Recapping World Fantasy 2011: Blues, Bourbon and Blood Drives

Neil Gaiman talks craft. Photo courtesy of Folly Blaine,

I spent more money than I’d hoped, probably drank more booze than I should have, but the past weekend’s World Fantasy Convention 2011 in San Diego was a worthwhile trip.

This was my second World Fantasy, and more productive than the first, where I spent much of the time like a deer in the headlights. This time, I managed to make new friends while grabbing solid advice on pitching to editors and insight on what short story markets are getting attention. Yeah, I was still overwhelmed, but this time I seemed to be wandering with some direction.

One of the con highlights was a conversation between Connie Willis and Neil Gaiman about what it means to be a writer. The hour-long discussion — at times both inspiring and funny — touched on their own journeys as writers while offering insight into why all of us who put pen to paper stick should stick to it, even when everyone around us voices doubt. Definitely the kind of pep talk that made me want to get up the next morning and churn out 1,000 words. I only hit 400, but considering my hangover, that was an accomplishment.

I got to bask in the wisdom of the great Jeffrey Ford and talk about classic trash cinema including the Alamo City-lensed “Race with the Devil.” Jeff’s reading of “Blood Drive,” a short story that will appear in an upcoming anthology of YA dystopian fiction, was the best reading I attended. A funny and scathing critique of American gun culture and politics, it contained all the wit and grit characteristic of Jeff’s best work.

I enjoyed sharing some beers and talk about old-timey blues with John Hornor Jacobs, author of the thoroughly entertaining Southern Gods. If you haven’t grabbed the book — part Southern period novel, part cosmic terror and part hard-boiled detective yarn — you’re missing out on one of the year’s best horror reads.

Between the readings and panels, I found time to tip back bourbon (and probably too much of it) with old pals including John Picacio, Nancy Hightower, Joseph McCabe and Sophia Quach McCabe. Sorry for the hangovers, folks. I also got to know the Austin writer Katy Stauber — and her patient non-writer husband Chet — a little better. Fine folks.

As an added treat, my roommate Jeremy Zimmerman and I also caught up with fellow attendees of KU’s Center for the Study of Science Fiction writers workshops, Amy Treadwell and Judith Herman.

Although WFC 2011 was largely a good time, it was disturbing to learn that one attendee played grab-and-grope with several female guests. Thankfully, the organizers sent him packing, but as Stina Leicht points out in her blog, he’ll probably just end up trying it again at another con. It certainly raises questions about how prepared conventions in general are to deal with sexual harassment.

Still recovering from Armadillocon

Hardest working man in showbusiness: Mr. Joe R. Lansdale. (Photo swiped from John Picacio.)

Hardest working man in showbusiness: Mr. Joe R. Lansdale. (Photo swiped from John Picacio.)

I’m back and still digging myself out from under work I put off to attend Armadillocon 31 in Austin, the state’s longest-running literary sf/fantasy convention.

It was great to see old pals like John Picacio (fellow Missions Unknown blogger), Scott Cupp (the con’s toastmaster), Chris Roberson (the editor guest of honor) and Joe McKinney (S.A.’s zombie-writing homicide detective) — and to rub shoulders with literary giants like Joe R. Lansdale, who signed books like a madman, and Michael Moorcock, who made a surprise appearance opening night.

I also got to meet swell new folks like Mario Acevedo, Nancy Hightower, Matt Cardin and Vincent and Michelle Villafranca. (By the way, any of you folks ever check out Vincent Villafranca’s art? You really owe it to yourself.)

Can’t wait to do it again next year.