Most authors go to conventions. We love some, others, not so much. So what’s our dream convention?
I’m going to go a bit geeky here and say that my dream convention would be one that never ends — it might have in-person sessions, but the rest of it would go on permanently in the ether. I’m particularly enamored of Vannevar Bush’s vision in _As We May Think_ in which he imagines “a mesh of associative trails” created by readers and writers running through texts, the entire literary community engaged in a permanent conversation that involves crawling through each other’s brains. (People sometimes claim that Vannevar Bush “envisioned” the web — sorry, Bush’s vision is much, much cooler than wikis and hyperlinks.) I don’t think we’ll fully get there until we achieve the Singularity.
When I was a teenager, I subscribed to Writer’s Digest. I used to get their mailings for the Maui Writers’ Conference and daydream about how that amazing would be. I still haven’t made it to Hawaii, but I have a very different idea of what I want from a con.
I say that, because I had the time of my life at World Con in San Antonio last year. Friends galore! The Riverwalk! Meeting my favorite authors! The night parties–the glorious cheese! I’m envious of everyone going to London this year–not simply the con, but LONDON. A place I’ve always wanted to go. A place with even more amazing cheese. Sigh.
I am attending World Fantasy Con in D.C. this November. I have high hopes that it will be an amazing experience–I’m even bringing along my husband and son. Maybe I’ll become hooked on both World Con and World Fantasy. Maybe I should win the lottery…
Lawrence M. Schoen
You have to understand that I started going to conventions more than forty years ago. And honestly, I didn’t realize I’d been attending cons that long until I sat down to respond to this question. Damn.
My tastes have changed over the years, as has my status, and likewise my needs. Which actually makes this an easy question to answer.
My dream convention is the Worldcon, for so many reasons. Typically I get to travel to a venue I’ve never (or seldom) visited before: Denver, Montreal, Toronto, Yokohama, London, just to name a few. Nowhere else can I meet up with so many friends that I have come to know from reading their books or from online correspondence.
I spend my days, sitting on panel after panel with some of the authors who shaped my own career. I can’t properly describe how much I enjoy engaging in discussion and debate with colleagues, both old and new, as we vie to entertain and inform an audience, even as we amuse ourselves. It’s also a chance to learn from those who have gone much further than me, and to mentor those who are coming up fast.
And if my wife has any say in the matter, each night is an adventure as we schedule small dinner parties with people I may not see again for years. She does her research, makes the reservations, and puts together groups of six or eight and then we venture out to explore each city’s fine dining in marvelous company.
After each dinner, if I’m not already worn out (and as the Worldcon runs five days, it’s a certainty that I’ll be dead before the last night) there are parties to flitter from, people to mingle with, witty bon mots to dispense and receive, deals and opportunities you didn’t even know existed to capture and run away with (my last GoH gig started as a casual invitation at a party at the Reno Worldcon). By the end of the night, the day feels very much like a dream, and a few hours of sleep later it starts all over again.
Other conventions have their charms, but the combination and sheer exhausting magnitude of the Worldcon makes it my ideal convention. Each is different, each is wonderful, each leaves me with a tired smile on my face.
Michael R. Underwood
To be honest, WisCon is pretty close to my dream convention, as is. The concom does an incredible job the three years I went. They bring in great speakers, foster a strong moderating culture, and cultivate interdisciplinary programming that ranges from scholarly papers to writing technique through many strands of diverse fandom, all in a lovely hotel at the heart of a beautiful city (Madison, WI).
If I was designing a convention with an infinite budget, I’d take lessons from WisCon, WorldCon, BaltiCon, ConFusion, and most every con I’ve been to and try to take it even further.
Mike’s priorities for a perfect convention:
1) Strong moderating culture – Moderators would be cultivated and valued, making sure that every panel was as high-quality as possible.
2) Good local food options – I’d choose a site with accessible and delicious food options within a short walk of the convention.
3) A fabulous BarCon bar – So much of the action of many conventions happens at the bar, that finding a site with a good one is all but essential.
I’ve been very lucky to enjoy some amazing conventions so far, and I’m looking forward to LonCon this year and my first World Fantasy Con in the fall.
As I experience more conventions, I love seeing how they differ based on region and focus – and how I can learn so much from all of them.
FarthingParty was one of the most amazing single-track conventions I’ve attended, and I’d like to see more of those too — including 4th Street.
That said, I would also love to someday go to Dragoncon, because I’ve heard so much about it, and to a ComicCon.
And I agree with Mike about those priorities. Places where people can talk and eat comfortably are hugely important, as are panels that allow for a great exchange of ideas.
What’s your ideal Con?