This month’s topic is favorite conventions, and I can honestly say I haven’t been to a convention or conference I didn’t enjoy, whether in person or online. However, there is one convention I have been going to for more years than I can remember: BayCon. The best thing about each year is being surrounded with people who share my love not just of reading but of thinking great thoughts. Science fiction conventions are home to people from a wide variety of backgrounds, but the majority, at least, are open to discussion and exploration. BayCon has a lot in common with a college campus except that there are no grades, and anyone can be a teacher or student at any moment, and sometimes both.
The first year I went, I’ll admit to finding it all a little overwhelming. The hotel was thick with people I didn’t know, I was trying to see too much, and I was frustrated at all I was missing. At the same time, the panels I went to were fascinating, and I ended up in several hallway discussions with random people that were equally so, often a continuation of the panel that spilled out afterwards.
If the first impression had held, I probably wouldn’t have come back, but it was the second part that lingered, making me eager for the next year and every one after that.
I have submitted stories for the critique sessions and met authors I have the good fortune to call friends now, I have acted as a mentor in the critique sessions, and have been a panelist in the last umpteen years. I’ve seen almost all sides of the convention (having never been a gopher or staff), and I’ve found much of value in each aspect. Whether inspiring interesting thoughts, learning something new, or triggering an idea for one of my books, BayCon is a thriving, creative environment. I may not be into costuming anymore, but I enjoy the efforts of those who are. The art room is a delight, and the filking brings forth many a smile.
This is a kaleidoscope of activity, colors, lights, and sounds with something at almost every hour, and often more than one something. Sure, some of that frustration about what I’m missing continues to plague me every year, but it’s not for a lack of things to do. Daytime offers panels, presentations, demonstrations, hands-on crafts, the dealer’s room, the art room, and readings while the night hours are more often music, movies, and the parties where all sorts of discussions may occur (and sometimes there are Legos to build with). I’m sure I’m forgetting some things, like the Regency dances which are great fun and good exercise all in one, but this should give you a sense of what’s available.
I’ve watched sword demonstrations; played croquet with flamingos; marveled at t-shirts, books, jewelry, stuffed animals, and art, sometimes taking some home; seen space demonstrations; discussed video gaming and books for the younger crowd; learned about cultures; joined in on future predictions; talked about publishing both before taking the indie step and since; and so much more. The efforts by those running a convention are immense and occur long before the actual weekend. I’ve seen one aspect of it in running the tech side of an online writing convention, Muse Online, so have nothing but respect for those who take the time and energy to put together such a great event.
While I consider BayCon my “home” convention, as I mentioned above, I’ve been to a good number of other conventions and have found the same welcome. It’s like coming home to a place where imagination is rewarded and questioning is encouraged. One of the tips for panel moderators at BayCon is not to assume the folks in the audience are any less informed on the topic than the panelists. While an organized setup is useful to avoid chaos or one person (from either side of the table) pontificating, the best panels become a discussion with everyone participating, one that often exposes aspects not previously considered.
If you enjoy science fiction, fantasy, and horror, check your local area for any conventions nearby. You might be amazed at how comfortable you find them.
While BayCon has educational aspects, the main focus and attraction for me is spending time with folks who are open and willing to learn while sharing their love of the genre through many different approaches. Whatever your genre preference, look around and see what conferences and/or conventions are available. While I’ve never been to one, I’ve heard good things about the Romance Writer of America chapter convention, and I know there are ones specifically for horror as well. In the Bay Area, there are separate steampunk, gaming, and anime conventions as well as additional science fiction conventions, such as Convolution; or those that move between cities or even countries, including Westercon, World Con, and World Fantasy, all of which I’ve attended at least once.
If you’ve never been, I’d suggest bringing a buddy to give you some comfort zone, but be open to making new friends whether for a ten-minute discussion or a lifetime. The Con Suite is a great place to find a snack and interesting conversations, or just join in an after-panel discussion (though move away from the doors as the next panel is sure to begin shortly).
What conventions have you been to? Do you have a tip or two to share? If you haven’t ever gone, I’d really suggest you give it a try.
Today’s post was inspired by the topic “Favorite conventions or events” — April’s topic in Forward Motion’s Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. Links to additional posts in the series will be added below:
Connie talks about favorite conventions of many types, including one of her own invention: http://conniesrandomthoughts.com/2016/04/favorite-conventions-and-events-merry-go-round-blog-tour/