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Finding Paradise
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Thursday, April 28, 2011

On Conventions

Hello Darksiders!!!

I'm feeling a bit dark myself, having finally come to a halt after a grueling few weeks of convention attending. Right now, I'm extremely pleased to be at home, in my own bed, with my husband, able to slob around in my sweats and not care about ANYTHING - except the mountain of housework that grew in my absence :)

I've been attending science fiction (umbrella term - also covers fantasy and horror) conventions since 2004 and romance conventions since last year (RWA Sydney). Since March 26, when I zipped up the road from Canberra with Tracey O'Hara to attend the signing session at the Australian Romance Readers Convention, I've been across to Los Angeles for the RT Convention and then to Perth for Swancon 36, the 50th National Science Fiction Convention.



The mass signing at RT Convention in LA, early April. Dozens of authors, hundreds of readers. Numbers swelled because a special teen day was held and hundreds of teenage girls attended as well. YA is HUGE folks!


That's not the end of my convention adventures for this year either. In June, Tracey, Erica Hayes and I will be at Supernova Sydney. On the October long weekend, I'll be at Conflux, the Canberra science fiction con and I'm still tossing up RWA in Melbourne in August.

There are sooooo many things to love about conventions - both science fiction and romance. Similarities include the meeting of minds - the great moment when you realise you're finally amongst friends and can relax and talk all things geeky/romancey. Socialising - often these are friends with whom you only communicate electronically and as author Tansy Rayner Roberts said to me at Swancon "That's a great form of communication but it's only when you get to cons that you realise it doesn't make up for face-to-face chatter". Networking - getting to meet other authors, publishers, agents, booksellers, librarians, readers and making the connections that are sooo important in this industry. Sharing war stories - finding out that you're not mad, but just dealing with some weird stuff in as sane a manner as is possible.

Then there are the differences. First, science fiction conventions have been running for decades, and so there's a lot of history involved. Politics as well as some fans want to cling to the traditions of the conventions while others want to experiment and try new things. There's a larger group of men in attendance and this does change dynamics. Then there's the interesting way that authors, no matter how big, just become part of the crowd. You can sit and chat to someone at a bar and not know they're an author unless they have a name you recognise.


The prizes given out as part of the Romancing the West workshops. I was delighted to see romance writing featured at a science fiction convention. Congrats to Lesley Ann Smith and the RWAers from Perth for organising.


Explicit promotion of yourself is something that's kinda frowned upon at science fiction conventions. As opposed to romance conventions, where it's expected that authors will come with 'swag' to give out to the readers. There's more of a celebration of the role of the author in the genre in romance.

I'm still trying to nut out where this difference comes from. Is it because authors were involved in romance conventions from the very beginning, whereas science fiction conventions were started by and run for the fans? Is it because for the most part romance conventions are organised and run by women, whereas for a long time it was men that ran things on the science fiction side? Does it say something about the genres themselves - science fiction doesn't want to draw attention to itself, while romance stands loud and proud and says 'look at me'?

Whatever the reason for this difference, the similarities mean that I can happily look at both science fiction AND romance conventions and say - love. Love, love, love, love, love.

I've got copies of Secret Ones to give away to two commenters so tell me, friends - have you ever attended a convention, science fiction or romance? If so, what did you love about it? If not - what is keeping you from attending?

11 comments:

  1. I've only been to the Romantic Times convention earlier this month in Los Angeles. I went for Teen day and for the book fair. I love that there were sooo many authors there, and just the whole atmosphere was fun!

    Thanks for the contest!

    van
    Littopandaxpress(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  2. I have only (so far) managed to get to one Armageddon Expo - last year in Melbourne. I expressly went for the sole purpose of getting my hands on Michael Shanks (massive Stargate fan). I don't believe any authors were present, unless webcomics count? I got to meet the writer and artist behind Least I Could Do.

    Anyway, as for book conventions, I would LOVE to go one. It's usually money reasons for why I haven't yet. Balancing my needs and wants... I have made it to many signings though, but that's different again. One day, I'll get to one, and be so positively squirming from excitement I will pass out and probably miss my chance to experience it all! :)
    I'm defintely the kind of person who would notice someone, realise who they were and then get excited, but be too scared to approach them. But it'd still be cool to mingle with authors at a convention.

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  3. I didn't know of the existence of cons - fan or otherwise until I fell into the Brisbane spec fic crowd. Then it was initiation of baptism of fire with my 1st ever con being Conjure in 2006. The fire was I was also memberships co-ordinator - knowing nothing about cons at all (I had a wonderful group of people surrounding me).

