Programming for the 2019 World Fantasy Convention will attempt to be informative, instructive, thought-provoking (in a good way), and entertaining (likewise). Our central theme is Fantasy Noir but we intend to extend out to as many areas of fantasy as possible.
In addition to the programming that traditionally fills the World Fantasy Convention programming, we will be adding a series of unofficial morning (don’t worry, not too “morning”) panels designed to help professional writers expand their skill sets, explore new markets and styles, and learn techniques for marketing and branding. Details for these programs will be announced in the coming weeks.
If you have any questions in the meantime, please contact our head of programming, Craig Miller, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tentative List of 2019 Panels
The following is the working list of panels for the upcoming World Fantasy Convention 2019 that have been approved by the World Fantasy organization. While we cannot guarantee that all panels on this list will actually take place at the convention (due to scheduling and other concerns), we expect the vast majority of them to be on our schedule, which will be released in the weeks to come.
Please note that this is not a full list of programming, as there will be other events — including events with our guests of honor, readings and other programs — taking place throughout the weekend.
General Fantasy Discussions
A Culture Not My Own: How can one best write fiction set in a culture or religion/mythology the author wasn’t raised in? How can one avoid cultural appropriation? Should non-Asians avoid Asia-set stories? Non-Norwegians not write about the Norse gods? And what about crossing cultures, combining elements from more than one?
The Role of Editors Today: Over the last century, editors like Farnsworth Wright, Lin Carter, the del Reys, and Terri Windling changed the shape of the fantasy and horror genres. What roles do editors play in 2019?
Is It Possible to Separate the Writer from Their Works?: Do revelations of a writer’s ideologies or past actions change the books they’ve written? How does the reader reconcile past enjoyment of an author’s work once they’re made aware of these issues?
Has Social Media Changed Fantasy & Horror?: Historically, the masterworks of fantasy fiction were written in relative isolation. Today, many writers are very active in social media. Has that changed fantasy fiction? Would Tolkien have asked the hivemind for advice about how to portray the Balrog? Do the reactions you receive in social media influence how and what you write?
Visualizing Fantasy: By now, just about everyone in the world knows what a fantasy world looks like. But have they formed these worlds from their own imaginations while reading descriptions in books or have their visions been filled by fantasy art from popular movies and video games? How have these genres interacted with fantasy writing? Who is influencing whom? Has our combined vision been restricted or enhanced by knowing, in absolute and realistic detail, what our fantasies can look like?
The Physically Disabled Fantasy Hero: Perhaps because it is as inconvenient to plot as it can be in real life, disability is rarely depicted in the protagonists of fantasy worlds. What are the rare instances where disability is represented? Has it been done well or badly? How might a medieval, or even urban, fantasy adventure for a disabled hero take place?
Death and the Fantasy Character: Raymond Chandler was talking about prose when he said “Murder your darlings,” but George R.R. Martin might have misunderstood him when he started the Game of Thrones series. What are the reasons writers kill their characters? Is it fair when writers like Tolkien apparently kill off characters, only to have them return?
The Fantasies of Hayao Miyazaki: The driving force behind movies including Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle, and other fantastic films is one of the recipients of this year’s World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Awards. The panel will discuss his themes and stories and what sets them apart from other films.
Heroes & Villains: What makes a hero memorable? To be a character who can keep the interest of readers (and the author) and who can carry novel after novel? And how about villains? What makes them more than just an evil presence to be defeated? Why are they often more interesting than the heroes?
Combat!: Experts in fighting hand-to-hand and sword fighting debunk myths and set the record straight as they talk about what authors get right, what authors get wrong, and why it matters.
Poetry Open Mic/Slam
Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading
When Authors (and Fans) Die: As much as we’d like to be immortal, nothing and no one lasts forever. But what to do with their stuff? In the case of authors, what happens to their manuscripts (especially in progress works)? How should you prepare for the day when your family has to deal with everything you have? Particularly if they’re not themselves fans.
The Worst Ideas in Fantasy & Horror: The title says it all. Authors and editors talk about the ideas that make them crazy but seem to show up again and again.
