Thursday, March 23, 2023

ICFA 2023

Last week the annual International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts was held in Orlando (as usual). This was the second in-person conference since the two-year pandemic hiatus (which include a virtual con in 2021). Weather stayed perfectly sunny from Wednesday through Sunday, aside from some rain, maybe, in the middle of the night on Friday. However, Sunday morning was oddly chilly for Orlando in March, first time I've ever seen daytime temperatures in the 50s.

Conference theme was Afrofuturism. The Guest of Honor was Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, a Nigerian author, editor, and publisher of speculative fiction, who couldn't be physically present. His luncheon GOH speech was prerecorded. One point he emphasized was that elements of indigenous belief systems are often treated as "fantasy" when transferred into Western fiction, although they are an integral part of the cultural background in their societies of origin. After the talk was played, he appeared "live" for a Zoom Q and A. The scholar guest of honor, Isiah Lavender III, is author of AFROFUTURISM RISING: THE LITERARY PREHISTORY OF A MOVEMENT and numerous other works. As someone else remarked at one point, I think I came away from the conference knowing less about Afrofuturism than when I arrived. Starting from a general idea of what the term means, I encountered so many different perspectives on analyzing it that summarizing it in one succinct definition seemed hopeless. Sort of like trying to define science fiction! A completely new word I encountered was "noirum," analogous to the SF "novum," the innovation in science or technology that forms the premise of a science-fiction story. A noirum is (if I understood correctly) the sociological equivalent, "noir" of course suggesting "black."

Food at the two luncheons and the banquet was abundant and delicious, as usual. Not that every menu item equally delighted me, but there were always several dishes to enjoy. As for dessert, the kitchen staff seemed to have caught on that a chocolate selection must always be included. :)

Some highlights of the program for me: "50 Shades of Nay," a panel about consent in speculative fiction. I expected a discussion of sexual consent, but the topic was much broader. In all areas, how freely can a person give consent to a certain course of action if alternatives are narrowly constrained? If one agrees to something, what trade-offs might one have to accept? Likewise, the panel on gender and sexuality in speculative fiction covered a very wide spectrum of topics. There was also a lively panel on the craft of writing. I especially enjoyed a trio of paper readings about "hybridity," mainly mermaids. A session on Afrofuturism in comics was led by a moderator who appeared to be a human encyclopedia on every aspect of the history of comics, and some other people in the room weren't far behind. The moderator looked almost as old as I am; almost everybody else looked significantly younger. One member of the audience who seemed deeply well-informed nevertheless referred to the 1980s as "the old days" of the comic industry. LOL.

At one of the "Words and Worlds" reading sessions, in which several creators share their work in time slots of ten minutes each, I read part of a scene from my contemporary fantasy story "Bunny Hunt," forthcoming on April 10. People seemed to like it. The other presentations consisted of a poetry cycle, "Old Mother Hubble," about the dying Hubble space telescope, with beautiful photos; a short video of a witty poetic tribute to "Saint Onion," with medieval-style illustrations; and a darkly funny tale of a medieval kitchen boy sent to the woods to search for the hunters who are supposed to be supplying a boar for the feast of Saint Stephen.

At the meeting of the Lord Ruthven Assembly, our vampire and revenant studies group, we viewed THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, starring Vincent Price. This earliest and most low-budget adaptation of Richard Matheson's I AM LEGEND is, oddly, the only movie that comes close to faithfully following the novel. Also, we had popcorn.

The flight home on Sunday had a delay in takeoff, but it arrived at the Baltimore airport safely and not too late.

You can read about the organization and the conference here:

International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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