Having never attended anything similar before, I approached ConDor with trepidation. Though the website explained all the activities to be found therein, at the same time I was going in blind, without knowing anyone, and realizing that many of the attendees had been doing this a good part of their lives and were well-acquainted. Going over the online list of panels (discussions by three to five writers or experts in the field) I decided to go on Friday and Saturday and give Sunday a pass. Monday began a new week of school and work, and I knew that I’d have to do some damage control if I exited the house over the weekend.
I write this not so much for Con attendees as for those who may have never experienced such a phenomenon before. The program was divided into panels and workshops, static events such as the Dealers Room and Art Display, and extra activities such as dances and games and parties. These last I had decided to give a miss; I was most interested in the panels, which might be of use in my writing career, and doing a bit of mixing and mingling (something I am really not much good at).
Registration was simple enough. You could buy a full membership or do it on a day-by-day basis. I got a badge with my name on it and attendee status (“Friday”). Then I was off to explore.
The Dealers Room was still setting up, so I wandered about and found the room for the first panel I would be attending, which was on comedy in science fiction. When it began, one of the panelists asked for an audience show of hands as to who were there because they were writers, and who was there for a good laugh. Unfortunately most people were there just for the laugh, but the panelists did focus mostly on how humor could be best used by writers in fantastic literature.
A word about the panelists: It is considered prestigious by regular Con attendees to be chosen to participate in panels, and the panelists varied from well-known writers, educators and experts, to local fans who somehow had enough clout to make the cut. Inevitably some panelists talked more than others, but generally I was pleasantly surprised to see that the panels were well-moderated, and the panelists deferred to each other and gave each other ample opportunity to express their opinions. In addition, questions were always asked of the audience to give them a chance to participate.
All in all, the panels were well done. After the comedy panel I attended one on “The Hero’s Journey in Science Fiction and Fantasy”. This followed the tropes and patterns that exist in literature and film. It was enlivened by the late arrival of David Brin, an award-winning science fiction writer and academic, who was the life of the party, flamboyant, gregarious, and verbose. From there I went on to a panel on time travel and its power to change history.
Sometime between panels I checked out the Dealers Room, which was by then set up. Basically it consists of tables rented by those who wish to sell or promote something during the Con. I wandered around checking things out, hoping the sellers wouldn’t be annoyed by someone with pockets as empty as mine who had no resources to buy anything even if something particularly struck my fancy. The local San Diego science fiction book store was represented, of course. There were a number of craftspeople hawking their jewelry, clothes, leather goods, wreaths, and other trinkets. Various organizations in the genre were promoting their clubs, societies, or causes. And there were a number of independent self-published authors promoting their books. I stopped to talk to them, as they seemed lonely. They had all spent a lot of money, thousands of dollars, on covers and editing and so on, and were convinced that promoting their wares by any means possible was the only way to get good sales. I felt for them. I have published stories traditionally in magazines and anthologies and I have self-published books too, but I have never had to spend much on their production and I have done no promotion at all. Maybe I’d sell a few more copies if I did, but I’d rather spend my time working on the next book. Anyway, one author was a teen who’d completed the first volume of a fantasy trilogy, and I wanted to get to know him and find out how he’d done it, but he’d prepared a speech on the book’s plot and there was nothing I could do to get him to cut that off and just chat a while.
Anyway, next to the Dealers Room was the Art Room, and I perused what was on display. Most of the work had bidding sheets underneath, with minimum prices, prices to buy on the spot, and prices for after the Con if nobody had yet bought it. Some of the work was so-so, some didn’t suit my particular tastes, and some was quite good. One thing that struck me was that most of the artists were vastly underselling their work; some of the best paintings were going for only twenty bucks or so.
After several panels I was getting faint. I hadn’t eaten since a very light breakfast at six in the morning, and it was now four in the afternoon. I decided to seek out the Con suite for some coffee. It was run by the management of the Con, and had complementary coffee and tea and light snacks for the attendees. I grabbed some coffee and a chair and watched people come and go, chatting occasionally.
To be honest, after the first day of the Con I was unsure whether or not I would go back. I had enjoyed it well enough once I got used to it, but it was exhausting physically, as I am used to getting up very early and then taking a short nap in the early afternoon, but the Con and the panels went straight through the day without stop. In addition, I had been hoping to meet some interesting people and have some good conversations, but I had kept pretty much to myself. It’s not easy for me to meet new people under the best of circumstances, and in this environment I felt, as I said, intimidated.
In the end, though, I decided to give it one more try, and I’m glad I did. It was on Saturday that the experience became all that I had hoped for.
Next: Saturday at the Con
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