World Fantasy Convention 2006: The Lone Star State of Fantasy

The only discussion panel I made it to on Thursday night was “The Lone Star State of Fantasy”. The panelists were Jayme Lynn Blaschke, Rick Klaw, Caroline Spector and Eric Marin.

Caroline Spector on The Lone Star State of Fantasy panel

CS on The Lone Star State of Fantasy panel at the World Fantasy Convention 2006
CIMG4228 Caroline Spector on The Lone Star State of Fantasy panel

I found it disappointing. The whole panel was devoted to the discussion of what makes Texas fantasy weird. Some of the obvious reasons were pointed out, such as that Texas is so damn big. In between all these open spaces there are many isolated towns where anything can happen.

Mikal Trimm. In Texas you can find little towns that would scare the crap out of you. Where people drag people behind cars.

Jayme Lynn Blaschke (left) and Rick Klaw at the Lone Star State of Fantasy panel

Lone Star State of Fantasy panel at the World Fantasy Convention 2006
CIMG4232 Jayme Lynn Blaschke (left) and Rick Klaw at the Lone Star State of Fantasy panel

Jayme Lynn Blaschke. A farmer in San Antonio shot this dog-thing that was almost blue. It was almost necrotic. It was kind of cool, so I put it up on my blog. Then I got an email from East Texas: hey, I shot one of these things too! I started getting all these emails of people who thought they shot a chupacabra.

Another factor is that that the Texas state itself is playing up the mythology. Everything is bigger in Texas, as they say.

Left to right: Jayme Lynn Blaschke, Rick Klaw, and Caroline Spector at the Lone Star State of Fantasy panel

Lone Star State of Fantasy panel at the World Fantasy Convention 2006
CIMG4233 Jayme Lynn Blaschke, Rick Klaw, and Caroline Spector at the Lone Star State of Fantasy panel

Jayme Lynn Blaschke. At A&M they have a hornets’ nest that’s 14 feet across. It’s the 3rd largest in Texas. It’s the 3rd largest in Texas. It’s about 2.5 million wasps. If you are going to write it in a story, everyone is gonna say, oh, get out of here!

Yet another reason why Texas inspires weird fiction is that Texas still has a frontier mentality; it is perceived by writers as a state where unknown lurks and anything can be expected. This said, the panelists magnanimously acknowledged that Australians has a lot of affinity with Texans because of the frontier mentality; hence, weird fiction set in Australia would also have a true ring.

Eric Marin at the Lone Star State of Fantasy panel

Eric Marin at the Lone Star State of Fantasy panel at the World Fantasy Convention 2006
CIMG4234 Eric Marin at the Lone Star State of Fantasy panel

Other parts of the world, it was implied, can hardly live up to the task of serving as a setting for weird fiction. Eric Marin, the only panelist who wasn’t from Texas — he was from Maine — conceded that weird fiction would be less believable if it was set in Maine. He didn’t explain why. But isn’t a lot of Stephen King’s fiction set in New England, in its quaint, little, time-forgotten towns? Isn’t the supernatural element quite believable in King’s stories? I wondered.

I am hardly a judge of this subject, since I’m not being very familiar with Texas fantasy, and I don’t know what’s weird about it. But it all sounded a bit parochial to me.