As many of you may know by now, The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, has won the World Fantasy Award for best anthology. By the time it got to our category, I must admit I was wrung out and fairly incapable of saying anything coherent, so Ann made the acceptance speech (which will be posted soon enough), and I just made a few comments after that.
But there were things I had wanted to say, including that we’re incredibly humbled and grateful to receive this honor. And that one aspect of The Weird that we find incredibly important is the inclusion of many stories from around the world, not just the English-speaking world. In this sense, the selection of The Weird — along with such wins as Eric Lane for Dedalus translations and Lavie Tidhar for best novel — speaks eloquently, if insufficiently, to the “world” nature of fantastical fiction.** I also had wanted to say that The Weird represents a continuing attempt on our part to demonstrate the importance of not having just one story, or one set of stories — to not have one teller or one set of tellers. That this is crucial to not just the diversity of our fiction and the fairness of our book culture but to the diversity of our dreaming, and that the alternative is an impoverishment of the imagination. When I see that there are works I cannot read, authors I cannot access, because I can’t read in more than one language…I know there is a part of the literary world that is missing for me — something going on elsewhere that is potentially different and exciting. Something that would make the record more complete, enter into dialogue with other books in unexpected ways, create hither-to unknown connections that might result in something wonderful. And that I know, too, that beyond my own selfish need to read, to learn, to see clearly through another’s eyes, that there are so many good and unexpected and obvious reasons why the fantastical should be open to such things.
To some extent each attendee creates the kind of World Fantasy Convention that they desire by what programming they go to see, who they talk to, what books they buy. So when I say that the entire tone and mood of the World Fantasy Convention was inspirational this time around, perhaps I am not recording the full experience. But, for example, listening to Elizabeth Hand talk about how Angela Carter was not just a model to her as a writer but also on how to live a creative life as a woman, that was a brilliant moment. Seeing Elizabeth Hand and new writer Karin Tidbeck meet for the first time was another, and in some ways perhaps related. Another such moment or series of moments came in listening to the participants on the translation panel — Gilli Bar-Hillel, Yves Menard, Aliette de Bodard, and Karin Tidbeck. I felt such a sense of admiration for all of them, for grappling with this issue of what amounts to making works accessible to different audiences, to making sure that the exchange of ideas and stories continues, and grows, and is rich and various and wide. And, for some, having to express themselves in a language other than their native tongue — something I cannot do at all — and doing so eloquently and with passion…this living example of what translation means in the moment, for the audience — and the challenge inherent in it. I felt similarly at the party we helped throw in part for Tidbeck’s short story collection Jagannath, our own Cheeky Frawg’s publishing remit not much different from Weirdfictionreview.com’s, except with a wider focus to include all kinds of non-realistic fiction. Writers and editors showed up from several continents and countries and traditions, and included a diverse younger generation of writers from North America. The microcosm of voices and perspectives at the Cheeky Frawg party incapsulated, in a small way, what I want my wider literary world to be.
I know there is a lot of work to do — the fantasy community is in a transitional period — and we will continue to do some of it here on Weirdfictionreview.com, but I left the World Fantasy Convention feeling as if the future of the fantastical will be in good hands, and that it is only going to get better.
**I say insufficiently because of course there is so much more out there — a richness, a wealth, of weird fiction, of fantasy, around the world, and because a World Fantasy Award must live up to its name and to do so may have to abandon old, time-honored symbols, too. I have some thoughts on this that must wait until a later post.