You enter the con lobby, give a cursory glance around at the various booths at varying stages of being set up, and try to create a game plan about what to do. For many of you reading this, going to conventions isn’t a new thing. For others, you’ve never been to one before. Whether or not you’re the former or the latter, I know there’s one thing that will surely be true for you in the future: the next con you go to will give you something new, provide a fresh perspective, and, perhaps, be a turning point for your future nerd projects.
I grew up watching Star Trek, reading LOTR, playing Secret of Mana, and play-fighting with wooden swords. As far back as I can recall, I’ve been a nerd, and I’ve always leaned into it. I wrote. I read. I played games and got excited at 10:00 on Saturday morning when X-Men was on. Yet, for some reason, I didn’t go to a convention until I was 28. In the past six and a half years, I’ve been to a World-Con, various Norwescons, ECCC several times, and two MisCons. Within the first hour of going to my first con, I wondered why I hadn’t been going my entire life. Here was an entire room full of nerds and professionals, fans and aspiring artists. Gamers. Community. Here you could be yourself and find others like you.
There are countless tips you can find online about how to enjoy a con and how to use a con for your projects. The very website that you’re reading this post on is itself a child of people meeting at cons and finding a way to create something. If you want to create a webcomic but can only draw a mediocre stick figure, then you’re bound to find someone there who can help you and wants to work with you. If you’re new to writing, or drawing, or learning how to play games, there are countless panels which will teach you how to do that very thing.
There are literally thousands of ways to enjoy a con and trying to explain exactly each way to do that would be too grand a task for a single blog post.
So, I’ll just give one example. It was the night of April 6th, 2012 and I was finishing my first day at my very first con, Norwescon 35. My brother, G.R. Theron, and I had spent the afternoon going to a variety of panels. We wandered through the different wings of the hotel where the con was being held and, after nearly 12 hours of walking and sitting and listening, we noticed something: it was almost midnight and people were still out and about. What were they doing? Surely there weren’t any panels still going on.
So, we consulted our planner and saw something called “filk” slotted for the late-night hours. We had no idea what filk was, so we checked it out. What we found was a group of musicians taking turns leading each other in song.
Then, after about twenty minutes, one of the women in the circle did a solo. I don’t remember the song. It was late and I was tired. But I do remember that she had one of the most beautiful voices I had ever heard, and for about five minutes I was fixed in my chair, listening to her sing. It was perhaps at that moment that I realized the most important lesson I’ve ever learned at a con: try something new. Experience panels and things you aren’t familiar with.
I say this because not only was it a pleasure to hear her, but also because I’ve used her performance as an inspiration for a variety of scenes in the things I’ve written. You never know what you’ll take away from just five minutes at a con. How it will help you flesh out your nerd life or a project you’re working on.
So, when you arrive at your next con and look at the variety of booths and things being set up, do yourself a favor and explore.