In November of 2007, I co-organized a conference. My partners in crime were two of the most excellent people it has ever been my pleasure to work with, Jennifer Miller and Lindsay Craig. It was called Fantasy Matters, and was held at the University of Minnesota.
Helping to organize a conference is one of those quixotic and mad activities that you decide to do because you do not realize how much work it actually is. (This is where I take off all my hats, and salute anyone who has ever served on a ConCom. You lot are my heros.) But somehow - through luck, and hard work, and did I mention the amazingness of Jen and Lindsay? - we pulled it off. Our keynote speakers were Neil Gaiman and Jack Zipes. Other writers in attendance included Nnedi Okorafor, Jim Hines, David Anthony Durham, Theodora Goss, Caitlin Kittredge, Jackie Kessler, and Patrick Rothfuss, all of whom are fabulous. Scholars came from as far away as Turkey. It was an extraordinary experience.
Our goal in organizing the conference was to create a space where everyone who loved fantasy literature (defined as broadly as possible - so for these purposes, assume a scifi video game is fantasy literature) could come together and talk about what they loved, and why that thing they loved was important - to make, to think critically about, to enjoy. I can't speak for any of the other attendees, but the conversations I had that weekend are still informing my academic work today. And I would not have begun seriously writing creatively without that conference.
Since we had such a positive experience, we immediately made plans to host another conference. And then the economy exploded. Grad students (which we all were at the time) were told to finish their dissertations quick, fast, and in a hurry before their funding ran out. The university no longer had money to offer for conferences like ours. And then the realities of the job market meant that the three of us were living and working in three separate states.
But we still believe that fantasy matters, and that there should be a place where we can all talk about why and how it does. So we turned the conference into a website, Fantasy-Matters.com. (Those of you who know my history with technology will be very glad to see that Adam Miller has joined this endeavour in the role of Internet and Tech Support Genius.) We'll be bringing in a number of fabulous staff writers, whose columns I cannot wait to share with you. I hope you'll stop by.