RustyCon 2014 After Action Report

A few weeks back, I attended the 31st annual RustyCon, one of our local general fan conventions. It boasts a population of 500-700 attendees and prides itself on being a very family-friendly convention. For this con, I was attending more as a panelist than anything else.

This was, perhaps, the best experience I’ve had at this convention to date. Some of it was due to seeing friends there that I hadn’t expected. Having people I know at conventions really influences how I feel about the convention. It was nice to have people there that I could feel comfortable around.

I also got the impression that there had been some shake-ups and new people were managing things. The panels I was on were much more robust in attendance. The last couple years I had at least one panel, usually on a Sunday, that had no attendees and none of the other panelists show up. That didn’t happen at all this year. People generally showed up when scheduled and most panels had at least as many attendees as panelists. I think the panels could often have gotten by with fewer panelists, but everything seemed to go fine.

I was on a mix of writing and gaming panels. I think I fared pretty well on the gaming panels once I got used to being a panelist. I think I at least didn’t look bad on the writing panels. The hardest along those lines was the one on self-publishing. In part because much of the discussion revolved around areas I was less familiar with. In part because I shared the panel with Guest of Honor Todd McCaffery. (Who was a really nice guy, by the way.)

There was only one panel that I regretted signing up for, and it had nothing to do with the quality. I’d put in a relatively low priority offer to be on a panel about LGBTQ characters in fiction. I figured, “I’ve written queer characters. I can wing it if I have to.” I even polled friends so that I could provide names of books that featured positive examples of LGBTQ characters.

Let me assure you how mistaken I was. I ended up being put on the panel and was the only straight cis-gendered male present. Everyone else diverged in at least one category, if not multiple. I was out of my depth on the subject. Everyone was very polite, but I felt like an idiot for thinking I could fake being on this panel. And I didn’t have a chance to use my list. But I’ll provide it at the end.

I have wondered in the past whether, because I’ve written diverse characters, I should offer to be on a panel about diversity. I think the answer is pretty definitively, “Nope.”

The only other hitch I experienced with the convention was that there was some confusion regarding when I was available. I know that at least one other panelist had encountered the same difficulty. It was easy enough for me to adjust my schedule that I didn’t say anything to the programming organizer. Given how hard it probably was putting that all together, I didn’t want to fuss.

After the positive overall experience I had this year, I am really looking forward to next year.

And now, my book recommendations from friends featuring LGBTQ characters:

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