Program

We are excited about the awesome panel discussions scheduled for the 2020 Virtual World Fantasy Convention. We have some terrific conversations planned, and our panelists are amazing.

 

 

But some of our original descriptions failed to live up to our members' expectations. We apologize for offending the very people we hope to include in this year's convention. We've revised our program descriptions with advice from three respected individuals in the sf/f community, and input from several panelists. 

We’ll add details (such as confirmed panelists and dates/times) as they’re finalized.

Opening Ceremony

During the opening ceremony, Toastmaster Tracy Hickman will provide entertainment and introduce this year's honored guests. Our chairperson will outline the virtual convention offerings to help you make the most of your online World Fantasy Convention experience.

Board of Directors meetings

On Friday and Sunday mornings, the WFC board of directors conducts their annual meetings. The meetings are open to the WFC membership, except during discussions of bids for future locations for WFC.

Guest Spotlights

We'll shine the spotlight on each of our honored guests as they chat with some of their friends and answer questions from the attending WFC members. Here's your chance to get to know more about Stephen Gallagher, Anne Groell, David Cherry, C.J. Cherryh, Cindy Pon, Stephen Graham Jones, Brandon Sanderson, and Tracy and Laura Hickman.

Lifetime Achievement Spotlight

Karen Joy Fowler: a career retrospective.

Lifetime Achievement Spotlight

The Artful Life of Rowena Morrill.

Is Fantasy Essential?

The earliest recovered folktales and written stories are fantastic, and unreal images—people with animal heads or antennae or horns—are found in even the earliest cave paintings. And it’s not just humans who explore the unreal. Wild chimpanzees create unreal narratives and act them out. Hermit crabs deliberately tell lies to one another. Why? Is fantasy, like narrative, an essential neurological activity that conveys an evolutionary benefit—and not only to humans? Panelists from divers backgrounds explore this idea.

Disabled Protagonists Fantastical Fiction

Characters with disabilities have long been included in stories of fantasy and horror, rarely as the hero and too often as the villain. Has this changed? In what way? Where can we go for stories in which the fantastic element is not somehow about a character's disability? Who are some of the writers with disabilities creating fantastic fiction, and how is their work different?

Black Women in Horror

We see them at the center of Blaxploitation-era horror films like Abby, Ganja and Hess, Blacula, and Sugar Hill, as well as classics from the 1990’s and more recent horror—Vampire in Brooklyn,  Def by Temptation, Get Out and Us, Antebellum, and Black Hair.  Horror by Black writers and directors employs distinct female archetypes with varying degrees of evil, agency, and sexual autonomy.   How do we see those female characters, and how have they come to be?  How do these characters differ from outside representations of Black women in horror?  What do they want from us? And why can’t we get enough of them? 

Was I Inspired?

Was it inspiration, or careful planning? Listen as writers tell us the surprising inspirations and the secret diligent planning behind their newest works. 

Black Speculative Futures

There is wealth in the diverse voices of Black writers, stories that challenge traditional narratives and old power dynamics, illuminate hidden histories, and give voice to those who speak from the margins. Our panel explores Afrofuturism, African Futurism, and other Black Speculative Fiction, and how these writing traditions engage with reimagined futures across world contexts. 

Quiet Horror

The scariest horrors are not the things that make us scream and clutch at our feet as we scramble away. They are the quiet ideas that lurk in our brains and don't come out until the lights are off and everyone else has left the building. Where do those ideas come from?

Using Trauma in our Tales

Many writers explore their own trauma in their writing, and readers often seek characters through whose senses they can experience a story. The characters who endure trauma are a challenge for authors, especially in realistic and compassionate portrayal of those trials and their aftermath. How do fantasy and horror writers deal with revisiting traumatic experiences that may be essential to their writing? Can authors exploring personal experiences breathe life into their characters and find catharsis in the process?

Small Press Impact: Great Books Not Published by the Big Five

Small-press editors and publishers talk about why writers and readers both should check out what's happening at the small presses. Our panelists share their experience and recommend great books published by small presses. They're not just for poetry anymore….