Speaking in Tongues: Tolkien was a linguist who spent a long time working on the Elvish language. Do writers today need to create their own language for their fantasy novels?
Humor in Fantasy: An awful lot of fantasy is serious. Oh so very serious. Some, of course, have funny moments. But where are the fantasy novels that are comedic? And are there any that were supposed to be funny but didn’t quite work?
Fantasy Mystery: For the readers, what are the pluses and minuses of combining mysteries with fantasy? Can you transcend each of the genres to create something greater? And who are the Sam Spades and Nancy Drews of fantasy?
Mixing Genres: Not that there aren’t a lot of different distinct flavors of fantasy (high fantasy, dark fantasy, urban fantasy, and a dozen or so more) but what happens when you mix fantasy with genres like science fiction or westerns; romance or horror? Is it more than a gimmick? What parts of each genre do you stir into the pan to create your masterpiece? What are some of the best examples of each such combination?
International Fantasy: In the past few years there’s been a big upswing of fantasy and dark fantasy written in Japan, China, Mexico, Nigeria, and other countries by people writing in languages other than English. How do these works differ from fantasy written by English-speaking North Americans? Who should we all be reading?
Fantasy on Television: Does Fantasy work on television? A discussion of mini-series such as Le Guin’s Earthsea, Grossman’s The Magicians TV series, and even the fantasy of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Once Upon A Time.
Forgotten Fantasy: Fantasy is a form that dates from the earliest days of storytelling and from the beginnings of publishing. Some authors from the early 20th century are still well-known and read. But other authors of equal quality have fallen from our memories. Who are the great fantasy authors we don’t talk about anymore? Which books should you seek out and read?
Fantasy Noir: What Is It?: Is fantasy noir more than combining elements of noir detective stories with fantasy? How are tropes from both genres used and twisted to produce something new and innovative? What are some of the best examples of fantasy noir out there? Panelists will discuss and define the shadowy world of fantasy noir.
California Dreamin‘: Fantasy Set in California: From mystical visions of Hollywood to fairies roosting in the Muir Woods, California was always been a favorite setting for fantasy novels. What is it that makes California such a rich setting for fantasy? What are some great examples of fantasy novels set in the Golden State?
Gender and Writing Fantasy: Gender influences much about how we see each other. Panelists will discuss not only gender as it is traditionally defined but also topics relevant to gender-non-conforming, trans, and nonbinary writers and readers. In what ways does fantasy allow writers to explore gender that other genres do not? Including Elizabeth Lynn’s groundbreaking novels, how have gender issues been addressed in the past?
Wizards and Whist: Regency-Era Fantasy: The Regency era continues to be a popular setting for historical fantasy, from Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series to Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist Histories. What makes it so appealing?
Feasts in Fantasy: From Elves’ lembas in Lord of the Rings to the questionable pies in Game of Thrones, fantasy is chock full of interesting food. So much so that cookbooks have been inspired from the food described in several series. How is food used to enrich the worlds of fantasy novels? What does it tell us about life in those worlds?
The Art of the Book Cover: Artists discuss their approach to creating a book cover, from conception through execution. What goes into their decision-making? What are some of their favorite covers, and why do they think these cover are so good?
The Art of Magical Creatures: Myths and legends have always been a popular topic for the artist, but what accounts for their appeal? Do people have a pre-conceived notion of what myths and legends should look like, or do artists feel free to experiment? What are the special challenges of portraying creatures of myth and legend in paint, digital mediums, or in any art form.
Digital Tools for the Artist: Digital tools are changing the way some artists make art. As digitally-created art becomes more and more popular, will physical tools disappear or will they achieve a new status as artisanal materials? What can you do with physical materials that you still can’t do digitally? Panelists discuss the pros and cons of digital tools.
Beyond Castles, Horses and Knights: Non-Eurocentric Fantasy: Fantasy influenced by non-European cultures has become more and more prevalent and popular. What makes this take on worldbuilding so appealing? And what are the pitfalls of trying to do it? What are the best examples of it we can point to today?
