I’m in Ft Lauderdale, Florida, this evening, for the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, the annual academic-oriented conference held — for the last time, this year — at a hotel, adjacent to the Ft. Lauderdale airport, famous for its pool area and poolside bar. Alas, the hotel has changed ownership, now part of the Hilton chain, and the poolside bar/cabana has apparently been torn down. In any case, this is a pleasant event where one can hang out with writers and scholars and others who take SF and fantasy and horror, in literature and film and every other form, the whole ‘fantastic arts’, seriously (at times perhaps, too seriously).
This is my fourth time here; the first was in 2000, when a number of us sitting around the pool (including a certain CNB) hatched the idea of hosting an April 1st editon of Locus Online. Since then I’ve managed to get here only every other year or so. A problem for anyone traveling from west coast to east coast is the 3-hour time difference. If you fly at a civilized hour, say 10 or 11 in the morning after you’ve risen as usual, had breakfast, and driven to the airport, you don’t arrive at your east-coast destination until after dinner and the con’s day’s events are over (and the hotel restaurant is likely closed, necessitating room service). So this year I flew at a very uncivilized hour — 7 a.m., which meant waking at 4 a.m. in order to finish packing and having time to drive to LAX in time to catch my plane. The result was, the day’s events were pretty much over anyway (at 4 p.m., when I arrived at the hotel), but I managed to hook up with a good group for dinner, at a ‘chiaroscuro’ restaurant called Chima Brazilian Steakhouse, where (in addition to an excellent salad bar), servers come around to your table to slice off freshly grilled slabs of meat, sirloin and filet and prime rib and lamb and bacon-wrapped chicken — as much as you can eat. I’ve been to a similar though more casual place in LA; Chima is higher-end, nicely decorated and not inexpensive, where the bill for the 10 of us was in the very high 3-figures (including, OK, three bottles of pricey wine). There were Charles and Amelia and Liza and Graham (who will shortly be needing a clever anagram) and Karen+1 and Gary and Russell and Peter, and me.
The now-Hilton hotel has been refurbished in areas; my room on the 8th floor has a tiled entry, lovely dark-wood cabinets, green-granite table tops, and an Aeron chair at the desk (which desk, however, is still too high for easy use as a computer desk for the available height of the chair)… though for a time after I arrived this afternoon, the DSL connection was flaky, up for five minutes then down, over and over. I finally called Wayport’s technical support number, and they apparently managed to solve the problem, reported by others in the hotel besides me, by the time I got back from dinner.
But back to the conference — this year’s theme is “gender and sexuality in the fantastic”, with guest of honor Geoff Ryman, whose luncheon speech today I was sorry to have missed. (I would have come here earlier, but work obligations kept me in LA through Wednesday workday.) Other guests are Jane Donawerth and Melissa Scott and Brian Aldiss — who bruised or broke a rib in some falling/stumbling incident yesterday, but who is back in attendance this evening. I’ll have more substantive reporting about the conference tomorrow, and Saturday. For now, I’ll mention that it’s no longer a secret (since it’s printed in the program book) that M. Rickert is the winner of this year’s Crawford Award, for her collection Map of Dreams.