World Fantasy Convention - 2001
Report by John Berlyne

Hotel Delta Centre-Ville, Montreal, Canada. 1st-4th November 2001. 

There is a healthy and thriving convention scene over here in the UK but as with movies, hamburgers and theme parks there are just some things that they do better "over there". I've nothing at all against the UK conventions I have attended, but somehow they don't seem to be the grand, spacious events I've experienced in North America. 

This year's World Fantasy Convention (the first I have attended) would seem to confirm this theory. Montreal is certainly further up the grandeur scale than Hinckley!! (where the last UK Eastercon was held.) Wide boulevards busy with big trucks and lined with gleaming skyscrapers but with a very French élégance pervading all. ...Continued below

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2001 World Fantasy Award Winners.
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1) DECLARE editor Jennifer Brehl accepts homage from her winning author. 2) WFA nominee Guy Gavriel Kay at the autograph party 3) Ellen Datlow and Joe and Gaye Haldeman relax in the bar. 4) China Mieville @autograph party
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1) Earthlight's Darren Nash and Guy Gavriel Kay 2) China signs for David Hartwell  3) Toastmaster Charles de lint at the autograph party 4) Roc's Laura Ann Gilman with James A Hartley and Darren Nash
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1) Andy Duncan accepts the first of his two World Fantasy awards. 2) David Hartwell gets the 2001 awards underway. 3) Tim Powers makes his acceptance speech. 4) Bill Sheehan accepts his award for "At The Foot Of The Story Tree: An Inquiry into the Fiction of Peter Straub", published by Subterranean Press.
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1) Horror anthologist Steve Jones celebrates the joys of being alive. (He wows 'em at parties!) 2) Tim Powers lends them his ears. 3) British author and WFA judge Graham Joyce @ autograph party 4) Mandy Slater @ autograph party 5) Sfsite's Roger Turner with author Jeffrey Ford.
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1) GOH Fred Saberhagen signs @ the autograph party. 2) SFRevu's Damnalien's columnist Steven Sawicki. 3) James Stoddard (author of The High House) @ autograph party 4) Tim Powers @ autograph party 5) Winners and acceptors celbrate.

(Continued from above...)   The con was held in the Delta Centre-Ville - a tall, dark structure with panoramic (at least up on the 27th floor where I was) views over the city. No views to be had during the con itself though which took place down on one of the subterranean levels. Two spacious panel rooms (which later connected to host the banquet) held the bulk of the official program with an art room and a dealers room close by. I was saddened by the modest number of dealers present but given the current world climate and the traumas of getting their stock through customs, perhaps one shouldn't be surprised at some not wanting to attend.

With regard to the official program, well... I am sure it was, on the most part, rather good. Though attendance was down on previous years (again rather obviously due to recent events) there were panels on virtually every aspect of the business, from creative matters through to practical ones. I confess though, that during the entire four days, I only attended two panels and found both to be reasonably flat and uninspiring (and for that very reason, I won't reveal which they were!). Conversely, it was the unofficial program that attracted me - the one that took place in the bar!

Now please don't misunderstand me. I am not suggested that either myself or the majority of professionals in this business cannot enjoy themselves without a drink or two but certainly it was the bar that most people seemed to gravitate towards. Consequently it was in the bar that one heard the best stories, caught the most interesting gossip and, I have no doubt, did the most effective business. On which panel could you hear Tim Powers tell stories of his late night escapades with Philip K. Dick? Or listen to Horror anthologist Steve Jones passionately enthuse about his Robert E. Howard collection? Or witness Earthlight editor John Jarrold and his writer Guy Gavriel Kay quoting Shakespeare as if their very lives depended on it - not to mention the show tunes that followed? Certainly, this was where the most fun was to be had and it was easily well worth the headache I am still suffering from a week later!

There was, in spite of many people fearful of traveling right now, an impressive array of talent present in Montreal. Often feeling isolated from the US writers back in the UK, I found the mass autograph party was like the night of a thousand stars. There was though, an equally impressive British contingent present, not least wunderkind China Miéville, who arriving slightly late at the signing party found himself swamped by autograph hunters and felt that he only just made it out in one piece! Other notable British attendees (other than my good self) included editors Jo Fletcher (Gollancz), Simon Taylor (Transworld/Bantam), Peter Crowther (PS Publishing), John Jarrold (Earthlight), Earthlight's marketing manager Darren Nash, horror anthologist Steve Jones, writers Graham Joyce, James A Hartley, China Mieville, Mandy Slater, Chaz Brenchley and academic critic and writer Farah Mendlesohn. Apologies to anyone I might have forgotten - especially if they bought me a drink!

The banquet was an interesting affair - depending on which table you were on I guess. At $50 a throw, in spite of the choice on hand, it was the most expensive and disappointing meal I had during my entire time in Canada but that not withstanding, having not had the privilege of attending such an event before, I found the whole thing wonderful and quite fascinating. The guest of honor speeches were, for the most part, entertaining and mercifully brief but it was clear that most people present (including, I should think, the guests of honor themselves) were really awaiting the presentations. When David Hartwell lifted the white blanket that had been covering the statuettes, the tension in the room definitely ratcheted up a notch or two.

This year, I understand there was some controversy and argument amongst the judges over the award for best novel. Certainly, reading the required number of publications is no mean task and given the short list I would certainly have had some trouble coming to a decision.

However this year a row ensued that resulted in Diana Wynne Jones resigning from the judges panel and doing so quite vocally. Rumors abound as to the details behind this hoo-haa and far be for me to add to the controversy. In the end though, it seems that the end result was far from unpopular. Tim Powers, winning the award for the second time in his career, was truly overjoyed at the accolade. He gave a typically witty and self-effacing speech which was very warmly received by the audience. The other winner, Sean Stewart, was not present.

I heard it said whilst I was there that this WFC was nowhere near as good as some previous ones. I guess such comparisons are inevitable and that no matter how good the year in question may be, nostalgia will always color the memories of some attendees. For myself, I have no frame of reference. As far as I am concerned it was the best WFC I've ever been to. If I make it to Minneapolis next year, it'll be interesting to see how it measures up. In any case, I hope to see you there!

jberlyne@easynet.co.uk

© 2001 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu