Wednesday, March 28, 2012

To Say Nothing of the Alligator

This past weekend I attended my first ICFA – the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. I had a wonderful time. I recommend attending if you either write or write about the fantastic, and I plan to go back.

Although ICFA has both a scholarly and a creative track to its programming, I chose not to attempt to have a paper accepted, but to attend as an author guest. Most of the programming I attended was on the creative track, though I did attend the “Doctor Who(s)” panel, at which Jen presented her paper, “The Monstrous and the Divine in Doctor Who:  The Role of Christian Imagery in Russell T. Davies’ Doctor Who Revival.” I was impressed by all three papers presented at that session, and if all of the academic programming was as well-organized and as well-moderated, I am sure that side of the conference was a pleasure to attend. (Also, this was a packed panel at 8:30 on Saturday morning. Academics are hardcore.)

I was delighted by how my own reading went. I was fortunate enough to read with Kij Johnson (one of next year’s Guests of Honor) and Maria Dahvana Headley. By fortuitous coincidence, all three of the stories had resonance with each other, and I loved both Maria’s and Kij’s pieces. I’m also deeply grateful to China Miéville, one of this year’s Guests of Honor, for tech support. I was talking about the photographer, Francesca Woodman, whose work had inspired my story, when from the back of the room, he said, “I have one of her pieces as the background on my iPad,” and held it up so everyone could see. (Any Guest of Honor who attends a reading not his own at 8:30 on a Friday morning is also hardcore. And fabulous.

I’d like to draw your attention to two specific readings I greatly enjoyed, that of this year’s Crawford Award Winner, Genevieve Valentine, who read from Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti. She did a wonderful job, and I have added her book to the top of my To Be Read Pile. The other was by the other of this year’s writer Guests of Honor, Kelly Link. Kelly read her forthcoming short story, “Two Houses.” It was so astounding I felt drunk at the end of the reading. “Two Houses” will be in the Bradbury tribute anthology Shadow Show. Based on the two stories I’ve heard from this book, it is a must-buy.

The one tiny change I wish would happen is more programming that allowed writers and academics to be on panels together, and so interact more. But otherwise, the entire weekend was a delight. I saw many dear friends, which is what I always love best about conferences, and met a number of friendly new people. I even saw the alligator, though that was the one exciting conference participant I was glad not to receive a personal introduction to.

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