Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Reflections on the 2000 World Fantasy Convention

With this year's World Fantasy Convention quickly approaching [alas, I won't be attending....], I began to reminisce about past WFCs -- and concluded that possibly my most memorable WFC was in 2000 in Corpus Christi, Texas, on October 26-29. The Author Guests of Honor were K. W. Jeter and John Crowley, the Artist GoH was Charles Vess (whose wonderful art graced the cover of the convention book, pictured at the left), and the Toastmaster was Joe R. Lansdale hisownself.

But regarding these memories, I'm specifically referring to positive memories; my worst convention -- ever! -- was the World Fantasy Con in Montreal the following year. Let's just say it put me off toward Canada and I have never returned, nor do I intend to. But don't get me started on that con....[though maybe I will blog about it one of these days....]

When I think of WFC 2000 in Corpus Christi, a number of names come immediately to mind, and all for specific reasons for which I will elaborate: Andy Duncan, Jeffrey Ford, John Picacio, Michael Moorcock, and Gordon Van Gelder.

Andy Duncan:

Andy's first short story collection -- and first book -- Beluthahatchie and Other Stories, was published by Golden Gryphon Press in time for the 2000 World Fantasy Con. Though at the time I was acquiring and editing for GGP, I wasn't involved with the publication of Andy's book. Nevertheless, I was intrigued with Andy's writing and made certain to attend his reading on Friday at 2:30 pm. Andy read from his story "Lincoln in Frogmore," about President Lincoln's visit to the town just after the slaves were freed, as told in 1936 by a man who remembers the event. [The story is available online courtesy of] As I listened to Andy read, I was amazed at how well he voiced a Southern drawl to portray the protagonist in the story. At the end of the reading, someone in the audience asked a question -- and when Andy responded I realized that his drawl wasn't simply for effect during the story: he really did talk that way!

By the way, at the WFC the following year, in Montreal, Andy was honored with a pair of matching bookends: a World Fantasy Award for best collection for Beluthahatchie and Other Stories, and a second award for best short fiction for "The Pottawatomie Giant." [Note: Since I did mention that the 2001 Montreal WFC was my worst con ever, I wanted to add that Andy Duncan's award wins were, in fact, one of the highlights of that convention for me.]

Jeffrey Ford:

In addition to wanting to meet Andy Duncan, I also attended this convention with the specific intent to meet Jeffrey Ford. I was already a fan of his fiction, having read "At Reparata" and "Pansolapia" online on Event Horizon, "Malthusian's Zombie" online on SCI FICTION, and "The Fantasy Writer's Assistant" in Fantasy & Science Fiction. Jeff's reading was also on Friday, though earlier in the morning, at 10:00 am. Jeff chose to read a new story, "Creation," which hadn't as yet been sold. What can I say? "Creation" -- particularly Jeff's reading of the story -- absolutely knocked me out. After listening to that story, I knew that he was a writer to watch, and I wanted to be the editor to snag his first collection. So after Jeff's reading, I introduced myself and complimented him on "Creation," and then told him straight up that I wanted to publish his first short story collection. I won't go into further details at this point other than to say that it took a few months for the collection to come together -- Jeff's New York publisher had "first look," so we had to wait for the publisher to pass on the collection.

The Fantasy Writer's Assistant and Other Stories was published by Golden Gryphon Press in August 2002. FWA received a starred review in Publishers Weekly and was later selected as one of PW's best SF/F books of the year. And, at the 2003 World Fantasy Convention in Washington, DC, Jeffrey Ford, like Andy Duncan, was honored with a pair of matching bookends: a World Fantasy Award for best collection for The Fantasy Writer's Assistant and Other Stories and a second award for best short fiction for -- what else? -- "Creation."

On Saturday afternoon I was hanging out in one of the hotel's lounges -- the con hotel was the Omni Bayfront -- chatting with folks, and doing a bit of people watching as well. I noticed a young man across the lounge area heading in my direction. I could tell from his eyes that he was looking straight at me. He approached, and introduced himself as John Picacio, an illustrator, and mentioned some of the work he had done in the field.

Typically, when I meet a pro we exchange business cards. John Picacio, however, handed me a postcard. The picture side featured his artwork; the other side contained a detailed description of the piece. John had also signed this side of the card, and had written in his email address and phone number [which I have removed from the following graphic]:

Though our meeting was fairly brief, John had made the desired impression: he was confident, energetic, and I felt that I would be able to work with him. I kept his postcard, and stored his name, so to speak, in my mind.

A few months later, after the Jeffrey Ford collection had been agreed upon, I began thinking about possible cover artists. If the author doesn't specifically request a cover artist, then I do my best to find a good match between an artist and the author's material. Also around this same time, I was trying to catch up on some reading as I had gotten behind on the past few issues of Locus magazine. The January 2001 issue contained the convention report on the 2000 World Fantasy Convention. I was curious to read what the critics had to say about the con. Though Edward Bryant's con report covered nearly four columns of text, his single paragraph on the art show intrigued me the most. He concluded that paragraph with this sentence: "One of my most pleasant discoveries was the selection of constructions by John Picacio, particularly his E. A. Poe poster." When I read the name "John Picacio," everything sort of clicked into place. I had filed away his postcard with all the other business cards I had acquired during the convention, but it took Ed Bryant's comment to spark my memory. I pulled out the postcard, contacted John, and after some discussion on the Jeffrey Ford collection, I commissioned John to create the wraparound dust jacket art for the book.

