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World Fantasy Aftermath

writing, lectures, speculative fiction, science fiction, authors

The Gladstone Hotel was were the yearly SpecFic Colloquium was held.

The World Fantasy Convention took place this year in Toronto from Nov. 1-4. I try to attend every couple of years but I feel that it might have been four years since the last one. Before I got to the convention the previous Sunday saw the SpecFic Colloquium sponsored by ChiZine Publications.It was a day of short lectures on the topic “Beyond the Human.” Featured lecturers were Helen Marshall, Peter Watts, Robert Runte, Scott Bakker, Karin Lowachee, and special guest from England Rob Shearman. All the speakers were interesting but Rob’s talk was interesting and humorous and he had us all listening through to the end. It’s worthy checking out for next year.

Art Bar Poetry Reading Series, readings, poetry, fantasy

Pauper’s Pub, an apt place for writers to gather.

I also did a successful reading at the Art Bar Poetry Reading series held at the Pauper’s Pub on Bloor St. (an aptly named pub for most writers). There were four of us as featured readers and then an open mic where people had three minutes to read. Surprisingly most of the open mic pieces were good, something that can be very hit and miss when you don’t know the level of writing. Since it was the night before Hallowe’en I read mostly speculative poetry.

The World Fantasy Convention (WFC) started on the Thursday and is one of several professional conventions and one of three “world-class”conventions. The other two are the World Horror Convention (also professional) and the World Science Fiction Convention, which is large and has an extensive fan track. By professional, it means the convention caters to those in the profession of writing and publishing so there are many authors, editors and publishers present.

wirters, World Fantasy, fiction, Hair Side Flesh Side,

Helen Marshall, of Chizine, author of Hair Side, Flesh Side and speaker at the Spec Fic Colloquium.

Correspondingly, there were numerous readings, and panels on various subjects from e-publishing to urban gothic fantasy, the theme of this year’s convention. World Fantasy is capped at around 850 people and the convention had only two tracks and two readings at the same time. Still there were many events I wanted to tend but is often the case at these conventions I was lured into chatting with people and having drinks at the bar. I did listen to Rob Shearman and read a well executed and somewhat sad tale about god, and Cat Rambo read a very bizarre tale about a planet that has porcelain people. I attended one panel on urban gothic but the convention rooms were so cold that I couldn’t sit through a full hour.That was one fault with the hotel, thinking it was still summer. The other was not fathoming that writers drink and being perpetually understaffed at the bar.

Tightrope Books, World Fantasy, writing, fantasy, speculative fiction

Halli Villegas, publisher of Tightrope Books, holding up the awards and banquet menu.

However, as far as the convention went, there were more panels that I wanted to attend than I could get too. The dealer’s room was large and the room parties abounded. Publishers and various groups will host a party at this convention and everyone is invited. The hospitality suite was well decked out with free meals all day and beer and wine in the evenings. I’ve only ever seen this type of spread done at the WFC that took place in Minneapolis. The Chizine party on Saturday night was packed with wall to wall people and even an event I missed called “writers in tub.” You couldn’t move at one point. The party was fairly epic.

World Fantasy, fantasy, speculative writing

Scott Bramble, and CZP author Michael Rowe

I met many people at the convention and for the first time ever, attended an awards banquet, which took place on Sunday afternoon. Chizine Publications was up for a World Fantasy Awardunder the special professional category, but alas did not win. However, while everyone was moving slower on Sunday, it was a very good convention overall, with many new people that I met and great panels. Truly one of the better ones I’ve been to. Check out the World Fantasy convention. It’s a great place to meet authors and publishers.

SF, fantasy, magazines, World Fantasy

Diane Walton, part of the On Spec collective, a magazine out of Alberta

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Writing: The Great Wheel of Publishing

 This wheel is large and ungainly, held together with sweat, tears, slush pile manuscripts, spit, unbought or returned books and elbow grease. It lumbers along, turning ever so slowly, sometimes looking more as if it will tumble over then keep rolling. But roll it does, usually, sometimes losing an author, or a novel, some staff or advertising revenue. It does not turn smoothly but continues until the gap of lost material becomes so big that the wheel must be overhauled.

