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Thread: Noreascon Four -- SF/F convention

  1. #1
    HollyB
    Guest

    Noreascon Four -- SF/F convention

    I had no idea where to post this, so if it seems off-topic, I apologize.

    I'm interesting in attending Noreascon Four in Boston over Labor Day, and I was wondering if anyone had any advice for a newbie writer planning to attend. I know it's primarily a fan convention, but they have an academic program as well (although I can't seem to find a schedule or list of talks on the website). Is it possible to meet editors, agents, or other writers there?

    Thanks for any and all advice. Here's the link to the convention:
    www.noreascon.org/

  2. #2
    HapiSofi
    Guest

    Re: Noreascon Four -- SF/F convention

    There are a lot of things to say about that. Here's a short version:

    1. Fan, academic, professional, and conrunner are not mutually exclusive terms. Some of the most respected members of the community have neither professional sales nor academic credentials.

    2. Every community has its jerks. SF has fewer than most, but they definitely exist. Also, every community of sufficient size has scavengers, small-scale predators, and semi-outcasts lurking around the edge of the herd. Exercise normal prudence.

    3. Don't go in the company of one or two friends who are also new to the scene, or you'll never assimilate. You'll come home thinking you've been to the convention, but you'll have missed the entire underwater portion of the iceberg.

    4. The cost of having you at the convention is not covered by the price of your membership. The shortfall is covered via free labor. The World Science Fiction Convention is the largest volunteer-run annual convention in North America. Cons are the SF community getting together to interact with itself, and the worldcon is the annual gathering of all the tribes. There'll be a great many events and activities taking place there, but the core event will be people talking to each other. This will go on till all hours.

    5. The worldcon can be overwhelming to people who've been attending it for decades. It will unquestionably overwhelm you. When things get to be too much, go back to your room and nap for an hour. It's a sovereign cure. The other sovereign cure is to try some smaller conventions. Boskone's good.

    6. Don't say "sci-fi". Eiither say "SF", or say "sci-fi" but pronounce it "skiffy".

    7. If the only reason you'd want to go is to promote your career, stay home. You won't succeed, and your attitude will irritate many of the people who run into it.

    8. If you want to meet people, volunteer to work. If you want to meet authors and editors, sign up (early!) for their kaffeeklatsches. DO NOT PITCH YOUR WORK TO THEM WHILE YOU'RE AT THE CONVENTION. Most especially do not try to give them manuscripts.

    9. Good manners are precious as rubies and better than gold. Never assume it's safe to be unnecessarily rude or condescending to someone just because they appear to be a 300-pound ambulatory schizophrenic in a "Let the Wookie Win" t-shirt. It's not just that they might turn out to be your favorite author. They might also turn out to be the childhood buddy/former sweetie/current vice/whatever of someone you'd love to get to talk to.

    10. The program should be going up soon on the Noreascon web site. They've just now mailed out program listings to their program participants.

    More on this later, perhaps. I'm off to bed for the night.

  3. #3
    Kate Nepveu
    Guest

    Re: Noreascon Four -- SF/F convention

    Or, to put it a little shorter--

    Cons are for having fun, catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. Period. (SF fandom is remarkably egalitarian, though not perfectly so.)

    This will be my first Worldcon as well and I'm really looking forward to it. Which reminds me, Hugo voting ends Saturday . . .

  4. #4
    FM St George
    Guest

    Re: Noreascon Four -- SF/F convention

    I went to the WorldCon in Boston MANY years ago - like, in the 80's; if not the late 70's... argh.

    have a good time; hand out business cards if you have them and don't be afraid to ask questions. Go to panels; enjoy the MEGA cool costumes and watch movies that you'll probably never see again. Stop by the small press tables and the fanzines and enjoy the experience.

    but watch your cash. I ended up living for three days on Boston clam chowdaw at three bucks a bowl 'cause I wanted to buy something cool in the dealer's room.

    :P

    good chowdah!

    but not for brekka...

  5. #5
    HapiSofi
    Guest

    Re: Noreascon Four -- SF/F convention

    There are often subsistence-level snacks for people working on the convention.

    More helpful rules and suggestions:

    Drink lots of water. Take your regular medications on your regular schedule. Carry your vital medical information (if you have any) on your person at all times. Remember to eat at least two meals and get five hours of sleep within any twenty-four-hour period. Spend at least half an hour each day outside the hotel, doing something that has nothing to do with the convention.

