Next week I’m going to be attending Sasquan, which is the 73rd annual World Science Fiction convention—a.k.a., Worldcon. If you are familiar with the convention culture in SF/F at all, you’ll know that Worldcon is where the Hugos are handed out every year, and that the Hugos are basically the SF/F genre’s Oscars. Or, if you’re familiar with the romance genre, you can think of the Hugos as the SF/F genre’s RITAs.
If you’ve been paying attention to the goings-on in SF/F this year, you may also know that there’s a lot of drama surrounding the Hugos. I’m very aware of it myself. But I’m not going to talk about that in this post. What I am going to talk about are what have been the positive aspects for me of going to Worldcon and conventions in general over the years, and what it’s begun to mean for me as an author starting out as well.
First, a little bit about Worldcon. Like the Olympics, Worldcon gets bid on every year for where it will be held, two years in advance. A lot of the time it’s held in the United States, but not always. This has meant that through much of our adulthood as SF/F fans, Worldcon has served as the major vacation for myself and my wife. Because of Worldcon, we’ve visited several places we might not otherwise have gotten to see: notably, Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland, and Tokyo and Yokohama in Japan. We’ve also hit several notable locations within the States—California Worldcons are always a delightful excuse to go to Disneyland, and the Baltimore Worldcon in ’98 got us a chance to go to the Smithsonian.
The cons themselves are also valuable. A Worldcon in the States is a great shot at seeing friends of mine I don’t normally get to see, for one thing; for another, it’s also a chance to actually get to see authors I read and authors I might want to read talk at panels, and to hang out with like-minded fans as well. Sometimes those two groups even intersect! There’s something very, very satisfying in being able to, say, hang out in a room full of fellow Tolkien geeks and chatter about what we think about the Hobbit movies (note: forty-somethings as well as twenty-somethings are down with Unexpectedly Hot Dwarves). Or to talk about the Avengers (and why the hell there isn’t any Black Widow merch). Or to share advice on writing techniques. Or to talk about how the latest discoveries in the solar system will impact SF novels moving forward. The possibilities are endless.
Costumes at a convention are always fun. I’m not a cosplayer; I’m a woman of several talents, but making costumes isn’t one of them. But I very much respect the effort that goes into making costumes, and the best of the best can be found at Worldcon’s Masquerade.
Likewise artwork. It’s very seldom that I have cash to spare to actually buy SF/F-themed art, but walking through the art show at a convention is a joy. There, you can see the actual paintings and prints by a lot of the big names who do SF/F covers, and while the covers are often striking, there’s nothing to compare to seeing the colors pop off of canvas in person.
And speaking of cash to spare: if your wallet is of limited size, beware the dealers’ room. There are generally always multiple book vendors to be found at any given SF/F con, especially Worldcons—we SF/F nerds do love us some overcrowded bookshelves, and there are dozens of vendors that work the cons that are willing to sell us the latest titles to compound the problem! But there are also the weapons-makers, the makers of costume garb, the jewelry makers, the sellers of dice and figurines and rules books and anything else you’d want for a tabletop RPG session, the sellers of branded merchandise for all the big franchises (e.g., Doctor Who and Star Wars). And more.
Since I’m also an amateur musician, I love seeing what music will be offered at a con. Filk, i.e., “science fiction folk music”, has been a mainstay of SF/F cons for decades. It’s introduced me to the likes of Julia Ecklar, Seanan McGuire (who of course has become even more known as an author), Vixy & Tony, Alexander James Adams, S.J. Tucker, and Tom Smith, all of whom are delightful to see perform in person. But geek-friendly music has been expanding considerably, and so I’ve also come to know about Marian Call, the Doubleclicks, Hello the Future!, the PDX Broadsides, and Molly Lewis.
(And of course I’m biased in this regard, but I also have to mention my very own Dara who performs as Crime and the Forces of Evil!)
But in addition to the people you can see performing at conventions, there’s also the opportunity to just whip out your own instruments and play in a filk circle yourself and to take turns singing with others. It’s great fun, and it’s very much a delightful blend of geekery and the idea behind a traditional Irish or Quebecois session—i.e., get a bunch of people together to make music.
Last but definitely not least, now that I’m an author myself, I’ve begun the challenging task of selling my work to convention goers. It’s helped immensely to team up with the good folks of the Northwest Independent Writers Association, who have begun establishing a presence at conventions in the Pacific Northwest over the last few years. When you’re an indie author, it helps a lot to be able to work with fellow indie authors to sell your books.
And this year, NIWA will be at Worldcon—where I’ll be represented along with several other excellent indie authors. If you’ll be at the Sasquan convention in Spokane, come say hi to me at the NIWA table in the dealers’ room, won’t you? This’ll be one of the few yearly opportunities to get a hold of print copies of Faerie Blood and Bone Walker without having to pay shipping charges—not to mention the excellent Bone Walker soundtrack album!
If you won’t be at the convention, but you are a convention goer in general, tell me about your favorite SF/F cons in the comments!
Angela writes as Angela Highland for Carina Press, and as Angela Korra'ti as an indie! When she's not at conventions, you can find her at angelahighland.com, on Facebook, or on Twitter.