Such is the case with various publishers along the long road of years. Ten years ago I was trying to get copy editing work with US publishers. This Herculean task met many difficulties. Publishers and the editors in charge are over-busy, always reading and procuring manuscripts and then going through the myriad phases of production. Send a letter and if it isn’t imperative to answer (we want your manuscript, pay our invoice) it never gets answered, not even if you include a SASE and you’re looking for employment. The next stage is to phone and hope you get the right editor in the right department. Should you call and only get their voicemail, presume they won’t return your call. And if you live on the west coast and have a three-hour time difference it will take early hours and a crystal ball to figure out the best time and day to try and catch and editor. Give up on Fridays altogether.

Should you get through these first layers of the publishing house inferno, you will most likely get a copy editing test. Once that’s done you send it back. I did two over two-three years with Tor, where they subsequently lost the test both times. Then said oh well you have to go through St. Martins as they’re our boss. Uh, they didn’t know this beforehand when they gave me the test? And Ace gave me the test; I sent it back and heard nothing. When I queried twice they said, oh we can’t hire Canadians. I didn’t know that when I sent you a test. Great, I’ve had a lot of practice with editing tests.

With Harper Collins, I passed the test. Then they sent me disks because they used a specific computer-based editing system. (This was about ten years ago and I’m not sure Word’s track changes feature was that developed then.) So, I received the disks but then had to buy a new computer because I didn’t have the memory capacity. At that time the guy who was going to train me was on holidays for a month. When he got back, he quit. So they were then trying to find someone else. In that time, they also bought out Avon books.

What ensued was two years of frustration and nary a job out of it. The editor I was dealing with was transferred to a different dept., then let go. Others came and went. I was given various names of people and would call every month. Each time I had to explain the situation who I had talked to, where it had changed, what area of copy editing I specialized in (SF/spec fiction) etc. Each time, it was a different person, a new department, a new system. Two years of calling every month after being told I would be hired as a freelancer and I never got one job out of it. But I had a bigger, better computer.

Over the years I have edited for a few US publishers and Canadian publishers but the sheer frustration of getting New York publishers was enough to stop most people. You really do have to live there. The longest stint I had copy editing with one publisher was three years or so with Byron Preiss book packagers (now gone the way of the dodo). And I got my first job because I was at the World Fantasy Convention standing in the lineup for the hotel. The guy in front told me he had just got a promotion to editor and I said, hey do you need any copy editors. He said send a resume when you get back but before I could he called because he had a rush job. Keith DeCandido gave me my first real break in copy editing. He quit before the company imploded and I had stopped doing work form them before that because getting paid was becoming difficult. He now writes novels. I now think of writing my novel, still copy edit and still write.

Other hurdles in the publishing world are managing editors who ask you to copy edit but don’t clarify by how much. Some publishers (or working on some authors) means that you’re required to only correct typos and punctuation. Copy editing is more than this and includes correcting sentence structure and continuity. It can be structural editing, which looks at the overall structure of chapters, pacing and flow, or very close to proofreading. Over the years I have found most companies who wanted proofreading really wanted more than that.

It’s common for individuals looking for an editor to say they want proofreading when in almost all cases they mean copy editing. It can be confusing for the new writer but just as confusing for the freelance editor. I’ve had publishers cancel a project in the middle (they were moving into movies, but did pay for what I’d ) or wanting a book padded (requiring that one line paragraphs be left in and the worst sentences be reworked but not deleted).

Publishing houses usually have a house style and often a style sheet. If they don’t give me one, I usually ask if they have a house style as it can affect the overall product. I’ve started to see some weird things in some books of late. Tor is an American publisher yet I’ve seen a book or two done with British spellings. In one case it may have been to give it the flavor of an earlier era as it was about a world in the 1800s.

But editing and acquisition of books are just a couple spokes of that great wheel. There is design production, advertising, marketing, distribution, return and paying the employees, artists and authors. Some spokes seem to have more weight, or, if you were looking a wooden wheel, some would be sturdier or decorated, but without all of the spokes the wheel fails. And to carry the analogy to the end the hub of the wheel is the writer and the publisher. Without the writer there is no story to sell. Without the publisher there are still stories but it’s harder to get them out to the public.

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Genital Fads

Because it’s looking like spring (at least here in the Pacific Northwest) and little shoots are poking through the ground, and the big VD just happened (that’s Valentine’s Day not venereal disease though they do have a relation), I remembered a conversation with a friend last fall.

