As always, I'm either late or early to a place, and the past week in Washington D.C. was no exception, since the city was gearing up for the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert event as we left. But interesting SF/Fantasy stuff had just ended at the area's Capclave convention, at which my wife Ann VanderMeer and I were guests of honor, along with author Connie Willis. Other notable attendees included Michael Swanwick, Lawrence Watt Evans, Laura Anne Gilman, Genevieve Valentine, Eric Choi, James Morrow, and Michael Dirda. It was one of those small, intimate conventions where every single person is passionate about book and highly tuned-in to everything going on in genre. Several of the organizers are involved in the federal government, many of them in the sciences and others, like Colleen Cahill, working for the Library of Congress.
Indeed, our convention experience started at the Library of Congress, as Cahill was kind enough to give a tour to several of us. The building itself is fascinating, the history and the contents even more so, and things like these clothes made out of maps just incredibly cool.
The convention itself was a lot of fun. In addition to Ann and I, either together or solo, being on panels about Steampunk, social media, and the next wave of interesting writers, we presented a powerpoint showcasing new upcoming projects like Ann's revamped Weird Tales magazine as well as The Steampunk Bible (with S.J. Chambers, Abrams Image, May 2011) and The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities (June 2011), both of which are highly visual in nature. As a special perk, Capclave had also published books by myself and by Connie Willis, which will soon be available on Amazon. A special whisky party was also quite memorable. Willis, who was just delightful, was also promoting her latest novel, All Clear.
Capclave's parent organization is the Washington Science Fiction Association,and Saturday night was reserved for announcing the winner of the WSFA Small Press award, which went to "Siren Beat" by Tansy Rayner Roberts, published by Twelfth Planet, run by Alisa Krasnostein. (You can find the full list of nominees here.) To me, it's no surprise that Twelfth Planet published the winner; I've been a big fan of their books ever since I first encountered them about eighteen months ago. Krasnostein is an incredibly gifted publisher and editor: Twelfth Planet books have a sharp, professional look-and-feel and a definite point of view. They're probably my favorite Australian press at the moment, and their books should be available on Amazon soon. (Indie presses in general are performing a vital function when it comes to science fiction and fantasy, creating space for talented new writers and idiosyncratic established writers.)
(A tantalizing look at current Twelfth Planet releases, given to us at Clapclave. Real range here, from Peter M. Ball's urban fantasy Bleed to the beautifully delicate stories of Marianne de Pierres and Sprawl, an anthology of suburban Australian fantasy.)
Capclave had also graciously allowed Ann and me to announce the winners of our Last Drink Bird Head awards for service within the SF/F genre community. That was a lot of fun, and it was great to see Colleen Cahill so happy winning in the category of "efforts that contribute to the promotion of reading or an increase in reading proficiency." Other winners included Ay-leen the Peacemaker for her site Beyond Victoriana and Lavie Tidhar for the World SF Blog. (Full list here.) The award also supports the Last Drink Bird Head charity anthology, now available for the Kindle, the proceeds from which go to the organization ProLiteracy.
Another highlight was getting to see Genevieve Valentine read from her forthcoming 2011 novel Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, which she describes as "about a post-apocalyptic steampunk circus, and what happens when a dozen brittle, vicious people are forced to form a makeshift family whether they like it or not" in the midst of war. We also had a lovely dinner with Valentine, Neil Clarke (publisher of Last Drink Bird Head) and Scott H. Andrews, editor of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, one of the best new website venues for genre fiction. (Indeed, Andrews is publishing a story by Valentine on November 4 that's related to her novel.)
As always, it was over far too soon, with a farewell dinner at a great Chinese restaurant. The organizers treated their guests wonderfully well, and I think next year's guests Catherynne M. Valente and Carrie Vaughn will enjoy their experience. It was also nice to see that the convention could support a mix of traditional and new approaches to science fiction and fantasy in a way that was both harmonious and interesting.
Next week: A selection of great Washington DC bars in which to read great contemporary fiction...