Caribbean Fantasy

The Caribbean is a vast archipelago with a rich and tumultuous history. Writers from the chain of 700 Caribbean islands bring the richness and political complexity of island culture to their fiction and poetry to tell stories beyond the ubiquitous stereotypes. How did those cultural influences affect their attitude toward writing and the stories they produced? Our panelists talk about what they are writing and reading right now.

Tell Me a Story: Audiobooks

Fantasy audiobooks can capture the listener's attention with riveting stories of mayhem and magic. Recording an audiobook can also involve mayhem and magic, and our panelists tell tales of both.

The Art of Book Covers

A book cover, ideally, is both a work of art and a sales tool, and a book cover needs to be both of these. Our panelists tell tales of tragedy and triumph in this space where art meets commerce.

Plagues and Pandemics

Writers have been portraying plagues in fiction for centuries. Society breaks down in the face of an invisible enemy. How do world events, such as the current pandemic, shape stories, and what opportunities and challenges do they give authors?

There’s Comedy in My Fantasy!

Humor is not separate from fantasy. It's not an additive, poured in after the fact. In many ways, humor is a form of fantasy, and can render the harmful harmless and reduce the deadly to the merely morbid. Our panelists talk about how they use humor in their work to underscore the serious and to deflect an existential sense of doom. (Or maybe not.)

Fantasy in Films and TV

Fantasy was underrepresented in movies and tv shows for decades, but that is no longer true. Filmed fantasy storytelling has been increasing greatly in the last decade or so. What are the hidden gems? Underappreciated shows? Movies to look for and enjoy?

Power Dynamics in Fantastical Worlds

Power dynamics are intrinsic to most folktales, and really to most stories, fantastical or not. When a writer engages in worldbuilding, one of the hardest tasks is how to introduce the societal structure and cultural atmosphere the characters will inhabit in the story or novel. In many tales, plot dynamics hinge on who has power and who doesn't, even if the class dynamics are relatively calm. Panelists will talk about how power ebbs and flows in their own work and in their favorite fantasies by other writers.  

World Fairy & Folk Tales

Fantastic tales are found all over the world and back in time to the earliest storytellers. Africa, China, India, the MIddle East, Southest Asia, the indigenous peoples of the Arctic, Central Asia, and  North and South America, Melanesia, Australialia, even Europe--everywhere there there are human beings there is a history of startling stories of unreal happenings. Panelists talk about the folktales, from within or without their own cultures, that have influenced their lives and writing. 

Norse and Germanic Fantasy: The Northern Thing

Norse and Germanic fantasy has held British, American, and Northern European readers in thrall for centuries. From Scandanavian epics to gothic novels to Wagner, from J.R.R.Tolkien to George R.R. Martin, trolls and elves and dwarves have threatened our literary and political systems almost without surcease. Our panelists explore the nature of this fascination. 

Making Readers Hungry: Food in Fantasy

A well-written scene featuring food can bring in the senses of taste, smell and appetite-inducing appearance. It’s a part of the story that can ground the reader deeper into the world and is often one of the more memorable actions in the story. Which authors do a good job of adding flavor to their prose?

Poetic Fantasy

Poetry is one of the oldest storytelling forms, but it is often underrepresented in genre literature today. This panel will celebrate the poets who use this ancient form of storytelling to spin a captivating tale.

Contemporary Fantasy

Literature responds to the anxieties and concerns of the times in which it was written.  Think of WW II’s impact on The Lord of the Rings. Contemporary Fantasy are the stories which are set in current time. What are the anxieties and concerns of our own era, and how are they influencing the composition of today's Fantasy?

Global Perspectives in Fantasy and Horror

The things that scare you might not be the ones that scare me, but there are some horrors that are nearly universal. As technology expands our global perspectives, we become more aware of the vast scope of stories from other cultures and their strong influence on fantasy and horror. Our panelists take us on quick tour of the things horrify them, from around the world.

