When my first novel, Transformation, was published in August 2000 and I discovered that the sky did not open and reveal a whole new dimension of existence, I asked my agent, “What do I do now?”
“First, put up a website,” she said.
“And you could start going to conventions.”
Visions of Galaxy Quest!
In horror, I stammered, “What would I do there?” I’m a mom…from Colorado. I drive my kids to band. To the orthodontist.” I’m an introvert, for god’s sake!
“No, no, no,” she said, ever calm. “It’s not what you think.” She proceeded to speak of readers eager to discover new authors…of reviewers with bulletin boards (!!)…of WorldCon… World Fantasy…panel discussions…other writers. Terrifying.
“No costume necessary,” and, “it’s like a family reunion.”
OK. That made a bit more sense.
I survived Chicago WorldCon 2000. I did three easy panels. Met another first time author who felt as intimidated and fish-out-of-water as I did. Spent a lot of time wandering around pondering the mystery of Fandom. Got through my first autographing—me and my six-week-old mass-market paperback sharing a table with Robert Sawyer, Kevin Anderson, and Frederic Pohl. But it didn’t feel like family. Willing to try one more con, I ventured to Corpus Christi for the World Fantasy Convention.
I was instantly leery. Neither my agent, my editor, nor my one convention friend was to be there…and it quickly seemed that everyone else already knew each other. There wasn’t much programming, so what was I to do for three days? As I trudged away from the registration line with an enormous bag of books, I spotted a woman in the registration line, who looked a lot like someone I had met at a writers conference in Denver. Mustering my courage, I approached and asked, “Aren’t you Laurey from Denver?”
Why yes, she was. As soon as she had her own ponderous bag of books, she introduced me to several friends she knew from previous World Fantasy conventions—a reunion of sorts. They whisked me away into glorious barcon and weekend of talking about books and writing, experiences and trivia. One of these new friends dragged me around the Friday night mass autographing and insisted that I actually walk up to Ellen Kushner and tell her what I had just said about Thomas the Rhymer. A true fangirl moment. I did not implode.
Since that that first welcoming weekend, I’ve only missed three WFCs. When asked to provide a favorite memory for this post, I found too many to count.
In Montreal, the Corpus Christicadre put on the first of a series of room parties where our growing group of acquaintances read to each other the works of our hearts. And a young woman came up to me after a panel and said those magic words, “I’ve not read your books, but could I buy you a cup of coffee? I’d really like to talk.” She was assimilated.
The November cold of Minneapolis was warmed with group breakfasts at Hell’s Kitchen. And when I had my first of many readings that were slightly too long for my time slot – the entire audience followed me into the hall like goslings after Mother Goose, and sat on the floor while I finished the reading.
In Washington DC, we got ferried to our now traditional room party in a limo. And every time we sat down together there was someone new, people who began as nervous newbies and have since built sturdy careers. People who’ve found success where they didn’t expect. Others who write and strive for the joy of the work.
In beautifully warm Tempe, I learned that every person at WFC had a favorite cold remedy, from special cough drops to magically appearing hot toddies to generously laid on healing hands. And there a group of my faithful readers showed up to make sure I met the incomparable Janny Wurts. In Austin, there was the special reading for a group of fans in front of a giant fish tank. In Saratoga Springs, it can be very difficult—and hilarious—to find a grilled cheese sandwich for your Canadian roommates at midnight.
San Jose provided the best bar staff in the world, and the grand generosity of friends willing to hold the best tables, so you can pick up the conversation right where you left off.
Columbus. Another very cool hotel for conversation, and the task of persuading one of the coolest dudes I know that if I could do the fangirl moment, he could too. Thus he sat down with a writing idol and since that night the con he runs has had a string of the most fantastic Guests of Honor in convention land.
Then there was San Diego, and yet another new friend from the northlands left multiple groups of convention goers breathless from laughter with her readings from an Icelandic saga of truly epic charm.
And never ever will I forget the Ladies’ Auxiliary Bar. Here’s looking at you Meg, Laura, and Brenda!
Always throughout were opportunities to hear erudite discussions—Connie Willis, Gene Wolfe, and Steven Donaldson talking about characters?—and to meet with editors, agents, new authors, and authors whose work you know you should have read but haven’t.
My WFC stories are certainly different from yours. Kind of mundane. Kind of goofy. Kind of comfortable. But then, this is family. My World Fantasy family. My agent was so right.
I’m looking forward to a grand reunion in Salt Lake City!
Carol Berg has lived a large portion of her life in Middle Earth, Camelot, Wonderland, Jim Chee's New Mexico, Victorian London, Cold War Berlin, the Welsh borderlands, River Heights...you get the drift. While studying mathematics at Rice University, Carol carved out a place for studies in English, History of Art, and reading, reading, reading. After another degree in computer science and well into a career as a software engineer, Carol took up a hobby of writing her own fiction. After fifteen epic fantasy novels, a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, and multiple Colorado Book Awards, Carol now writes fantasy adventure as her doppelganger Cate Glass.