From Thursday, October 31st to Sunday, November 3rd I will be attending the 2013 World Fantasy Convention in Brighton.
There has been a lot of noise lately about the con, and I have to say that I’m neither pleased nor impressed with certain aspects of it. I’m confident the vast majority of the people running it are quietly excelling, in the usual fannish fashion, at pulling off complex, thankless tasks for no real compensation. Whoever has been responsible for the tone of the convention’s PR materials, however, has tarred the hard work and good faith of everyone else involved. As Patrick Nielsen Hayden says (and I heartily concur): “I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen a con whose communications were more hectoring, reproving, and admonitory.”
This bafflingly unfriendly tone has limned the con’s less sensible decisions with an aura of apparent malice, while complicating the acceptance of policies that should have been routine and uncontroversial (and doubtless would have been if they had simply been presented with less of a sneer). I readily understand the desire to be firm and clear in the presentation of convention policies, but the gap between clarity and tactless disdain is a pretty wide and well-lit space. Or so you’d think.
I have already publicly and privately expressed my distaste with the handling of the Kaffeeklatsch situation. All other considerations aside, what rankles most in the end is that ‘klatsching, which is a decades-old standard practice at fan-run conventions across the world, has been touted as some sort of bold new experiment allowing the great unwashed a rare chance to breathe the same air as the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. To which I say many impolite things… the point of Kaffeeklatsch culture is that it’s a chance to sit down and chat with someone in a relaxed, informal, and human fashion, not to be shocked and awed by design.
Far more serious than that excess of hyperbole is the con’s sluggish attitude toward accessibility issues; only in the very latest WFC Progress Report was the world treated to the admission that oh, by the way, the registration area was not actually wheelchair-accessible. Sweet Jesus in an interstellar battleship. I sincerely hope the con’s announced work-around of having a staff member specially in place to handle the paperwork for those that can’t make it into the room is a robust solution; it does however beg the question of whether this is a sensible allotment of staffing for a con that previously made such a big deal about being unable to eyeball the freaking sign-up lists for the Kaffeeklatsches.
Last and not least is the very real sense* that the con has responded to complaints with a pervasive habit of a) first ignoring them as long as possible before b) proclaiming that few, if any, corroborating complaints have been received. It’s almost as though whoever is responsible for this (and look, I honestly don’t know who to blame) keeps failing to realize that attendees are perfectly capable of comparing notes and communications among themselves and spotting the inconsistencies. This dovetails pretty neatly with the overall PR approach, which seems predicated on the presumption that attendees are something less than adults.
That said… I support the idea of WFC in general, even if it’s a con that has not one but several lingering identity crises it ought to eventually try to shake out. I’m doing my best to be a good con citizen by sitting on a panel (my first ever at a WFC) and performing a reading. I’ll be at the awards banquet, too. The heart and soul of any WFC is the fact that hundreds of really cool, personable folks, pro and fan alike, descend on the site and make the best of it regardless of circumstances. It’s important for my publishers and quite a few of my readers that I be in Brighton, so I’m going to be in Brighton, and I’m going to do my damnedest to make the shindig as cool as I can for those around me.
So, here’s my appearance schedule:
FRIDAY, 8 PM: Mass Signing
I will be at the mass signing starting at 8 PM and will make an effort to stay until at least 9:30. Please don’t be shy if you have stuff you want me to sign and don’t be put off by the tone of the con’s PR. I don’t bite. Often.
SATURDAY, 11:30 AM: Reading (Hall 8B)
I will be reading a great and secret something, possibly from THE THORN OF EMBERLAIN.
SATURDAY, 2:00 – 4:00 PM: RED ROASTER COFFEE SHOP
I will be hanging out at Red Roaster, 1d St. James’ Street, just over three-fourths of a mile from the con hotel, just off the Old Steine and opposite the Royal Pavilion. This is an off-site non-convention event for all Gentlemen Bastards appreciators. I’m not actually taking over the coffee shop or anything, just plunking myself down to chill with anyone who wants to drop by. I’ll chat, sketch stupid cartoons, and sign things. Coffee is on me unless an overwhelming number of people show up. Look for the big goofy-looking American with long blond hair.
SATURDAY, 5 PM: Elvish Has Left the Building (Oxford)
My panel! “Is traditional fantasy finally over? After all these years, could it be in danger of running out of imagination and becoming simply a parody of itself, or will there always be ways of re-inventing the genre for a new generation?” Naturally, I have some opinions…
PANELISTS: Joe Abercrombie, Trudi Canavan, Scott Lynch, Stan Nicholls (mod.), Adrian Stone, Tad Williams.
I will also be in the audience for Elizabeth Bear’s panel at 5 PM on Friday and I encourage you to do likewise.
*This isn’t just loose hearsay. For the record, I believe the accounts of Kameron Hurley, Mari Ness, Farah Mendlesohn, and Amal El-Mohtar, and those are just the ones that I’ve seen in public.