    If you suddenly realize that all your friends hate you, you're having an awful time, you've made a fool of yourself in every conversation you've been in so far, and you should never have come to the convention: go back to your room and take a nap. When you wake up, things will be better.

    If it's early evening and you suddenly can't find anyone you know, it's probably because they've gone off on a dinner expedition. Eat in the hotel coffeeshop, keep an eye out for their return, and get yourself invited along on the next one.

    Tip your chambermaid. Clean up after yourself. Be nice to the service staff.

    Be discreet with your comments at the Art Show. Artists tend to lurk in the vicinity of their paintings.

    People who won't let you into their circle probably aren't being snotty elitists. Odds are, they're a bunch of friends who've known each other for ten or fifteen years. They have nothing against you. You just weren't there, back when, and you wouldn't get the jokes. Later on, the same people will be in other, more mixed social situations. Chances are they'll be amiable and conversible.

    The above does not necessarily apply to the field's celebrities. Some of them get very shy at conventions because they get so much unwanted attention. Other big names in the field will be perfectly approachable.

    Never decide you've been snubbed until you're sure the person in question could see and hear you. The SF community has quite a few people in it who have lousy vision or hearing.

    If someone comes up to you and gives you a hard time about being a media fan/wannabe writer/any other identifiable group, ignore him or her. There's a small number of realtime trolls who aren't really integrated into the SF community, but who hang around at conventions making life hard for the newbies.

    I'd counsel you not to share a hotel room with a stranger until you get more of a sense of the community.

    Every worldcon has at least one major department go into meltdown mode six weeks before the convention. Don't panic if someone tells you lurid stories about whichever department it is this year. Worldcons have survived some amazingly chaotic episodes.

    Be nice to the people running the convention. They're not getting paid.

    You don't have to go to the Business Meeting, though you're allowed to do so if you want. You can't go to the SFWA meeting unless you're a member. Trust me, it's not much of a loss.

    There will be private room parties in the evening. Many of these are open to anyone who wants to attend, as long as they behave themselves politely and don't swipe all the refreshments. If they're not open, whoever's doing door duty will tell you. If they're not polite about it, they're the jerk, not you.

    At fannish parties, the beer and soda are kept on ice in the bathtub.

    If something bad happens to you, go talk to the conrunners. They can't fix everything, but they can often be very helpful. However, if the bad happening is the sort of thing for which you'd normally call 911, be sensible and call 911.

  6. #6
    DaveKuzminski
    Guest

    Re: Noreascon Four -- SF/F convention

    HapiSofi, that's tremendously on target. Would you mind if I posted that as an article on P&E? It would be even better if you had some other thoughts to add to it, but please don't feel forced to do so. If you agree to my posting it, what byline do you want used since that and a link are all I can offer? Well, and the knowledge that you helped others.

  7. #7
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: Noreascon Four -- SF/F convention

    Remember to eat at least two meals and get five hours of sleep within any twenty-four-hour period.

    Be careful not to reverse the numbers....

    <HR>

    Here's <a href="http://www.sff.net/people/doylemacdonald/worldconskedjdm.htm" target="_new">my WorldCon schedule</a>.

  8. #8
    HapiSofi
    Guest

    Re: Noreascon Four -- SF/F convention

    Dave, maybe we can add one later, but at the moment I don't see the need for a more formal byline, or for a link to anything beyond this thread. As the man said, I've written Gandalf is here in signs that all can read from Rivendell to the mouths of Anduin. Just let me combine the two pieces and tidy them up a bit. I'll post the revised version here.

  9. #9
    HollyB
    Guest

    Re: Noreascon Four

    Thank you, Hapi! All your advice is much appreciated. I think I'll show up, wander, and be sponge-like (just absorb it all).

    Mille Grazie!

  10. #10
    Yeshanu
    Guest

    Re: Noreascon Four

    :jump

    Oooh!

    Uncle Jim, Robert J. Sawyer and "literary beer" (whatever that is) all at the same time...

    <Ruth calculates driving time from hometown to Boston...>

  11. #11
    HollyB
    Guest

    Re: Noreascon Four

    They've posted a preliminary schedule at the Noreascon website. Everything looks so interesting, I'm going to have a hard time deciding which talks to attend (Uncle Jim's are a given, of course!).

