Keeping score from my previous post, number of earnestly sniffy author tweets about NaNoWriMo spotted? One. Not bad for the middle of October! Also one sneaky attempt to troll me by Tom Lloyd, whose Twilight Reign books are cracking. Go read them.
So, I read this post by Alasdair Stuart and thought it a marvellous opportunity to reflect on my own experience of cons over the past few years (as I only started attending in 2009).
More importantly, I will also be volunteering at WFC, red jacket and everything. If you’re new or stuck for something to do or someone to talk to, then feel free to say hi if you spot me.* I’m reasonably approachable (I think) and it’s always nice to meet new people.
But yeah. As Alasdair says, conventions are things that you can very easily build up in your mind, and aren’t always the easiest thing to interface with. I’ve been to at least two a year in the past four years and have met a metric fuckton of people, and yet I still walk into the bar/hotel lobby and think to myself, “I know no-one here.”
One thing that I’ve never done at a convention is to play Rock Band/Karaoke. It feels like one of those things that everyone else remembers from a convention that I somehow missed, or that it only took place because a small group of people went off and did it on their own. Either way, all I’m saying is that if offered the opportunity, I would be on that.
Rock climbing, too. Also laser tag. COME ON, people.
Anyway. I like going to conventions. I used to find them intimidating but after a couple I kind of found my groove in that I treat the whole thing as an extension of my Twitter feed. The vast majority of people I meet I know via Twitter already, or follow once I’ve met them – social media identity is a nice way of breaking the ice, or – indeed – finding that it has been broken already. It’s also a handy way of getting over the inevitable con-envy: the sneaking suspicion that everyone else is having a better, more meaningful con experience than you. All you have to do is glance at your phone and you’ll find a bunch of people on your timeline also going, “I know no-one here, what is this?” on the first day, too.
Advice for cons? I don’t know if I’m the person to look to for advice,** but I would recommend finding a friend to sit with you in panels. You never really know if a panel is going to be your bag, and even if it is then you can find yourself dipping in and out of the conversation. Sometimes you’ll go to a great panel that has awful questions. It happens, and in those moments you’ll be glad you’ve got your friend and a little notepad to communicate with. I can remember sitting watching a panel with Alasdair and Amanda Rutter at an SFX Weekender where we amused ourselves through a painful session of questions by rating people’s microphone technique. Good times.
Vincent Holland-Keen, Adele Wearing, Alasdair Stuart at Thought Bubble. Look how happy it has made them!
Oh, and go to Thought Bubble. Even if you’re not into comics, it’s a really good atmosphere and you might find some incredible art you didn’t know about.
OH AND ONE MORE THING. If you go out to dinner, don’t go in a group of 20-30 people unless you’re heading to a buffet place. Your food will arrive at the table a day later. Trust me. Little groups are best.
*Easily done. I’m bald, wear glasses, bit gormless looking. Not hard to pick out in a crowd of genre geeks at all.
**The usual, of course, applies. Be nice. People may not remember you – we all meet a lot of people in our lives – but if you’re an asshat they will definitely not forget.