03 February 2008

One Day of the AWP Bookfair

Due to various technical mishaps, I wasn't able to get into the AWP Bookfair on Friday to help the ever-erstwhile Clayton Kroh with the Best American Fantasy/Weird Tales table. Saturday, though, was no problem, and I spent the day in the labyrinthine world of the Bookfair -- three floors of tables and booths. It took me fifteen minutes just to find our table, placed as it was against a back wall of the farthest room, and once when I wandered out alone I managed to walk in circles for at least ten minutes before realizing the source of the profound sense of deja vu filling my brain.

Tempest Bradford stopped by, and I quickly convinced her to take over the table so I could wander around and give copies of BAF to any magazine or journal whose representatives I could convince to take one. It can be amazingly difficult to give things away at AWP, because so many people are traveling by airplane and cannot carry away piles and piles of the many things it is so easy to accumulate (although BEA is worse by an order of magnitude). But I persevered, and got to learn about a bunch of publications that were new to me. I also got to see folks I hadn't seen in a while, including Eric Lorberer of Rain Taxi, Rusty Morrison and Ken Keegan of Omnidawn, various members of the staff of Tin House (whose amazement that I no longer have a beard made me realize just how long it's been since I saw them last...), Eli Horowitz of McSweeney's, Aaron Burch of Hobart, a bunch of folks from Redivider, the wonder that is Richard Nash of Softskull/Counterpoint, and the great and glorious people of One Story, including editor Hannah Tinti, who, I learned, has a novel coming out in June: The Good Thief (Hannah's story collection Animal Crackers is excellent). I spent a bit of time chatting with Lawrence Schimel, who loaned me a lovely baby-blue bag in which to carry things. Small Beer Press was there in the force of Gavin Grant, Jed Berry, and Kelly Link, and I glanced at an advanced copy of John Kessel's upcoming collection, The Baum Plan for Financial Independence, a book all upstanding citizens will want to place on their bedside tables (no word yet on the deluxe coffee-table edition, which will feature photos of John Kessel and Jim Kelly acting out scenes from the stories). Finally, I got to talk briefly with Charles Flowers, of the Lambda Literary Foundation, who assured me that his excellent literary magazine, Bloom will, indeed, be producing a new issue soon.

And now a list of some of the journals I picked up copies of because they were new to me, though in some cases they are quite venerable publications (listed in the order of which I have pulled them out of my backpack): Third Coast, HOW, Dos Passos Review, So to Speak, Phoebe,The Yalobusha Review, Knockout, and Practice.

By the time I got back to the table, Theodora Goss had joined Tempest. Dora was at AWP to, among other things, help promote Interfictions along with her co-editor Delia Sherman, and there seemed to be a lot of interest among the AWP crowd in the book, as well as in such things as Omnidawn's Paraspheres and our Best American Fantasy. Core genre fiction is still not something that most people who attend AWP seem to get excited about, but particularly among the younger attendees, I noticed a great excitement for fiction that isn't in a strictly realist mode, fiction that draws from all sorts of different sources. Dora said a panel on fairy tales had been extremely popular, as was the panel on realist/nonrealist fiction. There was more interest in Weird Tales than I expected, too, with at least five people asking me, "Is that the Weird Tales?" -- people who seemed to think the magazine had died some years ago. It is very much alive, though, and new fiction editor Ann VanderMeer is working hard to bring its old traditions into the new century.

By the end of the day, I was completely exhausted, and my only regret was that I hadn't been able to be at the entire conference, nor did I get a chance to attend any of the panels, presentations, or parties. Chicago, though, is not so far away...