    Then I saw this talk:
    Saturday 3:00pm: Tough Love for New Writers
    Give it up: there are already too many writers. Let's face it, even with a lot of help, the best to be expected from most new writers is that they will produce a lot of mediocre sludge. In fact, most people who attend "how to" panels at conventions won't even do that well. Moreover, there are is already so much good to read that the field doesn't need such sludge. The panel's advice to wannabe writers: give it up now and get a real job. (An honest appraisal of the new writer's chances.)

    Ouch! So far, I've found the SF/F community very receptive to new writers... guess this panel is an exception?

    Well, I'm going to exercise my constitutional right to remain optimistic and skip that one!

  12. #12
    FM St George
    Guest

    Re: Noreascon Four

    actually, you may want to attend that one - true, it'll probably be full of fanfic writers wanting to "break in" to the real writing world, but it may help you remember the do's and don'ts of writing and what's been done to death....

  13. #13
    HapiSofi
    Guest

    Re: Noreascon Four -- SF/F convention

    Semi-random bits of advice for writers attending their first SF convention

    This began when HollyB posted:
    "I'm interesting in attending Noreascon Four in Boston over Labor Day, and I was wondering if anyone had any advice for a newbie writer planning to attend. I know it's primarily a fan convention, but they have an academic program as well (although I can't seem to find a schedule or list of talks on the website). Is it possible to meet editors, agents, or other writers there?"
    1. General Theory:

    Fiction is fiction, publishing is an industry, but the science fiction community is an old and complex social continuum. You don't have to become a virtual citizen of that virtual commonwealth in order to sell fiction; but if you attend one of their conventions, you're on their turf. The attendees at that convention aren't there to worship science fiction and the people who create it; they're there to see each other, and to talk about SF and fantasy and related subjects. If the only reason you can imagine going to a convention is to promote your career, stay home. The benefits won't repay your cost and effort, and your attitude will irritate the natives.

    Some other communities use the worldcon for their own gatherings, in effect piggybacking on the convention. This can be hard to distinguish from interest groups within the SF community. As a rule of thumb, events that have official existence are listed in the convention program. (Note: the program notes are never perfectly accurate.)

    Fan, academic, professional, and conrunner are not mutually exclusive terms. Some of the most respected members of the community have neither professional sales nor academic credentials. To quote Kate Nepveu, "Cons are for having fun, catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. Period. (SF fandom is remarkably egalitarian, though not perfectly so.)"

    Be nice to the people running the convention. They're not getting paid.

    The cost of having you at the convention is not covered by the price of your membership. The shortfall is covered via free labor. The World Science Fiction Convention is the largest volunteer-run annual convention in North America. Cons are the SF community getting together to interact with itself, and the worldcon is the annual gathering of all the tribes. There'll be a great many events and activities taking place there, but the core event will be people talking to each other. This will go on till all hours.

    If something bad happens to you, go talk to the conrunners. They can't fix everything, but they can often be very helpful. However, if the bad happening is the sort of thing for which you'd normally call 911, be sensible and call 911.

    You don't have to go to the Business Meeting, though you're allowed to do so if you want. You can't go to the SFWA meeting unless you're a member. Trust me, it's not much of a loss.

    Every worldcon has at least one major department go into meltdown mode six weeks before the convention. Don't panic if someone tells you lurid stories about whichever department it is this year. Worldcons have survived some amazingly chaotic episodes.

    Tip your chambermaid. Clean up after yourself. Be nice to the service staff. The SF community’s good behavior is one of the things that makes their conventions possible.

    2. Personal Maintenance

    Early on in the convention’s program, there’ll be an orientation panel for congoing newbies. Go there. Listen. Consider taking notes.

    The worldcon can be overwhelming to people who've been attending it for decades. It will unquestionably overwhelm you. When things get to be too much, go back to your room and nap for an hour. It's a sovereign cure. The other sovereign cure is to try some smaller conventions. Boskone's good.

    Another sign of trouble is that you suddenly realize that all your friends hate you, you're having an awful time, you've made a fool of yourself in every conversation you've been in so far, and you should never have come to the convention. This is definitely a sign that you should go back to your room and take a nap. When you wake up, things will be better.

    If it's early evening and you suddenly can't find anyone you know, it's probably because your friends have gone off on a dinner expedition. Eat in the hotel coffeeshop, keep an eye out for their return, and get yourself invited along on the next one.

