I Stole Peter Straub’s Table Tent
The panel concluded. Everyone but me had left the room. And there it was. He clearly didn’t want it. He’d left it behind. Can I be blamed? No! IT’S PETER STRAUB’S TABLE TENT. Well, it was. And now it’s mine.
Peter Straub and Caitlín R. Kiernan were at the 2014 World Fantasy Convention for, among other things, the panel “The Literary Uses of Fantasy” with Coode Street Podcast and a moderator leading the questions. The point of the panel was to discuss why “writers clearly capable of realistic, character-driven stories choose to introduce fantastic elements, some of them extreme, into their stories.” The question seemed kinda rude to me, but I guess if you’re part of a community accustomed to defending the aerodynamic capacity of dragons and the worldview of ghosts, you can come out fighting against a direct attack on your choice of career.
This was an entertaining panel with no actual hard feelings. Throughout, Straub and Kiernan upended expectations, dreams and misconceptions. They commiserated about the writer’s life, which Straub said is something no one should ever want. Kiernan crushed the hopes of all multi-draft writers in the audience (ahem, me!) with her assertion “I rarely write more than one draft.” She’s the author of 10 novels and 200 other pieces of published writing. Eventually, Coode Street called them out for messing up everything taught in MFA programs.
I most enjoyed watching Straub and Kiernan interact. They seemed like old friends. The world of fantasy throws all kinds of people together – all races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, genders and knitting skill levels. The panel was as diverse as the audience, though the penchant for black clothing was universal.
The Straub/Kiernan panel was my favorite of all the panels I attend over the four-day course of the convention, but I also enjoyed the awards ceremony at the end. Caitlín Kiernan won for best collection with The Ape’s Wife and Other Stories. She also won for best short fiction with “The Prayer of Ninety Cats.” Plus, toastmaster, puppeteer and author Mary Robinette Kowal was a hoot. The next time I’m inclined to feel bad about one of my stories getting rejected, I’ll attempt to remember Kowal’s admonition that no matter what happens, that failure isn’t public, and “Your audience will never have to see a needle velcro’d to your puppet’s crotch.”