The International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA) is both my favorite scholarly conference and my favorite SF/F convention, and I was very glad to make it to Orlando last week to meet up with friends, hear authors read, and learn something new.
My late friend Michael Levy had been the President of ICFA for several years, and everyone was missing him very much. I tried my best to be stoic, but I did get teary-eyed more than once. Last year, I’d registered for the 2017 conference but canceled at the last minute when I decided I needed to fly to Wisconsin to visit Mike instead, which was absolutely the right thing to do, as he passed away the day after I returned home. This year at ICFA, I spent a lot of time with Mike’s wife Sandy, who shared a room with me and presented a paper on Nnedi Okorafor. I also hung out with my friends Jeanne Griggs and Joan Slonczewski, swam in the hotel pool, presented a paper on golems, and ate a lot of cake.
What else happened at the conference? I chatted about religious narratives with Geoff Ryman and Ann Leckie and discussed golems with David Levine. My friend Simone Carotti gave a brilliant paper on modern Prometheus stories. Author Kij Johnson and I have the same illustrator–the fabulous Kathleen Jennings–and we shared our thoughts about working with Kathleen. Kij gave a brilliant reading as well, in which she described animals as “the only aliens we can see.”
There were T-shirts and tote bags, and lots and lots of books. [I’m particularly excited to read John Kessel’s mash-up of Austen and Shelley, Pride and Prometheus.] In the fancy swag department, I scored a “Thank You, Ursula” button honoring the late, great Ursula Le Guin, and I happily achieved recognition as a Sorcerer as well.
As it had been awhile since I’d written an academic paper, when I found out that ICFA39 would be celebrating the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein, I decided to dust off my academic prose and join in the fun. There are some who argue that Mary Shelley may have been influenced by stories about golems, and certainly, modern golem stories owe a great debt to Frankenstein, so my paper explored the ways in which the golem is deployed in modern fantasy literature, focusing on works by Michael Chabon, Naomi Kritzer, David Almond, and Helene Wecker. David Almond was my friend Mike’s favorite author, and presenting on Almond’s work felt like a small way that I could honor Mike’s influence on me as a writer and as a scholar.
Prior to the conference, I flew to Houston to spend time with my nieces, who talked me into a grisaille pre-convention haircut. [I told them I would agree to anything but a pixie.]
While my coiffure looked very nice at the salon, we all forgot that I have adhesive capsulitis, a painful shoulder injury that prevents me from raising my left arm. Fast forward to the banquet at ICFA: up until that point, I had not realized how nearly impossible it is to use a curling iron with only one functional arm. As a result, my uncurled conference hair created a very different look. Oh, well.
Next year’s ICFA convention will be our 40th anniversary, with G. Willow Wilson acting as our guest of honor. I’ll see you there, everyone!