinion of me improved over the next few minutes, I am not sure. He is also a writer with works out to publishers and high hopes for the future. We spoke at length to a british gentleman and literary agent, then went to another panel or two together. We also discovered common intersection in our day jobs.
My circle grew.
I used my familiarity with the few writers I know to make introductions for both Kyle and Alistair to authors of my acquaintance. Much of this was transacted at the bar, but some was after panels or in elevators and the parties each night.
Myke Cole, one of Peter V Brett’s inner circle of friends, is also a writer of fantasy. He is a man who gets things done. Many think him an extrovert reveling in the attention of the convention-goers. Like all things, it is more complicated than that: I believe I know the what it costs him to do as he does, feeling many of those costs myself. I bring him up because he too acts as the social lubricant for his friends and acquaintances at these events.
Indeed Myke introduced me to many new friends at the event, including the beautiful and talented Sara McClung, Carolina Valdez-Miller, and Karen Hooper, whom I have collectively dubbed the UFGirlz. They are all on the verge of great things, and it was their first World Fantasy.
My circle expanded.
Later, the UFGirlz introduced me to their friends, Gina Penney, a horror writer and Ricki Schultz a contemporary young adult writer. In turn I introduced them to others of my acquaintance, Mark Van Name, and others I knew or had been introduced to.
My circle expanded yet again, as did theirs.
I look about at our forebears in the field, and see that many knew each other. Many were friends. Many talk of those that have gone before as their idols, much as I speak of them.
These circles, these connections, will be the grand avenues down which great things reach us and we are carried on to our futures. I love the idea that I might have helped to spread the gravel at the base of such a roadway, not only for the things it might bring me, but everyone in the varied circles of our lives.
We pay forward all things.