Science in Fantasy

Have you ever been kicked out of a story by the author’s poor understanding of basic science? Yes, it’s a fantasy, and yes, the point of most magic is to bypass the rules of physics in one way or another, but really, there must be some consistency that the universe operates by. Which stories and authors are particularly good at portraying science in their fantasy?

Noir Fantasy and Fairylands

It was a dark and stormy, well, you know. Many of the genres are about mood and atmosphere as much as certain plotlines and character types. Enter noir fantasy. Whether it’s about a grizzled gumshoe who happens to be dark elf with an interest in murder or a vampire cop who keeps his own kind from breaking the socially acceptable forms of dining, the darker side of fantasy draws readers into the depths of this fascinating genre.

Alternative Forms of Storytelling

Whether it’s gaming, video games, or narration on a theme park ride, storytelling surrounds us. What influences do these alternative forms of story have on today's books? And what role do fantasy books have on the stories we encounter in our everyday lives?

A Gathering of Voices: The Importance of Anthologies

Originally denoted to evoke "a gathering of flowers," anthologies have become a vital resource in the science fiction and fantasy genre. Anthologies offer readers an opportunity to explore new and old ideas from a range of voices, both emerging and established. These collections can reignite enthusiasm about older or less known works, offer a welcoming space for new writers, and celebrate the mastery of authors who make important contributions to the field. Anthologies are fertile, contested spaces for discussions of  important developments and characteristics of the subgenres. How do these curated gatherings of works impact writers' careers? How can anthologies highlight and create new space for underrepresented voices? What are the challenges of publishing (and promoting) these works successfully, and how does the evolving taste of audiences influence this special part of the publishing industry?

Decolonization in Speculative Fiction

Colonialism has had an impact on everything in our world--including our stories, which too often repeat colonial fallacies and stereotypes. What does it mean to decolonize speculative fiction? How can popular tropes and archetypes be subverted? Who are the contemporary authors writing decolonial narratives? What can fantasy writers, editors, and publishers do as an industry to stop replicating colonial power structures?

Creating Monsters

Who and what are the most fascinating monsters of today's fantasy?  What new uncanny and ungainly creatures inhabit our stories, and how do they differ from the faded fears of yesterday?Our panelists talk about how they craft new monsters that embody contemporary dread.

Magazines and Their Impact on the Genre

Who and what are the most fascinating monsters of today's fantasy?  What new uncanny and ungainly creatures inhabit our stories, and how do they differ from the faded fears of yesterday? Our panelists talk about how they craft new monsters that embody contemporary dread.

Morally Grey Protagonists

A sub-theme permeating modern society is the reversal of good and evil. But readers want to care about the story’s protagonist.. How can the morally grey characters be written in a compelling and sympathetic way? Which authors have done this in a way that pulls characters through to the end?

Crossing the Genre Line: Stories in Multiple Genres

Many of us enjoy stories in several genres. And some authors write in multiple genres. Some even blend the two together. Let's talk about books and authors who cross the genre line.

What's Next in Children's Fantasy?

Do the trends in children's fiction follow adult fiction, or does the age of the readership define the direction a genre goes? What new trends do we see developing in children's fantasy?

Artists as Writers

Do artists see the world differently than writers? What if the artist is a writer? Does their artistic discipline and obsessions carry over into their writing? Or is writing a blessed relief from the demands of art?

How to Read Art for Non-Artists

An artist learns how to break images into their basic shapes and can make sense of a complicated scene while many non-artists struggle. How an artist sees a piece is informed by long hours of sketching. What can artists show others about the layers and symbols in an art piece?

The Laws of Fairyland

Every society, real and imaginary, has at its basis a legal system, a method of evaluating right versus wrong. What influences have modern legal systems had on fantasy fiction? What fictional worlds demonstrate a finely-tuned legal system, and what impact do those laws have on the development of the stories?

Transport Me to a New World!