Urban fantasy for the 21st Century: Urban fantasy has in recent years commonly featured supernatural detectives and monstrous creatures. But some modern writers are looking back to its roots, reaching back beyond vampires and werewolves to find new/old ways to tell stories of the supernatural in real-world settings. Urban Fantasy writers are exploring non-European mythology, showing readers marginalized communities, and twisting the traditional tropes of the genre.
You Say You Want a Revolution? Alternative Political Systems in Fantasy: Traditionally, monarchies are the default for fantasy. But we’ve also seen other models such as oligarchies and corporate alliances. What other models of government can fantasy worlds follow? And what pitfalls should would these entail?
Christianity and Fantasy: The Lord of the Rings. Narnia. A good deal of “important” fantasy is grounded in Christianity. How important is Christianity and other religions to fantasy and, in particular, modern fantasy?
Long Time Writing: Some writers are new. They’ve only been writing professionally for a few years. Others have been writing for decades. Neil Gaiman’s first published work was 1984. Stephen King’s 1967. Robert Silverberg’s 1952. As time goes on, how does your writing change? Different influences? Different subject matter? A different process? How has time effected you?
The Future of Fantasy: The fantasy stories being written today are different from the stories from the mid-20th century. How have they changed? And what can we expect from future fantasists?
The Future of Horror: In the late-’80s, serial killer novels became extraordinary popular with the advent of Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon and, especially, The Silence of the Lambs. Everyone was writing them, not just horror writers. Then the serial killer novel moved into the crime genre, where it mostly remains. Recently there seems to be a return to the more supernatural mode of horror. What can we expect from future horror writers?
The Fantasy Life of Animals: There are plenty of stories about people who change into animals and vice-versa, but there are also a raft of tales where the characters are animals. “Charlotte’s Web”, “Animal Farm”, “Watership Down”. As well as Guest of Honor Tad Williams’ “Tailchasers Song”. What is the draw of animals as characters? And is the idea of animals with deep thoughts so far away from our talking to our pets and expecting them to know what we tell them to do?
The Hero’s (and Heroine’s) Journey: We’ve all heard of the Hero’s Journey. Joseph Campbell famously gave a series of lectures on it. But is it exclusively a male journey? What about the female hero? Do stories about female characters have to follow a different journey? Why?
What Makes it YA?: From an author’s perspective, what’s the difference in the storytelling for a YA book from one aimed at “adults”? Certainly a lot of YA books have sex and swearing and deadly danger. Is it just having a hero who’s a teenager?
Poetry of the Fantastic: A discussion of fantasy poetry of all kinds (including horror) chaired by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association.
What’s the Difference Between Dark Fantasy and Horror?: Some people think dark fantasy and horror are the same but they’re not. Is it just a question of “I know it when I see it” or something more tangible? If the latter, then what?
Switching Gears: Some writers work solely in one genre. Others write create in several genres, including fantasy, science fiction, horror, crime, etc. Which writers do, why do they do it, and how do they do it? What does it take to able switch gears between fantasy or horror and, for example, mystery? And for the writers who do “switch gears”, how do their various genre works compare to each other.
Literary Fantasy: Books like Susanna Clarke’s “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell”, “The Fifth Season” by N.K. Jemisin, and Kazuo Ishiguro’s “The Buried Giant” have been declared to be Literary Fantasy. What is meant by that phrase? Is it actually something different or just something created by academics and critics?
Eastern Spirituality: The increasing popularity of Japanese manga and anime, particularly the films of Hiyao Miyazaki, have brought Eastern religions and ideals into the culture of fantasy. Totoro is a Kami of a Shinto shrine; Mononoke is a more powerful nature spirit; and Spirited Away is infused with Eastern morality. How have these figures influenced Western fantasy? Who is adopting the philosophy of the West into modern stories?
Science and Magic: From faster-than-light drives to mad inventors, fantasy is filled with science that borders on magic. The Millennium Falcon works mostly because Han Solo and R2-D2 are really wizards of technology. Miyazaki’s films feature dreams of flying, brought into reality by improbable airplanes built by child geniuses. And steampunk hinges around technology that really shouldn’t work. Why are we so fascinated by the merging of technology and magic?
Horror in the Sunlight: We think of horror as something that happens in the night, or at least in a dark basement. But there is a group of California writers, sometimes called the “California sorcerers,” who wrote horror that happens under the sun. This panel will discuss the sunlit works of Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, William Nolan, George Clayton Johnson, and John Tomerlin, and talk about the possibility of horror revealed by light.
Dragons Abide: Of all the creatures found in myth and fantastic tales, dragons seem to be everywhere. Knights fighting dragons. Chinese imperial dragons. Fantasy novels. Dragons are everywhere. What is it about dragons that make them so popular? And pervasive?
The Changing Face of Collecting: The boomer generation had all the money and space they needed to collect anything they wanted, and did so until their shelves ran over. But demographics are changing now, and the younger generations have very little interest in the collections of their elders, and very little space to pursue their own collections. How have the dynamics of collecting changed? Has this changed the marketplace for fantasy and horror books and movies?
The Classics of Fantasy & Horror: What titles? Which authors? Why these books? What should I read in order to appreciate the genre?
The Best Book No One is Reading: What gems are the rest of us missing out on?
Hopepunk vs Grimdark: Are readers tiring of the dark, morally ambiguous hero and ultraviolent worlds of today’s Grimdark fantasy subgenre? Does the return to nobility and honor proposed by the Hopepunk and Noblebright tropes have a chance to capture an audience? Discuss.
Good Endings for Books in a Continuing Series: There’s little more annoying than when the book your reading is part of a series and it doesn’t end. It just stops. Nothing is accomplished. Nothing is achieved. You can’t wrap up every character’s story if there are two more books in the series. But how do you conclude the book and satisfy the readers but keep the adventure going?
You Got Romance in My Fantasy!: Romance has always had a place in fantasy, and the fantasy romance subgenre is more popular than ever. Panelists discuss the history and trends of romance in both mainstream fantasy and fantasy romance.
Portraying the Military in Fantasy: Soldiers and armies – and navies – appear in many fantasies. Sometimes they’re just blobs of people, there to get in the way of the protagonist. Other times, they’re actually portrayed as fighting forces, for good or evil. But how good a job do authors do in showing military organizations in ways that are realistic? And is the point to get it right?
The Judges Speak: Members of the judging panel for this year’s World Fantasy Awards – the people who narrow it down to the finalists on the ballot – talk about their process, the trends they spotted, and what they thought of this year’s crop of fantasy and horror.
Recommended Reading: Novels: Some of the best read amongst us give their recommendations on the recent fantasy and horror novels you shouldn’t miss.
Recommended Reading: Short Fiction: Some of the best read amongst us give their recommendations on the recent fantasy and horror stories you shouldn’t miss. Gather around the fire pit as some of fantasy and horror’s best storytellers tell tales to keep you from sleeping.
The World of Fairy Tales: Tales of events which occur outside of reality exist in most every culture throughout the world. What are the recurring themes that cross cultures? Are these expressions of societal norms or propagations of religious myths? Or are they just stories to scare kids into “behaving properly”?
The Trickster: From the Monkey King to Loki to Kokopelli, supernatural tales from around the world often contain a being who cannot quite be trusted. Sometimes these figures are merely mischievous, but sometimes they are frighteningly destructive. Who are these tricksters, and what place do they have in our stories? And why do we find them so attractive?
Horror on Screen: Your mind can make any scene in a horror story far more scary than anything Hollywood technicians can create. But which horror films have managed to actually be frightening beyond just something popping out and going “boo!”?
California Screaming: Modern Golden State Horror Stories and Writers: Join horror writers as they discuss modern stories set in California. What makes California a unique setting for horror, both psychological and supernatural, and what can stories set there tell us about the nature of fear?
Horror In YA Literature: Horror is an established genre in YA literature, from serial killers to vampires to zombies. What does YA allow us to tell that adult fiction does not? What’s on the horizon for YA horror?