I provided John with a copy of Jeffrey Ford's manuscripts that comprised The Fantasy Writer's Assistant and Other Stories, which included "Bright Morning," a story Jeff had written specifically for the collection. "Bright Morning" was the last story in the book, and concluded with this phrase: "he stepped out into the bright morning and quietly evaporated, the [manuscript] pages scattering on the wind like frightened ghosts." On May 29, 2001, John submitted a black and white sketch, and included this comment in his email: "...the cover image doesn't reveal itself until the final story and, in fact, is clinched with the final sentence of the entire collection. After reading that final sentence, I like the idea of the reader closing the book and seeing this painted wraparound image (maybe with some collage involved, maybe not) of sepias and warm earth tones. I think it brings a nice, strong closure to the collection." Jeff then suggested that the manuscript pages in the sketch actually contain text. So, John scanned in the last few manuscript pages of "Bright Morning" and manipulated these to form "the pages scattering on the wind."

Copyright © 2001 by John Picacio; reprinted here with his kind permission
If you view the manuscript pages on the cover art with a magnifying glass, you just might be able to read the ending of "Bright Morning."1

Michael Moorcock:

The 2000 Life Achievement Award was presented to both Marion Zimmer Bradley and Michael Moorcock at the awards ceremony on Sunday, October 29. I've never met or communicated with Michael, though a couple years ago I did copyedit The Best of Michael Moorcock, which was edited by John Davey and published by Tachyon Publications (May 2009).

At the awards ceremony on Sunday, Michael and wife Linda -- given their attire and the way they presented themselves -- reminded me of musicians John and Christine McVie. If you are familiar with the British rock band Fleetwood Mac, then you'll understand exactly what I mean. I intend no disrespect whatsoever with this comparison; I'm a huge fan of early Fleetwood Mac (before and after Peter Green), and I have great respect for Michael Moorcock and I can always count on a good read whenever I pick up one of his stories. I realize this comparison isn't much in the overall scheme of things, but it gave me a good chuckle at the time and thus was a memorable moment at the convention, particularly when I shared my thoughts with those seated at the table with me. Anyhow, you be the judge:

John McVie and Christine McVie photographs courtesy of

I was unable to obtain access to a photo of the Moorcocks at the 2000 World Fantasy Convention, so I found another photograph online that was taken in May 1998; that's two-plus years before the convention, but still appropriate, plus it's a wonderful photo. However, though I contacted the photographer, Lydia Marano (aka Telzey), I never received a response and thus I am unable to use the actual photo in my blog. However, I can provide you this link to that Michael and Linda Moorcock photo, which should open in a new window (at least on PCs), allowing you to make the comparison yourself. I realize that the McVie photos are from decades earlier, but I still think the comparison is very cool.

Gordon Van Gelder:

I hadn't been to a World Fantasy Con in a few years, but when I learned that the 1998 convention was to be held in Monterey, California, well, I couldn't resist, since the drive from my house is only about an hour and a half. During the Sunday awards brunch that year I just happened to be sitting at the table with Dennis Weiler and Philip J. Rahman, who won, a couple hours later, the World Fantasy Award, Non-Professional for their indie press Fedogan & Bremer. The following year, the 1999 World Fantasy Convention marked its 25th anniversary and was held in Providence, Rhode Island, the home of H. P. Lovecraft; obviously I couldn't miss that con either. And, as I had recently joined Golden Gryphon Press, I was sitting with Gary Turner, GGP's publisher, during the Sunday brunch and awards ceremony. Gary's brother, Jim Turner, won the World Fantasy Award, Professional for Golden Gryphon Press. Jim, the founder of GGP, had passed away earlier that year, but the award was given for his work on the press the previous year. [But in my humble opinion, I believe the award was also in recognition for Jim's twenty-five years as editor at Arkham House, before leaving to start GGP in 1996.] So this brings me to Corpus Christi and the 2000 convention -- and the Sunday brunch: I just happened to be sitting at the table next to Gordon Van Gelder, who I had gotten to know over the past year or so through my work with Golden Gryphon. Award nominees sitting at my table for the past two years had won their award; and this year made it three in a row, when Gordon won the World Fantasy Award, Professional for his editing at St. Martin's Press and F&SF. [The not-so-humorous thing about all of this is that the very next year, in 2001, I was nominated for the World Fantasy Award, Professional for Golden Gryphon Press, along with publisher Gary Turner. But unfortunately my luck didn't hold out for Gary and myownself. I guess three -- and no more -- really is the charm.]

The theme for the 2000 con was "the Day of the Dead" -- El Dia de los Muertos -- and the centerpiece at each table contained, among other things, a mini sombrero. Shortly after Gordon returned to the table with his award, his "Howard" had donned the sombrero!

One final comment on the 2000 World Fantasy Convention: The convention handed out silkscreened cloth SWAG bags, as I'm sure most, if not all, the WFCs do. However, even though I'm the editor in the family, it wasn't until after I arrived back home that my wife noticed that the city name silkscreened on the bag was misspelled: "Corpus Cristi." I still have that bag....


1 For quite some time following the publication of Jeffrey Ford's The Fantasy Writer's Assistant and Other Stories John Picacio had requested that I not reveal the fact that the manuscript pages depicted in the cover art are actual scans of the "Bright Morning" manuscript pages. John felt that readers needed to discover this on their own; if this information were revealed to them, they would lose the impact of the cover. [Of course, I may have let that detail slip out now and then during panel discussions at cons....] But now that sufficient time has passed since the publication of the book, John has given me permission to reveal this information publicly.

tweet-this-smallTweet This

1 comment:

  1. Please see my follow-up blog post on a photo comparison of John & Christine McVie and Michael & Linda Moorcock.