2012 marks my second time at the 4th Street Fantasy Convention in Minnesota. Last year’s spec-fic writers’ get-together was called a Conversation, not a Convention, although I did not see the word Conversation used in this year’s description.
This year’s 4th Street Fantasy Whatever-it-was was better in some ways, and worse in others than last year’s.
Whoever did the programming this year did a great job of putting together some High Quality Discussion Panels. Of course, this is the primary reason to attend 4th street. The discussions will fill your head with so many ways to improve your writing that even if it doesn’t explode, you won’t be able to implement them all. Bring a notepad, or a device running evernote, or something to jot down ideas.
The audience is another reason. Authors of all skill levels attend this conference, and all the discussions open up (at least part of the time) to audience questions and observations. The panels were slightly more diverse than last year, I didn’t notice anyone dominating the panels, like last year. Of course the Scribblies were omni-present, but I think they originally started the 4th Street Fantasy event, so that makes sense. Regulars include: Elizabeth Bear, Scott Lynch, Patricia Wrede, Emma Bull, Steven Brust, Pamela Dean, and Will Shetterly.
Another thing that remains the same is the Author Social Networking. No, I don’t mean twitterfacebookgoogleplus. I mean actual face-to-face talking with other authors. The downtime between panels. Ganging up with others to take a leisurely stroll to lunch. On Fri/Sat night there is an open music jam, which is primarily traditional folk music, so bring your ukelele.
Registration was the same as last year – to get the discounted price you had to register MONTHS in advance…but the programming wasn’t listed until mere WEEKS before the event. So you pay before you know the programming. Sadly, I’m finding that this is becoming the norm with conventions, but because the topics of 4th Street are focused on speculative fiction authors, there’s little danger in registering early. If you’re a spec-fic author, the content is relevant.
The venue moved to the St. Louis Park Marriott this year, just a block away from the DoubleTree where it was held last year. The good news is that the same great selection of local bars and restaurants is all within walking distance at the West End. The bad news – no inside bar, and the space is much reduced from last year. I particularly missed the merch area where Uncle Hugo’s and other vendors had tables of books and other things for sale, but there was NO room for this at the Mariott. I know selling stuff isn’t the point of the con, but NOT having a venue for book sales at an author convention like this is a shame. But that didn’t mean there weren’t things to purchase….
…because this year, the con instituted an auction that invaded the breaks between panels. The goal of the auction is to raise funds to make 4th street even better next year. But after drinking Diet Coke for an hour and a half, it was frustrating to wait as someone barges in with all the subtlety of a TPT Channel 2 pledge drive, wagging a tentacle-finger, and warning that WE NEED YOUR ATTENTION, PLEASE, so we can auction off another item…
Sigh. I appreciate their efforts to raise some cash to make the con better. It’s going to a good cause. However, I have two meager requests:
- Could the items being auctioned be geared more towards authors? Having your manuscript critiqued by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly was a great auction item. Playing poker against Steven Brust? Maybe. But a handful of tentacles signed by the Scribblies? Not so much. I would have bid on having my name or likeness appear in an upcoming Scott Lynch story, but I’ve no interest in his old fire helmet. (Sorry Scott!)
- Could the auction items be listed someplace for silent bidding? Or additionally listed online?
I think the auction would net more money with less interruptions if these two requests were implemented. Also, they could accept donations from participants to auction off, not to mention have a higher quantity of things to offer.
On second thought, a raffle with a handful of possible prizes might net them more money, and again, with fewer interruptions.
One more highlight of the 4th Street Fantasy Convention is Janet Grouchy, aka The Poster Girl For Southern Hospitality. Janet. You. Rock!
I was pleased to see that the Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers’ Group had a healthy turnout. Abra Staffin-Wiebe, Dana Baird, Michael Merriam, Sherry Merriam, Tyler Tork, Rebecca Chesin, and Sarah E. Olson all made the event entertaining as well as educational.
Fun Things Overheard at 2012 Fourth Street Fantasy Writers’ Convention
I have no idea if these are existing quotes from a source I’m not aware of, or words people pulled out of the aether, but I overheard all these things from the audience at 2012 Fourth Street:
“Theology exists to control the folk process.”
“I blame the Romantics for a lot.”
“…the magic thingawhowhatsit.”
“Collaboration is a violent agreement.”
“The brighter the light, the darker the shadow.”
“Set up a pattern and break it.”
“A single conflict makes a really dull book.”
and most importantly…
“Author Element HandWavium (symbol: HW) has a half life of about half an hour, and emits confusions as it decays…”