Thursday, September 5, 2013

WorldCon Post-Mortem #3: Highlights for Lowlifes

For all the many mistakes I made at my first con, I also had a pretty great time through much of it. Now, I'd love to replicate these highlights at my next con, but so many of the highlights were serendipitous: you go to a panel for one speaker but find yourself really digging what another says and so on. Which might be the first rule of a good convention: enjoy the serendipity. (Maybe that goes along with yesterday's command to Be where you are.) 

That general principle out of the way, here's my con highlights.

First, panels may be interesting, but go to the kaffeeklatsches and literary beers for individual insight in a small group. Almost all of the kaffeeklatsches and literary beers I went to were fun, entertaining, and educational.

For instance, I got to ask Chuck Wendig about supporting characters and their thematic relation to the protagonist. (I also got a free copy of Blackbirds signed by Chuck Wendig when he had three books to give away and decided to have a portmanteau curse contest. After everyone patterned theirs off of Wendig's "cockweasel"--"dick-muffin," "cunt-snickers"--I decided I would have a better chance reversing the formula and came up with "glam-dick." Which, you can tell, I'm very proud of.)

The only less-positive experiences--not even negative, just neutral experiences--is that if you go to a kaffee or beer with someone who you know, you might hear some of the same stories over again. So when I went to Mary Robinette Kowal's kaffee, someone asked her about how puppetry informs her fiction, which is a topic she's covered at Writing Excuses and in our online class.

So, while I highly advise going to kaffees and beers, some of my favorite times were when I was talking to a writer who I maybe didn't know so well. At the Fantastic London panel, American author David Liss commented about how he'd left grad school to write books, so I immediately signed up for his kaffeeklatsch to get the full story. And we had a very nice discussion. Even better for me (though a little sad for him probably), while he's a published author with several books, he's not a hot new author like Chuck Wendig or an old established lion (dragon?) like George R. R. Martin; so the Liss kaffeeklatsch was very sparse and cosy.

Second, some of the best time at cons will be when you skip the scheduled programming for chatting with people. Not to bury the lede here, I had a fabulous, nearly hour-long chat with Kim Stanley Robinson, whose fiction is incredible and who is also just a really nice and interesting guy. We talked about his fiction, my aborted graduate career, semiotic squares--it was really a wide and deep conversation.

Similarly, I had a great time when I was catching up with old friends, including three people from my online writing class with Mary Robinette Kowal. It was great to see them and chat in this different setting. That last day, I was late leaving San Antonio because I was having lunch and really getting into some interesting and deep family stories.

Third, meet new people! I really can't stress this enough (and I guess my chat with Kim Stanley Robinson and my kaffeeklatsch with David Liss could fall under this heading too). At the Jo Walton kaffeeklatsch on Friday, I met someone who used to work for the Onion's AV Club; and then later, at the Tor party, I ran into her again and had a real long talk about fan-dom and roleplaying games and just about everything nerd related.

Now, it's not always easy to meet new people, especially at a nerd-con, where many of the people are on some scale of introversion (or social anxiety). Even the authors may get a little worried look in their eye when someone approaches them (though there it's not just social anxiety but particular worry that you might be a nut). Still, I pushed myself a little and had very nice chats with Mur Lafferty, James Patrick Kelly, and Adam Christopher. And while I was (or hope I was) careful to give them some out in the conversation, I think in each case they were happy to chat.

Fourth, some of the scheduled panels were good and interesting--usually the panels where we just have one person giving a lesson. So Mary Robinette Kowal's lesson on Schmoozing 101 (i.e., don't be a creep or a jerk) should be scheduled before just about any social event; and Lou Anders's very structural approach to storytelling was very interesting. Let me put this in the form of a command that will be impossible to follow: Go to the panels that are worth it. (Or I guess the rule might be: follow the person, not the panel topic. I've heard Kowal and Anders discuss these topics before and knew they would give great information on them.)

Fifth, although I'm not super-thrilled with some of the Hugo Awards, the ceremony itself was a great deal of fun, with Toastmaster Paul Cornell making hilarious jokes, along with some touching calls for tolerance and equality within fandom. It was also just kind of heart-warming to see and hear some of the speeches. I don't know that the Hugos are a highlight, but Paul Cornell really was.

No comments:

Post a Comment