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The Pros and Cons of, Uh…Cons

Now that I’ve fully recovered from the hangover  experience of WorldCon, I wanted to take a second and jot down a few thoughts.

Since I’ve returned from my Rumspringa to Chicago I’ve had a few people ask if it was worthwhile (it was) and if they should consider going to a con in the future (they should). But since I can’t stop at a simple answer, I figured I’d throw down a few pros and cons for ya’. Cause, you know, why not?

And hey, you know, WorldCon might not be your thing. Maybe you’re not into Science Fiction and Fantasy (I don’t understand you people, but I’m told you’re out there), maybe Thrillers are your thing. Or Romance! Or Furry Sleuth! I’m not here to judge.

There’s a con for everyone. So consider this list genre-blind.

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PRO: There are others like you.

If you’re a book nerd chances are you endured some ridicule in your tender, formative years. People aren’t kind to the kid who brings a book to the high school football game. You might have thought you were alone, that there were no others like you…

Surprise! There’s a crap-ton of people like you. And they all go to cons.

One of the best reasons to attend a conference is to meet other book-lovers; fellow nerds who’ve navigated the gauntlet of literary adolescence and come out the other side, mature (sometimes) and ready to discuss whether Dumbledore would beat Rand Al’Thor in a Cagematch.

Cons are like the Gathering from Highlander; we’re all there.

CON: These people are…odd.

Alright, so there’s a downside to meeting other people like you. See, we have a tendency to downplay our idiosyncrasies when we’re alone. It’s easy to ignore our own personal weirdness and scoff at others.

Just take a look at Venice.

Venice…you’re not perfect. That’s all I’m sayin’

But when you’re face to face with a peer at your favorite con, the similarities can be a little overwhelming. I mean, sure, you talk about the parallels between Battlestar Galactica and the Spanish Civil War when you’re home alone, just you and your rubber ducky, Sylvester. But the first time you hear the same argument coming from the lips of another thinking, reasoning human being…it sounds crazy.

The first Con is often a bitter pill.

PRO: Authors are people!

Holy crap! That’s David Brin in the next urinal! Do I shake his hand? Would that be weird? Maybe I’ll just tell him I like what he does. (This is unfortunately a true story. And yes, I did compliment him while he was doing his…uh…business. It was awkward for everyone.)

When you sit in your basement reading your favorite novel, it’s easy to forget this story wasn’t spun from the ether like Kronos and Rhea. The author isn’t some distant god sitting on a pile of money with brilliant insights cavorting at his feet like errant children.

This is another living, human being. And you get to meet them at cons!

And not just in the bathroom.

CON: Your favorite author is a dick.

Yeah, sometimes that hero-worship goes another way. Sometimes the author you’ve worshiped for the last ten years turns out to be a jerk.

Yup. It sucks.

And it’ll happen, guaranteed.

No. I will not shake your hand.

The good news is these ass-rags are few and far between. Most authors are considerate, kind people who are more than happy to pose for a picture or give an autograph.

But there are some that will stab you in the eye for asking. I recommend bringing face protection.

PRO: You learn, and then you’re educated with the learning that just happened, and, uh…LEARNING!

The best part about cons? Panels.

If you’re a writer, this is like Christmas, Hanukkah, and Festivus all rolled into one. You get to hear from legends in the field, and they’re all discussing your craft. Ever wonder what it takes to break into the short story market? There’s a panel for that, with editors. Do you need help on getting past the second page? There are panels on plotting run by New York Times Bestselling authors.

Do you need to know the history of Filk? There’s an app for that.

You’ll leave a con full of so much knowledge it’ll feel like your head is going to burst. And best of all? You’ll be inspired.

CON: They open panels to questions

This shouldn’t be a bad thing. Questions are good, right?

Wrong.

People shouldn’t be allowed to ask questions. Or, at the very least they should be required to write down a question in advance and have it reviewed by at least three peers before it’s even presented to a panelist.

On my third day of WorldCon there was an article in the daily newspaper (Yeah, they have their own newspapers. It’s awesome) on how to ask a proper question. Among the suggestions were: 1). Keep it to a single sentence. 2). Make sure your voice goes up at the end of the sentence. That’s how you know it’s a question.

I wish I could tell you this article was humorous in nature, but that would be a dirty, dirty lie. And before you think I’m being mean to my fellow con-goers, I know people can get passionate and a question can end up rambling. I’ve been there. But lest you think I exaggerate, let me leave you with an example.

This is one of the questions I heard from an audience member. I present it for your pleasure in its entirety.

I killed my main character half-way through my novel. People really hate it and say the book is awful, and I shouldn’t kill my character. I’m going to kill him anyway, because I think he wants to die, and all my other characters hate him. 

This question was asked at a panel called “Sex in Genre Fiction.” I rest my case.

PRO: BOOZE!

There are a lot of parties at these cons. A. Lot. And the authors tend to go to these parties because authors drink and the booze is free, so…

Do I need to really sell you on this one?

CON: HANGOVER!

Uuuuugghhhhhh…

Curse you, Barfleet!

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So there you have it, folks, the pros and cons. I hope the con part didn’t scare you off, because the pros more than make up for the strangeness that goes on at genre conventions. And strangeness is a good thing, anyway. We’re all a little strange, so let’s be strange together. At a con.

Personally, I plan on going to many, many more, and I want to see all of you there.

What experiences have you had at cons? Which ones are you planning on attending in the future?

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About nicwidhalm (46 Articles)
Nic Widhalm is a writer based out of Northern, Colorado, specializing in urban fantasy, and supernatural horror. He is happily married, has two beautiful, feisty kids, and spends his free time singing and providing vocal percussion for the professional a cappella group, Curious Gage. Visit www.curiousgage.com for more information.

6 Comments on The Pros and Cons of, Uh…Cons

  1. The free alcohol wouldn’t be much of a pro for me. The only con I’ve ever been to is a star trek one when I was in my teens. Half the proceeds were going to my dad’s work so I got to go one day free. John Pertwee (RIP) gave a talk and did photos and turned out to be a prize dick. The cast of Star Trek that were there were much lovelier!

  2. I find WorldCon overwhelming, personally. I am thinking about next year’s Westercon (I went to the last one held in San Diego). Eventually we might make it back to San Diego for Conjecture (which I was involved in the first couple of years).

    This year we’re finally going to MileHiCon for the first time. Looking forward to it, although I am going to be careful not to let Steven Brust set me on fire, again.

    • Yeah, it took me a couple days to adjust to Worldcon. It was a bit much at first.

      But eventually I grew to love it, quirks and all.

      Good for you for supporting MileHiCon. I wanted to go, but I’m going to miss it this year, unfortunately. Hopefully next year 🙂

      • To be fair, I was near the end of my pregnancy with Audrey at the Denver Worldcon, so that might have been part of it 🙂

        We kept saying we wanted to go to MileHiCon, but this year bought tickets at Comic-con so we’d be forced to go.

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