Friday, October 30, 2009

World Fantasy Con 2009, Friday 

This year's World Fantasy Convention is in San Jose, California, the heart of the 'Silicon Valley' at the south end of the bay below San Francisco to the northwest and Oakland (Locus HQ) to the northeast. It's in the same hotel, the Fairmont San Jose, that served as the main hotel for the 2002 World SF Convention, an event I remember fondly since that is where I won a Hugo Award...

I drove here from Los Angeles yesterday, a 350-mile drive typically taking 6 hours or so with a lunch stop, though I took a bit longer with a scenic detour through Ojai and along routes 33 and 166 before joining the 101 freeway for the second half of the trip. The weather was and is perfect, sunny and clear and mild, welcome I think for those who traveled from the east through the storm-clogged airports in Denver and Dallas/Ft. Worth.

The hotel is large and stately, and memorable for the huge square bar lounge on the lobby floor, which is of course where everyone mingles, and where I wandered through after checking into my room and checking in with the convention registration for my badge and usual (for WFC) big bag o' free books. The top floor, 20th, hosts the Con Suite and most of the parties. Thursday night there were two: a big Jeff VanderMeer book launch party, for Finch and Booklife and anthology Last Drink Bird Head, that included the announcement of the winners of the first annual Last Drink Bird Head awards (whose winners were... K. Tempest Bradford, Rina Weisman, Susan Straub, John Clute, and Charles Tan, with a special award to (and hereafter named for) Neil Clarke), and an Aussie party with the sizeable contingent of con members from Australia -- Jonathan Strahan, Justin Ackroyd, Garth Nix, Sean Williams, and others -- serving wine and other refreshments. At some point during the latter there was a surprise birthday cake for Locus editor-in-chief Liza Groen Trombi, which I missed, probably because I lingered in the VanderMeer party to try one of their cocktails made with absinthe, which I never tried before...

Though San Jose as an urban area doesn't have a lot to recommend it -- Silicon Valley wealth isn't obvious; it's mostly a suburban sprawl -- the area right around the convention hotel is pleasant and filled with interesting places to walk, including the nearby convention center, tech museum, and a current Star Trek exhibit. The streets behind the hotel are filled with cafes and restaurants. Thursday evening I strolled down the street with Ted Chiang and Barbara Webb for dinner at the local E&O Trading Company, which specializes in Asian-inspired small plates. Earlier this evening, Friday, there was an off-site party hosted by Orbit Books a couple blocks away at the Loft Bar and Bistro, with an open bar and hors d'oeuvres and an introduction by publishing director Tim Holman of numerous attending authors, including Gail Carriger and Brent Weeks and Jon Courtenay Grimwood and Kim Stanley Robinson -- a couple of those per just-inked new deals for future books. As that event wound down, a bunch of us, in the usual ad hoc manner of convention dinner runs, trolled the nearby streets for a spot to eat in relative haste, considering the 8pm start of the traditional Friday evening mass-author autograph party. So there were Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Ellen Datlow, Scott Edelman, Anna Tambour, Jenny Blackford, and others, ending up at a fast food Indian cafe, where we ate various varieties of curry and salads...

This morning was a meeting of the Locus Foundation, a significant meeting since it dealt with issues of the Foundation and the magazine and its financial prospects, to a level of detail never before revealed at such meetings. Membership of the foundation is expanding; a couple new members were there, and a couple more candidates were seriously discussed -- part of the requirements for a nonprofit organization being that at least half the board membership are 'noninterested' parties, i.e. those without any direct financial interest in the magazine. There were also potential expansions of the foundation's purview, which will be formally announced in due course, if and when.

Programming is deliberately light at World Fantasy cons, with no more than two panel discussions at any one time, and no one except the official guests of honor permitted to serve on more than a single panel over the course of the weekend. There was a panel this afternoon about the newly released Library of America two-volume American Fantastic Tales, edited by Peter Straub; Straub was there, and Gary Wolfe, S.T. Joshi, Tim Powers, and Brian Evenson, discussing the usual issues of how and why the selections for the book were made, how many other important but now obscure authors remain to be captured, and the prospects for similar LoA books (Best American Science Fiction, perhaps?). Following that panel a LoA-sponsored release party for the book was held up on the 20th floor, with wine and snacks though no LoA representatives to host; I chatted with Peter and Brian and Gary.

After dinner I strolled through the mass autograph session, worked a bit in my room, then toured the late evening 20th floor parties, including Tor's and Locus's, the latter ostensibly a 'new authors' party though it featured a brief tribute to Charles Brown at midnight.
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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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