Mythcon 46, Days 3 & 4 (Final Report): A Very Avery Adventure

 

Great T-shirts were everywhere at Mythcon; these might have been summed up closing ceremonies as we all went our separate ways

Great T-shirts were everywhere at Mythcon; these might have summed up closing ceremonies as we all went our separate ways

By the third day, Mythcon reaches its difficult phase: The spirit is willing, brimming with undimmed enthusiasm for more thought-provoking fare; but the body is just plain beat. Long hours of panels and presentations and hanging out and staying up late have begun to take their toll. Plus being stuck in a convention center, with virtually no time spent outdoors doing something active in the fresh air, can punish anyone’s psyche. So my tepid response to a few of the day’s events may have had more to do with me, and not the events themselves.

Nobody will ever use the word “tepid” about David Bratman, however. I’m a man of unvarnished opinions boldly proclaimed, but in his presentation “The Problem of Arthur” Bratman dissected different Arthurian tales with such ferocity I felt like a critical wuss. The ’80s comic book Camelot 3000 left Bratman “captivated by its sheer awfulness,” while he deemed another rendition of the legend “supernatural thriller as supermarket checkout filler”…among other rhetorical grenades. I can’t say I agreed with all or even most of his assessments (as when he mentioned his hatred of Star Trek‘s Mr. Spock for being “too perfect”), but it’s safe to say from our laughter that no one in the room was bored. It was like watching a (slightly) toned-down Lewis Black in full-on rant mode. But even Bratman’s acerbic tongue had nothing but praise for Monty Python and the Holy Grail, to which we were treated—specifically the “Arthur Meets Dennis the Anarcho-Syndicalist” scene. On that bit of brilliance, everyone agreed.

We’d soon witness another bit of brilliance, or rather, hear it. I had the pleasure of meeting young Jasmine Edison at her inaugural Mythcon last year and dared to hope she’d be a repeat offender; she not only came back, but did so roaring (in her own demure way!) in her first-ever Mythcon presentation, assessing the Music of the Ainur from the opening of Tolkien’s Silmarillion. She posits that Melkor gets a bad rap; that musical innovation is about pushing boundaries, and that in smacking down Melkor for going too far with his experimental themes, Iluvatar was stifling innovation.

Edison goes on to ask, “How does the creation of Tolkien’s universe sound?” And then, thrillingly, she offers an answer. Edison is a trained musicologist and a composer, so she proceeded to play a recording of an orchestral performance of her interpretation of the Music of the Ainur. I haven’t been going to Mythcons long enough to be able to say if this was a Mythcon first, but it sure felt like something special, and despite volume difficulties that left us straining to hear the audio, the room was rapt.

Here’s the good news: You don’t have to strain to hear it, because if you missed it, you can listen to Edison’s composition (under the title “Sub-Creation”) here:
https://soundcloud.com/jasmine-edison/sub-creation

After lunch (improved from yesterday, thank heavens, but then there was nowhere to go but up), one of this year’s Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature nominees, Sarah Avery, gave a reading followed by a chat with the audience. I believe she read a passage from her nominated book, Tales from Rugosa Coven, about an Asatru (modern-day worship of the Norse gods) ceremony gone awry; if I’m uncertain, that’s because Avery has been completely immersed in Mythcon 46 and generous with her time, attending Bardic Circle every night to join in the sharing of story and song…and so over the course of these several days I’ve had the pleasure of hearing her read many times. I’m still itching to know how the adventure ends for the mom who goes all Ripley-in-Aliens to rescue her abducted son from the faerie realm…

I’d been looking forward to the “Fantasy and Worldview” panel, featuring Brian Attebery, Janice Bogstad, Mary Kay Kare, Ada Palmer, and author guest of honor Jo Walton, but it didn’t work for me. It felt somewhat unfocused and seemed to suffer from a bit of interpersonal tension among some panelists. But at that point in the afternoon, my reactions may have resulted from my faltering constitution (see the first paragraph). Certainly hats off to Jo Walton (pun intended; it seems she always wears a hat) for making every effort to be as clear as possible, even with a befuddled audience member (me).

These experiences with both Avery and Walton highlight one of the enduring appeals of Mythcon: its intimacy. As a small convention, it allows you not just to rub shoulders with folks making their mark in their field, but to exchange ideas with them and to get to know them face to face. (The enduring dilemma of Mythcon: Which of their and many other presentations to attend, when so much interesting stuff is unavoidably scheduled for the same time!)

