(by M. Todd Gallowglas)
I’m sitting here writing this on my flight into Chicago for the 70th Annual World Science Fiction Convention. This will be my fifth World Con, my first as a recognized “pro.” I love conventions. I remember going to them when I was younger, back before being even remotely into geeky/nerdy anything was anything but cool.
I’ve loved conventions ever since I went to my first one as a wide-eyed seventeen year old. Conventions were a place where I could go and be among a community where being into that Sci-Fi wasn’t just okay, it was actively encouraged. As a hopeful writer, conventions were a place I could get away from the “don’t quit your day job” naysayers, and where professional, working writers I read and admired became my personal cheerleading squad. In hindsight, I realize they weren’t cheering me on personally, but any young writer who showed up to be a part of the community. Still, it felt good.
So here I am years later, one of those writers myself, attending my first World Con. I’m going to be on the other side of that table at the panels. I’m going to be the one doing the reading. And I’ve gotten here via a road I never even dreamed of until last year. In the Science Fiction/Fantasy literary community, the Indie/self-publishing thing is in a strange place. I’ve gotten a whole lot of encouragement from some of my favorite writers, and then, a few minutes later, other writers who I count as friends have asked, “Why would you want to do that?” Even on a panel where I’ve discussed my bestseller status, two other panelists have said, “Whatever you do, don’t go Indie.” It’s an interesting experience being an Indie writer at a convention; I’m sure it’s going to be even more interesting being an Indie writer at the World Science Fiction convention.
Some might be asking, “If you get so much negativity, why go?” Well, I also get a lot of people cheering me on. At Westercon, Robin Hobb displayed my books in front of a packed panel, and David Brin told me he was proud of me. Talk about awesome! But even the approval is not the point.
We who write in the genres of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror come from a rich community. With the Indie book revolution, I think many up-and-coming genre writers are publishing without any knowledge of that community, much less the desire to be part of it. That’s as shame. I think one of the biggest things we Indie writers can do for our success is show up to conventions and become as active as we can in that awesome community. This is not about selling books (though that’s a nice fringe benefit.) This is about gaining credibility with the community that reads the kind of stuff we write. It’s also about acknowledging the fan base, all across the gambits of mediums that make up our fandom, that has worked so hard for so long for us to gain the strong foothold we have now in mainstream culture.
Please, fellow Indie writers, I implore you to start attending conventions proudly as an indie writer. Don’t just make plans to go to World Con next year, also look into your local and regional conventions – even if you can’t get onto any panels, show up and be part of the community. Remember, if we’re writing books in these genres, it’s a good chance that we’re fans of these genres. Go hang out with the other fans, both professional and amateurs and enjoy being among like-minded friends for a weekend.