Not exactly live from World Fantasy Convention

Well, I didn’t have a chance to write any blog posts while I was at the World Fantasy Convention; or, obviously, for a few weeks after (the convention ended October 30th). But here’s a picture of me on the panel I mentioned in my last post (photography courtesy of esteemed author Douglas Lucas).

From left to right: me, Ted Chiang, Peter Orullian, Mark Teppo

I seem to be looking skyward, hoping for some divine inspiration to help me answer the question, or make whatever point I was trying to make.

It was interesting, being on a panel. I was kind of awkward, especially at first. I’m not really very good at extemporaneous philosophizing on some topic, not without rambling a great deal and forgetting by the end of the sentence what I’d originally set out to say. That’s why my chosen art form is writing, not stand-up comedy. But I think I at least got slightly less awkward as the panel went on. In my defense, I had jet lag (the panel was at 10 pm, in California, the day after I flew out from Boston) and was also getting over a bad cold which had had me up coughing much of the past 4 nights.

I thought the panel got a bit off-topic. I’d assumed it was going to focus on writing about magic, but instead it seemed to end up being largely a debate on whether magic exists, which I wasn’t really quite as interested in discussing for the entertainment of a surprisingly large audience. (For the record, my opinion about whether magic exists is: yes, probably, though like many of my fellow Christians I tend to think that people shouldn’t be messing with it (by magic I mean the sort of stuff that modern folk who fancy themselves mages are talking about, not Harry Potter type spells or the sort of magic usually written about in epic fantasy novels (also for the record, I believe in religious freedom for modern-day magicians, wiccans, neopagans, etc., just like for Christians, lest some random reader who doesn’t know me should decide to assume I’m a big meanie for expressing skepticism about the wisdom of practising magic and conclude that means I think they ought to be burned at the stake or something)).)

Okay, so I suppose that last paragraph went a bit off-topic, too. To finish my original thought, I thought the panel was going to focus more on writing about magic in a way that doesn’t come off as entirely silly and implausible, and how to do that, and maybe what are some examples of authors who have done it particularly well (and maybe some general examples that don’t work as well, hopefully not naming names, as that’s just mean-spirited; we should poke fun at other writers behind their backs with a few close friends, not in front of a large audience). But it was still an interesting discussion to listen to, even if I didn’t have as much to say about whether magic exists as some others on the panel did, and we did get to talk about some of the things that I found more interesting, too (thanks to Owen for asking a question about the stuff I wanted to talk about!) And people in the audience (at least the ones I talked to, later) found the panel interesting and lively, and that’s really the most important thing.

Hopefully I will get better at that extemporaneous philosophizing thing, with practice!

I really like World Fantasy, and as always, it was a great convention. There were a lot of good parties, and opportunities to catch up with old friends and meet new people. The layout of the section of the hotel that had most of the parties worked really well, because there was room for people to spill over out of the rooms onto the patios and into the courtyard. So that area ended up being a gathering place for people, which was good, as the closest bar in the hotel complex was closed a lot of the time. The hotel restaurants weren’t great, but I didn’t think they were as bad as some of my friends thought they were. The “fine dining” option was overpriced and mediocre, with stale-tasting seafood. I thought the steakhouse was actually pretty good, but maybe you had to order the right thing (like steak; a vegetarian friend was thoroughly unimpressed by the steakhouse). The casual restaurant had the same breakfast buffet you get at most North American restaurants. Not as good as at Marriott hotels, but cheaper. Their sandwiches for lunch were fine, as were the sandwiches and other simple food at the sports bar. I tend not to have super-high expectations for the hotel dining options at conventions, though. I think people who go to Readercon at the Burlington Marriott in Massachusetts might be a bit spoiled, as the “fine dining” option there is actually an acclaimed local restaurant with a moderately-acclaimed chef.

Donald and I decided to sign up for next year’s World Fantasy, which will be in Toronto. Probably not as nice in late October / early November as San Diego (Donald and I missed the first big northeastern snowstorm of the season while we were at the convention, enjoying the San Diego sunshine and 70+ degree temperatures). But the jet lag won’t be as bad, either. And I’ve heard that some of the best Chinese food in the greater Toronto area is supposed to be nearby….

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