We were at the World Fantasy Convention, in the art show. There were some dark, moody-broody pictures involving nudes. After my friend looked at one, she said to me, “I noticed that the woman in that photo had her genital area shaved. Am I way behind the boat here? Is this something that people are doing now?”

And I enlightened her that it is in fact a fad these days for men and women to be hairless. Women already have shaved underarms and legs for years. Now they may have their pubic patch trimmed or taken away completely, commonly called a Brazilian. Men have also been getting waxed of recent years, from back and butts, to chests and genitals. Some of them shave the genital area or go in to see an aesthetician to have as one friend referred to it, a crack and sack hair removal.

It’s been common in the Middle East for hundreds of years, yet in Italy of the last century a woman with hairless legs were considered to be tarty or ladies of the night. But this modern age is not the first time that people have applied fashion trends to their genitals.

If we go back in time there were ribbons applied to pubic curls in the 17th century. Known as a merkin, men or women would adorn these pubic wigs to either disguise the syphilitic ravages to their flesh, to discourage vermin (having shaved the region) or because people found a dense bush more sexually appealing. Some extravagances involved crimping the pubic hairs, adding ribbons, jewels or flowers. Quite a treasure trove for the exploring Don Juan.

Adornment hasn’t just happened to the pubic hair but to the flesh as well. There have been an abundance of piercings for men and women, some being ornamental, others religious, others for sexual enhancement. These have been done for centuries in some Asian and African countries and are popular in some aspects of North American and European culture.

Clothing has also been worn at different times to enhance the genital area (besides the merkin). These have included extravagant codpieces from the German Landsknecht “slash and puff” clothing, through the Elizabethan and Tudor periods. As well, various tribes may have worn penis sheaths made from wood or gourds, such as the New Guinea koteka. Tattooing is also not new.

The fashion of making ourselves as hairless a possible will probably change in decades to come. Nothing is new and nothing is permanent. Whether we see these pubic fashions as awe inspiring, fashionable, sexy or ridiculous they too will change in time. Someone will come up with something new, maybe wearing airplane parts or hanging Christmas ornaments from their pubic regions. Who knows, you might be the first to have the newest undercover fad.

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Writing Catch Up

With all the running about and schmoozing at World Fantasy I haven’t had time to actually post anything or even send out many submissions.

However, the Best New Erotica 8 edited by Maxim Jakubowski will be out by Robinson (UK) in a month. It features a reprint of a story of mine “Stocking Stuffers.” I have also just sold “The Boy Who Bled Rubies” to Caro Soles for Don Juan: Tales of Lust and Seduction. I turned in an erotic fairy tale for a Harlequin anthology but have yet to hear the details on that. Other stories and poetry are out but with no firm dates of publication.

I did just receive my certificate and free chapbooks for “Don Quixote’s Quandary” which received a judges’ choice in the SFPA contest. It’s probably the least I’ve been paid (pay presumably in the mail with the chapbook of winning poems) for a poem in years. But what the heck, it was a contest, I have many poems and oh well. I plan to post a couple of published poems up on this site in the near future.

There was a poetry reading at World Fantasy on the Thursday night. Joe Haldeman, David Lunde, Rhea Rose, Eileen Kernaghan, Carolyn Clink and I think one other person read in round table style. Mostly we read to friends and spouses it seems. I wish poetry was more accessible to people. I want to have a poetry reading one day where the word poetry/poem are never mentioned. Lure them in and then gobsmack them with some poetry. I’ve done a lot of performance poetry in the past and maybe that’s what’s needed to bring in a few more people. Alas, poor poetry, dismissed and neglected by so many, including SFWA.

I have a rough draft of “Our Lady of Redemption” done but need to clean it up. I’m still waiting for some readers to look over “Awaking Pandora,” a novelette that took me 15 years to finish. I’m working on a monkey/elephant story and a cat story. Never thought I’d really do a cat story but it’s very nebulous right now as I work out the details of the mystery in it.

Editing wise, I’ve been fighting some pretty nasty viruses on my computer but will be working through some of the poems for Chizine soon. For Aberrant Dreams, we’re still in a holding pattern, though new content went up for October. “The Girl Who Swallowed the Sky” by Jacqueline Bowen is one of the stories I accepted.