    On the spec fic front, the only other con I've managed to get to (& even then was only 2 days) was WorldCon last year. Money is the reason for not attending more.

    I attended my 1st Romance con in Brisbane in 2009 & attended as a day visitor (& the cocktail party). I had the wonderful Tracey O'Hara holding my hand & showing me it wasn't scary at all to jump in.

    I too notice the differences between the two tribes - though both being genre they aren't too far apart in many ways. It's taken me years to feel comfortable & I can say it felt like worlds colliding (in a very good way) when I spent a day at worldcon playing with my paranormal romance) buddies.

    With the rise to what I liken to "noisy" prominence of paranormal romance & urban fantasy (in the romance sense, we won't get into that debate here) I've noticed a more obvious merging of people at the two different events (as shown by Swancon & Romancing the West over Easter).

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  4. The only writing conference I've been to so far was the 2010 RWA conference in Sydney and I was blown away by the enthusiasm - it got me hooked and I am determined to make every RWA conference from here on. Would love to try a fantasy Sci-Fi con as well. Are there any scheduled in Australia soon?

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  5. Nicole, you are a busy woman. Thank you for giving a run down of cons.

    I have been to many more romance writing conferences and roadshows, and always come away feeling so great (tired, but in a good way). I love that there are different types of subgenres, so you get to chat about all different aspects of writing. There's also the gasbagging as I like to call it - uhum - that's networking, if I want to sound more professional. The connections with other writers have been fantastic, and the romance genre is so open. I think having to say 'I'm a romance writer' in this day and age is like a badge of honour, because people still ridicule romance writing.

    As for science fiction cons, I went to WorldCon last year, where funnily enough, I met you Nicole (oops, I STILL haven't organised my photos). It was much larger than I was used to, with more of a balance in the male to female ratio. It was quite a bit daunting because of the amount of people, but I enjoyed myself, chatted to people, caught up with the RWAus Paranormal group pals (hey, y'all), and even had one of the days as a quiet one, where I just floated around. One difference I noticed was that the audience is a lot more vocal (or maybe because there were more people). And, there was more of the upfront opinions. "That show was crap." Maybe, because I don't feel smart enough to offer an opinion, being my first spec fic con.

    The amount of sessions offered was truly amazing, with a huge range of speculative fiction involved including paranormal romance. Actually, the past panel I attended had you moderating Nicole and on it was editor, Ginger Buchanan. She said that she thought speculative fiction was put down upon most, until she discovered how much romance was.


    Havva, there are always some spec fiction cons happening in Australia yearly or bi-yearly. Swancon (Perth), Conflux (ACT), Continuum (Melbourne), and of course the Supanova pop culture events around the country. I haven't been to any of these, but heard it's a blast.

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  6. Oh, btw, Nicole, I have a copy of Secret Ones, so don't enter me :)

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  7. Distance & time is preventing me from attending. I would love to though. I will just have to make a huge effort.

    marypres@gmail.com

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  8. I joined the RWA two months ago and will be going to my first conference this year in Melbourne. I can hardly wait. The only sci-fi one that I have been to is Supanova and it was amazing. The time and effect that fans put into their costumes really help add to the atmosphere. And yes Eleni they are a blast I can highly recommend going.

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  9. Thanks for all your thoughts guys.

    Helen - Worldcon was an event, that's for sure - too big for even some of us sci fi geeks :) Generally, Australian cons are much smaller than that. Swancon last weekend had 400 people. Conflux for the past few years has averaged around 200. Something like that might be more your speed - it's definitely mine :)

    Havva - There's two conventions coming up this year. Continuum in Melbourne over the June long weekend and Conflux in Canberra over the October long weekend. These cons also offer day memberships, so if you want to check them out without committing TOO much money, you can.

    Nicky - do I scare you by saying there's talk of another con in Brisbane? :)

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  10. Nicole - all I'm going to say is remember who I am marrying...............

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  11. well I am finally able to come out of my cave for a few mins. Great post Nicole. As someone who has been involved in both sides of the cons they are very different experiences to be had at both.

    It is like Nicky said - two different tribes. And there are things I love about each of them and things I don't. But that is the the beauty of it all. I tend to take form each different things and learn from them.

    Looking forward to Supanova with Erica and Nicole. It's is going to be a really different experience altogether. :)

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