Rounding out the afternoon, David Oberhelman put Monty Python and the Holy Grail in its 1970s UK political context; although repeating the same clip Bratman used (one can never see that bit too many times), his talk went down smoothly. Tougher to digest was Matthew Rettino’s examination of a Canadian idea of a multicultural utopia in Charles de Lint’s Moonheart, but then, as I’ve never read the book, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised this subject wasn’t thoroughly accessible for me. I still appreciated Rettino for his insight into what makes the Canadian voice in fantasy literature distinctive, and Mythcon for yet another forum where ethnic/racial/cultural diversity figured prominently.

Happily, I got a second wind by the time the banquet arrived. Sadly, it arrived without alcohol—no bar  in the room or wine for the table, the final nail in the coffin for the Hotel (in)Elegante—so several of us quickly rectified the situation with a dash through the hotel’s maze to its Rawhide Bar, where we imported libations back to the banquet hall. Now properly lubricated, we could enjoy the Olympics-style Golfimbul medal ceremony (kazoos were involved…don’t ask); the clerihew contest (poems of a very silly sort…don’t ask); visual puns with food (I can’t even begin to explain); and a sketch by the Not Ready for Mythcon Players (far less polished than the Emerson-Foster-Van Loo musical performance, “Sympathy for the Nazgul,” at the costume contest the night before—and I say that as a Not Ready for Mythcon Player). Jo Walton’s keynote speech offered advice to every writer by doing exactly what she was advising: She let her words show, rather then tell.

Finally, during the banquet’s Mythopoeic Awards, Sarah Avery took home the Aslan for Best Adult Literature! The honor was well-deserved, and since many of us felt like we’d come to know her during Mythcon, we were thrilled. And as with so much of Mythcon 46, it spoke well of the Mythopoeic Society; in a group with a strong Christian presence linked to the Inklings’ own religious tradition, members saw fit to embrace a Wiccan author who reflects her own religious tradition in her writing—an embrace of diversity born solely from a desire to recognize the best work. A complete list of the night’s Mythopoeic Award winners is at mythsoc.org.

Bardic Circle included readings from Avery, fresh off her Mythy win; the soulful poems of Joe Christopher; and lots of drinking songs we all joined in on. Or were the drinking songs the night before? It all blurs together…

By the next morning, Mythcon was drawing to its close, but not without a graphic (as in graphic novel) presentation from Vicki Ronn–a two-time clerihew winner and, considering the mountain of material she waded through in comic books this year and in the complete run of TV’s Once Upon a Time last year, perhaps the most long-suffering presenter at Mythcon. Her guided walk through the most memorable interpretations of the Arthurian legend in comics/graphic novels delighted the eye as much as the mind, and challenged us to consider this unique storytelling medium as a valid form of literature in its own right.

Unfortunately, my flight schedule forced me to skip the members’ meeting and closing ceremonies, a singing of songs that is no less of a bonding experience for being so light-hearted. I’ll have to make up for it next year at Mythcon 47 in San Antonio.

6 responses to “Mythcon 46, Days 3 & 4 (Final Report): A Very Avery Adventure”

  1. Anna Smol says:

    Thanks for these reports! They make me feel like I was there.

  2. Berni says:

    Chris, the couple pictured in the T-shirts at the top are Carole King and Steve Gaddis of Crickhollow, the Reno Mythsoc group. At a past Mythcon, they wore shirts proclaiming: Crickhollow, a drinking group with a reading problem.

    • CF Cooper says:

      Thanks for the I.D., Berni. I hope they’re OK with me using their photo (I deliberately picked a photo that protected the identity of the wearers, to avoid trampling on privacy sensitivities)…Carole, Steve, if you want me to take the photo down, say the word. And great job on Crickhollow’s continuing T-shirt cleverness!

  3. David B. says:

    I’m glad you found my presentation invigorating. I intended to, but regret forgetting to add it, apologize in advance to David O. for stealing his thunder.

    The book I eviscerated was The Forever King by Molly Cochran and Warren Murphy (Tor, 1992). I finished reading it so that I could do so, an occasional indulgence of mine.

    I don’t hate Mr. Spock. I just would like to see his insufferableness taken down a peg or two, the way that Katherine in Half Magic wanted to take down Sir Launcelot – which was the source of my comparison.

    • CF Cooper says:

      Thanks for the elaboration, David. As for Mr. Spock, I always read his insufferableness as largely a defense mechanism: He’s insecure in his Vulcan-ness, being half human, so especially around humans he feels the need to “Vulcan it up” in a way that secure Vulcans wouldn’t bother; I think they’d prefer to serenely let the human inaccuracies and emotional foolishness pass without comment (but probably with much more unspoken derision than Spock would harbor, because, deep down inside, Spock gets it…which is why he acts so insufferable about it).

      Does that make any sense?

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