by Sheila M. Merritt

World Fantasy Convention 2011 took place in San Diego on October 26th thru 30th. While the “big draw” was Neil Gaiman, renowned writer and splendid raconteur, there are other memories which merit sharing. In addition to Gaiman, Jo Fletcher was also a guest of honor. Jo is a much esteemed editor, and now her name is synonymous with Quercus Publishing’s science fiction, fantasy and horror imprint. What must be said in bold letters about this remarkable woman is: SHE IS PASSIONATE ABOUT GENRE FICTION. Interviewer Stephen Jones let the lady’s infectious enthusiasm reign. If someone has doubts about embracing his or her tribe, Ms. Fletcher would strongly urge that person to do so. She views writers, readers, editors, and publishers as a community; each element dependent on the other: Interaction, therefore, is essential. Jo embodies the spirit of World Fantasy Convention.

This year’s theme, perhaps reflecting the con’s location, was “Sailing the Seas of Imagination.” For horror fans, this of course, leads to thoughts of H.P. Lovecraft and William Hope Hodgson. There were panels addressing each author: “Lovecraft and the Horrors of the Sea,” and “William Hope Hodgson’s Nautical Horrors.” The Lovecraft panel consisted of a highly knowledgeable quartet: S.T. Joshi, Cody Goodfellow, Christopher Farnsworth, and Mason Bundschuh. Greg Bear, Jeremy Lassen, Darrell Schweitzer, and Laurie Tom were the team talking tentacles in regard to Hodgson’s literary output. Both panels were intelligent yet infused with humor; jokes about calamari, and the consequences of dining at a seafood restaurant with Hodgson/Lovecraft.

Lovecraft again came into play in a reading by my former Horrorstruck colleague Thomas Monteleone. Tom’s story of a Broadway musical concerning H.P. is hilarious, and the author read it with unbridled abandon.

Walking around the convention center’s foyer, led to a couple of convivial encounters. When I ran into husband and wife writers Will Shetterly and Emma Bull during Saturday’s events, Emma commented on my skulls scarf, then proceeded to show me her skeleton bone-bedecked hosiery and had Will hike up his pants to reveal socks decorated with skulls. On another occasion, I asked Lisa Morton about the rewards of working in the film industry as opposed to literary endeavors. She said that film work facilitates her writing and editing books; being a script doctor is a day job that supports her true love.

Back to panels, “Retelling Old Stories: The New Fairy Tales” produced some boisterous exchanges between Graham Joyce and John Connolly. Jessica George had a very personal interpretation on the origin of the changeling tale: postpartum depression. Valerie Frankel and Pat Murphy rounded out this fun-filled yet thought-provoking panel. Editors had their day in “The Year in Fantasy,” in which panelists Ellen Datlow, Jo Fletcher, Paula Guran, David Hartwell, and Jonathan F. Strahan looked back on works that impressed them. Some of the novels singled out were: The Silent Land by Graham Joyce, Dark Matter by Michelle Paver, The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan, Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch, Aloha From Hell by Richard Kadrey, and A Matter of Blood by Sarah Pinborough. Fletcher stated that a good number of horror titles are being published by large publishing houses – the books are not, however, being market as “horror.” Time constraints infringed on the discussion of short fiction, but this was a most informative panel, indeed.

More anecdotes: SF author and scientist Gregory Benford taking my arm and escorting me around the dealers’ room; Scott Edelman helping me get my camera in working order; recalling “the good ol’ days” with Tom Monteleone; my telling a surprised Charlaine Harris that Tarte Cosmetics had True Blood related products (and then showing her my eyelids.)

As previously indicated, Neil Gaiman was the star of the show. And he shined brilliantly in an interview smoothly conducted by Leslie Klinger. Klinger is providing the annotation for a Sandman compilation and, during the Q&A, Gaiman tantalizingly alluded to the possibility of more Sandman graphic novels in the near future. After the amicable exchange between the two delightful gentlemen concluded, Gaiman was swamped by autograph seekers; many of whom were departing that evening or early the next morning, seizing the last chance to get a signature from the fantasy fiction icon.

My regrets: Not crossing paths with F. Paul Wilson; not getting a decent photo of any of the panels; not being able to chat with Graham Joyce, John Connolly, and far too many others to mention. The experience of The World Fantasy Convention 2011 reaffirmed my faith in genre fiction. To end on the same note on which I began: Jo Fletcher is right about the importance of embracing one’s tribe.

Editor’s Note: Here are some photographs from this year’s event, courtesy of Sheila: World Fantasy Convention 2011

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