ICFA Photos

There are photos of ICFA available online from Ellen Datlow and Kathryn Cramer. Incredibly both of them have managed to take photos of me without destroying their cameras.

And if you are wondering why, in one of Kathryn’s photos (actually taken by David Hartwell) I am photographing Lisa Yasek’s back, well you will have to wait for my pictures. I have them all ready, but I have offered Liza first call on them for Locus.

An Impromptu Party

Today (it being past midnight) is Gary Wolfe’s birthday, so we’ve been having a little party. A bunch of us had dinner together in the hotel restaurant and amusing conversation flowed. Charles was curmudgeonly – something he’s very good at. Ellen Klages was hilarious – something she is very good at. Clute has become obsessed with the hotel’s habit of distorting the aspect ratio on their TVs so as to make the pictures fill up the whole wide screen surface, thereby making people look shorter and fatter than they really are. There was a running gag about the World Fantasy Award trophy as a result of which I discovered I was one of the few people at the table who did not have a big, ugly head.

The hotel kindly brought Gary a candle with his desert, and we discovered that the Big, Bad Wolfe is indeed not very good at huffing and puffing.

But Gary did come up with one of the best one-liners of the entire conference. Here it is:

“Realism is nothing but the domestication of fantasy.”


I am awake, sort of. Given the time I got to bed last night, I think I may be back on California time. But I think I am doing OK. Over breakfast I have been discussing the role of maps in fantasy novels and the soap opera nature of formula fantasy with John Clute, Liz Hand and Guy Gavriel Kay. Clute is a morning person, and even more terrifyingly clever when he’s awake and you still desperately need coffee. I think I managed to hold my own. I helped that I was the only person at the table able to talk intelligently about role-playing theory.

And now, I have to work.


I’ve been working a fair amount today, but I did make time to go to Karen’s paper. Naturally she took the opportunity to talk about the excellent From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain.

The awards banquet went very well. The food was good. I got to sit at the Locus table (thanks Charles!). The awards went very smoothly with no one hogging the podium.

We’ve been running a Match It For Pratchett collection all week. According to Farah we raised $1054.

The BSFA Award results came in just before the banquet. Farah spent the pre-banquet reception going around the usual suspects asking us to keep them secret because she wanted to announce Brian Aldiss’s win. It worked. The expression on Brian’s face when Farah made the announcement was priceless.

As the con is now over, we’ve all been working hard on getting drunk and the conversation has deteriorated accordingly. As this is a family blog I’m not saying any more, except to note that I declared a BASFA Meeting and Greg Frost owes me double pun tax (we don’t actually have a special rule for toilet-related puns, but don’t tell Greg that).

I’ll still be around tomorrow because it was cheaper to stay another night than pay the Sunday air fare. Also I haven’t seen a ‘gator yet.

ICFA Conversations

I’ve just got back from having lunch with Guy Gavriel Kay and Scott Bakker (and also Scott’s wife and Deanna Hoak). The boys were talking about novel creation, and specifically about the tension between writing a challenging and complex book, a book that will be more accessible to a traditional genre audience, and a book that will be accessible to a much wider general audience that doesn’t have a background of genre reading to inform their understanding of the narrative. This is the sort of thing that happens at ICFA.

I also had a long conversation with Donald Morse about the hotel, which will help me draft a much better con report than might otherwise have been the case. The oddest hotel behavior can make sense once you know the background.

ICFA Continues

This morning saw a session on “sexualities” that had two trans-related papers, both of which were actually about gender bending and gender acquisition rather than about actual trans people. This was kind of disappointing because one of them was given by an expert on Brazilian SF.

The next session was the traditional panel run by Robin Reid and her Secret Slash Cabal, and it produced three superb papers. Vera Cuntz (my room mate for the con) provided an insightful and amusing paper about twins and incest in Harry Potter which actually made me want to go and read Rowling. Barbara Lucas entertained us all with stories about a goth-based perfume company, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, and the associated fan community. And Eden Lee Lacker provided a masterly critique of the hideously inept FanLib.com project. I suggested that they go off and write a paper about “World Enough and Time” and associated controversies, and I’m looking forward to the result next year.

The Guest Scholar this year is Roger Luckhurst and his splendid speech introduced me to the idea of science fictional photography. This year’s conference is supposedly about “the sublime”, which is a posh was of saying “sensawunda”, and yes of course it is possible to attempt to photograph the sublime. Also these days we have photoshop. If you think this is nonsense, go check out the work of Andreas Gursky.

There are far more sessions available than any one person can attend, so please switch now to Karen Burnham who has an entirely different set of panels to talk about.


