The 44th World Fantasy Convention was held November 1-4, 2018 in the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel in windy and rainy Baltimore MD. Guests of honor were Kaaron Warren, Scott Edelman, Tom Kidd, and Michael J. Walsh, with special guest Aliette de Bodard, and toastmaster Linda D. Addison. Life Achievement Awards winners were Charles de Lint and Elizabeth Wollheim.
Attendance was up from the prior year, with 757 warm bodies and 15 supporting members, and 854 total attending memberships purchased, compared to 2017’s approximately 720 warm bodies of the 844 total attending memberships and 12 supporting, and 2016’s 625 on site, of 638 attending memberships and 11 supporting. Nine countries were represented, with con-goers from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Israel, Russia, the United Kingdom, and 45 states plus the District of Columbia. A sturdy tote bag was loaded with free books, but the pocket program was in short supply. The full-sized perfect bound souvenir book, with cover art by GOH Tom Kidd of a cloud-shrouded floating city, had more Kidd art inside, the committee list, the World Fantasy Award nominations and honorees, appreciations and bibliographies for the toastmaster, guests of honor, and Life Achievement Awards winners, an in memoriam, and writing by Addison, Edelman, and Warren.
The Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel was situated right on the harbor – a tourist destination with restaurants; a sleek, modern aquarium; and more. The bar space was well suited for mingling. The con suite provided snacks as well as meals and a beautiful view of the ships.
For early arrivers, the con offered a Frankenstein Film Fest Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. and a “Tall Ship” tour Thursday morning. Gatherings included the Clarion West party and the Beneath Ceaseless Skies 10th anniversary party. Co-chairs Ann Marie Rudolf and Bill Lawhorn said, “The con also celebrated… National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)… by making a meeting room available for authors…. The room… proved very popular and, on occasion, attracted a capacity crowd.”
Programming started Thursday at 4:00 p.m. with readings and panels; over 350 industry professionals participated. Options included an open mic poetry slam (with Addison and Warren) and morning walks with Edelman to the Baltimore Farmers Market and his favorite donut shop.
There were 37 panels scheduled. Programming co-chair Colleen Cahill said, “The theme… Ports in a Storm, along with the celebration of the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, provided a rich mine of inspiration….” Highlights included topics such as “Nautical Ghost Stories” with Nathan Ballingrud, Siobhan Carroll, F. Brett Cox, and Jason Sanford; “Frankenstein, Masculinity, and Femininity” with Barna Donovan, Theodora Goss, John Kessel, Natasha D. Lane, and Walter Jon Williams; “Frankenstein: The Intersection of Literature and Science” with
Ted Chiang [edit: Chiang was absent] , Kathy Goonan, and Lancelot Schaubert; and “History Abuse?” with David Drake, Carolyn Ives Gilman, Carlos Hernandez, Kay Kenyon, Louise Marley, and Erin Roberts.
The schedule included over 100 readings with industry notables including S.A. Chakraborty, Tina Connolly, John Crowley, Andy Duncan, Jeffrey Ford, Max Gladstone, Alma Katsu, Guy Gavriel Kay, James Patrick Kelly, Derek Künsken, Ellen Kushner, Arkady Martine, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Ilana C. Myer, and more.
A book sales consignment table was in the atrium for authors and publishers whose work was not available in the Dealers’ Room. Rudolph said, “The table, staffed by con volunteers, proved very popular among the participating authors.” Dealer’s Room Chair Bob MacIntosh reported 21 dealers, saying, “The Ursula Le Guin/Charles Vess The Books of Earthsea was so popular that all the volumes available for sale were sold.” Luis Ortiz of Nonstop Press said, “This year – for us – things went very well…. Foot traffic was constant, but never quite heavy. ” A dealer who preferred to remain anonymous disagreed, saying, “They had their consignment table and another book dealer in the atrium… distracting from the dealers’ room. There were a few empty tables in the dealers’ room, so there would have been ample room to move the consignment table into the dealers’ room. At an average convention, the level of sales might have been okay…. The dealers’ tables themselves were very expensive.”
The art show exhibited 33 artists and hundreds of pieces, including Alan Beck, Galen Dara, Donato Giancola, Kathleen Jennings, Elizabeth Leggett, Tom Kidd, Gary A. Lippincott, Gregory Manchess, Theresa Mather, Victo Ngai, Omar Rayyan, Ruth Sanderson, Charles Vess, and Michael Whelan. There was an exhibit of historic fantasy art organized by Joe Siclari and Edie Stern called “Women in Fantasy: Warrior, Wanton and Witch,” with 120 pieces provided by 20 artists and collectors, from about 70 different artists. Additional exhibits included a collection of Kidd’s work, a selection of Charles Vess’s illustrations, and a display of the molds Vincent Villafranca used to create the World Fantasy Award and matching finalist pins, and an exhibit about Edelman’s graphic novel work. During the art reception Gregory Manchess painted a portrait of Michael Swanwick. Organizers reported sales at over $35,000, compared to last year’s $26,000, and 2016’s $6,186.
