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.
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.