ICFA Report

Except for the chilly wet weather (Richmond had much better in my absence), this was a terrific conference.  As usual, I went to lots of the readings.  Kij Johnson’s “Spar” stood out as an absolutely phenomenal short story.  It appeared in the October 2009 issue of Clarkesworld, one of the best of the online zines.  Kathy Goonan read from a novel in progress, This Shared Dream.  Tom De Haven read from both my favorite novel of his, It’s Superman, and a companion section from his extended essay about the Man of Steel, Our Hero.  Other standout readings included an unpublished story by Andy Duncan (whose performance skills are unrivalled), an excerpt from Donkey, a novel in progress by Nalo Hopkinson, and an excerpt from Joe Haldeman’s Earthbound.  Nalo’s luncheon address as the guest of honor—”A Reluctant Ambassador From the Planet of Midnight”—was also something of a remarkable fictional performance.  A special treat for me was meeting and hearing the work of Bernando Fernandez (“Bef”) and Pepe Rojo, two Mexican sf writers in attendance.  We found we had a lot to talk about.  Libby Greenway’s paper on Alex Rivera’s Sleep Dealer was terrific, but even better was that Rivera came for a screening of the film, and I was able to talk to him briefly.  All this helped persuade me to use Sleep Dealer in the sf class this summer instead of District 9, which will already get plenty of attention without my assistance. The best academic paper I heard was on Lost (I told you this is a cool conference).  Elizabeth Berkebile McManus’s “Protecting the Island: Interior and Exterior Space in Lost” provided an excellent perspective for viewing the enigmatic series.  Finally, not wanting to attend a conference without making a fool of myself, I volunteered to be in Timothy J. Anderson’s short play.  I swam around the auditorium with my fellow thespians in a drug-addled state (in the script).  I had several compliments on my swimming-without-water technique.  The other two plays, by Jeanne Beckwith (who also directed Tim’s play) were hilarious.  Andy Duncan and Brett Cox were bickering Martian astronauts, and John Kessel, Sydney Duncan, Kij Johnson, and Jim Kelly were a riot in “The Last Detective Story.”  The theme for next year’s conference is The Fantastic Ridiculous.  I can’t miss that!

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