Roundtable: Conventions Part III, Feeling Lost, Alone and Confused

Stefan Dziemianowicz

The fascinating thing about this conversation, so far, is that a lot of folks are talking about how off-putting it was for them to go to their first convention and sense the distance between themselves and the proceedings. Meanwhile, I think of Sam Moskowitz writing up the first World Science Fiction Convention (and subsequent cons) in The Immortal Storm, and discussing the sense of community that conventions fostered among attendees, both fans and professionals.

Andy Duncan

I will add only that, like others, I felt isolated and put off by some cons I attended early on, which is why I always advise my students to go with a group.  That’s especially true for a big convention such as a Worldcon or a business convention such as World Fantasy, but I think it’s helpful even for a small, regional convention.  Take several friends with you, or arrange well in advance to meet several friends once you’re there.

Feeling alone at a convention is no fun; that happened to me a few times, many years ago, and I’ve never forgotten the experience.  That’s why I also advise students, once they’re enjoying their own group at the convention, to look for people that seem sort of lost and alone, and invite them to join YOUR group.  You generate good karma that way.  That’s how I’ve met a number of old friends on the Circuit: I reached out to them, or they reached out to me.

It’s a wonderful feeling to realize, late at night in the lobby after the bar closes, that your group has become the in-crowd, where everyone wants to be.  I’ll always be grateful to the folks such as Gardner Dozois, Joe and Gay Haldeman, Nancy Kress, and many others, who routinely waved me over when I was a stranger to the field and said, “Andy!  Please join us!”  I try to do the same, whenever I can.

John Clute

Andy speaks directly to my own experience of conventions, which I’ve not gone on about here, as they do not differ in essence from a lot that has been said: the first convention like the worst memories of childhood when you had to go to the new school for the first time, a month or so into the term, because the Canadian Bank of Commerce, for which my dad worked, almost inevitably promoted him just after the school year began; and any later convention, when you don’t have enough to do, and haven’t cleverly pre-sorted-out a group of friends for camouflage and display, so that you go to your room and commit, or almost commit, suicide; and the better times, when you are busy enough not to panic at the vacancy of it all, and even (as Andy does) invite a newbie to join in. C’est la vie, hey.

Cecelia Holland

The first day of conventions I feel like that, always. What am I doing here? Who are all these people? Then I find out.

2 thoughts on “Roundtable: Conventions Part III, Feeling Lost, Alone and Confused

  • August 22, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Now I’m having an anxiety attack, but don’t we all. Y’all be nice to me at this year’s WFC, OK? …OK?

  • August 25, 2011 at 1:20 am

    I keep giving up on conventions, even though I’m fairly good at them; I can give good panel, I can meet strangers and draw them out, I don’t think I was ever lonely at a convention. I just find that after a few hours at a convention I’m strung out and irritable and want to go do something else. This feeling gets especially acute if I go to the bar, con suite, or SFWA suite; I prefer to either give a show and make an exit, or have small group conversations — not more than about 6 people — in a controlled environment, i.e. one where people don’t come and go so much and I don’t have to keep track of my surroundings constantly. My biggest regret about the con scene is that I didn’t fully grok how unnecessary it is, that many writers I like and admire, with far more commercial success than I’ve had, have never been to one. Too much of the discussion here seems to be dedicated to the position that writers really ought to be going to cons. Frankly, if you go and hate it, don’t go again. You’re missing nothing.


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