When I was younger, I went to a fair number of cons. I wasn’t the sort to travel much for it, but Boston was a pretty decent hub for such things, so there would usually be a couple each year I could hit without much trouble. I’d drag a friend or two, and we’d see actors speak and watch TV episodes projected onto big screens, and envy the people with the really good costumes. One year I wore my crocheted Fourth Doctor scarf, which made me bunches of friends.
But my favorite part was always the dealers’ room. Before the days of Amazon, the things you could buy at these cons were often genuine exclusives. I snagged UK editions of books, fan-produced videos, back issues of out-of-print magazines, used and new paperbacks. At its best, it was a big sci-fi flea market. I’d bring all the cash I could scrape together, and spend every last dime of it. I wouldn’t go home until I was broke.
This isn’t a “back in my day” rant. Things have changed, and that’s largely a good thing. Fandom has exploded since those days. I’ve known that, but seeing the crowds at New York Comic Con brought home the true scale of the change. There is so much more to choose from, new and old, and so many more people willing to gather to enjoy it.
And spend money on it. Together. In one place.
Crowds notwithstanding – as a first panel experience, it was unequivocally terrific. I wish, of course, that I had been wittier and smarter and better overall, but beyond petty insecurities, it was really rather fun. The panel was well-organized, the other panelists were interesting (and much wittier than I am), and the facilitator had good questions and made sure we all had a chance to answer.
And the focus was a little different than I’d expected, in a good way. The panel was on worldbuilding, and I spent some time thinking about the history I have in my head of what humans have done in the 1000-1200 years between now and when I’ve set my story. But the questions were much more about character and theme: moral dilemmas; how we live with history; belonging; home. This was stuff I’m much more comfortable talking about–and it was fascinating hearing the others discuss how they addressed the issues in their books. This is everything I love about science fiction and fantasy: using fictional places, fictional technologies, situations that could never exist in the real world to examine the kinds of humans we hope–or fear–we will become.
The experience of being up there was…something. I had horrible stage fright beforehand, which was actually pretty familiar. I learned back when I was singing that I’d be a heart-fluttery basket case, up until I had to open my mouth, and then I’d be too busy to be nervous. This worked the same way. Singing is easier–you know before you get up exactly what you’re going to do, and the performance is only a variation in tone and emphasis–but I found if I kept my ears open and kept my thoughts organized, I didn’t have much of a problem rattling on for a bit.
All in all, I don’t think I embarrassed my novels, which was of course the important thing. 🙂
My husband was in the audience taking pictures, smiling at me and giving me the thumbs-up now and then to keep me steady. My publicist sat with me beforehand and made relaxed and reassuring noises, so I went into the whole thing with a marvelous support system. I could have done this on my own, I suppose, but I would have spent a lot more time tying myself in knots and worrying than kicking back and having fun.
I did. I had fun. I’d do it again.
Afterward there was a brief book signing. (I’m still at the point when I’m surprised people want signed books. Hell, I’m still at the point when I grin like a little kid when I see someone pick it up and look at it.) I went back to the Voyager booth and signed the stock they had there, then took off on my own to wander until I was supposed to meet my husband.
I thought a lot about those old cons while I was shuffling along with the crowds up and down the rows of booths. There was a lot more at NYCC than I ever saw in those other places, but it was all harder to get to, harder to see. And it does get tiring to be constantly bumping into people. At the same time…there were plenty of “excuse me”s and “I’m sorrys” and “Wow that’s cool”s and smiles from strangers sharing the experience.
People don’t always suck.
I met up with my spouse after that, and we left the crowded con to do some wandering around the city. The streets of New York that had felt mobbed the night before now seemed spacious. We were exhausted, but the walking was pleasant, even carrying our heavy haul from the show floor. I had with me a finished copy of my second book (acquired the night before from my editor), and a mounted copy of the cover that my publicist had given me for the panel. I’d survived, and even made a few people laugh, and actually enjoyed myself.
The whole experience made for a wonderful vacation in a lot of ways, despite the fact that it was a business trip. After the push to get out Book 3, I had days when I thought I’d never be able to put another word on the page. Now I’ve got whispers and ideas, and I’m starting to look forward to writing the next book. So despite the energy burn that comes with being an introvert among other humans…it was also revitalizing.
As for acquired stuff? We mostly bought for The Kid. I think the big hit is the Goat Simulator plushie with the magnetic tongue and feet. Maybe not an “exclusive,” but as a souvenir? It will be well-loved.
3 thoughts on “NYCC (or: I have extroverted, and lived to tell about it)”
Sounds like you had a good time! I keep hoping to make it to one of the cons, probably Phoenix or San Diego as they are closer to me. One of these days I’ll get you to sign my books!
I bet I would have enjoyed your panel. I think what I enjoyed most about your first book was the connections between the characters. In a way, many of them are misfits in typical society, but put them on a ship where they have a defined purpose and not much requirement or opportunity for the events and trappings of society, and they find a way to form a cohesive unit. They are people who genuinely care about each other and will put their lives on the line for their friends. This is a universal theme that transcends genre. But it is particularly present in sci-fi due to the isolation of the characters in many books.
I was looking at my list of release dates and noticed your book comes out on election day. That will be nice! I can be reading it instead of obsessing over the election returns! I usually get the eBook and also order a “real” copy. Some books I just don’t want to wait until the actual book gets to me.
I’m glad you had a good time at NYCC. Wish I could have been there!
The panel was really good, and it was interesting to me that all of us – with all of our very different books – were examining similar issues of human nature. Hope and denial seem to be popular choices to drive plot. Although I think maybe I was the only one who wrote anything at all optimistic! Writing is how I run away from home. 🙂
I got the release date on REMNANTS last year, and it was my agent who pointed out the significance. 🙂 I’m hopeful it will be agood day for all of us.
If you want, email me your address – elizabeth (dot) bonesteel (at) gmail (dot) com – and I’ll get you a signed copy. I can’t guarantee it’ll be there by release day, but it’ll be pretty close.
I like your optimism! We need more of that these days!
Thanks for the offer of the book! I’ll send you my address! (I would put one of those bouncy smiley emojis here, but haven’t figured out how to do that yet!)