Con Artist

I attended my first ever Worldcon this past weekend. The following post will  be long and rambling. Consider yourself warned.

Prior to Worldcon, my only experience with cons of any kind was the Star Trek conventions I dragged my mother to when I was twelve.  I decided to go with the “tasting menu” approach, picking panels, readings and programs at random. I wasn’t disappointed.

My Worldcon experience started Saturday morningwith a reading by Catherynne Valente and Greer Gilman. I ordered Palimpsest before heading to Montreal in hopes of getting it signed at the con, but it didn’t arrive in time, despite the delivery date listed on the UPS tracking site.  Luckily, Ms. Valente was kind enough to sign a postcard for The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making instead. And thus we come to the first of many times during the course of the weekend where I inanely babbled ‘I love your work’ at someone.

I always secretly hoped that upon meeting someone whose work I really admire, I would think of something insightful and brilliant to say. Deep down, I knew I wouldn’t. However, I am proud that I went the whole weekend without inappropriately screaming, ‘Oh my God, you’re X!’, which is really only a useful conversation-starter if the person you’re talking to has just woken up with amnesia. I will keep that fan-girly screaming impulse in reserve though, just in case such a situation should arise, at which point I will naturally have said individual’s undying gratitude for informing them who they are.

From the reading I proceeded to the ‘Archetype vs. Sterotype’ panel, and then the ‘What Makes a Good Story’ panel. The second panel was packed, and I ended up sitting on the floor and listening without ever actually seeing any of the panelists. Even so, I still thoroughly enjoyed both panels.

After lunch, it was off to listen to a reading by Worldcon Guest of Honor, Neil Gaiman.

(I did in fact get several clearer pictures of M. Gaiman, but this one is still my favorite. I just seems…appropriate somehow.)

Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors to listen to reading his work aloud. He’s a polished professional, and has his sense of rhythm and timing down.  The accent doesn’t hurt either.  He read two pieces I hadn’t heard before, the second one being a beautifully creepy love letter. I have to admit, it actually gave me a little chill at the end.

After the reading, I had my picture taken by Kyle Freaking Cassidy for his Worldcon fan gallery. As a general rule, I prefer to be behind cameras, rather than in front of them, but I figured it was worth it for no other reason than it gave me another opportunity to babble ‘OhmygodIloveyourwork’ at someone – two for two.

At some point I wandered around the dealer’s room, spent money, and looked at the art show, which made me wish I had more money to spend.  The day also involved a healthy dose of people-watching, and lots of picture taking.

I finished the day by attending a puppetry demonstration by Mary Robinette Kowal, making up for my thwarted attempt to hear her speak in Philadelphia. Even though I’m very unlikely to ever build or operate a puppet, I still found the talk fascinating. Plus, the stories of everything that can go disastrously wrong during a puppet show were the perfect way to end my first Worldcon day.

Since the majority of my family live in Montreal, I got the added benefit of spending time with them during the trip . Saturday night involved a tasty home-cooked meal and an attempt to watch the fireworks from the roof deck of my mom’s condo. Either the fireworks never happened, or they were extremely low-to-the-ground and quiet. We did, however, get to watch a gorgeous harvest moon rising, see a ‘fleet’ of small planes repeatedly fly past, possibly looking for the fireworks, and witness a ghostly flight of geese gliding overhead.

Sunday morning began bright and early with a two-hour critique/workshop session. This was probably the part of the con I was most nervous about, not so much the being critiqued, but the critiquing others. I managed to stumble through it, and hopefully my feedback was as useful to the other participants as I found the feedback I received.

After the workshop, I went to ‘Neil Gaiman in Conversation’, and then to the dealer’s room to spend more money. I also went to Bill Willingham’s autograph session to get my copy of Fables Vol. 1 signed.  By this point I felt the need to apologize before babbling ‘I really love your work’. Mr. Willingam was very nice about my lack of anything original to say.

Following that and a quick lunch, there was the ‘Many Passions of Neil Gaiman’, and then my last panel of the day and the con. Due to my inability to correctly read a schedule, it wasn’t the panel I was planning on attending – ‘Writing Gender Issues’ – but ‘Rainbow Futures’ instead. It ended up being a wonderful panel though, and I’m glad I went.

Sunday night I had a lovely dinner with my dad, stepmom, stepsister and stepsister’s boyfriend. As always, dinner was delicious (thanks, Dad!) and the weather cooperated despite threatening clouds, so we were able to eat outside. I capped the weekend by devouring Brett Alexander Savory’s In and Down in more or less a straight shot on the way home.

Even though I only attended two days of the con, it was still overwhelming, but in a very good way. I enjoyed the whole con atmosphere, the people watching, the panels, everything. I foresee more cons in my future. The only thing I was disappointed with – completely unrelated to Worldcon – is that I managed to go a whole weekend in Montreal without a single bite of poutine.

And so, in closing, here is your moment of zen:

Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith, second in command of the Galactic Empire, having his cape held up by (presumably) his mother, so it won’t get caught in the escalator on his way downstairs.

Should you be so inclined, you can see the rest of my Worldcon photos here.

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