Norwescon is a fairly large regional science fiction convention that takes place each spring near Seattle. I attended my first Norwescon in 2015 with my youngest son. The event took place from Thursday to Sunday in early April, and we rented a room at the hotel near SeaTac Airport where the con took place on Saturday night so we wouldn’t have to make the long journey to our apartment in north Seattle and back on public transportation. I skipped Thursday’s activities, and went out and back on Friday while my son was in school to attend some writer’s panels on my own.
This year the con took place in late March – it traditionally coincides with Easter weekend – and I rented a room at the hotel for both Friday and Saturday night so we could spend more time there and better immerse ourselves in the experience. I attended some of Thursday’s activities by myself. My youngest son came again from Friday on, and by happy coincidence another son was flying in from the east coast for a visit, and he happened to arrive Friday evening, so he came straight to the hotel, bought a membership to the con, and attended with us.
Science fiction and fantasy conventions vary greatly in emphasis. Some highlight games, some comics, some film and TV. This one, as I mentioned, devotes itself mainly to books and literature, although there are also games, masquerades, an art show, a film workshop, and other activities. Throughout each of the days there are a variety of panels from morning until fairly late in the evening. Many of them are on writing themes: advice on how to write stories and novels, how to commence a writing career, how to market, how to self-publish, how to promote, how to create alien worlds and credible aliens. These usually have panel members who are professional science fiction and fantasy writers. Generally the panel members discuss the panel topic together and then receive questions from the audience. I’ve found attending such panels to be edifying and informative, and I spend much of my time at the con sitting in on them. Other panels are aimed more at fans than aspiring professionals. These might discuss what influences writers and artists draw from, favorite books and films, upcoming projects, what it’s like to be a fan, how to behave at a convention, and many other subjects. Panel members for these topics may include some professionals, but also may include members of the fan community who may or may not be knowledgeable about the particular topics under discussion. I’m just giving you a glimpse here, a bird’s eye view. In truth, there are so many events transpiring simultaneously at Norwescon that it’s seldom hard to find something to do but often difficult to choose from a number of desirable alternatives.
For me, Norwescon 2016 was a far different experience from Norwescon 2015. In 2015, I had just recently moved back to Seattle after being gone for thirty-five years and I knew almost nobody. In 2016, I had met many of the area’s professional and aspiring writers at gatherings of Clarion West writer’s workshop students and alumni as well as at other meet-ups, and I kept running into people that I knew. That added an extra dimension to the experience.
My youngest son had called the 2015 Norwescon the best weekend of his life. One of the reasons was that he got a chance to meet and get an autograph from George R.R. Martin, who was the writer guest of honor that year. He enjoyed 2016 just as much. Because he was a little older and more familiar with the locale and the situation, I was able to let him attend panels he chose on his own, which allowed us to split up at times to pursue our individual interests. For my other son who flew in from the east, it was a new and unique experience. He appreciated being surrounded by people who were loose and open and relaxed and devoted to having fun and being themselves. He’s also an aspiring writer, and he attended panels on a variety of subjects that he said opened his eyes and gave him an abundance of ideas.
Many of the writers I talk to are rather jaded on science fiction conventions. After all, they have been attending them for decades. They go more to promote their books than for relaxation and enjoyment. For me, however, cons are still fresh new experiences. For many years, while I was living overseas, I longed to attend conventions, and now that I finally have a chance, I revel in the opportunities. There may come a time when I too become jaded, and I attend more for marketing and promotion than for entertainment and edification, but I don’t think that time will come soon. I had great fun in 2016, and already look forward to Norwescon 2017.