Reflections of a Science Fiction convention Newbie

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around my thoughts after attending Immortal Confusion this weekend. Part of the problem is that I had kind of a rotten experience but I realize much of that is my own doing and I wanted to sort a few things out in my head before I went all ranty on what should have been done differently. But I also know that if I wait too long to write this post I’ll never write it and the world will be deprived of my contribution. We can’t have that. So maybe first a brief history of my science fiction and fantasy fandom.

Growing up all I read was science fiction, fantasy, and a bit of horror. This was a bit of a problem at school as I went to a private religious school where they didn’t take to all of the science and magic and whooha in them. It also really didn’t help that much of the stuff I was reading was also of the film and TV tie-in variety which they particularly frowned upon. But I did find a sympathetic teacher who helped feed my cravings and turned me onto the work of David Eddings and Terry Brooks. I also had two friends I hung out with and we created these sort of RPG games where we drew maps out on spiral bound notebooks and took turns making up stories and quests for the other characters. It was all great fun and I even tried a bit of writing in the genre. As I grew older I tried to read more widely in the genre and paid particular attention to reading the classics of science fiction and fantasy.

I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but sometime around high school I moved away from that and started reading crime fiction almost exclusively. But I kept one foot in the science fiction and fantasy genre through movies and television and occasionally comic books. Now it seems crime fiction has taken a turn for the weird and many of the authors I read and enjoy are crossing over and mixing elements and I love it. I even started working on my own urban fantasy novel that has been a delight to work on. So in that spirit, I decided to check out the local science fiction convention because it was 1) close 2) cheap 3) on a weekend the kids would be with my parents.

And this is where we get to the first major problem that is my fault. I did not devote nearly as much time to this conference as I would have needed to for a better experience. Originally I had just planned to go during the day on Saturday, but Friday night I decided to take the kids out because their con activities were free. I’ve been to enough crime fiction conferences to know that the bulk of the activities I enjoy are social and usually happen in the bar after the official con hours. As I had the kids with me Friday night and I left around 6pm on Saturday to go on a date with my wife, I wasn’t able to partake in that merriment The second problem that was mostly my fault was that I didn’t know anyone there. At all. All of the sci-fi fans I know are not local and wouldn’t be at the conference. The only person I knew vaguely from Twitter was Michael R. Underwood author of the great urban fantasy novel Geekomancy. I was able to chat a bit with him on Saturday, but I wasn’t able to have the sort of longer conversation I like to have at these sorts of things because I didn’t pursue it.

Speaking of things I didn’t pursue, a side rant. John Scalzi was there and I so very much wanted to meet him but I wussed out. I had flashbacks to my Dennis Lehane debacle and just plain blew that opportunity. I also failed to meet Jim C Hines as well which I regret. The one author I was able to introduce myself to was Saladin Ahmed, author of the cool fantasy novel Throne of the Crescent Moon. I’d had his book for a while based on the recommendation of Chuck Wendig and Stephen Blackmoore, but it languished at the bottom of my TBR pile. Then I saw him in person on the Remaking Star Wars panel and was intrigued enough by his great personality to dig the book out and start reading it. I told him this and he thought that was cool. So did I. I hope to meet him again some day as he is a Michigan author.

So what I’m really trying to get at is that I hate being an outsider. At this conference I didn’t really have a crew to call my own like I do at Bouchercon. I’ve been spoiled at being able to chat and hang out with my crime fiction idols, that when I’m out of that zone I get whiny and pissy. But the best thing about this conference was the youth factor. There was tons of free programming for the little kids and there were almost as many teenagers and young adults as there were adults. That’s just so cool. One of the problems I have with taking Becky and the kids to Bouchercon is that there really is never anything for them to do during the day while I’m doing my thing. Science fiction conventions seem to do a much better job at this than crime conventions (Though when the average age of a Bouchercon attendee is 89 I guess that’s not really a problem).

As weird of an experience as Confusion was, I’m intrigued enough to want to attend a WorldCon. I don’t know how feasible that will be financially this year, but at some point in the future I’d like to make it happen. Especially if I can get a publisher to take a flier on this fantasy novel of mine.