1990 WFC Program Cover

The program cover for the 1990 World Fantasy Convention in Schaumburg, Illinois.

For four days next week the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Columbus, Ohio is going to get a little medieval. Fantasy fans, critics and authors will descend upon the city for the 36th annual World Fantasy Convention, ready to talk about the year’s best offerings in fantasy lore. Also of note is the presentation of the World Fantasy Awards, which will be given to nominated authors, artists, novels, short stories and illustrations.

One thing you probably won’t see at the convention? Costumes.

Conventions the world over — San Diego Comic-con, Wizard Con, Tokyo Game Show — have conditioned us to expect elaborate capes, swords, headdresses, and the occasional storm trooper armor anywhere that a group of more than 20 geeky individuals converge. Yet from its beginnings in 1975 the World Fantasy Convention has focused on the fantasy genre in terms of examining its literary and artistic content.

That in itself can be contentious for many outside of the science-fiction and fantasy niche. The average reading audience has been conditioned by publishers and mega book chains to believe that a book is only “literature” if it has an embossed cover and deckle edge paper, and is nigh impossible to fit in any reasonably sized bag.

Your average English major may have a slightly different opinion — after all, classes have us close read anything and everything, and while there’s certainly pulp in SF/F, the same can be said for any genre. Here at UCLA this consideration manifested in a slightly different form last year when the professors tirelessly debated about how, or even if, they should revamp the major. Budget discussions aside, what it ultimately came down to was a discussion of the canon; should professors force students into well-roundedness by obliging them to read Shakespeare, Chaucer and Milton, or can students be trusted to get a taste of everything while also selecting for themselves what they would most like to study?

Whichever side you come down on, it seems important to bring up those genres — SF/F, romance, mystery, horror — that are so often relegated to the shadows and consider a broader literature that can encompass a variety of interests and experiences.