    Drink lots of water. Take your regular medications on your regular schedule. Carry your vital medical information (if you have any) on your person at all times. Remember to eat at least two meals and get five hours of sleep within any twenty-four-hour period. Spend at least half an hour each day outside the hotel, doing something that has nothing to do with the convention.

    If you run out of food money, bear in mind that there are often subsistence-level snacks for people working on the convention. If that doesn't work for you, get a big jar of peanut butter. Failing that, check out the refreshments in the consuite.

    Be especially careful to keep up your fluid intake and get enough sleep in preparation for traveling home. You've just been under a lot of stress, and you've been exposed to new bugs imported from all over the world.

    If at all possible, budget a recovery day back home.

    3. Socializing

    Don't go to your first few conventions in the company of a couple of friends who are also new to the scene, or you'll never assimilate. You'll come home thinking you've been to the convention, but you'll have missed the interactivity of it.

    If at any point things get too confusing or impossible, or if you’re just short of conversation, say “I’m sorry, this is my first convention,” then ask about whatever it is you need to know.

    When you need to ask a question, it’s better to pick someone who’s standing around with two or three other people. This will expose you to the fannish enthusiasm for exposition (1 question + 4 fans = 5+ explanations), but it’ll increase the likelihood of your getting reasonably accurate information.

    Never decide you've been snubbed until you're sure the person in question could see and hear you, and was sure you were trying to talk to them.

    Nobody knows why this is so, but SF fans have difficulty ending conversations. A cheerful “I’m sorry, I have to go now” is usually enough, if you find you need to extricate yourself.

    If you want to meet people, volunteer to work. If you want to meet authors and editors, sign up (early!) for their kaffeeklatsches, and attend their readings. Do not attempt to pitch your work to editors while you're at the convention.

    Every community has its jerks. SF has fewer than most, but they definitely exist. Also, every community of sufficient size has scavengers, small-scale predators, and semi-outcasts lurking around the edge of the herd. Exercise normal prudence.

    Don't say "sci-fi". It's "SF". The community does say "sci-fi" sometimes, but pronounces it "skiffy". Explaining the social nuances involved are beyond the scope of the present work.

    Don't volunteer to share a hotel room with someone you don’t know well until you get more of a sense of the community.

    Be discreet with your comments at the Art Show. Artists tend to lurk in the vicinity of their paintings.

    There will be private room parties in the evening. Many of these are open to anyone who wants to attend, as long as they behave themselves politely and don't swipe all the refreshments. If they're not open, whoever's doing door duty will tell you. If they're not polite about it, they're the jerk, not you.

    The beer and soda are in the bathtub.

    People who won't let you into their circle probably aren't being snotty elitists. Odds are, they're a bunch of friends who've known each other for ten or fifteen years. They have nothing against you. You just weren't there, back when, and you wouldn't get the jokes. Later on, the same people will be in other, more mixed social situations. Chances are they'll be amiable and conversible.

    The above does not necessarily apply to the field's celebrities. Some of them get very shy at conventions because they get so much unwanted attention. Other big names in the field will be perfectly approachable.

    If someone starts giving you a hard time about being a media fan/wannabe writer/member any other identifiable group, pay them no mind. They’re realtime trolls. If anyone were willing to talk to them they’d have something to do besides harassing you. Ignore them and they’ll go away.

    Be kind and polite. Never assume it's safe to be rude or condescending to someone just because they appear to be a very odd bird indeed. Interpersonal connections in the SF community are complex, multilayered, and wholly unpredictable; and the community itself is unusually tolerant about disabilities and personal eccentricities. That very odd bird may turn out to be your favorite author, or the agent you have your eye on, or the editor to whom your novel is currently on submission. They might be one of the field's mandarin theorists: highly respected, but almost impossible to spot from outside the community. But what you really have to watch out for is the odd bird who was your hoped-for agent’s or editor’s best friend when they were teenage neofans together, or their former spouse and business partner, or their fellow member for several decades now of a small and obscure but oddly influential APA, or their opponent in the worst fan feud in twenty years.

    On the other hand, that very odd bird may be bothering you because no one else will talk to him. Disenage, and go do something else that’s more fun.

  14. #14
    Kate Nepveu
    Guest

    Additional dribs and drabs of advice

    * I've found I can only attend two panels in a row before I start getting antsy and contrary. Your mileage will almost certainly vary, but consider making a list of x < 10 panels/readings you absolutely *must* go to and working around it. Flexibility is a good thing regardless.