The mass autograph reception was Friday night, with a cash bar and a variety of finger foods. Signers were able to reserve seats in advance. Hundreds of authors attended including Gwenda Bond, Gerald Brandt, Curtis C. Chen, Zig Zag Claybourne, C.S.E. Cooney, Andy Duncan, Sarah Beth Durst, Charles E. Gannon, Daryl Gregory, Christopher Golden, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Sally Wiener Grotta, Eileen Gunn, Rajan Khanna, Joe Haldeman, Guy Gavriel Kay, Ellen Kushner, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., Sarah Pinsker, Delia Sherman, Sharon Shinn, Alan Smale, Fran Wilde, C. Ceres Wright, and many, many more.
The World Fantasy Awards Banquet was held at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday after a brief reception, and was followed by the awards ceremony coordinated by the WFA committee. There were 195 people in attendance, up from around 180 in 2017; an additional 75 people sat in for just the awards presentation. Glowing LED centerpieces of ship motifs adorned the banquet tables – for sale at $20 each.
After the con chairs opened the ceremony, Addison began her toastmaster speech by thanking the World Fantasy administrators. She then addressed the theme: “Safe havens can come to us in many ways. The home we live in, in relationships that nurture us…. But for too many people, the idea of safe haven is hard. When they are treated as less by others just because they are different in some way…. Skin, religion, sexual preference, age…. The danger of not having a safe haven is inside and out. On the outside… weapons, things thrown at you, looks…. The inside danger, I think it’s even harder because we don’t see it. The constant grinding down by society, even when people aren’t saying anything, ends up creating a sense of worthlessness in a lot of areas where people are committing suicide to get away from pain, because they feel like there is no safe place, no place of acceptance….
“I think about how this country has become dangerous for any human that looks or acts different; and now it’s become acceptable to behave in an inhuman way as a reaction for many people…. It takes away safe havens that just should have been – walking down the street, walking your dog….
“I’m just a human being…. I’ve always walked into any room as a human being. And I walk in wanting to meet other human beings, and talk, and I find people fascinating and wonderful…. My constant desire is for humanity to evolve to the point where we understand that we are all just human, and we all have the same wants and joys and pain and needs.
“One other safe haven for me is writing…. It is the place I go, and it’s a very safe place, and my home…. Another huge safe haven for me is this community, because I work a lot less when I walk into a room with you guys; I have a lot less that I have to do to convince you that I’m human….
“For the rest of the people who, like me, have to walk this world with your protective field up and decide on how to handle your anger, I, Linda Denise Addison, would like to apologize for the human race, because you shouldn’t have to…. For those of you who walk in this country and you don’t have to face that… I challenge you, when you go into a place, to take a minute and look around… who else is here, different…. However you feel your spirit is inside, give that person, give that room a moment to say, it should be open and accepting.”
Addison’s full speech is scheduled to be published in the January 2019 issue of Uncanny magazine.
Gordon Van Gelder thanked the judges and Ellen Datlow asked them to stand, to enthusiastic applause. Van Gelder announced Life Achievement Award winner Charles de Lint, who lauded Betsy Wollheim, calling her “the heart behind DAW books.” He thanked the judges and the con committee, and everyone who supported him and worked with him through the years, especially Tom Doherty and Patrick Nielsen Hayden, peers and friends, agent Russell Galen, readers, Rodger Turner, Terri Windling, who “taught me more about writing in my own voice than any number of writing tutorials and editors combined,” Charles Vess and wife Karen, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Leslie Howle, and his wife Maryanne. “Without her participation in my career I probably wouldn’t be in front of you accepting this honor.”
Datlow announced Life Achievement Award-winner Betsy Wollheim. Wollheim said, “I stand on the shoulders of my parents, and arm in arm with Sheila, who I met 55 years ago at Lunacon, and surrounded and supported by the best staff DAW has had in 47 years in business. Josh, Katie, Leah, Lindsay, Peter, you are the best there is…. And Marylou, you are the finest copy editor I have ever worked with. Also standing with me is every author I’ve had the pleasure of working with since I first started in 1975….”
Van Gelder presented the first World Fantasy Award of the evening for Special Award, Non-Professional to Justina Ireland & Troy L. Wiggins, for FIYAH. Irette Y. Patterson accepted for Wiggins, who expressed gratitude to writers such as Wallace Thurman and Zora Neale Hurston, the FIYAH staff and contributors, readers and reviewers, the judges, committee, volunteers, hotel staff, and more. “FIYAH magazine was created because of a storm. This storm threatened to exclude and silence some of this planet’s most brilliant writers and thinkers…. We will call it discrimination for short. FIYAH goes in direct opposition to that storm…. We cannot allow those voices to be silenced…. We do what we do for Black writers; we do what we do for the future. And to quote Justina, ‘the future ain’t gonna write itself.”‘
Datlow presented the Special Award, Professional to Harry Brockway, Patrick McGrath and Danel Olson, for Writing Madness. Theodora Goss accepted for the trio. McGrath said he is honored and flattered, crediting Brockway, Olson, and publisher Jerad Walters, as well as thanking Joyce Carol Oates for the introduction. Brockway said he was “very thankful for the opportunity to be part of the team creating Writing Madness.” Olson praised the work of the other creators, and thanked the WFA members, judges, volunteers, his wife and daughters, the other finalists, and more.
