“Sailing the Seas of Imagination” is the theme of World Fantasy Convention 2011 here in sunny, temperate San Diego, so you don’t go too long without someone issuing an “Arrrh!” or a panel about what happens under the sea. It’s a great group of people: fans, writers, critics, all people who read with passion and heart. And I’m here and get to blog about it!
Once registered for the convention, I trudged directly over to pick up my goodie bag. World Fantasy is famous for these bags: sturdy canvas totes jammed with enough reading material to last at least a month. I returned a number of the books to the Book Swap table because I already owned them, but I’ve still got 10 new books (and I’ve already tasted A Darkness Forged in Fire by Chris Evans, which I’ve been eyeing literally for years; its first sentence, “Mountains shouldn’t scream, but this one did” being enough to catch me and haul me in, to keep the sea metaphors going).
My next steps took me to the dealers’ room, which had been singing like a siren from the moment I entered the Convention Center at the Town & Country Resort. I had a wonderful time talking to publishers, especially small press publishers like Night Shade Books, which is highlighting its new authors at this convention; EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, which is offering books by Canadian authors as well as some wonderful fantastical anthologies of stories about Sherlock Holmes; and Underland Press, publisher of the very creepy — but perfect for Halloween — The Pilo Family Circus by Will Elliott (among other great books). There are plenty of antiquarian dealers here, too, with gorgeous copies of much-loved titles and first editions that are as scarce as can be. I was very tempted by a first edition of William Hope Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland, but, alas, I am not a trust fund baby, and so could only drool. Not on the book, mind you!
The opening ceremonies were hosted by Connie Willis, who is truly a pro at being a toastmaster. She introduced the guests of honor: Parke Godwin, Shawna McCarthy, Ruth Sanderson and Neil Gaiman, with a shout-out to guest of honor Jo Fletcher, who was detained by weather conditions in the east. Willis also paid tribute to the lifetime achievement winners, Peter S. Beagle (who is here, and will be giving several readings) and Angelica Gorodischer.
Immediately following the opening ceremonies, there was a special presentation by the San Diego Zoo — a boon for anyone attempting to write about an alien species. It seems we have some pretty interesting aliens among us, even though all of them are endangered. I hope our species has learned enough so that we don’t kill off aliens the way we’ve killed off our own lovely animals. A great horned owl was the first to appear: a completely silent flyer that weighs only two pounds, she was beautiful. The three-banded armadillo
looked like some sort of sports equipment, all rolled up into a ball, the only animal that can do that. I’d at least heard of these animals, but the next one stumped me: a while-bellied tree pangolin, a sort of anteater with scales, which the zoo describes as “an artichoke with a long tail” or “a pinecone with legs” (shown here). A lovely, interesting creature. A porcupine was coaxed from his carrier next; no one dared pick him up, not with those quills! A lesser anteater, a native treedweller of South America, climbed straight down a tree when encouraged by some honey, his favorite dessert. The African serval was too shy to show herself off to the crowd, but then, she’s a cat, and cats know how to keep to themselves even when surrounded by people. Finally, the zookeepers showed us a bearcat, which is neither a bear nor a cat, but a binturong, a beautiful mammal from Southeast Asia. It was a great start to what promises to be a great convention!
You lucky thing — I wish I was there with you, Terry!
Thanks for the report. I look forward to hearing about Day 2!
I am so glad you are blogging this! The zoo connection is a brilliant world-building resource/