2023 International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts
The 44th International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA) took place during a sunny and warm March 15-18, 2023 at the tropical Marriott Orlando Airport Hotel Lakeside, with a theme of ‘‘Afrofuturism.’’ Academics, writers, publishers, editors, artists, students, independent scholars, and more participated, with 355 people attending (down from 2019’s 480 in-person attendees) with 184 presenters in the academic track and 84 invited creative guests. Guest of honor Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki attended virtually as he was unable to enter the country, and guest scholar was Isiah Lavender III.
In and amongst the academics were a number of authors, editors, and others, including Phoenix Alexander, Brian Attebery, Tobias S. Buckell, Siobhan Carroll, Ted Chiang, John Chu, Neil Clarke, Ellen Datlow, Andy Duncan, Stephen R. Donaldson, Andy Duncan, Kelly Eskridge, Steven Erikson, Stephanie Feldman, Eugene Fischer, Craig Laurance Gidney, A.T. Greenblatt, Nicola Griffith, Nancy Hightower, Nalo Hopkinson, Alex Jennings, Tenea D. Johnson, James Patrick Kelly, Zelda Knight, Valya Dudycz Lupescu, Victor Manibo, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Mimi Mondal, Sarah Pinsker, dave ring, Nisi Shawl, Michael Swanwick, Cadwell Turnbull, Izzy Wasserstein, Fran Wilde, and more. Locus was represented by Amelia Beamer, Gary K. Wolfe, and Stephen Segal.
Many of the scheduled panels and papers related directly to the theme, such as section ‘‘Afrofuturism, Africanfuturism, and the Gothic’’ with papers by Luke Chwala, Agnieszka Kotwasinska, and Gina Wiskerwhile, and ‘‘BIPOC Gods of Lightning, Water and Blood, Ancestors, and Spirit Children: Exploring African and Diaspora Traditions of Power and Healing’’ with Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, A.E. Fonsworth, Andrea Hairston, and Alexis Brooks de Vita. Others covered a range of subjects, from games to ‘‘Varieties of the French Fantastic’’ presented by Terry Harpold & Christina Lord. Papers included ‘‘Blackwashing and the art of Compassionate Rendering’’, ‘‘Shape-Shifting in the Anthropocene: Adolescent Identity Construction through Posthuman Fiction’’, and ‘‘Dragon Vibes: The shifting role of dragons in contemporary fantasy literature’’.
IAFA Registration and Membership Coordinator Emily Midkiff said, ‘‘We implemented a few new initiatives this year to better support underfunded attendees. There were new registration categories: ‘underfunded’ rates were added at the student price for anyone without the means to attend ICFA otherwise. There was also a new option for other attendees to select higher rates called ‘supporting’ registrations to help the IAFA support the registrations of underfunded and student attendees. Those who selected the supporting option were listed and thanked in the conference program. We are pleased with how this registration change went in its first year, though we’re hoping for more supporting registrations next year! The BIPOC Caucus also sponsored a program to give a free book voucher from the book room to all underfunded and student attendees. This voucher was met with a lot of enthusiasm, especially from students and independent scholars.’’
Highlights included a recorded guest of honor speech by GoH Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki on ‘‘Afropantheology to Afrofuturism and Back’’, followed by a virtual Q&A on Thursday; guest scholar talk by Isiah Lavender III on ‘‘Imaginary Amendments and Executive Orders: Race in United States Science Fiction’’, positing the hypothetical ‘‘noirum’’ argument: ‘‘a deeply knowing view of the social and political conditions of our doubly distorted real world…’’, with examples from various SFFnal works; and Friday evening’s ‘‘ICFA Flash Play Festival’’ put together by Carrie J. Cole and Jen Gunnels. Saturday night featured a wine-and-beer reception before the awards banquet that was attended by about 180 guests (slightly down from the prior in-person count of 210). The event honored works, authors, and more, after a banquet meal. The Crawford Award for first fantasy book was presented by Gary K. Wolfe to The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez. The David G. Hartwell Emerging Scholars Award went to Marissa Luquette. The Jamie Bishop Memorial Award for an Essay Not in English was presented by Terry Harpold to Priscilla Layne and Sang-Keun Yoo. The Imagining Indigenous Futurisms Award went to Alina Pete for story ‘‘Telling the Soul of Mars’’. The BIPOC Caucus honored a dozen of recipients for both Uplifter and Exemplary Ally Awards, presented by Alexis Brooks de Vita, including a ‘‘Creature Feature’’ Exemplary Ally Award for Locus Magazine, for its efforts in uplifting BIPOC voices. This year’s Dell Award winner was ‘‘blooming beating hearts’’ by Sam Wilson, and the first runner-up was ‘‘Of the Known Universe’’ by Olivia Garcia. Amanda Firestone presented the Lord Ruthven Award to
The 45th annual conference will have the theme of ‘‘Whimsy’’, to be held March 13-16, 2024 at the Marriott Orlando Airport Hotel Lakeside. Guest of honor and guest scholar are yet to be announced. For more information, go to their website.
This report and more like it in the May 2023 issue of Locus.
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