As always, I had a great time at the annual International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in Orlando. This year's theme was "Fantastic Epics." The special guests were Steven Erikson, Edward James (Guest Scholar), and N. K. Jemison (who unfortunately couldn't attend because of a family emergency). The Wednesday opening session, a panel on Epic Fantasy, and a panel on Epic Fairy Tales (which at first sight struck me as an oxymoron) all spent considerable time trying to define "epic" and never reached a consensus. Most people did agree on some common elements: Wide scope, the illusion that we're seeing an entire world (even if the "world" is only a village); stakes (the consequences of failure must be catastrophic); and, usually, multiple viewpoint characters. Another panel suggested that epic fantasy typically explores the cultural values of a society and involves a clash between two or more cultures. Not that a unanimous definition of any term can be expected from either scholars or fans! Debating such things is part of the fun. The discussion tended to evolve into a "fuzzy set" approach; as someone put it, the most useful question isn't "Is it epic?" but "How epic is it?" (or "How is it epic?").
I presented a paper on the first few books of Brian Lumley's "Necroscope" vampire saga with a focus on the Cold War era setting. I chaired a session on Stephen King, which I enjoyed a lot because not only is King one of my favorite authors, the three papers dealt with some of my favorites among his works, CARRIE, REVIVAL, and the Dark Tower series. Some other sessions that stand out for me: A panel on the TV series PENNY DREADFUL. A group of three papers on werewolves and the HANNIBAL TV show. A "round table" discussion of the Star Wars film ROGUE ONE, with many references to the Disney movie machine and the prospect of "A Thousand Years of Star Wars." A panel on humor in fantasy and SF—one participant advanced the principle that the humor has to grow naturally from the characters, and it doesn't tend to work if it's obvious that the authorial voice is trying to be funny. There was much debate about when humor crosses the line from funny to offensive.
An exhibit of cover art by Don Maitz and Janny Wurts was on display. The book room, in the process of downsizing the thousands of used volumes that have been stored and placed on sale for many years, offered hundreds of free books for the taking. On Sunday morning, two long tables of paperbacks were packed for donation to a thrift shop. I momentarily conceived a mad wish that I had all the money in the world (for shipping costs) and owned a separate house just for books like Forrest Ackerman, so I could take the entire collection home.
We had a small adventure (in Bilbo's sense, "Adventures are nasty, uncomfortable things that make you late for dinner"). The hotel's electricity went off for a couple of hours in the predawn period one night. Fortunately, the power came back before daylight, so the inconvenience was minimal.
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
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