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.

0 Responses to “Fourth Street Fantasy”

  1. sistabro

    I am so sad that I missed that, because whoa awesome and local and reasonably priced. I had no idea it existed to thanks for the heads up for next year 🙂

    • mrissa

      If you are local and ‘s description sounds appealing, I think she has described it very accurately, and I’d very much like to encourage you to come, because the sort of person this appeals to is the sort of person we want at 4th St.

      I mean, also if you’re not local. But it’s a lot easier if you’re driving across town or taking the bus etc. than if you’re having to arrange planes and trains cross-country.

    • Marie Brennan

      I should have advertised it sooner! But there is always next year. 🙂

  2. sartorias

    This is one that it really hurts to miss.

  3. mrissa

    So very glad to see you there! And the novel shuffle is good to hear too.

  4. kateelliott

    “early state formation”

    Heh. You’re such an anthropologist.

    Signed, went through grad school in anthropology even if as a spouse

  5. kateelliott

    Also, belatedly, SUPER cover for the new book.

  6. aliseadae

    Speaking of early state formation and divine-right kings, I seem to have found an article titled “The Evolution of Social Ranking on the Northwest Coast of North America” by Kenneth M. Ames (from American Antiquity Vol. 46 (Oct 1981)) available on Jstor. It provides an example of a non-agriculturally based society with a hierarchical structure. This is (so far) one of two readings from my Evolution of Social Complexity class that I can find (the other being my favorite, “Ideology, Materialization, and Power Strategies by DeMarrais, Castillo, and Earle in Current Anthropology Vol. 37). I don’t think I kept most of the readings, but I ought to be able to find my notes somewhere in the papers I brought back from college.

    Glad you enjoyed Fourth Street!

    • Marie Brennan

      Yes, the Pacific Northwest is one of the few regions that can support (relatively) dense and sedentary populations on foraging alone. Most areas, the environment just doesn’t produce enough calories for people to stay put in large numbers. And without people staying put in large numbers, there isn’t much need to develop high levels of social hierarchy.

      • aliseadae

        Sorry for the giant somewhat off topic comment. I think I got overly excited about looking back at all this stuff. Still haven’t found my notes, though. Might have to ask my roommate for hers.

        (I’m the person with all the grad school questions from the con.)

        What was particularly interesting about this article, though, is that it talks about a non-sedentary, not particularly large group that /does/ develop a hierarchy. I probably should re-read it again, though, to see what they’re saying exactly.

  7. chinders

    It was so good to see you there! You fit right in. This evening, my plans include going to the library with the book list and trying not come back with more than I can read before I have to return them…

  8. alessandriana

    Oh, that sounds lovely. I think I actually looked into going last year, but it seemed so small I didn’t know how awkward it would be for a total newbie to show up…

    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.

    Out of curiosity, since I’m currently working up a map for my own fantasy novel (and am kind of struggling with whether to start with the politics, and create geography to match, or start with a map, and create politics from there), and also because I’m currently reading through an absolutely fascinating set of monographs on how geography affected the history/culture of a number of different countries, so that’s got me thinking– what’s your process for creating your maps/politics/etc? (If you’ve written about this elsewhere, sorry! I haven’t seen it.)

  9. Anonymous

    That sounds *fantastic*, and it’s only a short drive away for me! Back when I lived in Seattle I attended a con called Potlatch, which was very similar to this one in tone and content, it sounds like, and even since moving to Minnesota I’ve been wistfully hoping for something similar. This sounds great, and I hope to be there next year.

    • Marie Brennan

      Yeah, I went to one Potlatch here in the Bay Area. I’d say Fourth Street is a little more programming-focused than Potlatch (at least the one I attended); there’s only the one track, but a lot of people go to it, and the panel topics are tailored to the attendees so as to ensure good conversation. But they’re in the same category of con, I would agree.

  10. Anonymous

    Do you have a wordbook of your wordstock, or are you making all your words yourself?

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