I’ve been back from the States for a week now, which means World Fantasy was done and dusted nearly a fortnight ago… and yet it has taken me this long to get into the swing of things enough to post about my NY adventures. I need Hermione’s time-turner, so that I can do all the things at once! But until I get one, my updates will simply appear when they can — no sooner, no later…
Many of you will have read on Facebook about the debacle that was my flight from Australia to the US, so I won’t go through a blow-by-blow again here. In brief: a flight that should have gotten me to NYC on Nov 4th for my reading with Angela at The Kill Bar in Times Square instead took 53 hours, with a 20 hour layover in Abu Dhabi, and saw me arrive in New York on the 5th, thus forcing me to miss my reading altogether AND miss 95% of the first day of the convention… All of this after my flight from Adelaide to Melbourne was caught in bad weather, plummeting earthwards with such terrifying speed that I was convinced we were going to crash.
Not the most promising start to a very quick trip overseas.
But, luckily and thankfully, Angela rearranged our travel plans from NY (I have never been happier to see her than I was upon my arrival in Manhattan the morning of Nov 5th!!) and we took the train up to Saratoga Springs on a foggy autumn afternoon, and in my exhaustion and travel-haze, the mist and gloom and the train’s super-slow motion made it feel like we were being transported to Tír na Nóg instead of the Hilton…
As ever, the convention whirled past in a blur — partially due to jetlag, partially to excitement at seeing old friends and making new ones, partially because of the sugar high I was on after consuming All the Pastries in New York — but it was a fun blur! Highlights for me involved finally meeting up with lovely Haralambi Markov and spending much of the weekend taking supermodel selfies; catching up with my Canadian sisters, Helen and Laura Marshall (though I always want to spend more time with them than
conventions allow!); launching Lament for the Afterlife at the CZP party on Saturday night (thanks, Brett and Sandra!) and having most of my books sell out at the ChiZine table (!!); visiting the art show and spending time with Kathleen Jennings and Chris Roberts; participating in my panel, doing and attending readings (on which more below); and, best of all, being there to share in the joy of Angela and Helen tying for the ‘Best Collection’ World Fantasy Award!!!! That is the most PERFECT result when two of your dearest friends are up for the same award! LET THEM BOTH WIN!!! Our celebratory Mexican dinner the night of the awards was doubly joyous, and filled with twice as many margaritas…
The programming this year was underwhelming IMHO, largely because the theme of ‘Epic Fantasy’ spilled over into 99.99% of all panel discussions — and it seemed to me to be very old skool epic fantasy, à la Big Phat Phantasy series — leaving very little room for talks about the strange, weird, liminal, unsettling sorts of speculative fiction of which I am a much more devoted reader (and writer). Nevertheless, I had a great time on my ‘But is it historically accurate?’ panel, which had a marvellous moderator (Jennifer Gunnels), and brilliant panellists (Gene Wolfe, who was so charming, David Drake, Marie Brennan and Ellen Klages) and I also fully enjoyed the “Ghosts” panel that Angela and Helen were on (chaired by Sandra Kasturi). I would have loved to attend the one and only panel about weird fiction but, in typical convention fashion, it was programmed at the same time as my reading. Argh!
But while the panels were largely blah, the readings — the readings!! — made the 53+hour trip to WFC more than worthwhile. I spent a fair amount of my time listening to authors I admire (both as writers and as people) read from their remarkable works. This is the brilliance of conventions; this, to me, is far more valuable than attending endless panel sessions. When or where else would I — a writer living and working on the other side of the world — get to see Jeffrey Ford read his mind-blowing story, in his distinct accent? Or see Claire S.E. Cooney perform, as only she can, a play and a story, conjuring up such evocative and clear images with only a quirk of her voice, a tilt of her eyebrow? Or see Delia Sherman tantalise us with the opening of a new novel, which I can’t wait to read (but, alas, I will have to wait for until next year)? Or see Helen share a wonderful-hilarious-horrifying story that won’t be out until 2016? Or hear Claire cheer, ‘Yes!!‘ as Angela read an excellently vitriolic bit of dialogue from Of Sorrow and Such? Or get moved to tears as Amal El-Mohtar drew to the end of her incredibly beautiful, smart, completely unique story (that was so, so, so good, I have thought about it repeatedly since)?
Another highlight I’d be remiss not to mention was the Tremontaine launch party, which not only featured more sweets and cakes than any other launch I have ever attended, as well as Ellen Kushner in a divine necklace, and beautiful decorations, BUT ALSO A BRANDY FOUNTAIN. I kid you not. And because Harry and I couldn’t resist, we had to pose with the fountain. Because HOW COULD YOU NOT.
All right. Since this post is already growing to gargantuan proportions, I’m going to move on — as Angela and I did — to the New York City part of the trip, but I’ll point you to my Instagram account, where you can see the thousand-and-one selfies and other photos from the WFC weekend (if you’re at all interested. But I’ve added a bunch of pics from the readings, below).
On Monday morning, dizzy-headed after an evening of celebrating Helen and Angela’s WFA wins, we got back on the super-slow train to NYC. The next few days involved, basically, meetings and eatings. On Tuesday we had a fantastic time with Katharine, Lee, and Mordicai from Tor: first for an awesome lunch date (Mexican! Yum!) before heading to the Flatiron building (where the Tor offices are housed) for an “in conversation” interview, which I’ll share once it’s posted on Tor.com.
Later that night, we had the pleasure of going to Bill Shunn’s book launch and finally getting a chance to catch up with Ellen Datlow (who I’d seen for all of five seconds at the convention) which was really lovely! Between and around meetings, Angela and I spent as much time as we could soaking up NY culture — i.e. more eating (I really wanted a NYC hotdog, and got one, and it was supremely awesome and gross all at once), lots of museum time (the Met! the Cloisters! So great! Again, I point you to my Instagram account instead of boring you here with a bunch of pics of medieval treasures — but they were treasures indeed and worth photographing a bazillion
times… Really!), plenty of walking (Central Park! 5th Ave! If only we’d been there now, we could have seen the Christmas window displays!), and one final magical evening in the city, having dinner at Ellen and Delia’s. Their generosity, scintillating conversation, and warmth has left me with such positive feelings about New York — which, given how catastrophic my first day(s) of travel were, is really saying something. Thank you both so much!
And that, as they say, is that! Angela and I flew out the next day — her flight was earlier than mine, so I whiled the day away at the Met (again) and the Natural History Museum before spending the next two days on a plane back to Australia (on the same flight as Russell Farr, who published Bluegrass Symphony! Small world!). I was, as always at the end of a trip, tired and wistful and melancholic about saying goodbye to all the brilliant people I never get to spend enough time with, but simultaneously happy to be heading back home to the summer sun and my own comfy bed. So grateful for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all the other techs that allow us all to stay in touch until the next time we can see one another in 3D! (Which will, I hope, be next year at WFC!)
Highlights from the WFC Readings: