Decatur Book Festival: Dragon*Con Annex

From high atop the eyrie of the Flatiron Building, the Great Eye of Tor Books cast Its glance across the landscape–and Its attention chanced to fall upon the Decatur Book Festival. It had been looking for Dragon*Con, but what the hell. Criteria were considered: expected attendance of 75,000. Check. Book buyers and author panels. Check. Major metropolitan area. Check. Worthy of attention. Minions should be dispatched.

Later, some of the aforementioned minions came by and redirected Its attention to the actual Dragon*Con, only a short (according to the timetables) ride away on public transport, and breathed a collective sigh of relief when It blinked understanding and fixed Its gaze on the larger prize. Still, in some place on which it is perilous to speculate, a plan was forming. Why not take over two festivals at once? Mwahaha.

There is something about Tor which we SFF geeks cannot resist. Perhaps it is some sort of geekish pheromone. We don’t even know what has lured us into these places in which It can enrapture our attention and make us buy books we didn’t realize we needed. This is, I believe, similar to but not the same as the glamour by which It forces the corporate buyers at B&N and Borders to bow to Its whims. All I really know is that when I looked at the program for the Decatur Book Festival, having (for reasons I didn’t understand until too late) decided to direct my attention there rather than Dragon*Con this year, there were several panels full of SFF authors. I confess it: my programming kicked in. I decided these panels were of interest.

Oh, yes, they were entertaining. I enjoyed listening to Kevin Anderson, Tobias Buckell, Cherie Priest and John Scalzi on Saturday morning. I was immediately intrigued by the similarity between this panel and a hundred other such panels I had attended at SFF cons. Perhaps author panels are the same everywhere, yes? Perhaps. When I realized all four authors are under contract with Tor, and that a couple of Tor editors were in attendance as well, I merely thought, Well, good for them. Decatur Book Festival is big enough to merit the attention of a New York house, after all.

It wasn’t until I wandered into Brandon Sanderson‘s panel (I hesitate to call it that; the poor guy obviously ran all the way from Dragon*Con, and then was expected to handle a session invented by a teen literary group all alone) and recalled that he, too, is a Tor author that I began to understand. Props, btw, to Mr. Sanderson, who did a lovely job with the topic they threw at him, engaged the audience in lively discussion of SF and Fantasy and the relative merits thereof. Only at one moment did he begin to get all Literary (thus perking up my little ears in hopes of Yet More Interesting Discourse) and started talking about the Hero’s Journey as documented by Joseph Campbell. But he caught himself immediately and brought the discussion back to the arena his fans desired.

That was my favorite moment of the entire festival, because I am a SFF geek and it reminded me of the difference between the things we talk about at literary cons (of which I am an unabashed fan) and the things we talk about at more fannish events.

But I am not sure I experienced the true Decatur Book Festival, because aside from those panels that turned out to be a part of Tor’s plot to annex the Decatur Book Festival to Dragon*Con, I saw little besides the schmoozing, the power lunching, and the fans circulating among booths, drenched in their own sweat–all of which was pretty much like the rest of Dragon*Con. I had planned to attend both days, but (due, I suspect, to the Ungodly Heat, the Atlanta smog, or some unholy combination thereof) I spent the day working up to a migraine and most of the next day trying to recover.

I’m disappointed that I missed out on the True Decatur Book Festival. Next year I will make a point of attending some panels that have nothing to do with SFF and perhaps even hold some sort of power lunch with someone who doesn’t really understand the difference between SF and F or what all the fuss about the distinction is. But I must say that there is one way in which Dragon*Con has it all over the Decatur Book Festival, and it has nothing to do with the proximity of a proper tiki bar in which to broker publishing deals.

Air conditioning.

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