The Craft
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Thoughts on DragonCon

Alright, I’m back!

I didn’t want to give updates during the con, because, well, pardon my paranoia, but that’s pretty much exactly what they tell you not to do, isn’t it? So I didn’t tweet about it and I didn’t put up any big facebook flags (at least not for the week before.)

Anyway, back.

It was, all things told, a mixed experience. I’m not the best with crowds, so on Saturday, when the Marta train escalator to the Peachtree Station Mall broke down and left my husband and myself stranded on the wrong side of the parade, and when we took a wrong turning trying to get around the parade route, we then ended up stuck in a claustrophobic crush for over an hour just to travel 50 feet to where we could manage to escape. The experience was something I never care to repeat, and it may well haunt my nightmares. If I find out someone tries to sue DragonCon over this, I won’t be surprised: it was that traumatic.

The con was indeed insanely crowded, and yeah, see point one about me and crowds. The costumes were neat, some of them incredibly impressive, and I thoroughly enjoyed that experience. I was glad I didn’t go in costume though.

The panels themselves were mostly good, with what seems like a lot of complaints I’ve heard before of any generic convention: speakers who never let quieter panelists get a word in, old dons of the genre who were allowed to ramble on about subjects that had nothing to do with the panel in question, authors or presenters who wanted to couch absolutely everything in terms of their own book/contest/publishing service (because their reason for being there was clearly to sell their product and not to discuss the subject,) and the  rare panelists whose ignorance on a panel’s subject was downright embarrassing.

My husband and I made a pact, by the way, that if we were ever on the other side of a panel we would neither hijack it to reminisce about (whatever) or use it as a venue to talk about our books. Because you know what? No one cares. Seriously, no one wants to hear about how in your book you addressed the subject like so. Unless…you know…that’s the point of the panel. If George R.R. Martin had attended the panel on Women of Westeros, then yes, he could talk about his book endlessly and everyone would hang on every word. I assume Larry Niven was asked to talk about his books during his panel, and that was the whole point. During the panel on Folklore in Fantasy Novels, many of the authors on the panel had books that dealt with this very thing, and we wanted to hear about them specifically. So there’s a time and a place, clearly.

Tangent:

Two writers talking with each other sometimes reminds me of porcupines mating, with one writer patiently negotiating the tangled barbs of the other person’s enthusiastic gushing over their work until it’s the other writer’s turn to info dump on how wonderful their book is. Any anecdote is an opportunity to express how you too have circumstances within your novel that fit a similar scenario. And hey, I’m as guilty as anyone. I get that. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

But seriously, I don’t care about your book.

If you’re a friend, I will cheer for you and wish you the best and if I have time, god damn yes I will READ your book and give you my honest opinion, but understand that I’ve rarely met a writer who wasn’t a bit selfishly self-absorbed with their own worlds, their own creations. We’re so often surly, opinionated creatures, which is why editors rant about us being so resistant to constructive criticism (it’s an accusation with merit.)

What I DO want to talk to you about is process. Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid? How do you approach keeping your world-building straight? Are you a scrivener fan? Google drive? What’s your take on conlangs? Sex scenes? What’s your favorite first sentence? What makes a good villain? I will talk with you for hours about the craft of writing. I will gush about how wonderful you are. But try to remember that most of the time, a fellow writer is neither your customer nor your fan. I had the sense that sometimes the people on these panels forgot that they were speaking to other writers.

I’m not saying I never talk about my book with writer friends, or they with me, but I’m usually soliciting active opinions, rather than sharing just for the sake of sharing.

Anyway, back to Dragon*Con.

TL;DR version: It was fun, but so crowded I’m not sure I’ll return.

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