Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Book Reviews: From political histories to bad comics, to bad comics of political histories. And the occasional rant about fiction and writing.

World Fantasy Convention 2011, San Diego

Jerry Stratton, October 27, 2011

I’m not sure if I’m at the World Fantasy Convention or the World Yarning Convention. Three of four people around me are doing things with yarn.

I haven’t had a chance to look at the exhibit room yet. As usual all my plans for showing up an hour early went the way of the coelacanth. Perhaps that’s why I chose the “underwater civilizations” panel.

Since there are more drastic differences in environments underwater there will be more drastic adaptations among adapted humans. Which leads me to think that the standard fantasy races—elves, dwarves, trolls, goblins—make more sense in aquatic fantasy.

Plus, scantily-clad mermaids for the kids. “Having tea. In tea cups.”

October 30, 2011: The Passion of the Reader

At the last minute before the awards banquet I broke down and bought two books from the AD&D reading list. I got them from Marty Massoglia who also raved about LosCon, a Thanksgiving weekend con up in Los Angeles, right by LAX. If you’re interested, note that the price goes up after October 31.

I also bought Jack Vance’s Rhialto The Marvellous, which probably would have been on the reading list if it had been published before AD&D. I picked it up from Paul Kennedy. Both dealers had some nice old paperbacks.

I had a great time, and Greg Ketter of Dreamhaven almost has me convinced to go to the Brighton con in 2013.

The World Fantasy Convention is a world apart from the San Diego Comic-Con. They still have a banquet for the awards ceremony, and I talked to some great fans there. I wish her awards talk was on YouTube, but you’ll have to settle for her opening ceremonies introduction.

The panels were small and the readings accessible. I heard a current draft of Willis’s next book, a great non-reading by Steven Boyett, and an amazing reading by Peter Beagle.

There are authors who write great books and writers who make great speakers; at this WFC, they had both Connie Willis and Neil Gaiman—sometimes at the same time—which made this inspiring. One of the things I talked about at the banquet is the high ratio of writers and writer fans. I’ve vowed to both read more and write more in the coming year. Which is a pretty good outcome given that I bought a bunch of books and have just started a new one of my own!

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Steven Boyett flourishes.

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“Why yes, officer, I do play Dungeons & Dragons. Why do you ask?”

October 29, 2011: If wishes were seahorses

“Sailing is a lot of boredom interrupted by panic.”—Heather Tomlinson

Dennis L. McKiernan recommended an out of print book called The Lore of Sail, probably driving the price up even further. Devin Poore recommended Sea of Words, about Patrick O’Brian’s seafaring novels.

“God bless the person that invented Goretex.”—Shelly Rae Clift

Like many technological innovations, the great advantage of steam over sail is that steamships require smaller crews, so they are cheaper to operate even if in some cases they might be slower or otherwise inferior.

“Before there were guns, you can’t have a gunwale.”—Dennis McKiernan

Dennis also said that the term “knots” comes from throwing a weighted and knotted line into the water and watching how many knots become visible, to know how fast the ship was going.

From the sea monster panel:

“By the way, the term ‘octopi’ is a misnomer. Use it if you wish, but you’re an idiot.”—David Drake

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“You’re an idiot.”

October 28, 2011: The Woman Who Forgot William Morris
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These panelists are talking about the sea, and have nothing to do with anything in this post.

“Fantasy is still a very young genre.”—Kari Sperring, discussing the tendency for writers to make the main characters be nobles, during Friday’s panel on class in fantasy. I went despite the red flag word in the title because the other panel sounded boring, and I sometimes enjoy alternative viewpoints. But class-related discussions in cons tend to become caricatures of themselves, and this was no exception.

Later that evening I went to a reading by Ben Loory; he’s an author worth searching out. I would guess he has been heavily influenced by Ray Bradbury and probably also Neil Gaiman.

I stole the title of this post from a short work that Neil Gaiman read from this afternoon, The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury, which is also well worth searching out.

“If I kill you, I win. If you kill me, I win. How do you fight someone like that?”—Len Wein, talking about his favorite villain, the Joker from The Dark Knight.

And several from Cory Goodfellow at the Lovecraft panel:

“The sea is the inimitable womb, that has become an inhospitable environment.”

Lovecraft was “trying to make atheists as frightened as creationists are.”

“It’s his grand cosmic way of saying you’re adopted. You’re all adopted.”

Someone on this panel also mentioned a book about Lovecraft’s influence on, among other things, the ancient astronaut movement, The Cult of Alien Gods: H.P. Lovecraft And Extraterrestial Pop Culture. Sounds fascinating, although the use of the term “pop culture” in the title is another red flag.

Everybody is talking about Sherlock Holmes. Connie Willis raved about the somewhat new Sherlock series with Benedict Cumberbatch. Neil Gaiman read a new Holmes story from a collection that just came out.

Reality may be stranger than fiction, but fiction does seem to be more memorable than reality. Among the things I’ve learned at today’s panels are that the Hopi Indians had an advanced culture that pumped oil, the Anasazi rose to an advanced civilization and then they ate each other, and that the people of Dunwich in England believe Mordred is the hero of the Arthurian era and Arthur was a usurper. And that a sailboat racer whose boat was disabled during a race fixed the boat and went into the middle of the ocean to wait nine months in order to zip out later and win (a different?) race. He kept a journal and it shows him slowly descending into madness.

Some of these may be more true than others. The sailboat racer is probably a fractured version of Donald Crowhurst, for example.

October 27, 2011: The Ship of Ishtar

“A tendril of the strange fragrance spiralled up from the great stone block. Kenton felt it caress his face like a coaxing hand.

‘He had been aware of that fragrance—an alien perfume, subtly troubling, evocative of fleeting unfamiliar images, of thought-wisps that were gone before the mind could grasp them—ever since he had unsheathed from its coverings the thing Forsyth, the old archaeologist, had sent him from the sand shrouds of ages-dead Babylon.”

Yes, I bought my first book in the dealer’s room a few minutes ago. Merritt is on the AD&D reading list, although The Ship of Ishtar is not. The dealer waxed rhapsodic about Merritt’s other books, especially Seven Footprints to Satan, which is definitely a great title.

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