Some books establish such a vivid sense of place that we feel as though we have stepped through the page into the story world. Some worlds are so sharp, so realistic that when we look up, our own worlds look dull and unexciting. Let's talk about the fantastic (or terrifying!) worlds that come alive in our minds.

The Fantastic Detective

The clues they follow aren't fingerprints and DNA. The culprits they're chasing might be human - or they might not. But solving crimes takes on new depths when the detective lives in a supernatural world. Whether they're cops, private investigators, or amateur sleuths, who doesn't love a gripping follow-the-clues mystery?

Queering Fantasy

How do you queer Fantasy and Fantasy tropes? Is it dropping in a queer character into an otherwise fantastical plot? Slipping in a positive queer romance? Or is it dismantling, changing, altering, and questioning the tropes that have been present in Fantasy for decades? Is it queering the way power is distributed in a society, or queering character goals and story endings? Does it touch how we build a Fantasy economy, a government, a landscape, a culture? We would say it includes all these things. Queer characters invite complete queer make-overs of Fantasy tropes. We're here to discuss that-- discussing the contributions of LGBTQIAA2S+ authors to the field; we want to give you plenty to look at and consider. Heck, we might, at the end, even compose multiple queer "I want" Disney songs for the Fantasy stories we want to create or see created--ya never know. 

Fantasy or Not, That Doesn't Work!

It's fiction, right? You can just make stuff up. But that doesn’t mean that the readers will find the story, characters and actions credible. Whether it’s economics, politics or the social order in the author’s world, it has to ring true. Our panelists discuss the works that exemplify making your world work.

Magic for Sale: Making Money and Paying the Price

Whether it's portrayed as a talent, a gift, or a skill, magic can be a moneymaking venture. But magic isn't free. What gains can a magic-wielder realize - and at what cost?

How Swordplay in Fantasy has Changed

Those swashbuckling pirates and battle-hardened warriors had better know how to fight with swords, or the realism will drop out of the story and hit the floor with a clang of steel. Nothing stirs a fantasy-lover’s blood like the clash of blades, the ring of metal-on-metal, the didge and parry of a skillful fighter. Panelists discuss effective sword fighting in fiction, from Sabatini and Howard to The Princess Bride. Has the art of fantasy swordsmanship changed along with reader's tastes and interests?

Collaboration: Are Two Heads Better than One?

What happens when two great authors put their heads together? Brilliance! Or maybe Double Trouble? Do they shave your head for collaboration, or are you really shaving your own head when you collaborate? Authors whose hair has mostly regrown address the question.

Tropes and Archetypes

Gilgamesh's mother was a goddess. Grendel's was a monster. Is there nothing interesting in between? How are today’s authors pushing past the old, tired tropes to bring a more real and interesting take on their characters? Panelists take a look at the many ways of liberating the goddess and the monster in fantastic fiction.

Diasporic Voices

We live, and we have always lived, in a world of diasporas, in which groups of people are moved or driven or stolen from their homelands and yet continue to remain a community and remake their lives in an unknown land. The journey to retain sense of self and community captures our sympathies and our imaginations. What fantasy and horror stories best describe the experiences of characters who are caught up in a diasporic event due to circumstances beyond their control? What are the stories of fantasy or horror being created to reflect on this experience and to re-imagine it?

Better than Ever!

Experience helps a writer gain perspective and sharpen their skills. Their writing deepens in complexity, and their focus shifts. Are there some topics that can only be handled well by experienced writers?

Fairyland was Nothing Like This…

What happens when the pandemic curse of 2020 hits fairyland? How far can an author push re-thinking fantasy elements and still keep the fae in tales of fairy? Our panelists share the works that change the very shape of fairyland. 

What's New in Books for Teens?

In the last few years, the excitement in fantasy has been in the teen and young adult categories. An explosion of titles now line the shelves. What are the new books, authors, trends and directions for this vibrant market?

The Art of the Series

Writing a series can be a balancing act that takes place over years to decades. Keeping the characters, themes and atmosphere consistent over the years can be a difficult trial for those who work in this longest of all forms. Who is particularly good at the art of the series?

