I really couldn't afford to go this year, but I wanted to do this one last thing to help The Bird Shaman
into the world. And besides, I really, really like ICFA. I would say it's my favorite con, except that it's not a con-vention but rather an academic con-ference. College professors with Ph D's come to Orlando from around the western world, and maybe two dozen writers turn up as well. The profs, who teach fantastic literature in college classrooms, and publish scholarly articles and books on these subjects, do papers and panels at ICFA. The writers give readings, attend the odd scholarly event, mingle with the academics, go out to lunch and dinner with each other, do very little work and have a great time. If you're not familiar with ICFA, you can get an idea of what goes on there from the 2009 program, still up on the IAFA website at http://www.iafa.org
I like this conference so much because I'm at home on both sides of the divide that unites the attendees, and respect and admire both groups on their own terms. After finishing my doctorate at Penn, I taught for years at the Universities of Iowa and Pennsylvania, courses in American literature and creative writing workshops in poetry. Then I introduced a course called The American Novel of Science Fiction, and you know what happened: after a while I started thinking "I bet I
could do that!" and it turned out that I could. For me, being at ICFA feels like those parties I used to go to when I lived in Sweden, where you chat in English with one group of friends, then turn to another and switch languages as naturally as if they were so many hats. I enjoyed being at home in two cultures then, and I enjoy it still. I spend six months in rural Kentucky every year and the other six in sophisticated Swarthmore PA, so you could truthfully say that my basic living situation now is a version of that metaphorical party, except that I will never, ever find Lawrenceburg Kay Wye and Swarthmore in the same big room, talking animatedly with one another. I would be so tickled if they could.