(Before I get started, I’d encourage anyone interested to go back for one more look at the comments on the previous post, the one about Hallowe’en. There were a few comments awaiting moderation that didn’t get moderated until I was back from World Fantasy — so if you were one of those commenters, my apologies, and thanks for your patience! If you like reading the comments, be advised that there may be a couple new ones that you’ve missed. Thanks to all of you who kept right on commenting well after Hallowe’en! Again, I’m glad so many people rang in. This blog is always more fun when it’s an “us”!)
So, I’m back from Calgary, and this year’s World Fantasy Convention was outstanding! Five days in Heaven — wonderful people, fascinating panels, great readings, a wagonload of books to bring home, and free-range buffalo sausage for breakfast. And gravy on the fries, because it was Canada, eh?
Highlights (not a complete list, by any means):
1. Flying over the Canadian Rockies. Awesome, dramatic peaks glistening in the sun, the perfect threshold to cross on the way to a fantasy convention! And then they just end right before you get to Calgary. One minute, you might be over the Himalayas, where all the world is vertical; the next, you might be over the U.S. Midwest, with flat fields stretching to the horizon — though the mountain wall is still visible behind you; you didn’t dream it.
2. The blessed Chinook winds that warmed Calgary for the week of the con. Calgarians told me they often have snow at this time of year. But the whole time I was there, the skies were a dazzling blue and the air was almost balmy. I was perfectly comfortable in my tweed or corduroy jackets, even at night. “Chinook,” according to the dictionary, is a native American term meaning “Snow-Eater,” because these winds (a phenomenon created by the fantasy-map wall of the Rockies) can melt a foot of snow in a matter of hours, and dry out the ground where the snow lay!
3. My enormous hotel room, which I kid you not was bigger than my whole apartment in Japan. Unlike last year’s con, at which I got 2 to 3 hours of sleep a night — and unlike the con two years ago, when I had the 24-hour flu — at this con, I sank into a peaceful and uninterrupted sleep every night, up on the 29th floor of the International Hotel.
4. Meeting Christina R. and Julia K. on the shuttle from the airport — a talented writer and a talented artist, respectively — the friend-making began before I even reached the convention!
6. The meet-and-greet on the first evening, with a concert by The Plaid-Tongued Devils. I reconnected with some old friends and met some new ones, including Michelle M. and “Skippy,” two more kindred spirits with whom I spent a lot of delightful time!
7. Attending a reading by Tad Williams.
8. Hearing a workshop given by David Morrell, author of First Blood — creator of Rambo — excellent and inspiring speaker.
9. Hanging out with Ella B., a fine writer who knows about enchantment and the ways of sea monsters; having lunch with her in the park, laughing, and discussing the writing life.
10. Reconnecting with Darrell S., “Dealer in Bargain-Rate Antiquities.”
11. Getting together with a group of Tolkien fans to discuss the finer points of characters from The Lord of the Rings, to swap stories about how we discovered Tolkien’s world and our early impressions of it; reciting the poem in Elvish that begins “A Elbereth Gilthoniel….”; hearing selections from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets The Lord of the Rings musical “Once More, with Hobbits.”
13. Having Gordon Van Gelder flag me down in the hallway to introduce me to Shawna McCarthy, editor of Realms of Fantasy.
14. Attending Will Hubbell’s reading from his latest book (as Morgan Howell), A Woman Worth Ten Coppers. Read it, everybody!
15. Doing my OWN reading from my story “Seawall”! With an audience and everything! (Thanks, guys!)
16. Being taken out to dinner by the agency that represents me and getting to meet some of my fellow representees.
17. Having an unexpected supper on the last night with my friend Evonne T., Nina Kiriki Hoffman, and two other nice people whose names I really didn’t catch because the restaurant was so noisy and we were all so tired — but they were nice!
18. Hearing all the panel discussions I could cram in. It’s always fascinating to hear what working writers and editors say at such things. (George R. R. Martin said he disagrees with some of Tolkien’s choices — says he thinks Gandalf should have stayed dead!)
19. Having Ellen Datlow tell me two or three times that “The Bone Man” was a good story! (Allow me to add a few more exclamation marks: !!!!!)
20. Okay, here’s a good final story: I was leaving Calgary on Monday, the convention all over. I had a little time to kill, so I was looking through the airport bookstore, and I came across Guy Gavriel Kay’s book Ysabel. Now, even at last year’s World Fantasy they were raving about what a good book this is, and I’d been curious about it ever since. At this year’s con, the book won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. So I debated with myself — I have a ton of books waiting to be read. I was lugging home a ton of books from the convention. (You get a whole tote bag of them free, just for attending!) I had no business buying another book. But wouldn’t it be cool, I thought, to be able to say I’d bought my copy of Ysabel when I was in Calgary for the WFC? So, after putting it down three or four times, I finally picked it up again and bought it. So then I went to my gate, A-11, and waited for my flight. We boarded. Then we UN-boarded. The pilot told us to get off the plane, because the on-board computer needed fixing. So, as I was waiting at the gate to see what would happen, who should come walking down the terminal but — Guy Gavriel Kay?! He sat down outside A-12 to wait for his flight to Toronto. I hurried over with my copy of Ysabel and my pen, and he very graciously signed my book. It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t bought the book on a whim, or if my flight had left like it was supposed to.
Strange and serendipitous things do happen. The paths we walk in life cross at the oddest — at the rightest — times. I think that’s probably why I’m drawn to the fantasy genre: why I read it, and why I write it. Life is an experience of wonder.
In my next posting, I’m going to open up my notebook to you: I’m going to tell you about the things I heard at the WFC that seemed significant to me. So come back soon!