While I’m no stranger to conventions, Worldcon took my fantasy con virginity. She wasn’t very romantic, didn’t care much for foreplay, kicked the shit out of my wallet, but damn when she was ready to go, she didn’t hold anything back.
And yeah, that was probably sexist and rude, but in a lot of ways, the convention was very much like a wild, first sexual encounter. I showed up thinking I knew what I was getting into only to realize I didn’t have a damn clue. Talk about performance anxiety.
Spread out across two massive hotels and an even more spacious convention center, Worldcon was a sprawling monstrosity that could give Cthulhu bouts of spatial inadequacy. I arrived, checked in at the hotel, and then meandered across the street to the convention center. Not two minutes after I’d arrived, some random guy walks by, taps me on the arm and winks, telling me he did something or other with Helsinki. I simply smiled and kept moving.
A moment later, I walked into the dealer’s room where I was immediately struck by the immensity of the convention. The horror cons I’ve been to had nothing on Worldcon. I went expecting to simply bump into everyone I wanted to meet, but that fantasy was shot dead the moment I staggered into the main room. I circled the dealer hall twice before finally settling in one of the leather couches they had at the back to catch my breath and look over the schedule. It was twenty minutes before I got up to do it again.
Ultimately, I stumbled across the Reddit Fantasy (r/fantasy) table hidden away in the back of another room and found where I would alight for the majority of my visit. Elquesogrande, David Wohlreich, and Justin Landon were all very welcoming and supportive and nothing but kind. Great people. I got to meet Myke Cole, as well. The dude is a machine. Was also introduced to a new author, Ian Everett; nice young man who helped blunt my initial awestruckness with his friendliness.
I spent most of Friday wandering in circles trying to get the lay of the land while using the Reddit table as a save point. Got to meet Chuck Wendig there, as well as seeing several folks I know of but had never met before: Brandon Sanderson, Eddie Schneider (agent), Brian McClellan, and Stina Leicht, to name a few. I was also able to finally meet my online buddies, Betsy Dornbusch, Courtney Schafer, and Bradley Beaulieu, which was awesome. All are fantastic people.
Somewhere in my wanderings, I bumped into Zachary Jernigan. He and I chatted for a little while and he’s every bit as cool and off the wall as you’d imagine from his online persona. He is who he is, and that, my friends, is awesome. Also Ran into Bryan Thomas Schmidt, who’s also a great guy, but mighty damn busy.
Later that night, I made my way up to the Tor party and was once again assailed by someone who felt the need to tell me about Helsinki (he was like the third guy, at this point). Once again, I nodded and scrambled for safety. Met several more folks there at the party, all of whom were great, and finally had the Helsinki bit explained to me. Apparently, I look like the bartender who’d catered the party the night before, who just happened to be part of the “Bring Worldcon to Helsinki” crowd. That explained, I hung out and enjoyed the party without fearing hostile invasion from Finland.
The next day was only slightly less overwhelming. Hung around the r/fantasy table a bunch and ran into author Jake Elliot, who I promptly attacked thinking he was yet another Helsinki groupie. After a good laugh, we hung out and wandered the rest of the day, Jake showing me to a nice restaurant where the only thing better than the steaks were the waitresses’ outfits.
I stopped by the author signings along the way to meet the awesome ML Brennan and Gini Koch and picked up a free and personalized book and a bunch of Gini’s hugs. Made the day so much brighter. Also stumbled across Keith West of Amazing Stories when he walked past and spied the Dead West book I had on my table. He’d recently reviewed it, which was great. And while I was at the Angry Robot table, I met Wesley Chu, Jay Posey, and re-introduced myself to Maurice Broaddus, having met him at Killercon years back.
That evening, Jake and I met up with ML Brennan, her husband, and Django Wexler before going to the Drinks with Authors party over at Ernie’s Bar, organized by Myke Cole and Justin Landon, plus the r/fantasy folks, and had a great time talking to everyone, even if I did have the persistent feeling of One of these Things Isn’t Like the Others. Despite that, I got to chit chat with Courtney and Betsy and Zach, as well as Brian McClellan and Django Wexler and Griffin Barber, and a host of other folks. It was an excellent party, and Myke was more than generous, making sure a reader got a couple of my books. My hat’s off to Myke and the party crew. They did an amazing job.
After the party, Jake and I went to check out the Baen party, but I have to admit, after spending ten minutes in a line just waiting on an elevator, I decided I wasn’t that interested in waiting any longer. (I also wasn’t interested in walking up the 33 flights of stairs that separated us from the party.) Jake and I parted ways, and I returned to my room.
The next morning was mostly spent waiting for my ride to the airport, but I felt kind of despondent about it. While I missed my family, and wanted to get back to them, the event flew by, and it didn’t feel as though I’d done much of anything. I went to George RR Martin’s reading—and saw him wander through a few times—but that was it. There were so many things going on at once, the days were a blur.
Despite those minor misgivings, the trip was amazing. I’m not sure when I’ll make it out to another fantasy convention, but you can be damn sure I mean to try.
*And I’m sure I left folks out of my rambling remembrances, so sorry to those I didn’t mention.