Convening

Over the last month I’ve attended no less that two conventions. Typically I’ve done an after action report of some sort, but for each of the conventions I didn’t feel like I had a whole lot to report. For both conventions I only showed up Saturday, bagged earlier than planned, and then didn’t return Sunday. (Each time for different reasons.) So I figured I could at least talk a bit about the two conventions combined.

RustyCon XXX (meant to indicate “30” and not “Porn”), is a relatively small local fan convention. Their web site indicates that they have about 500-700 attendees, versus the 3,000+ that the larger and more well known Norwescon draws. I’d started going a few years ago when I was wanting to meet other fellow writers and so I signed up for a bunch of local conventions. I made a few friends through this con and ended up listed as a “pro” so I got invited to sit on panels.

This year, I didn’t see as many familiar faces and felt more anti-social than usual. The panels offered didn’t really grab me. I’m not big into crafting or fan culture, so my main interest is usually in writing-related panels. Since RustyCon doesn’t attract the same volume of pro writers as other conventions, there just wasn’t as much for me to sit in on.

I was scheduled onto two panels. I’d offered to do a reading, since I’m stumping hard for Kensei, but didn’t get picked up for that. Instead the first panel I was on was about multi-media tie-ins for YA books (referencing in particular Infinity Ring and The 39 Clues). I was a little uncertain what I could contribute to it, but wanted to put in a good showing so I stuck it out. As it turns out, no one showed up for the panel. The other panelist was running late, so I ran into him as I was leaving the room after 15 minutes of solitude.

The second panel was just a general panel of young adult authors talking about writing young adult books. This was my first time being assigned the role of moderator, so I found myself trying to focus on the other two panelists and not try to make it all about me. The other panelists were Mike Birch, who is still working on his first book, and Janice Clark. Starting out it was pretty nerve-wracking, since I hadn’t prepared as much as planned and  the only person in the room when we started was Janice’s brother. But people did trickle in and I think it generally went well.

I stuck around for a couple panels after that, but ended up leaving just out of exhaustion. There wasn’t much on the schedule for the following day, so I just stayed at home instead.

The other convention I went to was the combined Potlatch/Foolscap. Foolscap has traditionally been in the fall, but because of conflicts with other conventions at that time they moved the convention to February. Rather than wait a year and a half, they opted to hold the convention the very next February. Potlatch is a convention that has some loose connection to Clarion West that I don’t entirely understand. My understanding is that they had some difficulties the last couple years and, to keep the convention alive, combined forces with Foolscap. The other thing with Potlatch is that they don’t have a guest of honor. Instead they have a book of honor which (in theory) everyone reads and the panels mostly revolve around that.

I’m not entirely sure how well it works As it was, I didn’t end up on panels for either convention. I’m not on whatever broadcast is done for Foolscap looking for panelists. This year’s Potlatch book was Jo Walton’s Among Others, and most of the proposed panels had to do with a sense of community surrounding SF books. (Which I gather, without having finished the book, is a theme that comes up.) I’m not huge into “fan” communities, but I tossed my hat in the ring for some proposed panels that didn’t make the cut and didn’t end up on anything.

Last year’s Potlatch only had one track of panels, so that was still true for this year. Foolscap has, in the past, offered a few tracks of programming. This year, however, they also had one track. Or two if you counted the series of readings done in a nook nearby. I’m not sure if there were less people attending because of the sudden schedule shift or what.

Morning slots for both conventions was handled via “Open Space Programming.” Where panels were decided on that morning, people offered to sit in on them, and then the magic just happened. In general it seemed to work out okay. I know some people based their attendance on the panels that were going to be offered, so the looser structure was frustrating. Also, I was surprised to learn that the Open Space planning only covered the morning. So if you showed up that afternoon hoping that something new and interesting had been added to the afternoon panels through Open Space planning, you might have been disappointed.

Overall the panels were fine. There were some fine people talking on stuff and I enjoyed the content. I also sat in on an awesome reading by David D. Levine.

The biggest challenges I had were that I was coming down with a bug of some sort and my usual cronies were mostly absent during the time I was there. So time not spent sitting in on panels was mostly spent in socially awkward self-imposed isolation. This isn’t to say that I didn’t see anyone I knew or  that I didn’t talk to anyone. I’m just lousy at conversation, so I tend not to accost casual acquaintances when I don’t really have anything to say to them. And I feel even less social when I don’t feel well.

We left a little early to attend the season opener for Jet City Roller Girls. Because you gotta have your priorities.

And then I was so exhausted the next day that I stayed home, missing the brunch. But I was miserable enough that I just wanted to stay home, brunch be damned.

I’m not sure what 2014 will hold for Potlatch and Foolscap. They both have the year listed on their sites, so presumably they are going forward together? It will be interesting to see what it will be like as the conventions gain momentum with the new format.

And, for both of these, I will hopefully do better next year. The lack of some familiar faces plus my general anti-social attitude really made these rough weekends for me. Hopefully with this insight I can find strategies to better deal with the conventions next year.

1 thought on “Convening

  1. Folly Blaine

    I think it’s great you sign up for panels. I haven’t been brave enough to do that yet.

    Last I heard, Potlatch/Foolscap are supposed to go back to being separate cons. They announced at the closing, I think, that Potlatch folks are trying to get the San Francisco area to host in 2014 or 2015. Also, the Clarion West connection is around the auction that Potlatch puts on. The auction is to raise money for a CW student to attend.

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