"Glaurung," an amazing painting by legendary fantasy artist Darrell K. Sweet, a 2010 WFC Guest of Honor.

It’s now official:

I’ll be attending this year’s
World Fantasy Convention
in Columbus, Ohio, at the end of October.

The 2009 WFC was my first time attending, although I’ve been a published fantasy writer since 2004. Last year’s WFC was right down the road from me in San Jose, CA. It says a lot about the quality and nature of this con that I’m willing to fly across the country to attend it again…WFC rocks.

WFC is a gathering of writers, artists, publishers, editors, and agents (not to mention all the great dealers). It’s more of a “professional’s con” than most I’ve attended, and the prestigious World Fantasy Awards are handed out there (i.e. the Oscars of fantasy fiction). It’s also a terrific chance to hang out with thousands of other fantasy/sci-fi/horror writers and talk shop while tossing back a few brews or glasses of wine.

I made so many new friends and met so many great writers last year, not to mention all the fascinating panels I attended, that I can’t wait for this year’s con. I also got to hang out with my friend and mentor, the great Darrell Schweitzer, who stayed at my pad during the San Jose con. This year I’ll be flying in from Napa, CA, and Darrell will be flying in from Philadelphia. The WFC takes place in a new city every single year…next year it comes back to California and takes root in San Diego. That promises to be a fantastic con as well, but first we have the Columbus WFC to enjoy.

Another great Darrell K. Sweet piece.

Darrell Schweitzer is the master of programming, and he has put together a terrific list of panels that go far beyond this year’s theme of “whimsical fantasy.” That suits me well because I’m very serious about my fantasy…whimsical fantasies are not my bag at all (although I love a good laugh as much as the next guy). I’ll be a panelist at one of these, though I’m not sure which one yet.

There are 51 panels scheduled, but here are the ones I find most intriguing. I hope to be at all or most of them:

– The Continued Viability of Epic Fantasy. How has this evolved in the 50-plus years since Tolkien hit it big?

– Sword & Sorcery. Clearly this “literary fossil,” as Alexei Panshin once called it, is not yet extinct.  But has it evolved? A discussion of the continuing appeal and the nature of the form.

– PAPERBACK COVERS: The Swinging Pendulum Between Realism and Abstraction. If the purpose of a cover painting is to sell a book, and this is doing by  making the book different from those around it, then any trend will  eventually fail when all the other books take on the same “new” look. This  has surely been going on since the beginnings of the modern paperback.  Neo-pulp covers in the late-’40s followed by the Richard Powers look in  the ’50s, followed by alternating periods of abstract art, e.g. Leo &  Diane Dillon about 1970, followed by the Rowena/Hildebrandt look by the  mid’70s. We may be coming to another abstract period now. Is it inevitable  that another period of neo-neo-neo-Howard-Pyle will follow? What do  artists and art directors have to say about this?

– Surrealists and Their Influence.  The movement started in the 1920s headed by Andre Breton. There was even a manifesto. The term has assumed a more general meaning since.  An exploration of the original literature and its descendants.

– What is Left to the Imagination? Fantasy fiction as the art of leaving things out.

– Slaughtering The Evil Hordes. One of the more disturbing things about The Lord of the Rings and other fantasies of that sort is that the bad guys are just bad, without the possibility of redemption. If we get beyond that, what do we use for the all encompassing menace?

– The Story Cycle Versus The Novel. A book of linked sequential stories is not the same as a novel even if it has a distinct beginning, middle and end. Think of Keith Roberts or the various episodic books of Zoran Zivkovic. Why does the writer choose this structure?

– Dream-Inspired Fantasy.  Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, much of Lovecraft’s work and even The Twilight Series are said to be drawn directly from the author’s dreams. Is this merely a transcription of the unconscious  or can this be induced? Is there such a thing as dreaming on paper?

– Best Fantasies of All Time. Five panelists list 5 and explain why.

– Fantasy as a Rejection of the Present. William Morris and others created the idyllic rural medieval fantasy scenario in response to the industrial revolution.  What kinds of contemporary fantasy likewise turn away from the present and create something new out of the past? Have we just described Steampunk?

– What New Things Could be Done With Old Mythologies?

– The Tension Between Art and Commerce. Very likely a 1000-page stream-of-consciousness novel in which nothing happens will not sell in the fantasy category, no matter how great it is as art. (Or would it?)  Editors, Publishers, and Writers try to explain where the limits are and how to exceed them.