Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I Already Miss ICFA...

... and I already can't wait for WorldCon. The good news is, barring any unforeseen developments of the next week and a half, it looks like I'll be going to WorldCon. Amen!

But ICFA always feels something like home, and I had a great time there this year. I've finally gotten to know enough people (and some folks have gotten to know me) that I don't feel like a stranger there at all anymore.


Meeting up with fellow Masterclass alumni Sarah Herbe, Stefan Ekman, Graham Sleight and Stacie Hanes (as well as one of our distinguished faculty last year, Gary K. Wolfe). Sarah and Stefan gave particularly interesting papers--I didn't get to see Stacie's and she was presenting as the same time I was (and the same time Gary was--bummer). I'm hoping to snag a copy of hers.

Sarah presented a paper showing how the existence of genetic modification in various authors' futures meant a completely different way of presenting character. When the body is no longer fixed, what you look like says as much about you as our clothes do today. She focused on British writers from the last decade or so, such as Justine Robson, Charlie Stross, Ken MacLeod, etc. It was the sort of excellent paper where you'd note a question to yourself, and then she'd answer it.

Stefan's paper hewed closer to the conference theme (Time and the Fantastic), and he dealt with how time flows in polders in fantasy lit. Polder in this context is a Clute-ism, and generally means a niche in the fantasy world with boundaries against the outside world, sometimes a safe place for the heroes, often maintained by one central figure. Lothlorien rather exemplifies the concept. One thing I thought Stefan did remarkably well was realize that the term 'time' had gotten rather overloaded in these discussions. Thus he defined 'tempo' to mean the pace at which time flows in the polder, 'moment' to mean a moment in time, and 'historical time' to distinguish the passage of time outside the polder. He proceeded to apply the polder concept to Lothlorien from Tolkein, Djelibeybi from Discworld, and the Mythago Wood cycle of Robert Holdstock. Also, his delivery is first-rate--I've rarely met a drier sense of humor than Stefan's.

My paper this year was completely unimportant except inasmuch as it lays the groundwork for something *incredibly cool* that I'm going to do *next* year--however, I'm afraid it's all sekrit and I can't talk about it currently. But come to ICFA next year and see! This year I was telling people not to come to my session, but to go see Gary & Amelia Beamer or Stacie instead (although bless them, Curtis, Ted Chiang, Robert Sawyer and Fiona Kelleghan came anyway). NEXT year I shall be dragging people bodily into my paper session--at least, if it turns out as cool as I hope it will.

Other than that, it was getting to know folks better and getting to know new folks. Shameless name dropping time! I spent time with (aside from those already mentioned): Marie Brennan, Chris Barzak and his partner Tony, Daryl Gregory + wife Kathy and son Ian (whose names I hope I'm spelling correctly), Crystal Black, John Kessel, James Patrick Kelley, Russell Leston, Peter Straub, F. Brett Cox, Andy Duncan, Patrick O'Leary, and more whom I'm afraid I've blurred out after rather a lot of wine.

Oh, and Gary used a quote from a review of mine to introduce Crawford award winner Daryl Gregory! As Jim Kelley put it, I got a shout out from the podium! W00t! But that is minor compared to the fact that the Crawford award goes to awesome writers like Daryl and Chris Barzak (last year). Check out Daryl's award speech, the video (or at least the audio) is on his blog--very well done, I thought.

So, this ICFA was great, and next ICFA stands to be even better. I'd say life doesn't get any better than this, but I've got a midterm tomorrow, a presentation on bionocular rivalry worth 20% of my grade on Thus night, and for some odd reason, I didn't get much studying done over my spring break. I can't imagine why. So I'll slog through the remaining 50 more days of my semester, and then life will be truly be excellent.

Oh, and pictures to come after Curtis and I unpack the camera! For now, here are some from Mr. Gregory, and some from Ellen Datlow.

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