World Fantasy 2010 Report

I had a wonderful time at the World Fantasy Convention (WFC) this weekend. It’s a traveling show, roaming from city to city each year, and this time it landed in Columbus, Ohio. I went to the University of Michigan, so I’m likely to be biased against Columbus, as it’s the home of our rivals at Ohio State. However, I’ve been there many times for the Origins Game Fair and loved it.

I headed out for the show — which had started on Thursday — on Friday morning. I got into town about 4:30 and met my roommate Scott James Magner. Scott’s been active in the gaming industry for many years, and I met him back in the mid-’90s when I was running Pinnacle. He’s a great guy and a talented writer who’s made the move over to that side of the business as a computer game writer, coming from marketing tabletop games.

I had planned to skip WFC this year, but Scott’s girlfriend wound up staying home after her father had a heart attack earlier this fall. He’s recovering fine, thankfully, but that left her badge and a spot in Scott’s room open, which he offered to me. Able to get into the show and stay in town for cheap, I could no longer resist the show.

After I checked in, Scott and I headed over to the Hyatt, picked up my badge (and a massive bag of free books) and wandered up to the Big Bar on 2. Just as with every Origins I’ve been to, this became the focal spot of the entire show. It’s a large lobby bar, spread out with lots of seating, and it’s the perfect place to wander in and out of conversations with dozens of friends and to hobnob with people you’re eager to meet.

We ran into a few friends and sat down for drinks, which eventually became dinner with Jeff Conner (who edits IDW‘s new fiction line), Robert Fleck (agent for many of my friends), and Jerry Gordon (writer and editor, and a client of Bob’s). Afterward, I ran off to the mass autograph session, which was packed.

WFC caps its attendance at 1,000 people, but lots of writers, editors, agents, and publishers attend. It often seemed like the publishing professionals outnumbered the fans by about 2 to 1. Of course, most of the pros are readers too, so we all serve double duty that way.

I didn’t sign any books, which I’m going to generously attribute to the fact that no one knew I would be there until the week before the show — including me. Still, I had a great time chatting with fans and pros. I sat down next to my pal Tobias Buckell and watched him sign books instead. Jim Minz of Baen Books came by to introduce himself and ask for some pitches, which flattered me to no end.

After the signing, I went back to the Big Bar on 2, where I ran into many old friends (like Maurice Broaddus, Marc Tassin, Nikki Lange, Tanya Ellenburg-Kimmet, Brad Beaulieu, and Paul Genesse) and made a slew of new ones (like Nayad Monroe, Daniel Robichaud, and Robert Wenzlaff). I wound up hanging out there until the wee hours of the morning.

The next day, Scott and I got up late and headed for the food court in the convention center. Sadly, the legendary Krema Nut Company lunch counter wasn’t open, but we had breakfast for lunch to stoke our fires for the day. I roamed through the dealer’s hall and caught up with Jim Pavalec and Chris Seaman, who were hawking their cool new art/story book Inkbloom, which teaches you how to illustrate a fantasy adventure story.

I somehow wound up back at the Big Bar on 2 until my reading at 3:30 PM. Despite the fact I’ve had 13 novels published — and countless games — I’d never given a public reading of my work before. I’ve been on enough panels and done enough solo speeches I wasn’t worried about it, but it marked another milestone for me.

About 20–30 people showed up, which pleased me since, again, I hadn’t been able to tell too many people in advance. Rather than read from Amortals — which starts out with a dark, vicious bang — I opted to respect the Fantasy part of the con’s title and read the first two chapters of Vegas Knights instead. The kind crowd laughed at all the right spots and applauded at the end of each chapter, so I’m counting that as a huge win.

I gave away dozens of copies of the Amortals e-book while I was there. I e-mailed one everyone who came to my reading one, and anyone who met me in the bar or the autograph session got one too. Some people were kind enough to come back and tell me how much they enjoyed the opening.

After the reading, I returned to the bar and chatted with a number of people, including Melinda Dansky, wife of my good friend Richard Dansky, who sadly couldn’t be there. Throughout the afternoon, I met a number of very cool people like John Scalzi (who says hi to Ken Hite!), Paolo Bacigalupi, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Jonathan Oliver (of Rebellion/Abaddon/Solaris).

For the dinner break, Pierce Watters (director of sales for Paizo) grabbed Steve Saffel (of Titan Books), Scott, and me for a quick bite. Jeff Conner joined us halfway through. I could have listened to Pierce and Steve talk about the legends of the industry all night. Instead, after dinner, we adjoined to the bar for a bit and from there to the room parties upstairs.

The parties were fantastic. At the Tor party, I met a couple of the legends, Tom Doherty (publisher of Tor) and Brian Lumley. Plus — ah forget it. There were too many wonderful folks in too little time, and it’s much of a blur. I’ll forget someone who doesn’t deserve to be ignored. The fact that I was out until 4:30 AM might only have a little to do with that.

I do have to mention Jeremy Lassen of Night Shade Books though. He’s the greatest Giants fan I’ve ever seen. He died his hair a bright orange and wore a glorious pinstriped zoot suit in the same color in honor of his favorite team. I couldn’t help but talk with him. To see him in it, check out this article from last Wednesday’s USA Today. The photo doesn’t do the suit justice, but it’ll give you a hint of its glory.

The next morning, I got up to meet Betsy Mitchell of Del Rey for coffee. Then I got into my car and drove back home to arrive just in time to take the kids out for trick-or-treating. As much fun as the rest of it was, that was still the high point of my weekend.