Facts Of Fantasy
World Fantasy Convention rolls into Monterey.
Thursday, October 29, 1998
While the spooks and ghouls of Halloween roam the streets of Monterey this weekend, hundreds of fantasy fans, authors, and artists from around the world will meet, discuss and admire the best of 1998''s fantasy writing and art at the 24th annual World Fantasy Convention.
The three-day celebration at the DoubleTree and Mariott hotels features an awards banquet on Sunday, a book dealers'' room, art show and dozens of panels, all revolving around the theme of Golden Ages, especially timely this year in California as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Gold Rush.
Three-day memberships to the World Fantasy Convention have been selling for weeks now, however, some day-passes will be available to the public for $60. This gets you into the art show, dealers'' room, and a choice of panels each day, ranging from young adult fantasy to "The Pulp Era" to a writing workshop on how to "make your world work." Sunday''s awards banquet, announcing winners in best fantasy novel, novella, short fiction, anthology, collection, artist, professional and non-professional, is sold out. Anyone is invited to enjoy the dealers'' room on Sunday, from 10am-4pm.
"The Dealers Room is open to the public for free on Sunday," says Bryan Barrett, the WFC ''98 chairperson. "It''s our gift to Monterey for hosting the convention. Any fantasy books ever published, even 100 years old, you could probably find there. In fact, the more obscure, the more likely you''ll find it. We have about 60 tables from all over the world." Just a few participants include Tachyon Publications, Sign of the Unicorn, Nightshade Books, Dark Highway Press, and Serendipity Books.
Although fantasy and science fiction seem to have large sections in bookstores, aficionados of creative, thought-provoking or especially scary writing comprise a relatively small group of readers. "People are getting to be more comfortable with series books, those endless trilogies," Barrett says. "and publishers cater to it. People like Anne McCaffrey and Piers Anthony have built a readership on it, which is fine. But Stephen King is now so famous, he can''t even attend conventions without getting mobbed. That''s very mainstream."
While past conventions have included guests and speakers ranging from Piers Anthony and Clive Barker to Ursula K. LeGuin and Boris Vallejo, the Monterey gathering welcomes guest of honor Gahan Wilson (see interview, next page), an artist of bizarre fantasy cartoons seen in Playboy; special guest Frank M. Robinson, who collects pulp horror magazines; author Cecelia Holland, who specializes in California and historical fantasy; and toastmaster Richard A. Lupoff, who has written a range of fantasy, horror and sci-fi books.
"All the special guests are doing signings," says Barrett. "We have about 300 authors of fantasy, horror, sci-fi, mystery and other hybrids. We concentrate on literature. It''s a place for fans to meet authors and to find books and art. It''s also a great place to meet people who just like books."
Golden Ages, as imagined by the volunteer organizers of the convention, follows along several areas. In addition to the golden characteristics of California, there''s the age of 12, that golden age between childhood and adulthood, when you start to read novels and fantasy stories that capture your imagination of other worlds, and several of the panels on Friday and Saturday will consider specifically the Golden Ages of fantasy as a writing genre, which in the ''90s has fallen into something of a rut.
"It''s hard to say what fantasy in the ''90s is like," says Barrett. "There''s no real breakout film, except maybe Scream. There was a little resurgence in the late ''80s with urban fantasy, with writers like Clive Barker, and lots of Celtic and European myth influences. With fantasy, you look at real life and try to see things you wouldn''t usually but now, things that were once fantasy are now real. I think fantasy literature hasn''t really caught up yet and the imagination has to be reinvigorated."
A huge emphasis of the WFC, both in Monterey and past conventions, is fan and author interaction. Barrett explains that the traditional Mass Signing and reception on Friday night is very popular because it allows a rare chance to meet favorite writers and artists, and other members who share a love of the supernatural and fantastical in literature.
For those who want a more in-depth experience than a three-minute book autographing might allow them, convention-goers can see Richard Laymon interviewed at 11am and Cecelia Holland speak on a panel at 2pm on Friday, and Frank Robinson interviewed at noon and Gahan Wilson at 2pm on Saturday. Also scheduled on Friday and Saturday from 10am-5pm are readings and other panels on topics such as "the Mythos of Middle Earth," "This Year in Fantasy," and "Young Trollopes (Character Driven Fiction)."
The World Fantasy Conventions have been organized by fan volunteers in different areas each year. Last year, members gathered in London to celebrate the centenary of Dracula. Next year, the 25th anniversary, in Rhode Island, the theme is Voyages. The first convention in 1974 focused on the (H.P.) Lovecraft Circle. cw
World Fantasy Convention, Thursday (4-9pm) and Friday-Sunday (8am-10pm). One-day pass, $60. Book room, free on Sunday. Marriott and DoubleTree Hotels, Monterey.