The ICFA Report!

(Parenthetically, I just know this entry title will get lots of confused scientists mad at Google. “What the hell happened to the report on the International Conference on Forensic Anthropology?!?!”)

It took me a bit of time to post this blog entry; I’m buried in grading and prep for the upcoming Ad Astra conference, so I’ve been having to focus on those things. But while I had a spare second, I wanted to mention some of the highlights of the just passed 30th International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in Orlando:

I arrived late on Thursday night (note to self and others: don’t fly Continental, and especially don’t fly Continental out of Newark. Blech.) and hit the sack pretty quickly–which left me a bit tired for my 8:30 (!) reading on Friday morning. But it was well worth being a little bleary-eyed, because I was reading on a panel with Denis Danvers and John Kessel–both known authors, both pleasant co-panelists, and both with really interesting material. Danvers read a new short story entitled “The Broken Dream Factory”–or rather a part of the story, because it apparently went on longer than he had the time to read. Hard to imagine, given how far the story had ranged even in twenty minutes, but given how wonderfully constructed it was even to that point I’m anxious to read the rest…funny, clever, and affecting. Kessel read part of a novella which will be part of a space opera collection–not his usual fare, as he himself pointed out to begin with, but lots of fun nonetheless (one highlight was the planet names, like Helvetica. Kessel said he had discarded the Times New Roman idea. 🙂 ). My reading (of a portion of Icarus) was pretty well-received too, and was particularly meaningful for me since this was the first time my daughter was actually able to be at a reading (though she spent much of the time running in and out of the room and cracking up quietly. She was a big hit. 🙂 ).

That’s when it got crazy. I mentioned at the end of the reading that I was involved in a project (which I can’t fully reveal here yet, other than to say it’s exciting and writing-oriented…more details as soon as I’m at liberty to reveal them), and all of a sudden every author in the known universe seemed to show up. Some I already knew–James Patrick Kelly was already in the audience in support of Kessel, and had already spoken to me about the project–but others, like Patrick O’Leary and Andy Duncan, I knew of but had never met until now. Outside the room, I ran into Robert Sawyer, who is as nice as he is accomplished, and F. Brett Cox, and Ellen Datlow, and there was Stephen Donaldson, and, and…well. You get the idea. I felt like a pinball bouncing around from one speculative fiction luminary to another, and in about three hours I had made as many contacts and productive follow-up connections as I had during the entire ICFA last year. The conference was worth it just for that three hour stretch….which was a good thing, as I was pretty exhausted and wasn’t firing on all cylinders for the rest of the day, though I did get a chance to check out an interesting panel on teaching fantasy and science fiction, and got some good ideas from that experience.

Saturday was also fun, highlighted by an interesting session on time and the fantastic (which was the conference theme this year). Less fun was my daughter deciding it would be a good idea to unexpectedly try to march confidently down two steps when she, um, has been walking for all of about a month. Other than getting a small bruise and giving my poor wife a massive (and unfounded) guilt complex, she was fine…but it more or less threw us for most of the rest of the day. We did our best to get over it with a trip with friends Christine and Christina to Animal Kingdom on Sunday…and Senavene did seem to have fun watching the animals when she wasn’t watching Mom and Dad. But still, we weren’t sorry to get home and get some rest, especially after another delayed (and hideous–did I mention how you should never ever ever fly Continental?) flight back to Newark.

All that said, it was enormously productive in a professional sense, and the ICFA folks get a lot of credit for taking and applying feedback from last year’s conferees…putting newer and lesser known authors (like, well, me) with established ones on panels was a great improvement, and I think really helped foster turnout in the audience and discussion among the authors, which was extremely valuable. This is a definite “return next year” conference.

But not via Continental, not out of Newark, and not without putting my daughter in bubble wrap first. Yeesh. 🙂