As many of you know, this past weekend I attended my first fantasy/sci-fi/fandom convention in over a decade. Yes, it has been that long since a bunch of my high school friends piled into someone’s car and drove out to Stony Book University for I-CON, a much bigger event with a much different flavor.
Despite sharing most of the same letters in their names, Pi-Con was a very different experience for me, mostly because I got take on a dual role as both attendee and panelist.
I spent the weekend running back and forth between meeting rooms, listening to fellow authors and experts talk about magic and marketing, fighting and food, publishing and perseverance when everything seems to be heading down the tubes.
I spoke about my enduring love of Tolkien and the importance of developing robust cultures and economies while constructing the details of one’s own worlds. I moderated a lively roundtable discussion about what a book is really worth to a reader, and took turns telling silly, improvised stories with a group of smart and funny colleagues.
I suffered through this ignoble defeat during my scheduled reading from Dark the Night Descending:
And this while attending the afternoon Steampunk Tea:
And I even won a couple of costuming prizes for this (shown during a previous outing last year because I didn’t take that many selfies over the weekend):
And I only sold one book.
It was a long and kind of exhausting event, if only because I had to do so much talking that my throat was getting raw by the end of it, but I’m very glad I went. I met a lot of new people (some of whom, I have to confess, operated somewhat outside of my comfort zone), and heard any number of vigorously defended opinions, both popular and otherwise.
Everyone was friendly and engaging and willing to talk. Everyone listened when I had something to say (usually). Everyone wanted to be there, and everyone saw the opportunity to indulge in their passions during a safe and communal celebration of the fact that we’re all kind of really weird.
That’s the main reason people go to conventions and fandom events and whatnot, and I think that’s great. Even for someone with a relatively significant degree of social anxiety, which definitely started to drag on me by the third day, I never really felt out of place, unwelcome, or not geeky enough to take part in something. The atmosphere was very comfortable, and while I’m not sure how much con-going I’ll be doing in the future, I’m glad I got to experience this one.
I’m doubly glad to have been invited this year because this was the last Pi-Con. After nine years, the event’s organizers have decided to go their separate ways, and the sense of finality and nostalgia was everywhere. Even though I only attended this one event, it made me keenly aware of just how much effort goes into planning and executing these local gatherings, and I’m very pleased to have been able to help fill out the impressive program in whatever small way I could.
So thank you, 9Pi-Con, for giving me an invaluable experience to remember. It was a great weekend, and you should all be proud of yourselves for a poignant send off to what was clearly a very successful near-decade in bringing people together.
And because I came back with a whole big box of unsold novels, I’m going to be doing a few Goodreads giveaways over the next couple of weeks leading up to the launch of Dark the Dreamer’s Shadow. Stay tuned for more details!