I spent last weekend at 4th Street Fantasy convention, which was one of the best I’ve been to in a long time. The only trouble with 4th Street is that almost every single minute, you were faced with, for instance, the choice between a fascinating conversation about folklore in the con suite, a fascinating conversation about astronomy (with solar telescope) outside on the patio, a fascinating conversation about viewpoint in the lobby, and a fascinating panel on politics in fantasy worlds (which did not go off topic into real world politics, despite it being an election year). The topics and the people conversing kept changing, but they were always fascinating.
The thing that 4th Street always does for me, and this year especially, is to remind me how much fun it is to talk to people who are real, deep experts in their particular field. Writers tend to have an extremely broad range of knowledge, because we have to, to make stories work, but it’s not that deep expertise that you get from digging into, say, the development of Han dynasty bronzework for twenty or thirty years. It is a Good Thing for me to be occasionally reminded of just how much I don’t know.
Friday night, a bunch of us went to the Chinese restaurant around the corner – Elise Matthesen (art jeweler extraordinaire), Ellen Klages (auctioneer an author of The Green Glass Sea), two Swedish visitors who’d read one of my Swedish translations (it was really nice to find out that the traslation was good), and me. We had a yummy meal and lots of good wide-ranging talk, and of course at the end, they brought us fortune cookies. I was busy talking and waving my arms around as usual, so I ended up with the last of the fortune cookies. It read:
“You will become an accomplished writer.”
I laughed so hard I couldn’t even read it out to the rest of the table. Still, it’s good to know I’ll get there eventually…
I don’t think I’m going to try to talk about the panels, but the list of books that got recommended, by panel topic, is here: https://sites.google.com/site/4thstreet2012/ along with a couple of good quotes from various people. I forsee another bookshelf (for the new to-be-read acquisitions) in my future…
Most of what I remember clearly is conversations – there was a really good one about ways of looking at viewpoint, several what-are-you-working-on-now things that got off into various eras of history and how much most people don’t know about them, one on families and accounting, one that I overheard part of that seemed to be about color perception and anthropology. LizV and I missed two panels and the lunch break talking about query letters and synopsis (which I will be addressing more in future posts, by request).
It’s interesting to me that the more stripped-down 4th Street gets (no GOH, no dealer’s room, no art show, no media room, etc.), the more intense and interesting the discussions seem to get. It isn’t for everyone, but for me…well, there’s nothing else quite like it. And there were scores of people I wanted to talk to and didn’t get the chance – even in three days, you just can’t get around to an in-depth conversation with 100+ different people.
Ah, well – there’s always next year.