Here’s our first blog post on the Genre Underground’s “Road to World Con” event. Thanks to Genre Underground member, A.E. Marling for his unique and creative insight insight into the world of Science Fiction Conventions.
Conventions have the shared purpose of a Council of Elrond, a control room blinking with lights where the Rebellion discusses how to take down the Death Star. Those who journey to a convention will find an enclave of the like-minded. Conversations spark over eccentric interests, over discussion panels, over geeky merchandise and sci-fi art. On a typical day of a typical week you may not encounter a single other person who shares your fascination for, say, alternate histories featuring talking dragons, but at a con, you’ll find such fans are legion. At most dinner parties you may hesitate to mention a comic book collection that may or may not have a greater total mass than you do; at a con party, such things are known as credentials. The experience is both exhilarating and exonerating. The con is the Gay Pride Parade of fandom.
Though some enjoy cons without feeling the need to attend a single panel, I hoard the information gleaned from them, intent on improving my craft as a writer. I’ll share one jewel from a lecture by Brandon Sanderson. He was actually discussing how aspiring authors might approach editors at con parties. Brandon Sanderson suggested talking about books you both loved and specifically what the editor liked best about their own projects. Refrain from attacking them with your own manuscripts or ideas at that point but ask if you may send them material if you end up writing something similar.
Brandon Sanderson is a walking pressure cooker full of concentrated enthusiasm, making him an excellent teacher. You can find his writing lectures on youtube on the channel WriteAboutDragons. I delight in meeting the authors of my favorite works. At the same con I pitted my strategy against Brandon Sanderson in a game of Magic cards. He effected the accent of a British evil genius while attacking me and two other unsuspecting fans with Cthulhu-sized monstrosities.
At another con, meeting Gail Carriger was an equal pleasure. A paragon of style, she quipped over tea while letting us in on a secret (at the time), the anime version of her steampunk-fantasy novel Soulless. Gail Carriger’s lavish retro outfit contrasted gleefully with the low-key cool of Patrick Rothfuss, whose dwarven beard stuck out from above a t-shirt that read: “Think. It’s not illegal. Yet.”
I urge everyone to consider signing up for a con this year. Find a 2012 list here. Consider not only these gargantuan conventions but also the local ones, where you’ll have more time to speak with the guests of honor and a better chance of meeting people who live close by.