So I had eaten rather well at the GoH luncheon (and listened to an entertaining speech by Vernor Vinge). I was not planning to have dinner. But I got kidnapped by Farah and Javier Martinez and taken off to what Javier claims is the second best fish restaurant in the whole USA. It is, I think, where Charles went for his annual crab fix last night, and he was very happy with it. Anyway, the place is called MoonFish, and the fish was indeed excellent. I don’t recommend the sushi, because I’ve been taken out to sushi restaurants by Mr. Gaiman who is what you might call “an expert”. But by all means eat fish. Eat lots of fish. The starter platter was excellent, including the best crab cakes I’ve ever had and some very good coconut shrimp. For main course I had a whole yellowtail platter. That’s fish just the way we felines like it: the whole thing, head included, lightly grilled, nothing else. Yum! There is no need to have dessert, especially not the chocolate cake they had on offer which could have faced down a Robert Jordan novel in a heavyweight wrestling contest.

Who Wrote Shakespeare?

One of the papers I attended this afternoon was about the Gaiman & Vess Sandman episode based around A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The presentation was considerably enlivened by the presence of Charles Vess in the audience. Jim Casey made the point that the story is very much concerned with authenticity and authorship. The fairies in the story get to watch Bottom and his friends playing them as characters in a play. Shakespearean scholars, meanwhile, have always been exercised by the question of who actually wrote the plays, and modern theories are open to the probability that the final versions we have were honed by input from other members of the acting troupe. Gaiman, however, postulates collaboration of another kind. In the Sandman stories the two most fantastical plays in the Shakespearean canon are shown to have not been written by Shakespeare himself, but were provided to him by Morpheus as part of a Faustian bargain. Jim noted, however, that Morpheus is not a real person, but rather a character created by Neil Gaiman, and that therefore, if you follow the logic through, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest were not written by Shakespeare, but by Neil Gaiman.

And before poor Jim gets descended upon by hordes of irate Gaiman fans I hasten to add that this idea was presented in jest and was most definitely not an accusation of arrogance. We all had a good laugh, and I’m pretty sure that Neil will find it funny too. (Neil, I suggested to Charles that the two of you claim the whole story came to you in a dream.)

Taxonomies of Fantasy

I promised mention of the other new book that has something from me in it. The book in question is Jeff and Ann VanderMeer’s anthology, The New Weird. I’m in it because the VanderMeers include some material from the Night Shade message boards where, back in 2003, M. John Harrison started a debate about what “New Weird” meant. I was a little nervous about this because I’d forgotten what I said and some of that debate was quite acrimonious. However, all I’m quoted on is a couple of paragraphs about labels such as “New Weird” being useful as marketing tools. Much relief there.
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Limits of Reality

I gather the weather is pretty bad all over the US today. In Florida it is just overcast and windy, so not much lounging by the pool will get done today, I suspect. Fortunately there is plenty going on indoors. Indeed, the papers on offer have been interesting enough to drag me out of bed to attend an 8:30am panel. This is deeply uncivilized, and I apologize to the panelists for eating my breakfast while they were holding forth.
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From the Sublime

The theme of this year’s conference is, “The Sublime in the Fantastic”. Accordingly the opening panel set out to explore just what we might mean by that. We are now all thoroughly sublimated (not to mention purified and exalted, if you happen to have a Thesaurus or John Clute to hand).

Roger Luckhurst, this year’s Guest Scholar, kicked things off by exhorting us to create a list of those genre writers who, despite the shrieking, gibbous insanity of their eldritch prose, somehow manage to forge a connection to the unnameable and unknowable.

Mr. Clute, sharp as ever, talked about the movie technique of “selling the shot” and how it is all about never showing the whole monster.

And Brian Aldiss, unwilling to trade erudition with the rest of the panel, chose instead to read a brief fragment written by someone he knew:

Overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out.

So now, without being shown the whole monster, you should have a good idea of what we are trying to talk about.

Settling In

So far so good. I have got some (paid) work done. I have had lunch (with Joe & Gay Haldeman and Rusty Hevlin), which was very good. I have registered (they failed the Badge Test, which is poor for an annual convention). There’s a reception tonight with free food. Charles and Lisa have finished re-working the new Locus to include the sad news about Sir Arthur and have sent it back to the printers. The hotel does indeed have a nice bar by the pool, and the gators don’t seem to frequent it. All seems to be well with the world. Now to check my email…

Wi-Fi Woes

The odd things that hotels get up to regarding Internet access continue to fascinate me. This particular Marriott uses the Wayport system which is not quite universal enough for it to be worthwhile buying a membership in. The day rate is $15, which is extortionate, but you can buy an 8-day pass for $35. Even though I’m only here for 6 nights, it is a good deal, but…
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