Saturday, November 01, 2008

World Fantasy Con, Calgary - Day 2, Friday 

Today I listened to the official interview (by Gay Haldeman) of GoH Barbara Hambly, who talked about her preference for mysteries, her disciplined work schedule, her take on vampires (not the soft and romantic ones currently in vogue), and her favorites of her own books -- Traveling with the Dead, Bride of the Rat God, and the upcoming Civil War novel that will be published next year.

A panel on the best fantasies of the last 20 years [perhaps modeled on the similar SF panel at Denvention? though they didn't say so] included Ginjer Buchanan (Ace and Roc), Tom Doherty (Tor), Jim Minz (Baen), Beth Meacham (Tor), and moderator Liz Scheier (Del Rey), naming their favorites, round-robin fashion: Orson Scott Card's Alvin Maker series, Jordan's Wheel of Time, Martin's Game of Thrones, Kay's Summer Tree, Kim Harrison's novels (a gateway drug for readers who don't ordinary read fantasy, said Liz Scheier), Gaiman's American Gods, Steven Erikson's Malazan series, J.K. Rowling (of course), Holly Black, and on and on -- oops, and don't forget Terry Pratchett.

This evening's big event was the traditional mass autograph party, with cash bars and free dessert munchies provided in the hallways while inside a couple hundred writers and artists and editors sat signing books.

In between and after these events I explored some nearby streets of downtown Calgary, worked out at the gym on the 18th floor (absolutely empty besides myself), had dinner across the street at Milestones, and hung out in the hotel bar until last call (an early 11:30)... then came up to the room to post the new November banner ads on the website, set up and post the IHG award winners, and write this blog.

Oh, and I also finished a book -- which I hadn't quite finished on the plane ride up here. K.J. Parker's The Company, published by Orbit, quite brilliant in several ways -- an absorbing, well-written, suspenseful story of five war veterans who buy an island to colonize and build peaceful lives on, until complications ensue and secrets from their pasts are revealed. It's masterfully plotted, alternating present scenes with flashbacks that reveal character dispositions and some of those secrets before you realize they're secrets, and Parker, whoever he/she is (it's known Parker is a pseudonym, but not for who), seems amazingly well-informed about such things as how medieval armies fought with pikes, how to build a boat from trees, how to smelt gold on a beach, and so on. ...The big reservation I have, given the context of reading 'fantasy' novels, is that it's not fantasy in any significant way whatsoever. The setting is fictitious, the names exotic without evoking any particular historical culture, and a couple philosophical principles are referred to under imaginary names (Anathem-like); e.g., Proiapsen's Law is this world's name for what we know as the Pythagorean theorem. So... this is an alternate universe? Or does it matter? The *story* could just as well be set in the historic, medieval European world. I'm not sure what is gained by the thin fantasy overtones, except perhaps to attract more readers -- which would not be a bad thing. Fantasy or not, it's one of the best novels I've read this year.
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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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