יום שבת, 18 באוקטובר 2014

Icon 2014

Icon 2014, the 18th Festival of Science Fiction, Fantasy and role-playing games has ended. Two guests of honor attended the festival - science fiction writer Walter Jon Williams and fantasy writer Kelley Armstrong.

As I come to sum up the convention and put my impressions in writing, I find myself staring at the computer screen wondering where to begin. I write a sentence, delete it, write a new one and delete it too. Only after several minutes I realize that I have a writer's block. Oh, the irony. I need to sum ​​up the first convention in which the guest of honor was "my" author, and that's when I suffer from a writer's block.
I'm wondering whether to start the convention summary with a few words on the books of the wonderful guest of honor, Kelley Armstrong. Until the convention I published three of the twenty-six books Kelley wrote - the three books of the YA trilogy Darkest Powers: The Summoning, The Awakening and The Reckoning. During the conference, we launched two new books – The Gathering, which is the first book in the new YA trilogy Darkness Rising, which takes place in the same world as the previous trilogy but begins with new characters, and Bitten, which is the first book in Armstrong's main fantasy series - Women of the Otherworld.
And then I think to myself that a list of books is not unique enough, and I may want to find a more personal angle.

Launching event
I wonder if it will not be better to start with the description of experiences - our meetings and panels with Armstrong, and her meetings with her ​​fans and the tours in Jaffa and Jerusalem. If indeed it will be the first topic, I already know where to start. I'll start with the picture of Kelley Armstrong with Efrat Carmon dressed as Chloe, the heroine of the YA trilogy The Darkest Powers.
with Efrat Carmon
During the launch of the new books, after the official part ended and Kelley finished reading the first chapter of The Gathering, several fans approached her and asked to be photographed with her. When Kelley saw Efrat, wearing a shirt bearing the figures heroes of the trilogy, with dyed hair and a compatible necklace, just like Chloe, the tables were turned. It was Kelley who wanted to take a picture of Efrat.
And then I think to myself that it's really a strong and unique opening theme, but it will be hard for me to rise above it, and I may want to start with something more common.

I wonder if it will not be better to start with the tour in Jaffa. After all, what is more common than Hummus?

Clock Square, Jaffa
Zodiac Fountain, Jaffa
Noa Paz volunteered to lead Kelley through the web of alleys of the market and the old town along with Nizan Havoc. Despite the heavy showers
Abu Hassan, Jaffa
which fell in the morning and threatened to sour our mood, we were able to overcome the rain thanks to Kelley's magical umbrella, which she always carries with her. So thanks to Murphy and Kelley we just had an excellent weather - Although Tel Aviv holds the national record of rain during the Holiday - not even a single drop fell on our heads when Kelley was on our side. We started at the Clock Square (what else), we continued to the flea market (what else), we went up to the amphitheater from which there is a spectacular view of the city and we went through the alleys of the zodiac (what else), until we reached Abu Hassan's Hummus, and ate Masabha (what else).
And then I think to myself, Hummus? Do I really want to start my convention summation with Hummus, as wonderful as it may be, but not one that equals Hummus Said in Acre?

I wonder if it will not be better to start in a chronological order, just stick to the schedule - first things first. It should be easy to describe, even with a writer's block. I got up, showered, got dressed. I picked up Didi Chanoch. Ben Gurion Airport, Kelley Armstrong, hotel, Icon 2014, First Panel: Diversity in science fiction and fantasy.

Diversity in SciFi & Fantasy Panel
Left to right: Didi, Kelley, Rani, Walter, Gali
Originally Kelley was not registered as a participant in this panel, probably because the organizers thought she would be tired after a transatlantic flight, yet Kelley turned out to be, and not for the last time, a true partner and full of sportsmanship, and went up to the panel as a participant, a few hours after landing. It was a great panel, as diversity was shown as well by the participants themselves. On one hand, the two Guests of Honor, Walter Jon Williams, a male science fiction writer, and Kelley Armstrong, a female fantasy writer. On second hand, Rani Graff, publisher of books, especially genre, very knowledgeable and much more. On third hand, Gali Golan, which upon her it was said that she read every kind of genre book there is, and during the panel it was found out that not only that she has a strong opinion about every book she read, but she also feels she must express her thoughts in such fluent English that only Didi Chanoch, the panel moderator, was able to stop her. Sometimes.
For it is a common knowledge - the success of a panel is based on three components: the topic, the participants and the moderator. And sometimes, like this time, opinionated participants join in with a successful moderator and an interesting topic and the panel that comes out will leave its mark for years to come.
And then I think to myself that it is indeed a worthy opening for my summation of Icon, but if I am already dealing with diversity, would it not be better to start with Jerusalem, which represent diversity in real life and not only in literature?

