Year in review – 2011: Conventioneering

One of my goals in 2011 was to “attend at least one [science fiction] convention as a participant.”

I started attending science fiction conventions in 2007 after the sale of my first story to Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show. The first convention I attended was RavenCon in April 2007 and it set the bar rather high. I got to meet the editor of IGSM, Edmund Schubert, as well as meet and have dinner with Robert J. Sawyer.

Since then, I’ve attended close to a dozen conventions, all of them on the east coast or mid-Atlantic somewhere. But until 2011, I’d never attended as a participant. I am pleased to say that changed this year. I attended 2 conventions as a participant in 2011. The first was Readercon in July. It was there that I sat on my first two panels, on as a panelist, the other as the moderator (and the person who selected the topic for that matter). It was a lot of fun, but I have to admit I think I make a better panelist than moderator. Maybe I just need more practice at the latter.

Then, in October, I was a participant at Capclave, and I was on 2 more panels, again, one as a participant and one as a moderator.

I like being on panels. I think it is fun and hopefully I bring something to the panel that is useful for the audience. At the very least, I have the perspective still close at heart of what it is like to be a short fiction writing still breaking in. I also learn a lot sitting on the panels.

I think my favorite panel was the very first one I did, which was on having an Internet presence as a writer (or something like that). It was a Thursday night panel at Readercon and I was nervous, but I sat next to Paul Di Filippo, and I learned something about panels from watching him. Paul is the consummate panelist. He doesn’t hog the panel, he always has something very intelligent to say. He is funny and witty and very knowledgeable about the subject. After sitting on that panel with Paul, I determined to model my future paneling behavior after him.

(And just as a side-note: Paul and his wife, Deb, treated me like family at Readercon, as did Liz Hand and Barry and Joyce Malzberg, and Scott Edelman. I can remember very clearly sitting my small apartment at college in 1993, all alone for the weekend and reading through the latest issue of SCIENCE FICTION AGE. Often the table of contents included names like Paul Di Filippo and Barry N. Malzberg. And of course, Scott edited the magazine. Hanging out with those folks at Readercon, walking around the hotel parking lot in the morning with Barry and Company, that was something completely surreal to me and yet they are all so down-to-earth and completely kind to welcoming to me. That 21-year old reading SCIENCE FICTION AGE could not possibly have imagined something as cool as that.)

I was most nervous for the “Hidden History of Science Fiction” panel that I moderated at Readercon. It was a Friday night panel and I didn’t expect many people. What we got was a standing-room-only crowd. Barry Malzberg was on the panel with me–something we had arranged–and I was really nervous not to screw up, especially not in front of a hero of mine. I think I did okay, but I could have done a lot better. My only excuse it that it was my first time.

Also in 2011, I attended my first Nebula Weekend, which took place in Washington, D.C. not very far from where I lived. That was also a lot of fun. As a full active SFWA member I got to vote for the Nebulas for a the first time. Kelly and I attended the big banquet and sat at a table with, among others, Michael Whelan and his wife. During the course of the weekend, I got to hang out with Allen Steele (we first met at Boskone in 2008 and later at Readercon in 2010). Allen is great and is always giving me good advice about the writing business, and is very encouraging. He is another of those folks whose name would show up in the contents pages of SCIENCE FICTION AGE and so once again, there was that surreal feeling.

I had drinks with Stan Schmidt during the course of that weekend and pitched him another story for Analog. I got to see Connie Willis and her husband, Courtney, who I met at Capclave the year before and with whom I spent a couple of hours chatting in the bar. At the Nebula banquet, we were sitting at our table and Connie and Courtney Willis came up to me to say hello. That was a kind of WHOA! moment.

I’ve written posts about the various conventions I attended this year and those interested can find them here:

Overall, I think I had a pretty good year at science fiction conventions. I have still never attended a WorldCon or a World Fantasy convention, but I expect some of that to change in 2012. More on that in my Conventioneering Goals for 2012 post coming tomorrow.