Chris Roberson is one of my most favorite people in the world. Not only is he an incredibly talented writer of novels and short fiction, and the publisher of MonkeyBrain Books (and isn’t that enough really?), he’s also the type of person who can go on at length about political ideologies or some obscure theory of physics as well as comfortably talk about The Mighty Men and Monster Maker.
So what I’m saying is that Chris is one smart cat. And he has a knack for saying things in such a clear, concise way that they sound like irrefutable facts. One thing I’ve heard Chris say time and again is: “World Fantasy is the hub around which my year turns.” If you get near Chris during World Fantasy, you’ll hear him say this.
He often follows this up with, “I get more work done in these four days than I do the remaining 361 of the year.” I have to agree with him. During the course of an average World Fantasy, I get enough projects moving forward to give me work until the next World Fantasy.
In addition to re-connecting with friends I see about once a year, I met countless new people (click through for my pseudo convention report), and got momentum rolling on three anthology concepts (one completely new) which will keep me busy until next year’s World Fantasy at least. And that’s not mentioning the interest people showed in Electric Velocipede and its publishing schedule. I suppose being up for several awards shines the spotlight on you, eh? Now, I didn’t win either of the awards I was nominated for, but one of the stories I edited last year did win for Best Short Fiction!
My first World Fantasy was in 1994 in New Orleans. I knew from that moment on that I was getting into the right field. I went with my then mentor, Tor editor James Frenkel, and met an extraordinary amount of writers and artists whom I admired. This included writers such as Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Roger Zelazny, Terry Goodkind (whose first book had yet to come out), and many more. Of course, it didn’t hurt that we were in the French Quarter on Halloween weekend. Another important aspect of World Fantasy is that it tends to be in places that have good places to eat. Since then, I’ve been to World Fantasy Conventions in 1996, 2003, and every one since 2005.
But what does that matter to you?
The strange thing about World Fantasy is that it’s predominantly professionals. Meaning, a high percentage of the attendees are writers, artists, editors, agents, etc. But at the same time, the convention typically has somewhere between 700 and 1,000 members (typically sitting around a magic number of 850). Which means the convention is small enough that if you want to hang out with a writer you admire, you’ll be able to. And there’s always editors and agents there.* The atmosphere is very relaxed at World Fantasy, and people are very approachable.
It’s an excellent place for people new to the field, or trying to break into the field, to come to and market themselves. The programming is usually pretty interesting, and with an above-average percentage of professionals, you’ll get to hear some interesting thoughts on the subject at hand. If you’re serious about becoming a part of the speculative fiction field, this is the convention to come to.
Of course, being the World Fantasy Convention, the content is a light on the science fiction end of things. So if you’re big into science fiction, this might not be the right fit for you. The weekend can also be kind of pricey, with memberships being typically around $125 and hotel rooms averaging $130 - $150/night. It’s always somewhere near Halloween weekend, and often happens during Halloween like this year. Like Worldcon, the convention is in a new place every year. Next year is San Jose, CA and then Columbus, OH.
I plan on being at both of them, ’cause otherwise I don’t know what I’ll be doing the rest of the year.
* I’ll lose my secret publishing cabal card if I recommend you approach editors and agents with projects at World Fantasy, but if they’re there, go ahead and talk to them. However, try to talk about something else first, don’t start your conversation with “I have a book for you” maybe try the John Picacio method of “How’s your weekend going, eat anywhere fun?” Also, know at least ONE of their writers you can talk to them about.