Last month (March 2024), I went to Florida to attend the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA) put on by the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts. This scholarly organization is devoted to the study of the fantastic as it appears in literature, film, and other artistic mediums.

This was a blind experiment on my part. I have never been to this. I am not a scholar per se. I do have an intense interest in things scholarly dealing with fantasy literature in all its forms, but I do not publish papers and do not have credentials other than my own writings and learnings and book tube mumblings. I am a big fan.

I scheduled my flight and booked my hotel according to what would fit within my schedule at the time. I did all this very early on to try and get the best rates and because I hate waiting until the last minute for anything. By the way, I’m going to name drop a bit. If you don’t know who any of these wonderful people are, please look them up. They are great at what they do and are superbly nice as well.

Day 1: Tuesday night I landed, called the hotel and was given a shuttle ride from the airport. Checked in no problem and had a late dinner before going off to bed. The conference had sent me a schedule of events, so I had a rough idea of what I wanted to do the next day. I walked around the hotel just to get my bearings and tried to sleep, but was a bit too ramped up to do so. It was a fitful night.

Day 2: Wednesday morning, I had wonderful eggs benedict for breakfast. I wandered over to the registration desk when they opened to get my name tag. I was a bit underwhelmed at the kind of rag tag way they went about it, but I figured it was a budget thing, so I didn’t mind. I wasn’t here to be wowed by displays. I walked down a hallway that led to a ‘book room’. The first room was closed and had a sign that mentioned an auction. The second room was just opening, and people were setting up books on tables that were for sale. Cool! I love bookstores. I started browsing. I saw some very interesting stuff. I was conscious of money, didn’t want to spend everything so soon, and I was aware of the lack of space in my carry-on bag for the return plane ride home. But there was so much cool stuff! I didn’t have anything scheduled until about 4 o’clock, so I wandered kind of aimlessly for a while. At this point I started to question what I was doing here, but it was early yet so I put it out of my mind.

The auction room was open now, so I decided to check it out. Right there, signing copies of his new book was Ian C. Esslemont. Too shy to introduce myself, I wrote a bid on an advanced reader copy (ARC) of Stephen R. Donaldson’s The Seventh Decimate. Heading back to the main bookstore, I then noticed that the prices written on the inside covers in pencil were insanely cheap! I bought 6 books right then. I feel I showed incredible willpower to stop there. All the books I bought were signed by the author and some were advanced editor copies or ARCs.

Finally, I met up with A.P. Canavan (from A Critical Dragon You Tube channel). It was wonderful to meet him in person. He was very busy saying hello to many friends that he had made over the years coming to this event, so I didn’t have much time to talk with him. He did manage to introduce me to Mr. Esslemont though. And I managed to get a small chat in while the whirlwind of people meeting up was going on.

Then there was an opening ceremony to go to where I listened to some wonderful people give some excellent insight into the nature of whimsy in fantasy literature. This ceremony gave me a feel of what the conference was going for, and what they were about. The guests of honor were there for their work and knowledge in the field of fantasy literature, which, as we all know, encompasses so much. There was one young man on the panel who mentioned he had a huge case of imposter syndrome and I completely related to that.

I noticed on the schedule that there was a meet up after the ceremony for newcomers to the conference. Wanting to ingratiate myself as much as possible, I decided to attend. Here is where I really felt out of place. I’m well into my fifties and the room was very young, to say the least. I smiled and nodded and listened as best as I could, but I could tell this wasn’t where I wanted to be right now. Most of the folks here were graduate students who were attending as a part of their program. They were working on a thesis or delivering a thesis as part of their work. Which is great! I applaud them and the conference organizers for generating a space where such a gathering of ideas can happen. But I still felt a little lost in the room. Someone asked me what my area of study was. I answered, “I’m a big fan.”

I slipped out early, went and had a nice dinner and retired for the evening. I was happy with my book haul and with meeting A.P. and Cam (Mr. Esslemont).

To be continued…

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Author: Jarrod


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