Monday, November 7, 2016

World Fantasy Report

We spent the last weekend in October at the World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, Ohio. Here's what happened.

Thursday

We had to get up around 5 am so we could fly from Boston to Columbus. Donald tried to nap on the plane but didn't really manage. We made it to the hotel around noon. Just in time for lunch at the hotel restaurant, Market Stand Cafe. Kristin got the Banh Mi sandwich with a side of fruit (pineapple, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon), and Donald got the French Dip sandwich with fries. We're trying to avoid eating french fries at conventions, for health reasons, but Donald doesn't like melon and they didn't have the option of substituting a salad. Kristin's sandwich was decent, once she pulled out the well-past-their-prime cilantro sprigs, but the fruit looked as if it had been cut up the day before. Kristin decided that we wouldn't eat here again, because of the mediocre food and the paucity of healthy alternative side dishes. 

Then we delivered copies of our book to Chris Edwards of Tigereyes Press, who had offered to sell them at his table in the dealers' room. Afterwards, we went back to the hotel room, where Kristin did some writing and Donald took a nap.

After attending a reading by our friend, Rajan Khanna, who read from an original, unpublished story, we came back to the room, where Kristin and Donald both wrote (Donald inserting jokes into the story he and Kristin co-wrote, Kristin working on her novel).

Then we went out to eat at Marcella's, an Italian restaurant. We got antipasti small plates of Brussels sprouts, calamari, and funghi (mushrooms), plus crispy potato and pesto shrimp pizzas. The pizzas were flatbread style, and really good, but the antipasti were just okay. The Brussels sprouts hadn't been cooked long enough and were still too hard. Unfortunately, many people are still overcompensating for all those years when Brussels sprouts had to be boiled into submission before they were considered ready to eat.

After dinner, we returned to the room to write and work on this blog post.  Finally, we went to the hotel bar, to meet with friends and make new ones. (If you go to a science fiction or fantasy convention just to attend panels and lectures, going to bed early every night, you're missing out. The only way to get to know people is to hang out at the bar or at various parties thrown by groups attending the convention.) Donald introduced himself to one of the panelists for the panel he would be moderating on Sunday. Kristin tried to order a Negroni at the bar, but they didn't have Campari, so she had to drink bourbon instead.

And no, this post won't just be reporting on the restaurants where we ate, the writing we did, and Donald's attempts to nap. Probably. Hopefully, we'll be able to catch some panels and/or parties tomorrow.


Friday

We slept in on Friday, and then went to Bareburger for lunch. It's one of those upscale local artisanal burger places, serving meats like elk and bison in addition to mundane beef and turkey (veggie options, too). Kristin had the Grindhouse burger, Donald had the El Matador burger, and we shared an order of the crispy Brussels sprouts with Manchego cheese, which were amazing! Donald also had onion rings. Kristin gave him a hard time about it (although she did have to admit that they weren't fries), but then went and got a Mexican chocolate milkshake. Following Kristin's bad example, Donald had a root beer float for dessert.

We wandered around the dealer's room for a while, looking at all the books (and jewelry!) for sale. Donald was able to talk to two more of the folks who were supposed to be on his Sunday panel. It turned out that one of them really didn't want to be on the panel, and asked Kristin to take their place (they did clear it with con programming, once Kristin said she was willing). So now Kristin not only had to be up for a 10 am panel on Sunday, she also had to be awake and prepared to entertain an audience.

Next, we went to a panel that our friend Frederic Durbin was on, called "Our Favorite Monsters and Why We Love Them." Fred brought up some good points about how differently night time was viewed by pre-Industrial civilization, encouraging anyone who writes about civilizations that don't have artificial lighting at night to read the book At Day's Close: Night in Times Past. Overall, we did feel that the panelists may have tried too hard to humanize all monsters, without allowing for the fact that some monsters just want to eat you.

Next on our agenda was a reading by our friend Matt Kressel, followed by the Clarion West party. Kristin attended the Clarion West Writers Workshop in 2008, and the annual party at World Fantasy is an opportunity for alumni and instructors from different years to connect with each other.

Later that afternoon, Donald did some writing (Kristin was still at the party), before we headed to dinner at Lemongrass. This was one of those pan-Asian places that serves both Thai food and sushi. It was pretty decent, even though Kristin can sometimes be a bit snobby about places like that. They didn't overcook the shrimp, which is always nice.

Friday evening was the open signing--everyone at the con could grab a spot in the ballroom and sign books, and hey, we were at a con and had books we could sign for folks. Unfortunately, no one really wanted our signatures . . .