    (This might be easier once program participants are added to the schedule, though knowing that X or Y gives good panel is a matter of personal experience and preference.)

    * At really good panels, I find myself wanting to raise my hand all the time. Don't be that girl or guy; there are other people in the audience. If you're really enthused and have more comments than you can decently interject during the panel, go up after: "that was fascinating, you're probably heading off somewhere, but will you be around later to talk some more?"

    This works for meeting other enthused audience members, too.

    Failing that, come back here / to LiveJournal / to Usenet /etc. and start a discussion about it. =>

    * If I see that an author I like is having a signing, or is going to be on a panel, or doing a coffee-thing, I get an opening question or comment ready ahead of time; it makes me feel more confident. I don't bring books for signings, but I often get in lines anyway: "Hi, I don't have anything to be signed, but I just wanted to say that I like your books. Also, I was wondering [fairly specific thing, especially if there is a big line]."

    * There may be two really interesting-sounding panels on at the same time. This happens; flip a coin. There may be two really interesting-sounding panels on at the same time that seem to have very similar target audiences. This might be worth contacting programming politely over (last Boskone, it was "Worldbuilding in Historical Fiction" and "Mixing Fantasy and History"; one was moved back an hour).

    * Wear your badge where we can read it, please. I had a long conversation once with a very nice person who wore his badge on his belt on the side and to this day I have no idea who he was.

    * The food court in the Prudential Center, in February, had quite good Indian food with *enormous* naan.

    * The Higgins Armory does cool demonstrations.

    Ummm, I think that's it for now.

  15. #15
    HapiSofi
    Guest

    Re: Noreascon Four

    Holly, I'll bet you a quarter that if you go up and talk to the panelists after the "Tough Love for New Writers" panel, one or more of them will be friendly and encouraging.

  16. #16
    HollyB
    Guest

    Re: Noreascon Four

    Hapi, I'm sure you're right!

    But I hope you understand my reluctance to attend... From hanging around this site, from reading about the publishing business, and from my own file folder full of rejections, I already know it's tough to break in. But my goal at WorldCon is to attend panels that will help me learn the craft, and become a better writer.

    By the way, are you on any panels?

  17. #17
    HapiSofi
    Guest

    Re: Noreascon Four

    Unless Noreascon's amended their posted program listings since last time I looked, the name "HapiSofi" is nowhere to be found in them.

    Hey, somebody's got to be the audience.

  18. #18
    AnneMarble
    Guest

    Re: Noreascon Four -- SF/F convention

    It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway. Never ever follow editors or other pros into the restroom to try to talk about your manuscript. Yes, people try this. :shrug

    I've heard that some writers have gone so far as to try sliding their manuscript under the stall door when they knew an editor was in there. :wha This is useful to the editor only if he or she has just run out of toilet paper. :p

  19. #19
    Euan Harvey
    Guest

    Re: Noreascon Four -- SF/F convention

    >>Remember to eat at least two meals and get five hours of sleep within any twenty-four-hour period.

    >Be careful not to reverse the numbers....

    Twenty-four meals in a two hour period?

    Wow.

    Cheers,

    Euan

  20. #20
    Yeshanu
    Guest

    Re: Noreascon Four -- SF/F convention

    Euan,

    I think he meant don't end up eating five meals and sleeping two hours within any twenty-four hour period... :grin

  21. #21
    Editrx
    Guest

    Re: Noreascon Four -- SF/F convention

    Basic rule of thumb is 5/2/1:

    5 hours of sleep (minimum)
    2 meals a day (minimum)
    1 shower a day

    Don't forget the shower. Really.

  22. #22
    HollyB
    Guest

    Re: hygiene issues

    Ummm...

    ::sniffs self::

    Are y'all trying to *tell* me something?

  23. #23
    HConn
    Guest

    Re: hygiene issues

    Hey, Hapi... You're famous.

    Making Light

  24. #24
    HapiSofi
    Guest

    Re: hygiene issues

    I know. I said she could do it. Thanks for the heads-up, though.

  25. #25
    Yeshanu
    Guest

    Re: hygiene issues

    I read the comments after the post, Hapi. Your hat size must have increased a bit because of the praise...

    :jump I didn't realize that there was a WorldCon in Toronto... Boston is a 2-day drive from here. :cry

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