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An Unusual First WFC by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

Unlike most of today’s fantasy writers, I didn’t attend any conventions until more than ten years after my first story was published. My first World Fantasy Convention didn’t occur until twenty-five years after I sold that first story… and that was in 1997.  The 1997 WFC was held in London at the International Hotel in the Docklands, which back then was a very out of the way location, about which many attendees complained. That was the year that Game of Thrones was a nominee for best novel, and lost to Rachel Pollack’s Godmother Night, as did one of my favorite novels, Terrance Green’s Shadow of Ashland.

Part of my delay in going to World Fantasy was because I wrote and published only science fiction until The Magic of Recluce came out in 1991. Even after that it took considerable arm-twisting by my longtime editor, David Hartwell, to persuade me to go.  Once I decided to go, however, I knew I wasn’t going to London if Carol Ann wasn’t with me.  But because she was and is a Professor of Voice and Opera (and a lyric soprano), that required arranging for someone qualified to take over teaching her courses and applied voice lessons at the university.

She managed those arrangements, and I scraped together the funds, and that took some doing back then, but we managed to get there, if with a stop in Dublin for EuroCon/Octocon, a detour insisted upon by the redoubtable David Hartwell, and made more interesting by the fact that the airline couldn’t open the cargo doors of the plane to unload luggage for more than an hour.

We had no sooner checked in at both the hotel and the convention, and been badged, than someone – to this day, I have no idea who that person was – found us and insisted that Ann McCaffrey was looking for me and wanted to see me immediately.  At that time, I definitely knew who she was, but I’d never met her, nor did I know that she was going to be there, but if she wanted to see me, I wanted to be seen.

Both Carol Ann and I were escorted to where Ann was holding court – and she did hold court. By that time she was silver-haired, but still tall and erect, and a very commanding presence. She also had a long silver-topped walking stick that might as well have been a scepter. As I recall she was seated on what amounted to a high upholstered built-in wall bench, but she immediately insisted on us sitting beside her, Carol Ann on one side and me on the other.

As the first order of business, I was politely commanded to sign – to her – her copy of The Soprano Sorceress, the first book of my Spellsong Cycle, although at that time, the second volume had not been published.  She loved the book, so much that she gave it and the second book glowing blurbs.  This might possibly have been because, before she became a writer, she had been a professional soprano.

In any event, we talked briefly about books, for five, possibly ten, minutes. Then she turned to Carol Ann, and the two of them began to talk singing, Ann lamenting the fact that her singing career had been limited because she had, as she put it, a “burr” in her voice. The two of them sat there talking singing for the next half hour, to the obvious dismay of several publishers who were trying to get her attention. What made that slightly disconcerting was that one of those publishers was Tom Doherty – my own publisher.  But Ann was having none of it.  For that time, singing was far more important than writing.

We had a few short interactions later at the convention, and I did get her to sign one of her books for one of our daughters, because, especially at that time, I was not my daughter’s favorite author; Ann McCaffrey was.

And that was my first World Fantasy Convention.


L. E. Modesitt, Jr., is the author of more than 70 science fiction and fantasy novels, nearly 50 short stories, and technical and economic articles. His novels include four fantasy series, including the Saga of Recluce and the Imager Portfolio. His first story was published in Analog in 1973. His most recent book is The Mage-Fire War, and his next book is Quantum Shadows [Tor, July]. He has been a U.S. Navy pilot; a market research analyst; a real estate agent; director of political research;  legislative and staff director for U.S. Congressmen;  Director of Legislation/Congressional Relations for the U.S. EPA; and a consultant on environmental, regulatory, and communications issues.

WFC Note: We’re thrilled that Mr. Modesitt will join us in Salt Lake City for WFC 2020! Be sure to grab a copy of his latest book so you can get him to sign it for you.

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