Some people will be hearing from me in the near future on the Aberrant stories. Unfortunately being backlogged means rejecting more. Be prepared. I also have to write up a report for SF Canada. That was supposed to be done tonight but other backlogged paperwork caught up to me. I’ll be meeting a client tomorrow evening and then finishing that report.

I think I need to set a firm date for working on the novel. I’ve drifted a bit there and no one else is going to write it for me. Time to set aside part of at least one night a week. Perhaps Mondays after bellydance.

Speaking of novels, many years ago, a woman in our group, Lydia Langstaff, wrote a first draft. She died at 28 of congenital heart problems and never got to go further with her work. Her husband Jeff approached me after her death about doing an edit on her novel. Even though I was going to give him a deal, I still would have needed to charge for my time and the rewrite would have been extensive. He couldn’t afford to do anything at the time and asked me to hang on to it. And then time passed.

It’s been more than ten years and I can’t find Jeff Langstaff. I don’t want to throw out what might be the only copy of Lydia’s work. If I rewrote it, could I publish it with both our names? Would I want to? What’s moral and ethical in a situation like this? Take half the money and donate it to heart research? It’s not my labor of love but it was hers. Would I want to invest the time, not knowing if it would sell? I guess I could send out query letters on the story but I’m not sure that’s my right. If I could find Jeff or Lydia’s family I could ask. But for now her manuscript sits in limbo and I can’t throw it out.

I’ll try again to find a relative but it’s an odd conundrum.

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World Fantasy 2008: Part II

A big part of these conventions are the parties. Because World Fantasy is a professional con there are few but advertised parties and launches. SF Canada put on a party on Friday night, which I oversaw and I’m pleased to say that we never ran out of alcohol and that I had to actually return some. I could have ordered more of some things and less of others. We’ll know for the next one but it was definitely a success with over two hundred people passing through the suite.

Other parties included book launches for authors by RedJack press, Tor books, Borderlands, and others that I can’t recall. Because we weren’t leaving until Monday we attended the dead dog Sunday party which had a fair number of people and drinks. The parties were good, noisy and lasted until the room closed around 2 am.

The other place to meet people was in the bar, as always. I met Jetse De Vries, former editor with Interzone, a noticeable man for his long wavy hair, tallness and great rolling, Dutch accent. He was talking about the Netherlands for World Fantasy in 2016 as it would be the 500th birthday of Hieronymus Bosch. It’s a ways off so who knows. I also met Jenny Blackford from Australia, one of the awards judges for next year, and we discussed Greek mythos.

I met Mark Kelly of Locus, recognizing his name before I linked it with his reviews, Bob Brown, an antiquarian bookseller in Seattle, writers Mark Rich and Liz Bourke, and artist Mike Dringenberg. I met many SF Canada members in person including Leslie Carmichael, Claire Earmer, Lorna Toolis, Richard Bartrop, Dom Benoit, Den Valdron, Carolyn Clink, Celu Amberstone, Candas Jane Dorsey, Marcelle Dube, Dave Duncan, Matt Hughes, Alison Sinclair, Cath Jackal, Marie Jakober, Ed Willett.

Publishers that I met in the flesh included Virginia O’Dine and Dominic Macquire of Bundoran Press (Prince George), Gwen Gades of Dragon Moon, Karl and Stephanie Johanson of Neo-Opsis, Jacob Wiseman of Tachyon Press, Diane Walton of OnSpec, Champagne Books, Flash Me Online. I said hello again to Patrick Swenson of Talebones, Brian Hades of Edge, Peter Halasz sponsoring the Sunburst Awards auction, Brit Graham Joyce, Karen Abrahamson, Chris Lotts, Janine Cross, Rhea Rose, Linda DeMeulemeester, Eileen and Pat Kernaghan, Derryl Murphy, Nina Munteanu, Rob Sawyer, Darrell Schweitzer, John Douglas, David Hartwell, Bruce Taylor, Nancy Kilpatrick, Leslie Howle (of Clarion administration) and a few others. There were so many people and conversations that I don’t remember everyone but it’s a good place to meet people and talk about art and writing.

World Fantasy special guests included David Morrell, dark fiction and thriller writer and creator of Rambo, Patricia McKillip, who sold her first novel at the age of 23, Todd Lockwood with a lovely body of artwork, Barbara Hambly with an impressive number of books, Tom Doherty, publisher of Tor and other ventures and Tad Williams as emcee. During the presentation of the World Fantasy awards he gave a very funny speech about the beginning of fantasy writing, with such things as it all starting in the US and William Shakingspear made an indent. He claimed that Canadian writers were really just geographically confused Canadians and that no one knows if Charles de Lint is real but that his footprints have been found deep in the forests.

Tad’s history of fantasy began in the times of cave men and came forward to present day. I do hope this speech will be printed somewhere as it was extremely well done and had people laughing. The awards presentation happened on Sunday. My friend Kij Johnson was up again for a short story but she did not win. Ellen Datlow, who did win, has nine World Fantasy awards. A bunch of us joked about her forming her own Easter Island. Following is the list of winners at the convention:

Life Achievement: Leo and Diane Dillon; Patricia McKillip

Novel: “Ysabel” by Guy Gavriel Kay (Viking Canada/Penguin Roc).
Novella: “Illyria” by Elizabeth Hand (PS Publishing).
Short Story: “Singing of Mount Abora” by Theodora Goss (Logorrhea, Bantam Spectra).
Anthology: “Inferno: New Tales of Terror and the Supernatural” edited by Ellen Datlow, Editor (Tor).
Collection: “Tiny Deaths” by Robert Shearman (Comma Press).

Artist: Edward Miller
Special Award—Professional: Peter Crowther for PS Publishing
Special Award—Non-professional: Midori Snyder and Terri Windling for Endicott Studios Website

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World Fantasy Convention 2008: Calgary

World Fantasy took place in Calgary’s downtown at the Hyatt Regency this last weekend. Although the hotel had an exceptional collection of paintings and heavily focused ungulate statuary everywhere, it was still a very expensive hotel. I haven’t been in a hotel in the US in the past five years that charged for internet and $1 for local calls. Internet cost $14 a day, an exorbitant fee, and the hotel price was high even at convention rates. We found Calgary pricey for food but cheap for alcohol, if you were buying it in stores but comparably priced to Vancouver in the hotel.

The con hospitality suites were smaller than I have seen at other cons and the air conditioning (hardly needed in Oct. in Calgary) was on high for most of the convention. The dealers room and art show were also small. From one discussion with a Seattle antiquarian dealer, the hoops and paperwork besides shipping costs are prohibitive and discourage international exchanges. The dealers room did have an interesting array of publishers. Some of them were Redjack, Fitzhenry/Red Deer Press, Tachyon, Edge, Talebones/Fairwood Press, OnSpec, Electric Velocipede, SFC table of members’ work, Sunburst awards, used and new booksellers, and other dealers that I don’t remember off hand.

 The dealers room used to feature books and some jewellery. This is a professional convention of editors, publishers and authors (and some fans as well) and fan paraphernalia is not allowed. The books are still there but the jewellery is not. It seems the WFC board has put a stop to it after so many years because it is a “serious” convention. I let them know that quite a few of us “pros” enjoyed buying our piece of con jewellery over the years and that we missed it. Does serious mean no fun? After all, the jewellery could be juried to fit certain criteria as well.

As often is the case with these cons, I get to few or no panels. I went to one on Friday and then left halfway through to see another. Unfortunately both were clunky, with no real flow and very short to no answers by the pros on the panel.

Saturday, I missed half of one, which had George R.R. Martin, Tad Williams and Steve Erickson talking about killing significant characters in a novel. They may have been more focused in the first half but it wasn’t bad for flow and was funny. Tad Williams, one of the special guests and emcee for the World Fantasy awards is a very funny guy.

The other panel I attended was “Why do we write dark fiction?” with Graham Joyce, Nancy Kilpatrick and David Morrell. It was moderated well by Nancy and thought provoking. Very interesting panel that had many of us thinking of their childhoods and surreal experiences.

Because this is long, I’ll continue tomorrow with more on WFC.

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Calgary World Fantasy Convention

I’ll be writing later on the convention. I’m in Calgary and there is no place that has wireless for free, very different than Vancouver, where it is free nearly everywhere. This is also the first hotel (the Hyatt)where they charge $13.95 a day for wireless usage! I’ve never been in a hotel before that charged, not in recent years.