Mahane Yehuda market
Tasting Cheese
I wonder if it will not be best to start with the day when we took Kelley Armstrong to Jerusalem. Meytav Morhaim volunteered to lead and guide Kelley from the parking lot near the entrance of Jerusalem all the way to the Wailing Wall. We started at the Mahane Yehuda market, tasting cheese. We continued along the Jaffa Road, turned left up to Shabbat Square where Maytav could show Kelley the difference between Shtreimel and Kapelush and between Qaftan and Genlimte Bekeshe. In between Kelley got a full tutorial on the four species of Sukkut until it was noon. According to Meytav's recommendation we stopped at Tmul-Shilshum since there is no better place than a coffee shop-restaurant-bookstore to have some lunch while you're with a writer. We ate an excellent Shakshuka, washed it down with coffee and gathered our strength to continue. We broke through the walls of the Old City from the New Gate and navigated through the web of alleys of the Christian Quarter straight to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Meytav managed to clarify the issue of ownership of various parts of the church and guided us between all the major landmarks in the church, from the Rotunda, through the Chapel of the Cross, until the Stone of Unction. Afterwards it was nothing but a short way to the Wailing Wall and the end of our visit in Jerusalem.
 Outside the Church of
 the Holy Sepulchre

And then I think to myself that after all, we were in Jerusalem a day after the convention ended, and it's not really a way to sum ​​up Icon with an event that took place thereafter.

I wonder if it will not be better to start with the staff and volunteers and the GoH team. Without them, there would be no Icon. I am indebted to the Director of the festival, Tomer Shalev, the production manager, Guy Plaut and director of content, Einat Citron. I am indebted to the GoH team. First and foremost is Didi Hanoch. The role of Noa Paz and Ronen Abarabanel was not ignored. I am indebted to Kelley Armstrong's guides, Noa Paz in Jaffa and Meytav Morhaim in Jerusalem. I am indebted to the many volunteers who kept the festival running and current operating going smoothly. All those who sold tickets or connected the microphones or brought a bottle of water to the guests or were backstage and took care of everything.
And then I think to myself that a thanks passage is a bit risky because if God forbid I forget someone, and at the beginning of the summary, it will cast a pall on the rest, and I may want to start with something else.

I wonder if I should not start with the pride that fills my heart. Pride that the community of fans of science fiction in Israel has managed to put 18 Conventions up until now, even if sometimes those conventions are called festivals. Pride that this year's convention was great and packed and interesting and successful. Pride as a new generation comes to conventions, and it's not just the old geeks that reigns. Pride that year after year notable and successful authors are happy to come to our convention as GoH. Pride that even the tiny publishing house I founded only three years ago got the honor of hosting a GoH. Pride that I belong to a creative community that continues to develop and progress.
But then I think to myself, after looking at all the options above, that it really does not matter where I will start.
Only now I understand that summing up Icon is like Icon itself. There are so many experience levels and role playing games and events and participants and costumes and stands in the convention - that everyone finds something else, something different, and ultimately the amount of all the parts is bigger than the whole. Yes, this is a cliche, I know, but sometimes clichés come true. So I guess I can not decide where to begin the summation of Icon, since the summary is more than all the events that are composing it. It does not matter where I begin and where I finish, I will never be able to convey the full experience of Icon itself and hosting and escorting the Icon GoH.

Since for me, eventually, this convention began with Kelley Armstrong and ended with her. I could not ask for a more excellent, nicer, sociable and a more cooperating author and GoH than Kelley, because if I would have asked for such a GoH, I would have been told that that is a fantasy I'm having. Well, as it turned out, Kelley Armstrong is a fantasy writer, and she is the fantastic ultimate guest of honor anyone can ask for.

So finally I thank Kelley Armstrong. Thank you for writing such wonderful books. Thank you for letting me publish them in Hebrew. Thank you for coming to Icon as a guest of honor. Thank you for continuing to write.
Signing Bitten (Hebrew ed.)
Presenting the Gefen Award
to Rotem Baruchin
Reading first chapter of The Gathering
Writing Workshop
Surrounded with fans
With Vered Tuchterman,
Bitten translator

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