International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts

When I’m late, I’m late. The conference ended last Sunday, but I came back home and ran smack into an assault course of deadlines. Now there’s a little lull, I’m seizing the moment to write my mini-report.

I had a great time. I arrived for the tail end of the conference, so I missed a lot, but what I managed to fit in was marvellous. I felt like a bit of a literary-luvvie, constantly using superlatives and beaming recklessly at people, but that’s the kind of atmosphere it was – the kind of punch-drunk, adrenaline-hyped buzz you get when there’s a sudden release of tension after a stage production. Over four hundred people were there – academics, students, writers, editors and reviewers. Many people would have been presenting papers or doing readings or interviews, all things that require the extra energy of showmanship, all things that have the fear of failure lurking in the background.

I’ve never been to a convention, but conferences are very familiar to me. I enjoyed talking to students and academics about their work. I love that combination of terror and delight that a junior academic has when discussing their thesis. I didn’t go to any papers or readings (long story, mostly involving my misbehaving MacBook, two Genius Bar appointments and not being able to get the iPad I wanted), but there were many informal conversations about the study and experience of writing. It was like food – good, nourishing, tasty brain-food!

I don’t actually do that well in crowds. I am not good at names (unless they are written down) and I am not good at faces. I tried my best to do a little research with the programme and figure out who was who in advance, but in the end if I was introduced to you and did little more than shake hands, smile and stare like a stunned lemur, forgive me! It was because I was desperately flipping through the mixed-up files of my memory, chanting ‘I know that name, I know that name’.

So many good conversations! I especially look forward to chatting again with Nalo Hopkinson (face to face meeting at last!) Ellen Klages, Liza Groen Trombi, Gary K Wolfe, Nisi Shawl (another person I was hoping to meet), Peter Straub, Jay Lake, Karen Burnham, Brian Evanson, Gwenda Bond, Farah Mendlesohn and so many more. At the awards banquet, I sat with a group of frighteningly talented writer-academics: Siobhan Carroll, Theodora Goss, Marie Brennan, Veronica Schanoes, Helen Pilinovsky and her husband Jonas, and Nisi. And yes, at times I did feel like a fraud in all that stellar company, but I’ve been assured this is a normal state of affairs for a writer!

Next year’s ICFA theme will be ‘The Monstrous Fantastic‘. Guest of honour is China Miéville. God willing, my aim is to come back, actually take in some papers this time around, and maybe even remember some names and faces.

Thank you IAFA for the Crawford Award, the experience of ICFA, and the opportunity to connect with an amazing network of SF folk.