I attended NerdCon: Stories in Minneapolis this weekend. It was great; the organizers brought in an awesome lineup of writers, podcasters, artists, and creators of all kinds. The presentations varied from the guests playing games of various sorts on stage to standard panels to Q&As. Since this was the first year for the con (though not the last, I would imagine), it wasn’t packed, which is always a plus. Feeling like you’re a participating member in a vast, buzzing insect swarm is never a great experience, especially in the hyper-clean-yet-oddly-still-grimy space so many cons seem to occupy.
I realized this weekend, though, that cons really aren’t for me: I’m 28 and feel like I’m 75 most of the time. My back hurts pretty much constantly from excessive time spent in my youth carrying big-ass drums. After teenage years during which I thought I was literally the coolest person in the world, being around those kinds of teenagers makes me wish for sweet, swift, merciful Death to take me away in her chariot. Crowds of any sort absolutely drain my batteries, and even being around other fans of stuff I’m fannish about sucks my energy. And as an aspiring writer, I feel the obligatory weight of the ever-hateful “networking possibilities” in a place like NerdCon, which, instead of actually making me want to network, actually makes me want to curl up in a corner with a notebook.
So yeah, the con was great. I can recognize that. But I can also recognize that it totally wasn’t for me (in no way because of the specificity of this con–it’s all conventions, conferences, colloquia…gatherings that start with ‘c’ apparently), and that whenever I start getting stuff published, that’s going to be a big hurdle for me. I left both days (Friday and Saturday) feeling simultaneously exhausted and guilty for feeling exhausted.
One frustration and one joy from the con:
Frustration: I went to two panels moderated by the same person (a creator I’ve not loved for a little while–it was my own dumb fault for picking the panels, but I was so interested by the panelists that I thought it would be ok! Not so, unfortunately…), and each of these panels seemed, despite their descriptions, to be opportunities for this person to pontificate. At great length. To the extent that the panelists–the actual people who have been asked to participate on speak on these panels–had either very little time to speak or were instead pulled down rabbit holes where the message seemed to be, “Gosh, it’s super hard to be really successful. People shouldn’t make me feel bad about complaining about my success. I’ve been so limited in who I can complain to about being so successful, and that’s really hard for me.” And you know? Fair enough. But it needs to be recognized that a panel at a convention is probably not the right place for that *very, very, very* privileged whining to happen. That first panel was basically saved by Dessa, who kept bringing the discussion back to positive advice for writers. She’s awesome.
Joy: On Friday night, a whole bunch of creators played a game that was a mix of The Canterbury Tales, D&D, and other storytelling endeavors. It featured the creators improvising stories that could be challenged by other players, which then forced the teller to either creatively work with the disruption or give up the opportunity to score more coins. Anyway, Mary Robinette Kowal, to whom I’ve listened on Writing Excuses, was incredible. Her stuff was funny and witty, but she was also clearly having so much damn fun up there. I haven’t yet read any of her books, but I desperately want to now!