Getting out of the bunker

Welcome to the beginning of the next stage!  Either you won NaNoWriMo, or you didn’t.  But this month, you decided to be a writer.  Most of what a writer does is the solitary work you did this month (or tried to do, but even if it didn’t work out, you made your first stab at it).  But part of what writers do is social.

Some of the possibilities are writer’s groups, classes, retreats, workshops, book groups, and conferences.

I hate all that.

I don’t know about you, but I’m bad at social networking.  I have been reading and writing science fiction and fantasy since I was eight, but I read it alone.  Entering into large groups of strangers has always made me feel like a cat dropped into a full bathtub or an escapee being hunted through the fens by a low-flying black helicopter.

I went to one meeting of the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society in the late 70s, and I went to the society’s annual conference (Philcon) once.  All I remember about that conference is that it was crowded and dark, everyone had long hair and romantic clothing, and they all knew one another already.  This may have been a delusion, in hindsight.

Social media came along in the late 80s and I was able to make connections with fellow fans and authors, but even that petered out when I finished grad school and started teaching.

Now I’m surfacing into the light, blinking and looking around.  And trying those uncomfortable social things writers are supposed to do.  One by one. Like blogging.  Like going to conferences.

In mid-November, yanking myself out by my leash and dragging myself into my car, I again attended Philcon, which is America’s oldest science fiction convention.  I learned some things about my community and my readers in the process.

In some ways it was exactly the same as the con I attended in the 70s, partly because I recognized many of the same people.  Inexplicably, those people seemed to have gotten considerably older.  I have no idea how that happened.  I myself have not aged.  There were plenty of young people as well, but the older people had gotten remarkably older.

Science fiction fandom reflects this age division, even though many SF fans, understandably, were early adopters of online interaction.  But that is only one division in the community.

Another divide is between the “hard SF” (technological, scientific, often thing-focused) versus “fantasy” (shapeshifters, wizards, alternate worlds) axis, and I’m not sure where alternate history fits in.  Each sub community has its own rules, which they understand.  My favorite authors tend to step across borders.

In addition to panels, signings, and talks by SF authors, there were costumes, movies, gaming tables, an art auction, filking (SF folk music), T-shirts, jewelry, and crafting.

For a dry run, it wasn’t bad.  I promised myself I could go for a little while, and leave when I started to feel museum fatigue.  In the meantime, I sat up front in sessions, even though I’d rather sit in the back, and I raised my hand and asked questions.  I made a point of speaking to someone in each session, either a panelist or a fellow attendee.  I took notes so I could remember what I heard.  I walked around and looked at books.  I had a nice short chat with my deceased agent’s former business partner, and bought one of his books because authors have it hard these days.  I listened to the talk by the guest of honor, and watched a slide show by a famous cover artist.  And when I was tired, I left.

In 2017, I will grit my teeth, haul up my trousers, and go to a few more of these, just to reconnect with the community.  There are quite a few of them within driving distance during the year.

Meanwhile, in the next few blog entries I will share some of the things I learned in the panels I attended.

Next:  Writing and pace – slooow books.

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