Thursday, March 24, 2011


Last week, as usual in the middle of March each year, I attended the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in Orlando. What a treat to leave Maryland for several days of sunny weather in the 70s and 80s. The hotel's buffet luncheons for us were noticeably better than in the past two years, as many people commented. I hope that trend continues. For the first time, the Saturday banquet consisted of plated dinners instead of a buffet, about which I felt very dubious. Fortunately, the meal was pretty good (except for the dessert, the most boring imaginable, bread pudding). In a more welcome innovation. the online program included abstracts of the papers to be delivered, a big help in deciding what sessions to attend.

The guest of honor was Connie Willis, whose time travel fiction I love. Since the conference had the theme of "The Fantastic Ridiculous," she gave a very witty talk at one of the luncheons. Unfortunately, I missed hearing her in Wednesday's opening panel on romantic comedy, because the airline switched my flight from 12:30 to 5 in the afternoon! (What's up with THAT? Easy to guess—they deleted the midday flights to save money on airplanes and staff. But, still, it feels like getting cheated out of what one has paid for.)

I listened to Jean Lorrah (Jacqueline's co-author) read a twenty-minute film script and heard thrilling news from her about the release of new Sime-Gen fiction in the near future (from Wildside Press), including her novel TO KISS OR TO KILL. In the session I participated in, I presented an essay on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER compared to the vampire anime series BLOOD+.

The scholar guest of honor delivered a luncheon talk about racial issues in the movie DISTRICT 9 but first discussed customs of women among the Igbo people of Nigeria. In Igbo traditional society women had little or no power as individuals but considerable collective power as a group. If a man committed some transgression such as beating his wife or men as a group abused their authority, the women would refuse to cook, clean, etc.; if the men didn't shape up, the women progressed to following them around, taunting and satirizing them or sometimes threatening mock violence. This practice was called "sitting on the men." During the period of British colonialism, a "women's war" occurred when a rumor started that the English were planning to tax women, contrary to traditional Igbo custom. The English mistook the women's ritual attacks for real ones and retaliated with lethal violence. Which inspires speculation about what might happen if human colonists on another planet similarly misunderstood the behavior of aliens.

Sunday morning I had a nice conversation with a woman from the University of Hawaii, where I got my M.A. in English back in 1974. You never know whom you'll meet at a conference.

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

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