Last week and weekend, I attended the International Conference of the Fantastic in the Arts in Orlando. Like last year, when I wasn't at the bar, hanging out with friends, I primarily attended readings. There were some really fine ones this year. Here's a list of what I saw and the heads up on some books and stories that look good. In some cases I missed the title of the piece, but I'll give enough of a description so you can probably track it down if you want to. There were plenty more readings at the conference that I wanted to get to but didn't. I approach these events with a head toward getting something out of each reading experience. I'm not particularly interested in being critical of the content, but instead just trying to figure out where the writers are coming from and noticing the idiosyncracies each brings to the fiction. I get a boost in my own writing from witnessing them this way. The more eclectic line-up the better as far as I'm concerned and this year, like last, ICFA delivered.
Theodora Goss read her story "Beautiful Boys," which will appear in Asimov's very soon. The reading was excellent, a kind of performance of the story, and the story is definitely worth seeking out.
Kit Reed read a story about a lost Girl Scout Troop that goes feral -- "Legend of Troop 13." Great writing and lots of real laughs in this one. I think it will also be out in Asimov's within the next month or so.
Andy Duncan read the previously unpublished story, "Close Encounters," from his new PS collection -- The Pottawatomie Giant & Other Stories. It's a great looking book and one I wanted badly to pick up a copy of but they were sold out pretty quickly. Will have to get one online. No doubt, one of the best collections of the year.
Karen Lord read an interesting piece of a YA novel that was science fiction but involved an alien culture based on Celtic Mythology. I think I have that right. Cool concept. Sorry to say I don't remember the title or as to when it will appear.
Jeff VanderMeer read from his novel in progress -- Borne -- a kind of monster story. Really wonderful writing here, capturing the characters and the city and its culture with no loss of full-on weirdness. Looking forward to this one.
Jim Morrow read a great scene from a novel in progress that had to do with Darwinian evolution and had Gregor Mendel as a character. The set up and characters were outlandish and Morrow read it using accents -- a kind of Artie Johnson German accent for his Mendel, who is a pot smoking geneticist obsessed with wrinkled and round peas. A very entertaining and funny piece.
Nalo Hopkinson read from her new YA novel, The Chaos. Really wild imagery in the section she read -- Baba Yaga and chicken-houses dropping giant eggs, cops shooting fruit from their guns.
Rebecca Rowe read from her new novel from Edge Publishers, Circle Tide -- virtual reality, killer fungus, cognitive enhancements -- well done with a sense of humor. This science fiction novel is available now.
Dennis Danvers read a previously unpublished story that takes place at a bar in a chain restaurant, involving a man on the edge with a gun caught between Life and Death, An Angel and the Devil, the personifications of Good and Evil. Sounds allegorical but Danvers makes this one really live. Great writing and perfect timing. Wish I could remember the damn title. Some smart editor is going to snatch this one up fast.
Peter Straub read from a novel in progress -- this piece was at once one of the grimmest and at the same time funniest things I've heard in a long time. The section I heard had to do with a woman who plots to murder her dying husband. Trust me -- it's funny. Can't remember the title of this one either, but I think Straub gave the indication that the title for it was still shifting.
Steve Erikson read from the first book of a new trilogy of his that is a prequel of sorts to the Malzan series. My first exposure to his work -- the writing flows marvelously and the story, one about a painter who captures the image of a child killed in war, is engrossing. I think I'm gonna have to check this trilogy out. Great stuff!
Will Ludwigsen read a terrific story that skated on the line between reality and the fantastic about a psych patient and her doctor. Very effective piece. Ludwigsen's got a really great reading voice. I know he's due to have a collection out before too long.