Gregory Manchess won the award for Best Artist, saying, “I spent 40 years in the business, and this is such an honor to me…. The skill in this room alone is staggering…. I don’t think we really care that much as creatives about innate talent. I think we care about the work. I think we care about the attempt, and the risk we take to grab at something and have it be successful. When my book Above the Timberline came out, it was pretty much a risk all the way around and I think that our hearts lie with that risk.” He thanked Barry Goldblatt and Joe Monti, as well as Irene Gallo. He finished by saying the award was not simply an award; “It’s a homecoming.”
Best Collection went to Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen. Jacob Weisman of Tachyon read Yolen’s speech, saying, “Writing short stories is always a very personal choice. You never expect fame or money, but if you’re lucky, if the wind is in one of your four corners, and if the cock crows at the right time, sometimes you win an award…” She expressed appreciation for Tachyon, and said, “I’m in awe of all the books that didn’t win. As much as I admire your books, I’m not going to give up the award!”
The New Voices of Fantasy, edited by Peter S. Beagle & Weisman, won the Best Anthology Award. Weisman accepted, calling the book “an attempt by Peter and myself to give something back to our community. Peter has had his share of help along the way. He won a national writing contest at the age of 15 that led to scholarships… the attention of John Steinbeck’s agent, and to an appearance, much like our own book, that was edited by Terry Carr in the early ’60s.” He thanked the editors who originally discovered the stories, as well as the audience, saying it was a “terrific honor.”
Natalia Theodoridou’s “The Birding: A Fairy Tale” won the award for Best Short Story. Theodoridou called it an incredible honor, saying, “I’m so happy this story resonated with readers and with the judges.” She thanked Strange Horizons, particularly editor Vajra Chandrasekera. She thanked her beta readers and her Clarion West family. Becoming teary, she said, “This is a story in part about migration, and one way a person migrates is through language. And itis not often a person is welcomed into the language they migrate to. So for this, thank you so very much.”
The World Fantasy Award for Novella went to Ellen Klages’s Passing Strange. Klages’s speech brought laughter, “I started writing this story 41 years ago. I have not worked on it every day.” She began the piece at age 23 after moving to San Francisco. “I wrote, I think, four scenes; I think one sentence ended up in Passing Strange…. Every time I got a new computer, I transferred the files, and I would look at these four scenes and say, ‘One day I should finish this story.”‘ She thanked editor Jonathan Strahan “for making me write the story that I wanted to write when I was 23, that I would not have done justice to.” She thanked Manchess for “the Best. Cover. Ever.” She thanked Irene Gallo, Lee Harris, and the audience.
The Best Novel Award was a tie, going to The Changeling by Victor LaValle and Jade City by Fonda Lee. Lee thanked voters and judges, “who had an extraordinarily difficult task, choosing between so many worthy stories.” She thanked editor Sara Guan, calling her the tiger mom of editors. She thanked the Orbit team, the UK Orbit team, agent Jim McCarthy, beta readers and writer friends, and her immensely patient husband Nathan, saying, “When we got married, I am sure he did not expect me to bail on a corporate career to write fantasy novels, but he barely blinked an eye.” She talked about the difficulty of finding similar titles to her book, and that when she wrote it, she felt like “the market for this book consisted of exactly one individual: me!” She ended by exhorting “all the creators in the room… bring yourself; bring all of yourself to this work that we do. Put on the page not just the richness that exists in the world, but the diversity that exists within you.”
Joe Monti read La-Valle’s speech, saying, “I began Changeling on the day my first child was born. The germ of the book came in the moment I felt the weight of my son in my hands…. How much I wanted to love and protect him. If all good horror is about our great fears, then my novel is about one of the greatest: how do we keep our loved ones safe? …I scared myself quite a few times while writing this book because I understood that it’s impossible to ever keep anyone else truly safe. And yet, there’s something noble, heroic, in the desire to try. And these days there are many of us who feel unsafe. But we will not run in fear. We will push back against the forces that try to erase us. We will give them all one hell of a fight.” He thanked the World Fantasy Awards and called it an honor to be among “such talented finalists.”
Most of the speakers at the event encouraged people to vote in the US midterm elections, happening shortly after the convention dates.
Next year’s World Fantasy Convention will be held in Los Angeles CA, October 31 – November 1, 2019 at the Marriott Los Angeles Airport Hotel, with guests of honor Tad Williams, Margo Lanagan, and Beth Meacham, and toastmaster Robert Silverberg. The 2020 World Fantasy will be in Salt Lake City October 29 – November 1, 2020, with guests of honor Stephen Gallagher, Stephen Graham Jones, David Cherry, Anne Groell, and toastmasters Tracy & Laura Hickman. More information is available at the WFC site.
This report and more like it in the December 2018 issue of Locus.
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