I caught a ride to the Renaissance this morning with Mary Turzillo, in time to catch most of a 10 a.m. panel about the “Effects of the Web and Online Publishing on Fantasy”, with Rodger Turner and John Klima and Gayle Surrette and Steve Wilson and Catherynne Valente, who talked about various things — fiction on the web, e-books, wikis — but whose main theme I’d perhaps missed at the beginning.
Outside another panel I caught up with Jeff VanderMeer, whose new book I’m 100 pages into, getting a bit of preview into the WF Awards judges panel on Sunday that I’ll miss. Without giving away details, his theme was that there was remarkable consensus among the judges on this year’s winners.
I rendezvoused with Locus Online reviewing team Lawrence Person and Howard Waldrop — the latter whom I’d said hello to once years ago but had never actually talked to face to face — for lunch, which ended up at another nearby Mexican place, Manuel’s (which was better than Serrano’s), where we talked about Texas politics and speed limits and the history of the space race, one of those many topics on which Howard has remarkably detailed knowledge and recall. And he signed my book.
I attended 2 1/4 panels over the remainder of the afternoon. A panel on “The God or the Machine?”, about the boundary between SF and fantasy, featured Ted Chiang (doing his first-ever panel, he’d told me earlier), Walter Jon Williams, Michael Stackpole, Louise Marley, and moderator Janine Young. They debated what the panel was supposed to be about, then offered various perspectives, giving examples of blends (Star Wars, Pern) and distinctions between magic and technology — the former isn’t the latter because technology eventually gets cheaper and is available to the masses (TC); science is testable and repeatable, a discovery of laws of nature, while magic is about altering those laws (WJW); etc. Most memorable bites: WJW cited George RR Martin, “it’s a matter of furniture” (thus Pern “is” fantasy” and Star Wars “is” SF); TC pointed out that if a solution to the story’s problem depends on the spiritual or moral state of the practitioner, then it’s fantasy; WJW describing fantasy, SF, and horror as being about whether the universe is benign, neutral, or malevolent; LM suggesting that the moral state of her surgeon does matter to her, with WJW countering that, in his recent experience, the best surgeons are bastards.
Second panel was about “phantom books”, with Darrell Schweitzer, Gordon Van Gelder, Don Webb, Hal Duncan, and Barbara Roden. They suggested various attractions of the idea of imaginary books (the most famous being of course HPL’s Necronomicon), and cited a remarkable number of examples: Chambers, Borges, Zafron, Cabell, Eco, Lupoff. An audience member pointed out how the actual original religious texts behind the great Abrahamic religions are in some sense imaginary books.
I stayed for only a bit of a third panel, about “forgotten masters” of fantasy, with David G. Hartwell, Paul Park, Jess Nevins, and Victoria Strauss; the room was hot, my schedule constrained. I did a final round of the dealers room, then shuttled back to my hotel to check e-mail — as it happened, news came in of Nelson S. Bond’s death, so I spent half an hour researching that, miscalculating his age [soon corrected], and posting the news on the website — take a nap, and change clothes for the banquet. I got back to the convention hotel about 6:45, in time to mill about with the banquet crowd for a few minutes before the doors were opened and we all went in to find our tables. I was at a satellite HarperCollins table, shared with overflows from another publisher, which meant in practice sitting with Alma Alexander and her husband, and with Steven Erikson and his fellow writer Ian ‘Cam’ Esslemont, who are both writing stories in the former’s “Malazan Empire”.
The banquet food was decent, the toastmaster Bradley Denton excellent, presenting a lively history of Texas’ six flags keyed to introductions of the convention’s guests of honor — Dave Duncan, Robin Hobb, Gary Gianni, Glenn Lord, Glen Cook, and John Jude Palencar. Then followed announcement of the British Fantasy Awards from a month ago, before David Hartwell and John Douglas did their usual presentation of the World Fantasy Award nominees and winners. There were some surprises, perhaps, and in fact Hartwell made a point of mentioning that novel-winner Harukami, whom he’d met, had said he’d read everything by Lovecraft and Howard and followed F&SF faithfully while growing up — i.e., he’s one of us. Then there were photos and parties, but for now it’s late and I need to be up early for my flight home. More details, and probably amendations and format fixes, in the next day or two as time permits.