Thursday, November 02, 2006

Austin WFC Thursday 

I flew in to Austin yesterday, actually, on Wednesday, to see an old friend of mine who'd moved from LA to the Austin outskirts just a few weeks ago. He'd scheduled his retirement in the nick of time, considering the recently flagging real estate market; he cashed out of his hillside Studio City house and bought a newly-constructed twice-the-size house here in Texas for rather less than half what he sold for in LA. It's waaayyy out in the country though, in the next county in fact, southwest of Austin in a new development where the residents align philosophically between those who scorch-burn the native vegetation to plant sod and palm trees and those who attempt to cultivate their property using native plants. My friend is in the latter camp, and even took me to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center a few miles from his house to look at the varieties of plantlife native to central Texas. I noticed how much the native plants resembled those of the southern California foothills and deserts, though apparently the soil acidity here makes plants from the two areas mostly incompatible.

The World Fantasy Convention is large this year, perhaps oversold -- the advertised 'cap' of 750 or 850 members being a polite fiction, apparently, if more memberships can be sold. A consequence of this is how many members this year have become stuck at outlying hotels; though the main hotel, the Renaissance Austin Hotel at the Arboretum, seems impressively large, a square layout with a huge central lobby and nine floors of room balconies and hallways looking down from above, many of us could get reservations only at the likes of the Fairfield Inns and Suites, some two or three miles up the road and along the freeway, accessible to the convention hotel via an hourly shuttle van. My relocated friend dropped me off here mid-afternoon, and after connecting my laptop to the internet (after an interval of over 24 hours -- his DSL connection and my laptop not having got along), I shuttled over the Renaissance to check in with the convention, procur my weighty freebie book bag, and wander around the hotel. The dealers' room is a bit cramped, but amazingly contains nothing but book dealers -- no plush toys, no jewelry, no videos or CDs, no armor. The art show, such as it is, is even tinier, an arranged corridor along one wall of the dealers' room. The lobby is large, with a generous bar area and a couple lounge areas.

There was a bit of programming this afternoon, but I didn't make any of it. I connected with Liza and the Charles in the bar, visited with them and Ted C for a while before heading off for a quick dinner at a local TexMex place with Beth G before returning to the hotel for the International Horror Guild Awards ceremony at 8 p.m., efficiently conducted by a sharp-looking John Picacio. The ceremony was unfortunately notable for having none of the winners in attendance, except for Living Legend Award recipient Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. (Later some of us speculated that were such a recipient, presumably notified in advance, be unable to attend, surely the award itself would be postponed.) After that I hung out in the lobby and bar, chatted with John JA and Lawrence P, met Sarah L and others, until catching the shuttle back to my remote hotel, to go through email, post the IHG results, and this blog entry.

I suppose I wasn't paying attention, but when I saw that this year's WFC scheduled its awards banquet Saturday evening, rather than the traditional Sunday noontime, I assumed the convention itself would be over then, and so I scheduled my return flight for Sunday morning. My assumption is not the case; it turns out there's a full day of programming on Sunday, including the always-fascinating judges' panel, where the year's judges debrief the result of the year's awards. Alas, I shall miss it; I have to be back to work on Monday anyway.
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Mark R. Kelly

The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Mark R. Kelly, and do not reflect the editorial position of Locus Magazine.
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