As we continue on in this post series about the wonders of conventions (the rest are here, if you’re just catching up), I would be remiss to mention an important undertone (possibly the most important undertone) to all of these posts: amazing, inspiring and generous friends.
It was my friends that originally inspired me to give Polaris a try. Since then, it has been my main con every year for the past five years. Going to a con with friends is just… better, because you automatically have somebody to room with, you can work together to share and keep costs down, and you have someone there to share some of the same memories, so you’re not always having to explain to people about that guy in the pikachu costume that danced the electric slide like a pro… you can just look at each other and grin. You don’t have to follow your friends around all con (I never do) but it’s just cool to have someone to hang with at the dance, and to compare notes with you on cool panels you may have missed.
I’ve also roomed with most of the same people at all of my cons for years. Even though the four of us have grown more geographically distant, we still manage to get together at con time and have some great bonding time. Even though this year I’m giving up the all-girl accommodations to stay with my fiance and another couple, I’m positive that there will be lots of visiting, and partying, going on with my old friends. And that’s another great thing about friends at con: you can rope your real life friends into coming with you. I find that if you can get one person to come, it often results in a sort of chain reaction. I invited my best friend from grade school to come with me this year, and she, in turn, got another of her high school friends to come. Cons exemplify the old adage ‘The more, the merrier’. Try and see who you can get to come!
Another thing about fans that I should note, is that often, they’re way more generous and friendly to fellow fans than you could ever expect someone to be outside of con. Personally, I’ve fed strangers, let them use my room as a dressing room, lent people clothing and all sorts of other little favors, and I did so because the same has been done for me. Obviously, one should use the same common sense about entering rooms, accepting rides or drinks, etc that they would use outside of con, but for the most part, there’s a community-oriented atmosphere about conventions that makes them special. I hope this aspect of fandom never goes away, because I think that the rest of society could learn a thing or two from it. Fan generosity allows people to be their best, and that’s a wonderful thing.
Another huge benefit of making friends at con is the exchange of ideas that gets going in a group atmosphere, especially among creative people (which, in my experience, fans almost universally are, to some degree). This point is probably the hardest to describe, and yet it’s one of the reasons I keep coming back to con, even when my money might be more sensibly spent on necessities. Meeting with other creative people in my field, and doing activities and having discussions with them inspires me more than just about anything else I could do, and not just in terms of my career. I usually get three or four winning story ideas per con.
Here is a prime example of what I’m talking about: when I was at Ad Astra a few years ago, a group of writers got together and started a flash fiction contest, in which we had to write a full short story, on a given theme, in two hundred words or less. Once I was given my theme, I was off like a shot to my room, with an exciting new idea rolling around in my head. After two hours of rough writing, and then editing the word count down to the barest minimum, I handed it in. The next day, I found out that I had gotten runner-up in the competition, and I was encouraged to send off the story by a professional editor. As someone who was still waiting for my first publication, I was overjoyed by this news. After expanding the story to five hundred words, and sending it off to a few magazines, I got my first acceptance letter. I fully credit the creative incubation of the con atmosphere for giving me the extra inspiration I needed to write my first publishable work.
I think that just about wraps up my two cents worth on conventions, at least in terms of what they mean to me. But I want to hear from you! Link me your con stories, people! Do you love Polaris as much as I do? Give a shout out in the comments!