UPDATE: Additional photos from the convention have been added to this post 11/22/19. See below in the gallery.
World Fantasy 2019: A Con Report
By Rebecca Inch-Partridge
As soon as I learned that World Fantasy was going to be in Los Angeles this year, I bought my membership. There was no way I’d miss a convention in my state with so many experts in my industry. However, recovering from my spinal surgery took longer than expected, and the doctor wasn’t going to clear me to go until my daughter-in-law volunteered to be my chauffer and assistant.
My son had introduced her to the world of fandom by bringing her to our local convention, BayCon, in 2016. She’d experienced her first World Con at San Jose last year. On the drive down from Sacramento, she asked how World Fantasy differs from World Con. I explained that it is much smaller. World Con has over 5,000 attendees; BayCon has around 1,500; while World Fantasy caps membership at 950.
It’s also more like a writers conference for speculative authors. The majority of attendees are writers like myself, hoping to network with fellow authors, editors, and agents. “It lacks the fan track, cosplay, and gaming you’re used to,” I told her, hoping she wouldn’t be too disappointed. I needn’t have worried. It turned out the more intimate nature of the convention made it easier for a first timer to socialize.
Next she inquired why I was going to a Fantasy Con when I am a science fiction author–especially one with the theme Fantasy Noir. That’s a subgenre definitely outside my wheelhouse. I’d asked the same question the first time a friend invited me to World Fantasy. The truth is there’s enough crossover that it’s a great convention for speculative writers of all subgenres. Tor was there along with a few agents who represent YA science fiction, which is what I write so it made sense for me to go.
Despite having been to two World Fantasy Cons, this time was different for me. I had a novel to pitch. That adds a lot of pressure. This was also my first time acting as an ambassador for Amazing Stories Magazine. Loaded with swag and free sample issues, we entered the hotel ready to experience the joy of giving. We picked up our convention badges and received a wonderful surprise. I’d forgotten about the free bag of books!
We were like kids at Christmas going through our bags. Best of all, the author of the book my daughter-in-law was most excited about would be at the mass autographing. This turned out to be one of the highlights of the convention for her. Cynthea Masson’s contagious excitement and uber friendliness thrilled my daughter-in-law. It reminded me of how I’d felt meeting some of my favorite authors at my first convention twenty years ago. It also reminded me what a wonderful community fandom is.
For me, highlights included:
- Spreading the word about Amazing Stories Magazine. Let’s face it, giving away free stuff is fun! Being the magazine’s ambassador also gave me an excuse to approach well established authors as well as emerging stars and suggest they submit a story. This afforded me the opportunity to clarify what kind of stories we are looking for. Classic or “Golden Age” does not mean strictly space opera. The convention had a lot of awesome authors to recruit, and I can’t wait to see what kind of stories they submit!
- The extremely high level of professionalism of the panelists. These were experts in the field who knew the subject matter they were there to discuss. Not once did I hear, “Well, I don’t really know anything about XYZ. I have no idea why I’m on this panel.” Then again, we are talking about people like Beth Meacham, Patrick Nielsen-Hayden, and Ellen Datlow. I learned something new at every panel I attended, even ones that I’ve been on before.
- The fantastic socials. The intimate nature of the con meant you could actually have conversations with Guests of Honor, panelists, staff members, and fellow attendees. I reconnected with lots of old con friends and made a bunch of new ones. I especially enjoyed meeting one of our Amazing Stories authors, Rosemary Claire Smith. Her story, “Conversation of Mismatched Shoes,” is one of my favorites, so it was nice to put a face to the name.
- Open mics and readings. There were signups for scary story readings on Halloween and poetry reading on Friday. I did them both and thoroughly enjoyed sharing my work and listening to some great writers share theirs. The Broad Universe rapid fire reading was on Saturday, and as a member I got to read along with several other female science fiction writers. What an honor, reading to an audience at a World Fantasy Con.
To sum up. Yes, it’s a little pricy for a science fiction convention. But when compared to writer’s conferences, it’s very reasonable. For authors, or aspiring authors, of speculative fiction this is a great place to learn about the craft and network.
The World Fantasy Convention is hosted by the World Fantasy Convention, an unincorporated literary society.
WFC 2019 was held from October 31st to November 3rd, 2019, at the Mariott Los Angels Airport Hotel in Los Angeles, California, with the theme “Fantasy Noir”. Guests of the convention included Tad Williams, Reiko Murakami, Sheree Renée Thomas, Margo Lanagan, Beth Meacham, Chris McGrath (who was unable to attend) and Toastmaster Robert Silverberg.
Chairs for the convention were Sheri Benoun and Bruce Farr
Winners of the 2019 World Fantasy Awards:
2019 Lifetime Achievement Awards
- Witchmark by C. L. Polk (Tor.com)
- “The Privilege of the Happy Ending” by Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, Aug. 2018)
- “Ten Deals with the Indigo Snake” by Mel Kassel (Lightspeed, October 2018)
- “Like a River Loves the Sky” by Emma Törzs (Uncanny Magazine, March-April 2018)
- Worlds Seen in Passing: Ten Years of Tor.com Short Fiction, edited by Irene Gallo (Tor.com)
- The Tangled Lands, by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell (Saga Press/Head of Zeus UK)
- Rovina Cai
Special Award – Professional
- Huw Lewis-Jones for The Writer’s Map: An Atlas of Imaginary Lands (University of Chicago Press)
Special Award – Non-Professional
- Scott H. Andrews, for Beneath Ceaseless Skies: Literary Adventure Fantasy
Judges: Nancy Holder, Kathleen Jennings, Garry Douglas Kilworth, Stephen Graham Jones, and Tod McCoy
World Fantasy Convention 2020 will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah, on October 29th to November 1st, 2020
Guests include Tracy and Laura Hickman, Toastmasters, Anne Groell. Editor Guest of Honor, Stephen Gallagher, Author Guest of Honor, David Cherry. Artist Guest of Honor, C.J. Cherryh, Author Special Guest, and Cindy Pon, Author Special Guest.