This year was my first WORLDCON – my second convention of any kind, ever – and I can really sum it up in one word.
When I graduated from the Air Force Academy, I remember thinking to myself that it would be a long time before I really understood how that place had changed me. I’m not at all trying to compare six days in Chicago to four years in a life-changing institution, but I walked away from WORLDCON sort of feeling the same way. This time I could understand a bit more of what had transpired and how it was going to affect my life, but I feel like the real benefits of WORLDCON are compounding, an aggregate of experiences from then until some future date, probably my death.
I’m fully aware of how dramatic I’m being. I think it’s because writing is a relatively new world to me, even though I’ve been doing it for so long. You stand on the outside of this glass house with foggy windows, and the windows transform what’s going on inside into this strange intangible dreamlike thing that only enhances your imagination. You think to yourself, “I can’t get inside there. I belong out here, just watching.”
Then, all of a sudden, you’re sitting at a table with George R. R. Martin talking about pizza, how you were born and lived in practically the same city, and about how your wives are both interested in raising chickens.
Then, all of a sudden, you’re at the top of an escalator, going down to leave the conference for the night, when a New York agent asks you to tell him about your book. And you literally do the “elevator pitch” – you have thirty seconds or less to pitch your book.
And he asks you to send it to him.
Then, all of a sudden, Brandon Sanderson’s agent is asking you to do the same thing.
Then, all of a sudden, you’re shooting the shit with editors from Tor, sitting on panels discussing writing with bestselling authors, making the audience roll in the aisles with jokes and running out of business cards because people that want to know more about you and your work. They’re asking your opinion on how to write, how to build worlds. You know you’re just a newbie, but you actually have some answers, too.
Then, someone actually walks up to you and says “Hey, I’ve been reading your stories, and I’m really enjoying them”, and you have no idea who they are and it’s a fantastic feeling.
Then Mary Robinette Kowal buys you a drink and introduces you to the guy who writes Dr. Who. Writers all of a sudden become people, people who went through the same crap you’re going through, people who have rejection letters tacked to their wall. Patrick Rothfuss confesses to you that no, he’s not a musician, and you hate him more for it because you remember reading his book and saying “This guys knows. This guy knows what it’s like to play music.” Ugh, what a bastard. You’re playing Munckin with a bunch of people in the Science Fiction Writers Association suite, and you win, because you teamed up with Nancy Fulda in the Alliance of the Elves.
Parallel structure and name-dropping aside, it was an otherworldly experience, punctuated by moments of clarity and hopefulness. It felt much like it did after LTUE 2012, when I thought to myself hey, I can do this.
I don’t really know where all of this is going to lead. Life is going to get chaotic again for a little while, but when the dust settles I’m going to go back to doing what I’ve always done: writing fiction and sending it to people. Because ultimately, conferences or no conferences, that’s what I have to do to get where I want to go.
Thanks to everyone that helped me get here. That’s not exclusive to any one person at the conference; I mean everyone. My wife’s support, my friends, the people I met and who graciously introduced me to others – Myke Cole especially. As much as writing is a lonely and singular effort, it still takes a village. And I think I like this town.
See you on the blank page,