With this year's World Fantasy Convention quickly approaching [alas, I won't be attending....], I began to reminisce about past WFCs -- and concluded that possibly my most memorable WFC was in 2000 in Corpus Christi, Texas, on October 26-29. The Author Guests of Honor were K. W. Jeter and John Crowley, the Artist GoH was Charles Vess (whose wonderful art graced the cover of the convention book, pictured at the left), and the Toastmaster was Joe R. Lansdale hisownself.
But regarding these memories, I'm specifically referring to positive memories; my worst convention -- ever! -- was the World Fantasy Con in Montreal the following year. Let's just say it put me off toward Canada and I have never returned, nor do I intend to. But don't get me started on that con....[though maybe I will blog about it one of these days....]
When I think of WFC 2000 in Corpus Christi, a number of names come immediately to mind, and all for specific reasons for which I will elaborate: Andy Duncan, Jeffrey Ford, John Picacio, Michael Moorcock, and Gordon Van Gelder.
Andy's first short story collection -- and first book -- Beluthahatchie and Other Stories, was published by Golden Gryphon Press in time for the 2000 World Fantasy Con. Though at the time I was acquiring and editing for GGP, I wasn't involved with the publication of Andy's book. Nevertheless, I was intrigued with Andy's writing and made certain to attend his reading on Friday at 2:30 pm. Andy read from his story "Lincoln in Frogmore," about President Lincoln's visit to the town just after the slaves were freed, as told in 1936 by a man who remembers the event. [The story is available online courtesy of asimovs.com.] As I listened to Andy read, I was amazed at how well he voiced a Southern drawl to portray the protagonist in the story. At the end of the reading, someone in the audience asked a question -- and when Andy responded I realized that his drawl wasn't simply for effect during the story: he really did talk that way!
By the way, at the WFC the following year, in Montreal, Andy was honored with a pair of matching bookends: a World Fantasy Award for best collection for Beluthahatchie and Other Stories, and a second award for best short fiction for "The Pottawatomie Giant." [Note: Since I did mention that the 2001 Montreal WFC was my worst con ever, I wanted to add that Andy Duncan's award wins were, in fact, one of the highlights of that convention for me.]
In addition to wanting to meet Andy Duncan, I also attended this convention with the specific intent to meet Jeffrey Ford. I was already a fan of his fiction, having read "At Reparata" and "Pansolapia" online on Event Horizon, "Malthusian's Zombie" online on SCI FICTION, and "The Fantasy Writer's Assistant" in Fantasy & Science Fiction. Jeff's reading was also on Friday, though earlier in the morning, at 10:00 am. Jeff chose to read a new story, "Creation," which hadn't as yet been sold. What can I say? "Creation" -- particularly Jeff's reading of the story -- absolutely knocked me out. After listening to that story, I knew that he was a writer to watch, and I wanted to be the editor to snag his first collection. So after Jeff's reading, I introduced myself and complimented him on "Creation," and then told him straight up that I wanted to publish his first short story collection. I won't go into further details at this point other than to say that it took a few months for the collection to come together -- Jeff's New York publisher had "first look," so we had to wait for the publisher to pass on the collection.
The Fantasy Writer's Assistant and Other Stories was published by Golden Gryphon Press in August 2002. FWA received a starred review in Publishers Weekly and was later selected as one of PW's best SF/F books of the year. And, at the 2003 World Fantasy Convention in Washington, DC, Jeffrey Ford, like Andy Duncan, was honored with a pair of matching bookends: a World Fantasy Award for best collection for The Fantasy Writer's Assistant and Other Stories and a second award for best short fiction for -- what else? -- "Creation."