It’s cold and clear today but above 0. I ran into John Douglas nearly right away. We had tried to contact each other but my email had changed and I lost his. I met him years ago in New Orleans WFC. He’s an expat Canadian who was working for Avon books at that time. We’ll catch up soon. The only way I have internet is by the good graces of David Hartwell who snuck me up into the “Regency Suite” where internet is free.

And now I must go down and collect my coat and find a drink before the evening’s parties. There is an open mic reading at 10 and I’ll read a couple of poems then.

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Writing: SF Canada

SF Canada is the professional writers group for Canada, for speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc.) http://news.sfcanada.ca/ It is similar to but different from SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) which is the grand mal professional organization. SFWA has many more members and therefore money, clout and able to legally aid their members.

SF Canada allows membership to Canadian writers who have sold some works, but does not have as rigorous requirements as SFWA. Therefore, SFC represents Canadian speculative writers who may and may not yet have achieved a full professional status. It’s also there to foster community and support, as well as to promote the publishing and sale of works by members. It’s small, it’s Canadian.

The board of directors, like most boards is volunteer run. I have become the president as of Saturday. It’s not a lot of work but I’m hoping we can continue to foster community and bring more notice to our writers and our genre. We’ll see how that shapes up but with the World Fantasy Convention in Calgary this year, it’s a good opportunity to feature our local (Canadian) talent.

There has been discussion in the past that Canadian fiction of any genre has a different flavour than that of US authors. I don’t know if it’s true in speculative fiction but books have been written about how the landscape, in one way or another, features in many Canadian books and films. Perhaps there’ll be a larger discussion of whether aliens created by Canadians are more Canadian than alien. We’ll see.

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World Fantasy Convention: Part 2

World Fantasy, because it is made up of editors, publishers and authors, tends to have good panels on the professional aspects of writing. Very enlightening from various viewpoints. I can’t remember how many tracks there are at once, but it’s not as many as the larger fan conventions.

WFC holds about 600 people and maybe three or four tracks at a time. I never tend to make it to too many panels. When I went to New Orleans, like everyone else, I went to the French Quarter and shopped. In the evenings it was going for dinner or going to the parties to schmooze and get free booze and snacks. So I tend to only get to a couple of panels at most.

When I attended WFC in Montreal, it was at the end of October (as it always is) just after September 11, 2001. I’m sure it was one of the few WFCs that did not cover its costs. Many publishers and attendees pulled out because of the rampant fear at that time. This made it quite a small convention. Surprisingly, Montreal had no snow but it was a bit crisp at night.

Rhea and I arrived about 11 on a Thursday night and my friend Melanie was already there in jammies. When we got up to the room I said, “I don’t know what you guys are going to do but I’m going down to have a drink at the lounge.” The three of us went down and I noticed San Francisco bookstore owner Allan Bates (sp?) who I’d met before at a convention.

The lounge closed an hour or so later and Allensaid they were going down to a pub so we joined them. There were about seven of us and it turns out Montreal pubs have a soft closing. We were there till four or five in the morning. And that set the flavour for the whole convention. There wasn’t a night I went to bed earlier and I recall on the last night a group of us wandering about and sneaking glasses of booze out of some pub when they closed down.

It was at one party where of course the booze flowed that we were standing around talking and I think I splashed UK writer Graham Joyce, with a bit of wine, accidentally. Then I was drinking some water and fellow Canuck writer Brett Savory (it’s his fault, really) said I should pour my water on Graham, so I did. It established a friendship for the convention, or at least a camaraderie with the Brit writers. I also met agent Chris Lotts there and still chat with him time to time but book agents are very busy. I met Tina Jens, one of the Twilight Tales founders at one convention too. It’s a great benefit meeting similar thinking minds and establishing friendships that span countries.

There have been conventions that have been nothing but calm as well. It can vary a lot. But you always meet new people and I like the smallness of WFC for that intimacy of getting to know people. It was at one WFC autograph signing that I had my arms signed and freaked out Harlan Ellison. The World Fantasy awards are given the Sunday of the convention. This year it is in Calgary and I’l be going. 2004 was the last one I attended so it’s been a while.

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Writing: World Fantasy Convention Part 1

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.

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