It's rather amusing that as I'm writing this an episode of Castle set at a science-fiction convention is playing in the background, though the Castle episode has a ton of costumes while World Fantasy, the convention I was just at, had almost none.
That's not a bad thing, because from what I saw, World Fantasy is a writer (both established and up and coming) and writing focused convention as opposed to a media or fan-focused one. While fans seemed welcome to come, the programming wasn't designed with them in mind. There were only two panel tracks that ran simultaneously and all the panels were writing and publishing focused. Aside from the panels there were readings, an art auction, and parties galore. So it was more about the networking opportunities rather than the fan-boy craziness.
If World Fantasy had been my first convention I would have felt terribly out of place. Thankfully, it wasn't. I had a blast catching up with friends I only get to see at cons, such as the lovely Marie Bilodeau, the powerful-looking Derek Kunsken, and the fairy-like Leah Petersen. Honestly, hanging out with great people and having awesome, intelligent conversations about writing would have been enough for me, but there were also free books.
Yes, I said free. I easily walked away at the end of the con with a bag full of books, for free, that covered if not exceeded the cost of my con-pass. And not books from authors nobody has ever heard of either. There are books from George R.R. Martin and Mercedes Lackey sitting in my overstuffed bag right now.
The other great free thing at the con was the food in the con-suite. It's not unusual for there to be some munchies lying around, but the World Fantasy organizers had full-on family style buffet meals lying about. I bought maybe three meals the entire four days of the con, and those only because I wanted to hang out with new and old friends.
And yes, I said four days. This was the longest con I've ever been at and by the end I felt it. Saturday felt a lot like Sunday, and the time change right at the end didn't help ease the confusion at all. Having that extra day helped though, as due to Sandy huffing and puffing and nailing the East Coast, not everyone was able to make it on time. At least one author a friend really wanted to meet wasn't able to come due to cancelled flights, and another author showed up halfway through a panel since she'd arrived at 1:30 the night before and had understandably slept in. Still, the list of people who made it was impressive.
I had the opportunity to raise my Writing Excuses meet list to three since Marie Robinette Kowal was at the con. I picked up both her Jane Austen-esque books and has them signed and had the chance to tell her how much I appreciate the work she and her fellows do on their podcast. I also got to meet Brandon Sanderson for a second time, get a couple books signed, and found out that he and Mary and some guests had recorded a few podcasts that very day in Mary's hotel room. So, yeah for Writing Excuses on Canadian soil. Now if they'd just get all four of them together at a con in Ontario recording a public session...
The only element of the con that was disturbing at all I heard second-hand and did not actually witness. A friend who attended the awards banquet posted that there was a definite gap between the "established" authors and the fans and wanna-be authors. After hearing this, I was glad I decided to skip the banquet. I don't need to be reminded that I'm not there, yet, and it seems to be that this was a wasted opportunity to give the fans and the guys and gals on the lower end of the writing food-chain a chance to interact with those who've "made it".
One of the best experiences I had was at Con-cept a few years ago where I got to sit near Tad Williams and talk shop. It was a lovely experience chatting with Tad and his wife Deborah Beale. That, and meeting Marie Bilodeau, were the highlights of the con for me. I do hope that World Fantasy will try and find a way to better integrate the banquet seating arrangements in the future. Over four days there are plenty of opportunities to hang out with friends, but only so many times a person will get to hang out with the likes of Patrick Rothfuss or Mercedes Lackey.
So the only really negative thing about the con I ended up missing, meaning my experience was well into the positive. Much like Fan Expo, I would go again but as a professional or if it was within a reasonable driving distance.