Medical Realities & Improbabilities in Fantasyland

Diana Wynne Jones’s witty A Tough Guide to Fantasyland asks some awkward questions, like why nobody ever catches cold or contracts chilblains in epic fantasy novels. Fantasy heroes, no matter how many terrible wounds they suffer in battle, always seem to be able to avail themselves of a magical healer who will make them good as new with a few herbs and a spell or two. Is it possible to write fantasy with a greater degree of medical realism? Who has done so? Fiction or not, injuries and illnesses have medical consequences. How do those consequences shape the stories we love?

Fantasy Trendsetters

What new and exciting trails are today's fantasy books blazing? What books are setting trends, and what upcoming books do we not want to miss?

The Roots of Fairyland

Fairyland in many forms has been in our culture since the beginnings of recorded stories. Is "Fairyland" a fairly recent invention? Elves and trolls go back, it's true, to pre-Christian Northern European beliefs, but do the elves and trolls we know descend from those beliefs? Where does Tolkien go out and D&D come in? 

The Weirder Side of the Fantastic

What do we mean by weird fiction? Fiction which distorts reality a lot, as opposed to a little? Or something else? How and where does it overlap with fantasy and horror?

What's Now and Next in Horror

Join us for a brief overview on today’s field of horror. Who are the authors to watch? What upcoming books do we not want to miss? What are the new and exciting subgenres to watch for?

Podcasting - is it The Voice of Fantasy?

Podcasting gives everyone the possibility of essentially making their own private radio station, speaking on any subject or sharing their works in an audible form. What is podcasting's place in the genre of fantasy today? Is this a way to discover new writers and become informed about the state of our favorite genre?

The Attractive Evil

Even as kids, we knew we were supposed to like the dashing heroes, but we were secretly fascinated by the horrifying, yet oddly appealing, monsters. Vampires, dark fey, evil fairies capture our imagination and draw us into the dark places where--oddly--we love to go. Why are we attracted to the chillingly creepy? 

Short Fiction's Place in Fantasy

Fantasy is clearly a friendly place for writers who write long, but is there a nook by the fireside for short story writers? Editors and writers who enjoy a short story as much as a thousand-page novel explain why.

Fairyland Goes to War

War! What is it good for? Well, it's been a linchpin of epic fantasy, and now it's marching on contiguous territories. Is war inevitable in Fairyland? What are our weapons?

Alternate History

Alternate history has long been the domain of science-fiction writers, but it is now being enthusiastically colonized by writers of fantasy, who are bringing in magic, dragons, and the full panoply of  the uncanny into what used to be an orderly and rational sub-genre. Who's doing this and what's going on? 

The Fall of Shannara

More than 40 years after Terry Brooks first flashed The Sword of Shannara, The Last Druid has brought the series to an end. Let's take a look at the ways in which these books and their popularity influenced other writers and the fantasy genre as a whole.  

Music and Fantasy Writing. Play on!

Some writers evoke music in their work to create a mood for the reader, and some listen to music while they're writing to evoke moods in themselves. How does this work for fantasists?  

Western Mythology in the American Culture

The myth of the Old West was created quite deliberately, and its lies were enhanced and sustained by historians, writers, showmen, and entertainers for well over a century and a half. How has this myth informed and been subverted in the work of contemporary writers of fantasy, including in the substantial body of work by Native American writers? 

World Fantasy Award Ceremony

Grab a glass of your favorite beverage and join us online for the World Fantasy Award ceremony on Sunday, November 1, 2020. Toastmasters Tracy and Laura Hickman will speak, and we’ll hear from our honored guests as well. Then we'll learn who will receive this year's coveted World Fantasy Awards. The ceremony will be conducted live.

Judges' Review Panel

Following the WFA Ceremony the attending judges will discuss this year's award process and answer questions.

Feedback Panel

WFC members are invited to ask questions and give feedback to this year's Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson; next year's chair will be on hand to answer questions about the 2021 WFC.

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