When conventions are fantasies…or about fantasy.
There are science fiction/fantasy conventions and then there are science fiction/fantasy conventions. Many SF conventions offer a fan track, where fans of novels, writers, movies, TV series or games can gather to meet some of the real-life people behind their entertainment. Often there are numerous fan activities that can involve everything from a costume contest, a masquerade, dance and just good ole fun dressed as your favourite Jedi warrior.
Then there are professional SF conventions. World Fantasy Convention (WFC) is just what is sounds like: a meeting of enthusiasts from around the world (but mostly the English speaking world) who come to discuss the genre, hobnob and award the bright new stars. The world fantasy award is given every year for best novel, novelette, novella, short story, other work, art, etc. at the convention. There is the usual art show and panels on aspects of fantasy.
How it differs from other conventions is that there is no fan track. It is mostly professionals and a few fans but no one wears a costume. Authors, editors, publishers, artists and a few others come together once a year, usually in the US but every third year or so is in an exotic foreign land. This year it’s in Calgary, AB.
I have usually tried to go every second year, which means I’ll be going this year and Calgary is where I grew up. I go to schmooze (I’m a soft-core schmoozer) and party and try to further my career. Schmoozing can be a very in-your-face “you gonna look at my book, I’ll send you my book” kinda way or a very low key thing. I tend rarely to push the editors as I just find it too rude. That’s the Canadian in me I guess.
But at one WFC I was at a writer/editor’s party and talking with several people. Gardner Dozois, then of Asimov‘s was there and somehow we all got talking about submissions and submitting clothing. Now the booze was really flowing so it was hard to remember how we got to that conversation but it was good for a few laughs.
When I next sent a story to Asimov’s, where I had only ever received the photocopied rejections before, I went out to a toy store and bought a cheap set of doll clothes (Barbie sized). I took the bra/bathing suit top and stuck it in the envelope with my story. In my letter to Gardner I mentioned the meeting and conversation at WFC and said, Here’s a piece of my clothing for consideration. I guess it shrunk in the wash.
Well, it didn’t get me an acceptance on my story but it did get me out of the slush pile. From that point on Gardner always read my stories and sent personal rejections. He never did buy any, but my story “Hold Back the Night” that I call my literary lesbian, erotic vampire tale, which doesn’t have an iota of SF in it, received an honorable mention in the Year’s Best SF from Gardner. It made me the Bikini Islands on the map I suppose. Small and not that noticeable. And all because of a funny conversation.
So, the parties at a WFC can be quite worthwhile.