Monday, November 06, 2006

World Fantasy Convention: Day 1: Thursday

Thursday was day 1 of the World Fantasy Convention. This year it's in Austin, so I am attending it even though I'm not a big fan of fantasy. Who knows, maybe I could be convinced otherwise. I've heard ome intimidating things about WFC, such as that it's a professional convention, whose goal is to bring writers, agents and editors together to make book deals, and they don't want lowly fans to be cluttering the halls. But they do take the fans' money and sell them memberships, so I guess we are welcome at least in that way.

Thursday night there was only one discussion panel I wanted to go to, so I mostly hung out at the bar and in the ConSuite. This wasn't any different than it is at a usual, "fan-friendly" convention. The pros drink as heartily as us fans. At the ConSuite I ran into a family of very friendly writers -- a woman, her husband, and their 15-year-old son (the latter too had sold SF stories professionally!) -- and had an interesting chat with them. The woman was born and grew up in Portugal (but has lived more than 20 years in the US) is a SF/F writer. She writes in English. She has published a few books. So, it was very encouraging to know that it's not unheard of for a non-native English speaker to successfully write in English. Nabokov wasn't the only one, apparently. The woman said she knew several more SF/F authors in that category.

Authors Leah Bobet, Elizabeth Bear, and Amanda Downum at the World Fantasy Convention. More pictures from WFC can be found in my photo gallery

On the other hand, being a non-native speaker sometimes actually helps to undestand the language, as is evident from a funny fact the guy mentioned. Whenever he calls customer service or some such thing where he's supposed to give his name over the phone, the customer service reps often misinterpret his last name. Especially if the rep sounds like he/she may be a Southerner. His last name is Hoyt, and people (especially Southerners) universally hear it as White. He always has to spell it out very carefully, and even then they are sometimes not convinced it's not White.

As a non-native English speaker, I suspect that spelling versus pronunciation are mapped out differently in my brain than in the brain of a native English speaker. For me there is very little overlap between Hoyt and White, so I would never confuse the two.

So far the World Fantasy Convention seems like any other convention, only more humane. There are no more than 2 discussion panels going on at the same time, and there are breaks for lunch and dinner! This makes convention experience less taxing. Also, people here are a little better looking. :-) (Maybe it's an infusion of literary agents from glamorous places like New York that's raising the looks quotient of the convention. :-)) The difference is rather subtle, though. The people are a little more dressed up than in a typical convention. Instead of Fannish Drab, the color scale runs towards Gothy Black.

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