Monthly Archives: March 2010

Light and Dark in Orlando

First, to fill in a couple details from the previous post, Nalo Hopkinson’s lunchtime speech referred notably to the Racefail 2009 debate that raged online a year or so ago; she also used the phrase “people of pallor” as a nice parallel to the standard “people of color”.

Friday the clouds broke up a bit, and by Saturday the sun returned full-force, just in time for the annual Locus photo of ICFA attendees out by the pool — the sun was bright enough that we were getting uncomfortable by the time stragglers gathered to make it into the shot. (When the photo appears in Locus Magazine, I’m the one in the bright yellow polo shirt.)

The Friday lunchtime speaker was guest scholar Takayuki Tatsumi, best known for books like Cyberpunk America and the more recent Full Metal Apache. He spoke on “Race and Black Humor”, discussing several examples of how racism played in the response to natural catastrophes, like Katrina, and in works of fiction, including a Brian Aldiss story from 1966 called “Another Little Boy” and the Japanese bestseller Japan Sinks… if the talk was a tad arcane, it was leavened by a film clip from a parody of the last title, clips of a worldwide disaster in which everyplace except Japan sinks, that looked like a bad outtake from 2012.

The highlight of Friday evening was another ICFA tradition, the performance/stage reading of three short plays. (The first couple times I attended ICFA, these were written and/or performed by Brian Aldiss, with supporting cast.) This time two of the plays were by Jeanne Beckwith — “Mission to Mars”, with Brett Cox and Andy Duncan portraying two astronauts who’ve arrived at Mars and whose backup supply ship is overdue; and “The Last Detective”, with Jim Kelly, John Kessel, Kij Johnson, and Sydney Duncan as the characters and author of a story, respectively. The final play was “Driving Day” by Timothy Anderson, again starring Brett Cox, a surreal piece that involved cast members circling the room and waving their arms back and forth. They were all fun.

Then folks gathered outside by the pool cabana; it wasn’t quite warm enough to be comfortable, and the gas lamps weren’t supplied with propane, but we made do. Russell brought out his guitar, Charles produced a bottle of Glenmorangie, and we were fine.

The awards banquet on Saturday evening closed the weekend, and went typically long, with awards presented for service to ICFA, by Sheila Williams to students for the Dell Magazine writing contest (whose recipients included a good Rachel and an evil Rachel), the Lord Ruthven awards for works about vampires, and, eventually, the previously-announced Crawford Award winner, to Jedediah Berry for his The Manual of Detection, as the best first book by a fantasy writer from the past year. As if all those were not enough, it was then announced that two more awards will be presented beginning next year — one, named after Nalo Hopkinson, for a story by a person of color, and another, named after Suzy McKee Charnas, for some service the nature of which I didn’t quite catch. I’m sure Locus mag will get all the details in place in their official coverage of the weekend.

In between all that, I bought a couple books in the book room, bought one book in the silent auction, had some good conversations with people, met Jedediah Berry and Kit Reed and Rebecca Holden and several others for the first time, had a meeting with Liza about prospects for a PDF version of Locus Magazine and options for converting our current Blogger blogs, and attended a reading by Amelia Beamer from her forthcoming novel The Loving Dead, which continued to gather positive buzz throughout the weekend, by Ellen Klages, who read several unpublished passages from her “portable childhood” series, and by Andy Duncan, who read a hilarious story about a man conniving to outrun a bullet.

Now, Sunday morning, it is mostly overcast again, and I’m finishing up here before packing to leave for the airport.

Overcast in Orlando

I’m in Orlando, attending this year’s International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, at the conference’s new permanent site in Orlando, at the Marriott just north of the airport. It’s been overcast, even a bit rainy, the whole time I’ve been here, a stark contrast to the typically sunny, albeit hot and humid, weather the same time of year in Ft. Lauderdale, the location of the conference until two years ago.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Race and the Fantastic”, and it’s played out in the identities of the guests of honor — Nalo Hopkinson, Laurence Yep, Takayuki Tatsumi. (Perennial special guest Brian Aldiss is emeritus this year, not in attendance.) The theme hadn’t sunk in for me until today’s Author Guest of Honor speech by Nalo Hopkinson, who spoke about science fiction and fantasy as a vehicle for addressing the social iniquities brought about by racism, which sounds dry, but the speech wasn’t — most of it consisted of Nalo ‘channeling’ an alien observer who was confused by various Earth phrases concerning racism and culture, and offering various proposed (hilarious, ironic, bitterly funny) translations. The speech got a standing ovation, is will be worth looking up if and when it’s posted or published.

As always with ICFA, the conference is bound by the hotel grounds, with people gathering in the lobby, or bar, or out by the pool, with nowhere else much to go within walking distance. Last night, after arriving at the hotel around 5pm (2pm west coast time), I checked email and worked the magazine listing for the site for a while in my room, before I was ready to eat dinner, at 8 or so, then wandered down to the casual restaurant by the bar, where I was joined by Brett Cox and his wife Jeanne Beckwith; we talked about awards juroring and Facebook and Lost, among other things, over salads and salmon. Later there was an Opening Reception for all attendees, and I said hi to Liza and Amelia (the Locus Magazine contingent) and (or maybe it was in the lobby or elevator) Gary Wolfe and Russell Letson.

The main program at ICFA consists, of course, of graduate students reading academic papers about.., well, about the fantastic in the arts, which most of the time means in literature, but sometimes means in movies and TV and even video games. There are also readings by the 30 or 40 attending authors, and the guest of honor lunches; a book sales room, and a silent auction. I ducked in and out of these throughout the day, in between updating the website and taking a nap (still on West Coast time, staying up too late in the evenings).

After dinner — at Capital Grille, a high-end steak house, with Liza and Amelia and Gary and Russell and Graham, and Peter Straub and Ellen Klages — there was a late evening panel back at the con about writers and research, with Peter and Ellen, and Nalo and Stephen Donaldson and Andy Duncan and others, which discussed Google and using the web to contact specialists. Then I hung out in the bar, at a table with Jim and John and Ted, and eventually Brett and Kij and Jebediah (Berry, whom I met earlier in the day for the first time), talking about awards procedures and Jim Gunn’s contacts with famous writers over the decades — some while John (Kessel) was working with him. Lots of stories, about Gordy Dickson, and Ted Sturgeon, and of course Harlan.

Tomorrow Amelia Beamer reads from her new novel The Loving Dead, which seems to be attracting quite the buzz; and Takayuki Tatsumi speaks at lunch.

Taking Longer than Expected

Quick check-in — I will be attending next week’s International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, one of my favorite annual events which unfortunately I missed last year, in Orlando, and perhaps will see some of you there.

Meanwhile, there are some changes upcoming in the structure of the website, because Blogger, with which we host the various blogs (News, Reviews, Perspectives, etc.), has decided to discontinue FTP publishing. That means that until now we have used Blogger to compose and publish posts and have them uploaded directly to the domain, which is done via FTP uploads just as manual updates to the site are done. After May 1st (they’ve extended the original deadline), Blogger will only support blogs on their own site, though they have released a procedure whereby independent sites can redirect via subdomains to the blogs at Blogger. This means that… instead of seeing the News blog at, you may see it at At least that’s the plan, from what I understand, thus far.

More as these things develop.