Thanks to Terry Weyna for introducing me to this small, literary speculative fiction convention, held at the Walnut Creek Marriott in the East San Francisco Bay. This year, the conference took place from Mar 6 — 8. The guests of honor were Kim Stanley Robinson and Catherynne Valente. The convention also had a Ghost of Honor; Joanna Russ. If there is a Ghost of Honor, I know I’m going to have a good experience.
I’ll do some later postings about individual panels, and there will probably be a post on Fantasy Literature that I will link to, but I wanted to take a few minutes here to create a summary of the event.
This is a small convention, no more than 150 people, so it all fits neatly in one hotel. The focus is on literary aspects of speculative fiction, so there are fewer cosplayers and few movie tie-ins. There was a game room. Don’t get me wrong; I love cosplay (I mean, hello, photographer) but this convention works fine without it.
Access for all is very important to the FOGCon founders, and this was demonstrated in their access policy and in every panel room, where blue masking tape marked out space for mobility carts or wheelchairs, and seats near the front were designated for speech readers. This worked very well everywhere, I think, but the Dealers Room, which was crowded. The aisles were wide enough, there was just a lot of traffic.
Their anti-harassment policy was well posted and included, along with the access policy, in the program.
This year’s theme was “The Traveler.” I loved how they tackled the different aspects of the traveler! My friend Michelle, a biologist, was on the panel for “From Ice Planet Hoth to Mars,” about realistic world building. (Michelle was on four panels and moderated one. “How are you?” I’d ask when I’d see her. “Tired,” she’d say.) They had a panel on the use of language in SF and fantasy, whether it enhances the illusion of being in another place, or distracts and distances. The panel titled “When Your Traveler is My Colonizer” discussed post-colonialism in speculative fiction. My personal favorite, because I’m not a very good traveler, I guess, was “SFF In Suburbia.”
There were panels on writing “the other,” and one that I’m sorry I’m missed, “Stories Within Stories Within Stories.” I have to say, even with a decent set of thematic tracks, and good spacing between panels, I was still stymied by the amount of counter-programming I faced. What this means, of course, is that every panel looked fascinating and I wanted to attend them all.
Kim Stanley Robinson gave a slide show talk about John Muir the writer, and there was more than a share of silliness; “Catherynne Valente Writes on Your Skin” (one of my favorite events, frankly. She wrote on my arm; she signed my books and she told me she will be starting on the third book in The Dirge for Prester John series). I couldn’t stay up long enough for the “Authentic Fake Folklore” event.
FOGCon offers a writing workshop for $20 extra. I had a short story workshopped by two other aspiring writers with Madeleine E. Robins facilitating. Madeleine is from New York but lives in San Francisco now. She’s published 11 books.
A service the convention offers that I didn’t use, but I think is cool, is the Kid’s Track. It’s not just child care. There were panels and events for kids, including “Let’s build a space ship” and events for parents and kids. This is wonderful and I hope more/most conventions do this.
The Dealers Room was very crowded, but it and the loaded-t0-groaning Free Stuff table meant I came home with plenty of books.
Walnut Creek is in the east bay, and easy to reach from the North Bay; about a ninety minute drive for me; with a toll road heading northbound. The Walnut Creek Marriott is right on two busy corners; easy to miss and challenging to get into. Once you are in, all the parking is valet parking. The cost of the conference included the valet parking, but tipping is customary. I found the two valets who helped me to be good, friendly, and cheerful, and I would describe every single person I encountered who worked at the Marriott the same way. Even when we waited far too long for lunch one day, our server kept us entertained. That is probably my only real complaint; somehow they hadn’t correctly staffed (or otherwise adjusted) for the demands on the restaurant.
The convention was in Basement 1 and Basement 2, where are where all the meeting rooms and ballrooms are. The place looked as if it had been recarpeted recently, and the lighting was good. It didn’t feel “basement-like.”
This is an excellent event, easy to get to, and pretty much stress-free. I’m counting down the days until next year’s.