I have been attending conventions since… well, actually, pretty late in life. I remember being in grade school and junior high, early /mid 80s, reading Dragon Magazine and dreaming of going to the conventions listed! Ah, GenCon! The Mecca of my people! (Gaming nerds.) “One day, you shall be mine! Oh yes, you shall be mine…” But it wasn’t until sometime around maybe 16 years ago I started actually going to conventions. First, any and all gaming conventions I could get to! (It helped that I was a product rep, or a “Bounty Hunter,” for AEG during much of that (they were primarily RPG and CCG company then), and earning very generous product for demoing and running games!) Finally, attending one GenCon! And then another!
I know, this is nothing to people who go every year, and I know people who do. But it’s a big deal for always broke people, er, people of modest means, like me.
But the real eye-opener for me was going to literary and scholarly conferences! I first attended the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA) I think in 2009, while in grad school. (Aw, man! N.K. Jemesin is the guest of honor next year! It’s so expensive to go when you’re not a student/professor.) And it was mind-blowing! Days of panels and discussions and free books at catered meals and late night discussions with people galaxies smarter than me who were eager to talk with people like me, as a peer! I got to meet my favorite editor, Ellen Datlow, and runners up James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel…. and it’s where I first learned about intersectional feminism and privilege! And also how it connects to Marxist cultural criticism. And so much more! It was the first real hint at what it’s like to be a real, active, scholar.
Then, later fandom conventions, scifi conventions, I focused more on panels and the artists/writers tables and rooms, and learned a great deal about what it means to be a real, active creator and writer.
And so it is to cons and conferences I owe so very much of my desire, drive, meager skills and knowledge, regarding writing, publishing, scholarship, and living in that world. At least, the desire to live in those worlds.
Well, this weekend is OryCon 38, “The premiere Portland SciFi Convention.” This will be my first year at that one, and the schedule is simply flooded with some amazing-sounding panels! I’ve hardly been able to even begin to plan my time, there is at least one fascinating thing in every slot regarding writing, storytelling, the craft, the business, so much more.
But, and maybe I’m burying the lede, of all the cons I’ve attended the last decade and a half this will be the first con where I’m actually participating (in a small way) instead of being purely an attendee! (Well, aside from ICFAs where I presented papers. And gaming cons where I ran games, but that’s very different: I was just a facilitator of an activity at those, not featured as a person with a product and a voice!) Thanks to my membership with the absolutely amazing Northwest Independent Writers Association (NIWA), I’m getting to have books on sale at the table, and, I have a 1-hour slot as a “featured author”!
Of course, it’s at 2pm on Sunday, a couple of hours before the con ends, but that’s not a complaint! I am over the moon at the opportunity to sit at a table, hawk my wares, network and talk to potential new readers. That’ll be a nice time to have comfortable conversations with attendees, and while many people will be broke by that time, a lot of people are also at the end of the weekend deciding where they want to contribute their monies to a small or independent artist and discover something new.
Well, I still have a lot of preparation to do before I go here shortly: I got my first business cards, promotional postcards, copies of my books to sell, stuff for the table Sunday… and I am so ready to start putting out more content here, on Patron, the new newsletter, and make it valuable to people who want to follow my and Tragic Sans’ progress! So much wonderful work to do ahead!