Thursday, March 21, 2024

45th International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts

I've just returned from the ICFA in Orlando, with perfect weather all four days (five counting Sunday morning departure). This year's theme was "Whimsy." Author guests were urban fantasy writer C. E. Murphy and poet and fiction writer Mary Turzillo. Special guest scholars were a husband-wife pair from Senegal, Mame Bougouma Diene and Woppa Diallo. He was present in person, and she delivered her luncheon address over Zoom. I bought a copy of Turzillo's story collection COSMIC CATS AND FANTASTIC FURBALLS, a delightful "litter" of science fiction stories involving cats. I especially like "Chocolate Kittens from Mars." At one of the two luncheons, a free book given away was a poetry collection by Turzillo and Marge Simon (a constant contributor to the horror zine NIGHT TO DAWN and the cover artist for my collection DOCTOR VAMPIRE), which I picked up. At C. E. Murphy's author reading on Thursday night, her two selections impressed me so much I ordered the books as soon as possible, ROSES IN AMBER (a "Beauty and the Beast" retelling) and a funny shapeshifter romance, SOMEBUNNY TO LOVE (under the name "Zoe Chant"). I'm pretty sure that's the only were-rabbit romance I've ever read, and the were-rabbit is the heroine.

I participated in two sessions, a group "Words and Worlds" author reading and a panel on Vampire Humor, which I organized and moderated. In the "Words and Worlds" time slot, I read a short section from "Therapy for a Vampire," one of three lighthearted stories in my e-book collection DOCTOR VAMPIRE, and all of a humorous fanfic, "Support Group," in which my vampire psychiatrist, Roger Darvell, leads a therapy session for a group of vamps from popular culture. You can read it free here:

Support Group

People laughed in the right places, and I received some gratifying comments later. The vampire comedy panel discussed numerous books, movies, and TV programs, with lively input from the audience.

The Lord Ruthven Assembly, our vampire and revenant sub-group, chose a new president. After the business meeting, we viewed the rather odd and lesser-known Hammer movie VAMPIRE CIRCUS. Popcorn was served. Then our resident film historian, Lokke Heiss, delivered a brief presentation (with slide show) on "why NOSFERATU is not an Expressionist film." Our book and media awards for both 2022 and 2023 were announced at the Saturday night banquet: Nonfiction, A HISTORY OF THE VAMPIRE IN POPULAR CULTURE by Violet Fenn and CONTAGION AND THE VAMPIRE by Simon Bacon; fiction, A DOWRY OF BLOOD by S. T. Gibson and THE GOD OF ENDINGS by Jacqueline Holland; other media, INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE (TV series) and THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE DEMETER (movie).

Some other highlights: This year's version of "50 Shades of Nay," the panel on consent in speculative fiction, didn't focus on interactions among fictional characters, as I'd expected. They apparently covered that in previous years. Instead, they mostly discussed issues that arise among authors and readers, which I had never thought of in those terms -- does the reader "consent" to encounter certain potentially traumatic situations in fiction, and when are trigger warnings appropriate? They even mentioned a whole website for readers who want to be forewarned, which covers many more tropes besides animal deaths. (Unfortunately, one has to register to be able to read the material.)

Does the Dog Die?

A panel on editing practices in fantasy and SF included a retrospective on Lester and Judy-Lynn Del Rey of Ballantine Books and how they ignited the modern fantasy boom. The panelist presented a chart showing the "Tolkien score" of various authors, that is, how many tropes similar to elements in THE LORD OF THE RINGS their works contain. Cool! A session labeled "Psychology and Wonder: The New Uses of Enchantment," rather than focusing on the psychological effects of fairy tales on children as I'd expected (although they did get into that toward the end), delved into suggested procedures for counseling Donkey in the Shrek series with techniques from various contemporary schools of psychology. Also a lot of fun.

My plane arrived in Baltimore on time Sunday; however, it landed without my suitcase because a batch of luggage for that flight had been left behind in Orlando. After much waiting around, I filled out a report, and we drove home. Southwest delivered the errant bag early the next morning. Too bad it couldn't have walked onto the plane on little feet by itself, like the Luggage in Pratchett's Discworld series.

Happy Spring Equinox!

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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