The Darkening Garden: World Fantasy 2012

I hope everyone has enjoyed the material we’ve published here at over the past two weeks while Jeff, Ann, and I were away at this year’s World Fantasy Convention in Toronto. We wanted to give you something special in time for WFC 2012, since The Weird was up for Best Anthology, and also since the Guests of Honour – Elizabeth Hand, John Clute, and Richard Kirk – have such indelible ties to weird fiction and art, in either creating it or championing and critiquing it.

The truth is, WFC 2012 was an amazing time. I’ve found this sentiment echoed by many who attended the con, including C.S.E. Cooney, Amal El-Mohtar, and our own Jeff VanderMeer. All of these accounts are worth reading because something as big as WFC cannot be definitively read through the voice and perspective of only one person. It takes many individuals, with their accounts read in concert, to reach something close to the true spirit of what happened. With that, I offer my account to be collected and read among the others.

I attended many panels and interviews that piqued my curiosity and afforded me new insights into the literature and art I love. The Lost in Translation panel, featuring Karin Tidbeck, Aliette de Bodard, Yves Menard, and Gili Bar-Hillel, as moderated by Jeff VanderMeer, reminded me of the wealth of high quality fantastical literature still lurking in the non-English-speaking world. It also reminded me of the – pardon the severity of this term – oppression sometimes caused by the influence of English-language literature on non-English audiences and imaginations. This made me reconsider and reaffirm my own responsibilities as an editor – which were also reinforced, by both positive and negative examples, during a panel on antiquarian literature and its influence on more current writers and editors. I will look back fondly on Elizabeth Hand, who spoke about the profound influence Angela Carter had on her writing and her life and was then forced to choose between Carter and M. John Harrison during her Guest of Honour interview (and made the wisest choice), and John Clute, who argued during a book collection panel that the best personal collections make their own implicit arguments about what should be valued in art and literature. Weeks from now, I will still be sorting through the pictures I took of the work of Richard Kirk and others in the art showroom, wondering how I can possibly transfer any of their unique visual creativity into my own writing.

One of my personal highlights for WFC 2012 was meeting Karin Tidbeck. I had actually read Jagannath a few months before the convention, as part of some editorial work for Cheeky Frawg, and I was absolutely floored by how excellent it was. It was so great, I consistently forgot to, you know, do my job and proofread it because I kept getting sucked into the stories. So, I was delighted when asked to assist Karin during her autograph session that Friday night. The autograph session proved to be a powerful experience. WFC attendees showered a lot of love and attention on Jeff and Ann, who shared a table with Karin and I, for their work on The Weird, among other things. The enthusiastic response to Jagannath was stunning, in the best way possible. We sold out of all our sale copies at the autograph session, and we almost did the same later in the con at the launch party for Jagannath, among other books. Karin took to the convention splendidly, even drawing little cartoon doodles and dialogue balloons in the title pages of readers’ copies of her book.

The real highlight of the autograph session, though, was when Elizabeth Hand visited our table to talk to Karin and praise her for her writing and hard work (she also wrote the introduction for Jagannath). Jeff touched on this a bit in his recap of the con, but I’ll echo the same sentiment he struck: there’s something very touching in seeing an established master of storytelling shower praise on and encourage an emerging master of the same art. Moreover, Elizabeth is one of Karin’s highest role models, perhaps her highest role model, and there she was, telling Karin in so many words that she had arrived and done so in marvelous form. It’s the kind of welcome to the industry that every writer wants, and it was a privilege to see Karin receive it.

Let’s backtrack a bit to that launch party I mentioned, which turned out to be another high point in the con, for me and (I hope!) for many others as well. The launch party was a celebration of three newly released books: Jagannath, the Steampunk Revolution anthology edited by Ann VanderMeer, and Holly Phillips’s collection of stories, At the Edge of Waking. Ann and Jeff acted as hosts for the party, which took place in the hospitality suite high up on the 10th floor of the Hotel Sheraton where the con was held. My duties consisted of running supplies for the party and helping to ensure things proceeded smoothly, duties I shared with the more-than-capable Dominik Parisien, Nicole Kornher-Stace, and Genevieve Valentine, who took a vital role in steering the party as we set up everything.

The launch party was a smashing success. Authors from all three projects read short little snippets from their stories, to raucous applause from those in attendance. Jeff and Ann brought in special cakes, decorated to resemble the covers of the books being launched. Prizes were given out in a curious fashion: Jeff had a rather unique stuffed rabbit, which he would blindly toss into the audience. Whoever caught the rabbit would receive whichever gift was being offered at that moment. Also, in honor of the books being launched at the party, Ann devised a special drink, dubbed the Prime Jagannath Revolution (later re-dubbed as The Thing by Rina Weisman from Tachyon Publications), which you can make at home from the following ingredients for toasting the authors on your own time:

  • Vodka
  • Iced Tea
  • Lemon Juice
  • Raspberries and mint leaves for garnish

Of course, we can’t talk about WFC 2012 without touching on the World Fantasy Awards themselves. By now, WFR readers hopefully know the great news: The Weird won the award for Best Anthology! This marks the third WFA win for Jeff and the first for Ann. I believe I speak for everyone when I say the greatest of congratulations for the two of them.

My congratulations go out to the rest of the nominees and winners as well, many of whom are writers and editors who should be of note to WFR readers. In the Best Anthology category, Jeff and Ann ran against Conrad Williams, whose fiction has been featured on this site in the past. They also ran against, well, themselves, for The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities (to which I contributed a microstory, “Bear Gun”). The Best Novella category featured two nominees with work reprinted in The Weird, Lucius Shephard and Elizabeth Hand. John Coulthart, an artist who should be on weird readers’ radars in a big way, won for Best Artist, while Eric Lane won Special Award-Professional for publishing translated work under the Dedalus Books imprint. Other nominees included Lisa L. Hannett, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Steve Duffy, Karen Joy Fowler, and Mark Valentine, all of whom have either had work featured on WFR or been reprinted in The Weird.

All in all, WFC 2012 was a wonderful experience: for myself, for Jeff and Ann, for all of the professionals I met and befriended, and for readers of weird fiction and international fantastic fiction. You can find a compilation of all the WFC-centric material we published over the past two weeks at the end of this post (plus our Halloween goodies), but before that, I just want to say this: we are living in a potentially special time for weird, non-classifiable fiction from many talented writers, editors and publishers from around the world. It would be tempting to see the WFA for The Weird as a crowning achievement, and it certainly is, for all of the work Jeff and Ann did in assembling the anthology and the work of all the writers, editors, and publishers that went into its eventual assemblage. What it is not is a capstone, because there is still potential for growth. There are more discoveries yet to be had, and more voices yet to be heard. It’s up to us to make the conscious decision to seek these out and celebrate them, to set the standards we want to see in years to come. Because of my experiences at WFC 2012, I feel emboldened to help do this in my work with WFR and Cheeky Frawg, and I encountered many readers and writers inspired to do the same over the course of WFC, too many of them to briefly list here, though I would love to. If this is the kind of fiction and art we want to see more of in the world, then it’s up to us to search for it, create it, and above all promote it.

10 Days of Clute

Strange Stories
Attempted Rescue
Serpent’s Egg

Other WFC Material

101 Weird Writers Essay on Elizabeth Hand and “The Boy in the Tree,” by Elwin Cotman
Richard Kirk Art Gallery

Halloween Specials

Xebico,” by Stephen Graham Jones
“The Night Wire,” by H.F. Arnold