On fear of cons

I’m recently back from WorldCon (Sasquan) in Spokane. There were panels on topics related to books, writing, science, fandom, and issues related to futurism and the changing world. Plus gaming, film, costuming, a great writers’ workshop and schmoozing in the bar.

I meet some aspiring science fiction and fantasy writers who have never been to a con. Many beginning writers are oddly reluctant to learn about the industry which they are so keen to be a part of. Here are some of the excuses I hear:

1. Cons are just for rabid fans; hey, I’m a writer.
Just plain wrong. All sorts of people attend cons. Many of them happen to love science fiction and

The dealers room. Best place to start a conversation.

Sasquan dealers room. Best place to start a conversation.

fantasy and want to write it, just like you. Granted, you’ll see people with whom you have little in common. I must say that cons will stretch you a bit. It’s easy to feel superior to (here fill in descriptor of people you’d rather not be around.) It’s hard to break with a long standing habit of snobbishness. Go to a con and take an open mind.

2. I will be a nobody at cons that worship the big names.
Entering the field of publishing is no time to unpack your insecurities. There will always be people whose careers you envy, but there is little “worship” at cons. People are mostly there to meet others who share their interests and perhaps listen to favorite writers hold forth on panels. It’s not an ego-fest. It’s a sf/f-fest.

3. I don’t have time/money to go to cons.
Do you have the time and money to invest in your career? Sure you do. And cons are a part of it. It’s

Sharon Shinn in her beautiful red tunic.

Sharon Shinn in her beautiful red tunic.

not just networking, meeting editors or authors who might give you a blurb. It’s immersing yourself in a trade gathering where you’ll learn plenty; there are panels on breaking in and the tropes of sf. You need to know about this stuff. You will learn about new books. Make lists. If you are still reading your favs from a decade ago, you are not keeping up.

4. I won’t know anyone.
That may be true, so find a pal to go with. Tolerate a little anxiety–you’re stretching yourself, remember? Strike up conversation in the halls outside

Mike Resnick signing in the dealers room.

Mike Resnick signing in the dealers room.

the panels and in the dealers room. Throw yourself into the con events as a keen observer; think of it as research, not a big party where you don’t know anyone. You’ll get a little more out of each con and you’ll start to build a base of acquaintances.

The number one thing you’ll get out of writing science fiction and fantasy is the people you’ll meet. I know. You thought it was getting published. That is a wonderful thing, but still, it’s the people you meet in the field. I’ve thought about this long and hard, and I still think it’s true.

2 Responses

  1. Steve Miller says:

    One of the keys for having a career in the SF & Fantasy field is realizing that you’re neither in it alone, nor are you inventing it all. There is a community and a history and going to fan-run (rather than commercial) conventions is a great way to make contact with that history. I admit that in my early going I’d been misinformed about what fandom is and it took a couple of lucky breaks to put me in touch with the fact that many of the writers I’d admired considered themselves to be fans — people like Damon Knight, Isaac Asimov, Fred Pohl, Hal Clement, Harlan Ellison. Once Istarted going to conventions regularly (going so far as to join con comittees for a few) I met artists, writers, editors, publishers, and very importatly, booksellers. Writers ought to be part of the community and are certainly not above it — joining in makes what can be an isolated life into one with friends and acquaintances across the country and around the world.

  2. Kay says:

    For introverts or those who are shy, cons can be a challenge. If folks let that prevent them from joining in, they allow the isolated life to dominate. I like that you mentioned joining con committees! Cons are always in need of reliable volunteers. As one of the organizers of Write on the River conference in Wenatchee WA (not an sff con, but still…) I can testify to how much work it is to put on conference. Just a glance at Sasquan’s committee list commanded instant respect!

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