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.