After the signing, we went to a party promoting the 2018 World Fantasy Convention, which will be in Baltimore (2017 is going to be in San Antonio). There was another party across the hall to celebrate the release of The Starlit Wood, an anthology of cross-genre fairy tale retellings, but that one was really crowded, so we didn't even try to get in (although Kristin had wanted to stop by, since one of the editors is a fellow Canadian, and Max Gladstone from her writers' group has a story in the anthology). It turned out that the 2018 in Baltimore party had better drinks anyway, including a good selection of microbrewed beers and some single malt Scotch. We saw Fred again at the party, and Raj and Matt along with our friend Mercurio D. Rivera (who's in the same writers' group as Raj and Matt), and John O'Neill of Black Gate, and a number of other people we knew.

Saturday

On Saturday, we went to two panels: "Sword and Sorcery Today: Still Slashing Away", and "New Findings in History and Archaeology: How Do These Inform Fiction?"  These were both very strong panels.

Scott Andrews, the editor of Beneath Ceaseless Skies and a friend of ours, was on the first, and he defined sword and sorcery as more the blue collar version of fantasy, where the characters are mercenaries working for beer money, while epic fantasy is more about the fates of kingdoms or even the whole world. But aside from the stakes, sword and sorcery often has a different feel--it's more about loners and individuals than about factions and nations. Mercedes Lackey, one of the Guests of Honor at this year's convention, was also on the panel.

The second panel featured Eric Flint, David Drake, S. M. Stirling, Rhiannon Held, and Rosemary Smith (Drake and Stirling were on the earlier panel, too). They reminded us to: 1) at least do a minimum of research, and 2) remember that the state of historical knowledge is constantly changing, so what people now believe about the past may change in twenty years, and no one expects fiction writers to be at the cutting edge of archaeological research. They also pointed out that too much historical accuracy can throw readers out of the story too, if you include a correct detail that most readers don't know (the fact that ancient Roman shields were made out of plywood, for instance). 

Then we went to Frederic Durbin's reading, from a weird western in the upcoming anthology Discovery. It was quite good, with a really strong and distinctive voice, and we look forward to reading the rest of the story.

At some point, Kristin went back to the dealers' room to buy several books and a pair of earrings. We also looked at the work on display in the Art Show.

We had dinner at Wolf's Ridge Brewery, which was excellent but had very small portions. Good if you're not too hungry. (Earlier that day, we both had brunch at Double Comfort, but not at the same time. Kristin often gets up earlier than Donald, and is hungry while he's still sleeping. Kristin had the chicken n' waffle, while Donald sampled the chicken fried pork cutlet (also on a waffle). This was also a good restaurant and much cheaper than Wolf's Ridge, with more substantial serving sizes; probably not as healthy though, with all that Southern fried food.)

After dinner, we attended the Art Show reception and then went to the Baltimore in 2018 party again, since we'd had such a good time the previous night. Donald didn't stay too late because of our panel first thing in the morning the next day. Kristin thinks she stayed later, but we're working on this post a week after the fact and can no longer remember whether that's true.

Sunday

We got up in time to attend our panel, "How to Make a Small Fortune in Specialty Publishing (Starting with a Large Fortune)". Aside from Donald and Kristin, we also had Jeremy Lassen of Night Shade Books and Tod McCoy of Hydra House. Unfortunately, Yanni Kuznia and Robert Sawyer couldn't join us. It was a good panel, less because of Donald's moderating (though we will note that, unlike many panels, he kept this one on topic), than because of the range of perspectives represented.

That was pretty much it for the con. There was a banquet on Sunday afternoon, followed by the World Fantasy Awards ceremony, but we didn't go. We've often gone in previous years, but the banquet food is always mediocre and overpriced, and neither of us really enjoys award ceremonies (we don't even watch the Oscars).

We had Mexican food at Nada for lunch (pork belly tacos for Donald and carne asada tacos for Kristin), and dinner at The Eagle (another Southern place specializing in fried chicken--Kristin had a quarter chicken with dark meat, Donald had the blackened shrimp po boy, and we shared orders of spoonbread and stewed collard greens with ham hocks and bacon). Both of these places were quite good, and reasonably priced. For breakfast, Kristin ate at the hotel restaurant again. It was pretty average. They did have a really good herbed chicken sausage, which seemed to have been made in-house.


We don't usually include photos from restaurant men's rooms, but this display from Nada is worth a closer look.

We did spend some time before dinner hanging out at the bar, but avoided stopping by the post-con party people were talking about, since we had to get up at 3:30 am on Monday for the flight home.

That's about it. We had a great time connecting with everyone, and hopefully were able to get the word out about Mysterion to more people who didn't yet know about it.

Our next convention will be Arisia here in Boston, in January. If you're planning to attend (and who doesn't want to visit Boston in January?), let us know!

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