The Mainstreaming of Lovecraft’s Creations: Cthulhu and his fellow Elder Gods have found a new life in stories, popular culture, animation, games, songs, and even toys long after HP Lovecraft’s death. The Mythos are often mashed up with other creations as in the collection Shadows over Baker Street and The Adventures of Tintin at the Mountains of Madness. What accounts for the enduring popularity of the Mythos?
Special Program Topics
Black Fantasy & Horror: Afrofuturism is the science fiction, fantasy, and horror created by or featuring the children of the African Diaspora. Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due, as authors, educators and filmmakers, are among the world’s greatest experts on the field. Join them for a discussion of the history, theory, and creation of this increasingly vital and important branch of literature and fandom.
Writers & Social Media: Social media is often seen as the bane of a writer’s existence. However, done correctly, social media is an amazing way to connect with fans and people who will grow to adore your work. The problem is that the social media landscape is enormous and rife with pitfalls. Join USA Today Bestselling author Russell Nohelty as he simplifies social media and gives you a very simple way to make it an enjoyable and productive use of your time.
Crowdfunding for Authors: “New York” publishers. Indie publishers. Self-publishing through Amazon and similar organizations. All perfectly respectable decisions for getting published in our modern world. Recently added to the mix is crowdfunding, through Kickstarter and the like. Is it viable? How do you go about it? What does it take to successfully fund a book?
The Elements of a Successful Book Launch: Panelists will discuss what you need to do – including pricing and promotional strategies – to succeed with an indie book launch.
Working with Local Bookstores to Build Your Readership: Local bookstores, both chain and independent, are more important to authors than ever. How do we work with staff to coordinate signing and special events to connect with our fans and make new ones?
Understanding and Maximizing Facebook Ads: Panelists discuss the ins and outs of Facebook ads including boosting versus organic reach versus targeted ads, best practices in setting up ads, designing ads that support your marketing objectives, and understanding Facebook’s every-changing rules and strategies.
Dictation for Writers: Want to learn to use Dragon or other dictation tools to write faster or just give your fingers a rest? John our panelists, who will discuss software, hardware, training and tips to make your dictation experience easier.
Making and Marketing Audiobooks: Our panelists discuss the world of audiobooks – from getting started to outsourcing production or producing your own. How do you successfully market your audiobooks? What are the best price points? How do you find a narrator and how are they paid?
Why Manuscripts Arrive DOA at Agents and Publishers: Submitting manuscripts to literary agents and aquisition editors is a courageous act. It can also be a frustrating and perplexing one. When you’ve spent months or years of your life writing a book that you take great pride in, sometimes it’s hard to understand — let alone accept — why they don’t see the value in it that you and your colleagues do. What did they see that you didn’t — and what can you do to minimize rejection and increase your chances for acceptance and publication? Now you can learn from a panel of industry experts who will share many of the secrets and insights, so you can upgrade the quality of your writing to a new level, take your rejections less personally, as well as target your submissions more successfully.
When Hollywood Comes To Call: You’ve written a book or a series of books. Now you or your agent gets a call from a producer. What happens next? What can you expect in this journey?
Self-Publishing v. Small Press v. Major Publishing House: What are the differences? Which way is the right way to go? Can you publish in multiple settings or do you have to make a decision?
Writers Workshops: Thousands of writers swear by writers workshops and weekly or monthly ‘writers groups’. What works? Have a regular deadline can make you more productive. How else do they help? What are the possible pitfalls?
Writing Fantasy For Television: Genre television has most often been science fiction. Star Trek. Space 1999. Dozens more. But once in while, fantasy gets its turn. Highlander and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And, more recently, Outlander and Once Upon A Time. What are the ins and outs of writing fantasy for television?
Author as Art Director?: You’ve decided to self-publish. The text is fine. That’s your specialty. But what about things like covers? What should go there? Where do you find artists? What about the cover design? The font for the title. Where on the page should it go? What do you need to know? Are there services or people you can turn to?
From Page to Cover: Artists talk about how they take the written word and transform it into images that will attract readers. How true to the text do they need to be?
Magic Systems 101: What makes a magic system work? What do you need to do to make it believable for the readers? And what makes it so unique and compelling that readers can’t put down the book?