In order to pass on slightly convincing as an academic one sometimes has to have the possibility to say: “I’m sorry I can’t meet you next week because I’m abroad for a conference (horhorhor)”.
This week it was finally my turn to be such a ponce. And not just something around the corner. Noooo. To Orlando, Florida it is. Here the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Art is hosted every year and this time I was allowed to present a paper.
This resulted in several novelties:
- Flying to another continent
- Going to America
- Speaking at a big ass conference
- Taking part in a big ass conference
Here are some random observations about all 5 points.
London is pretty transversable in the morning
To fly to Orlando can be done through many routes. I had to take two flights. The first went from Amsterdam to London Heathrow. However, my connection went from London Gatwick to Orlando. Heathrow – Gatwick. All of that in 3 hours. So what do we do? We shut the hell up, take the metro and train – which is rather busy but doable – and travel through the entirety of London in 1 hour 20. Slightly proud of that.
Babies: Ok. Sure they cry but shut up soon enough. They’re more surprised than cranky.
3 year olds: Spawns from Satan. These kids moan about everything. Plane taking off, not sitting good, not liking the film, not liking the scariness of the film. They never shut up….
Films: So many
Homework: None. Fuck it. You have a huge catalogue of pretty recent films. I’ve only watched films on the way here. I do not apologise for my actions.
Florida has a subtropical climate. This means that in March the temperature is about 28 degrees. I was not prepared for this. Sure, I knew it would be warm. But 28 took me, and my clothing, aback.
I am not American. And even if I were, I do not count. I do not have a car. I am a plebeian peasant. Orlando has these really wide roads with lots of cars at all times. There are diners on all sides of the roads. Only tourists walk and they’re a sight to see for the locals. I had to walk to a supermarket, which was 1 hour away. The availability of sidewalks remained questionable, as well as my status as sane human being. Who the hell walks in America?
I know Orlando is famous for its theme parks (Disneyworld, Universal Studios). My hotel however is in a hotel neighbourhood. Everything here looks fake. Facades dominate the buildings and their yellow buildup made me think of movie terminals. One might even say the whole of Orlando, because also the diners mentioned before have this artificial look, is one big theme park. Come to think of it, it is the number 1 retirement possibility as well I believe. How else to go out in a city that is already half way to being a non-reality.
The conference started on Wednesday. Upon entering and getting my nametag I had to do that daunting activity: Mingling. However, mingling in America is both very easy, and very unnerving. Basically just walking up to anyone and asking what they’re presenting on will put you in a conversation. At the same time, people from all directions come to you to ask you questions. You get to know a lot of people this way. Within the first 5 minutes I had found people to go to Universal Studios with. That was nice. But damn, these people want to get to know you.
My paper was about Fairy Tale Animatronics, or the ways in which theme parks present fairy tales in such a way that the visitor can imagine their own version of the tale or an official version in forced through. I had to kick off one of the first panels, so I had no idea what was expected of me. So I did my thing. I stood up, went through my incessant but well crafted powerpoint with my speech learned by heart. That went fine. Turns out however, it is more customary in such conferences to just stay seated and just read your paper, often without a powerpoint even.
I’ll concede that this may be easier to follow than my rapid and often erratic presentations.
But fuck it. I prefer my way.
Sometimes I think – I know – I am a cranky asshole. Apparently ICFA is more of a community than a conference. It is not just scholars attending. It is also fantasy writers, editors and publishers. It’s a mix between a fan convention and a scholarly conference. Being a community, it is expected you return every year, you get to know everyone and you participate in the organisations. It also means that you are extremely friendly when discussing other papers. This certainly makes for a friendly atmosphere. But sometimes I feel like I don’t want to be all cuddly. Sometimes I feel like I want some harsh feedback on my paper, or just want to more critically point out problems I have with papers of others. The whole friendly community aspect is alien to me and sometimes rubs me the wrong way. So yea, like I said, cranky asshole. Because it is fun, and my preferences won’t change that.
Some more free coffee would improve a lot, I must admit. Guess what isn’t there.