Less than a week ago I returned from Norwescon 40, which is the third Norwescon in a row that I have attended. Norwescon is one of the largest science fiction conventions in the Northwest United States. It focuses mainly on science fiction and fantasy literature, as opposed to other conventions that highlight comics or movies or TV shows.
Norwescon is not the first convention, or con for short, that I have ever attended. That was ConDor in San Diego. Then, after I moved to Seattle, I attended Potlatch, a small con primarily connected with the Clarion workshops. Norwescon, though, has seemed ideal for me and my teen son, as it’s not far from where we live and has just the right balance of activities to keep us busy and happy.
I’m somewhat of an anomaly in the science fiction universe. Most writers and fans I meet have attended cons almost all their lives. Cons are a natural part of their existence. However, I lived overseas for thirty-five years and had no access to such events. By the time I moved back to the States I was eager to see what they were like. Many of my writer colleagues don’t come for recreation at all. They come to meet up with friends, sure, but they also come to “work” the con. They see a con like Norwescon as an opportunity for marketing – which is a valid perspective, of course. For me, though, the experience is too new to see it merely from a business perspective. Perhaps in a few years, I will approach it differently.
Each of my three years at Norwescon have been markedly different. At the first one I had been living in Seattle for less than a year. I had met a few local writers at Potlatch, but otherwise I went in not knowing anyone. I attended panels, perused items in the dealer’s room, and marveled at the flamboyant costumes of many of the guests. The con was very heavily attended, as George R.R. Martin was the guest. My son was flipped out to meet him and get his autograph. We even stayed at the hotel for Saturday night.
The next year we expanded our stay to Friday and Saturday nights. I attended a Clarion West party on Thursday, but I had to return to the city on public transport late at night, as my son had school and I had to pick him up to bring him on Friday. I had gone to local writer’s gatherings throughout the year and so I met several people I knew in the hallways; it was very different from the year before when I had gone in relatively incognito.
This past year I ran into a lot of people I knew. I was also a panelist for the first time, on a special panel about Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. We stayed two nights again, and the weather was good so my son went swimming every day in the hotel pool. This was sort of a pivotal point; I was coming in both as a fan and as a professional.
Next year, who knows? I am ambivalent about whether I want to apply to participate in more panels, thus making that the main focus of the experience, or remain laid back and spend most of the time with my son. I will decide over the coming weeks. For now, I am basking in the pleasant memories of the con that has just passed. I don’t want the business of marketing to spoil the fun. On the other hand, participating in the panel was fun. We’ll see. There’s time to decide on the next step. For those of you writers and readers who enjoy science fiction and fantasy, I recommend Norwescon as a bright interlude and escape from the usual day to day grind.