Fourth Street Fantasy
Last weekend I went for the first time to Fourth Street Fantasy, a Minneapolis con that apparently ran for many years, died out, and was resurrected five or so years back by a local fan, rising from the dead to be more awesome than ever*.
(*I never went to the old version, so this description is based entirely on how awesome I found the con as it is now.)
If you are anything resembling local — or even if you’re not — you should think about checking this one out. It’s small (in the 100-200 attendee range), but the sort of smallness that allows for good, intensive conversation with cool people. And with alecaustin putting together the programming, there is no shortage of fodder for such conversations. He has said before that he’s tired of the introductory, freshman-level nature of panel topics at many conventions, and wants more upper-level or graduate kinds of subjects. Thus it was that my three panel topics this weekend were: politics and complexity of same in fantasy (which delved into some of the nitty-gritty of what is necessary to do good, believable political complexity in fiction, and what historical examples one might look to for inspiration and instruction), “blood, love, and rhetoric” (using the Player King’s speech from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as a jumping-off point for talking about violence and “domestic narratives” in fantasy), and . . .
Okay, so they have this tradition. You know how sometimes when you’re at a con, the panelists will either digress wildly onto some unrelated topic, or teeter at the edge of such a digression before regretfully declaring “but that’s another panel”? Well, Fourth Street keeps a list of those “other panels,” and for the last programming slot of the con, picks one of them to be the special last-minute topic. I ended up getting tapped to talk about “why we want stories about divine-right kings” on Sunday afternoon, and had to cudgel my brain into talking about the origins of state formation in early agricultural societies (and what this means for the stories we tell). Despite the fact that I was nearing unto mental exhaustion by then, and had to throw every ounce of remaining energy into holding my own against Steven Brust and Beth Meacham (executive editor at Tor), along with Caroline Stevermer and Mary Robinette Kowal, I think it went fairly well.
If you weren’t at Fourth Street, you can still get in on a piece of the fun: they made the very sensible decision to keep track of all the books mentioned on each panel, and have posted the list for everyone’s delectation. (It also includes some quotes from the panels.)
Anyway, excellent con with excellent people. I’ll be a few days yet regenerating the dead brain cells, but on the way home I had several pieces of the next novel shuffle themselves into something like a line, so clearly something is still working inside my skull. Now I just need to spend some quality time working up a map, since I can’t figure out the politics of Nsebu and Mouleen and the Labane and the places that don’t have names yet if I don’t know where they are in relation to one another.