Anyone who knows me realizes at some point that I’m a complete fan-geek. If a story/movie/television show is even the slightest bit weird, I’ll give it a go.
(Which isn’t to say I don’t have my snobbish moments. I adore Star Trek in all its forms, but I’ll be damned if I’ll attend a Star Trek convention. Most professional conventions are concerned primarily with reeling in cash, not the fandom itself. I won’t pay more than $50 for a ticket to my favorite band–why would I pay upwards of $300 to get a decent seat and/or receive a photo?)
Fan run conventions, however…those are da bomb!
Earlier this month I attended my first Norwescon (#38 in SeaTac, Washington.) I’d heard it was a blast and, by golly, my sources were correct! I barely got six hours sleep a night! Mornings and afternoons were spent in various panels and movies filled my evenings.
A lot of writers don’t think science fiction conventions are worth the effort. I beg to differ. (Please! Oh, please let me differ!) Writers can learn a lot from these weird gatherings of Trekkies, elves, storm troopers and barbarians. Here are some examples:
Biology of a Zombie Apocalypse
Zombie books are all the rage and I read a lot of them. I’ve considered writing one but probably won’t. The market is completely saturated. (Maybe a short story or something, I don’t know.)
The whole “rising of the undead” thing is way out there in terms of believability as it is. Really? A person dies and then some weird virus or bug takes them over and controls their bodily functions? Right. Sounds like a temporary insanity plea to me.
The panelists however were research scientists. We didn’t discuss the credibility of the genre. We went over recent discoveries in science that made the plausibility of a pandemic–regardless of sympomatic response–understandable in layman’s terms.
* Ants infected by nematodes. The microscopic whozits creates a change in behavior and appearance, causing the ants to be eaten by birds–the nematodes’ primary target.
* Rabies. Advanced rabies infections in humans was probably the original line of reasoning for authors who began writing zombie stories. General zombie symptoms mimic the universal symptoms of rabies.
* CRiSPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats.) Manipulated DNA that is programmed to repeat itself whenever it meets the right circumstances. Like one strand of DNA rewriting the next strand of DNA, then each one of those goes out to do it again. And you can program this thing to do anything–like carry disease.
Swords & Shields
I attended THREE of these “panels” over the weekend. I learned how to hold and use a broadsword, how to attack with it.
Then I fought with a team of nine other Norse newbies against ten others, each of us wielding a sword and shield. “SHIELD WALL!” We charged back and forth across the ballroom, screaming our warcries and disrupting the neighboring panel–a reading my George R.R. Martin. (Grin!)
The third panel focused on the Roman Legion, again with hands on experience. (I stayed to watch but didn’t actively participate in this one. I was worried my arthritis and general couch-potato lifestyle would end up with me being skewered on the end of a wooden sword.)
Here’s a video I took of the resulting melee between the barbarian horde and the Romans:
I ask you…where else can you get practical hands-on experience with archaic weapons? I own swords, I know how heavy they are. But I’ve never had to use one with a shield, never run with one either, never physically attempted to attack another person.
Writers of fantasy aren’t the only people who get something from these types of panels. Anyone who writes historical fiction or has characters using armor and edged weapons can benefit from these classes.
And don’t even mention the cultural tidbits I picked up about the Norse and the Romans. It’s too bad I had another panel, because the next one after this was focused on the Japanese weapons and armor.
Galaxy Spanning Empires
Okay, yeah, that sounds strictly SF, right? But where do we base our knowledge of empires? The Romans. The Greeks. The Mayans.
The panelists were a mix of space-geeks (people actively working toward the privatization of space flight) and people with PhD.s in history. Not only did discussion include the building of ancient empires, but the tools necessary to build future ones.
Heck, a current-day thriller author could have used information from that panel!
As it is, the space-geeks also brought up suggestions for people to consider the planetary aspects when writing in the SF genre–atmosphere, gravity, the resultant culture and infrastructure that would occur due to the restrictions of the world. Ideas for a fantasy author!
The Heroine’s Journey
(As opposed to Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.)
Again, the panelists were a mix of science and tech women as well as history buffs and feminists.
Some points that were brought up:
* The masculine journey is exclusive – the hero rises alone. The feminine journey is inclusive – she allies family and friends, all of whom rise in power as she rises.
* The heroine usually goes full circle — leaves home, goes through the cycle and ultimately returns home to share her gifts of heroism.
* Empowerment versus Power — The man gains power but the woman becomes empowered.
* There seems to be a final step with the heroine that the hero doesn’t attain. The hero starts from a place of innocence and becomes a man with experience. The heroine starts at the same place, but she goes beyond becoming a woman into becoming wise–the girl/woman/crone.
Putting it Together
Those are just the tip of the ice berg. I won’t even get into the entertainment that I recieved throughout the four-day weekend (Rocky Horror Picture Show, the premiere of a homemade zombie movie, all the beautiful costumes, the art show and dealer’s rooms, the burlesque show (!!!) based on The Game of Thrones.)
I paid $50 for four days of convention attendance. Scheduling began at ten in the morning and went on to two the following morning. Gaming areas were open as long if not longer. Parties were in full swing in various suites every night. There were also dances each evening, a hospitality suite to grab a quick bite to eat, a cloakroom to drop your bag for a few hours if you weren’t staying in the hotel…
If you’re a writer, consider attending a local SF convention. While a lot of the writing business panels might not be geared toward your genre, the advice given by seasoned writers in any field is worth the price of admittance.
If you’re NOT a writer, go anyway! (I would suggest on a Saturday. That seems to be the universal night for the requisite Masquerade (costume contest) at every convention.
If you don’t want to pay for a membership, you can always loiter in the hotel lobby on a Saturday night and have just as much fun watching the beautiful costumes.
What Do You Think?
Ready to locate a SF convention in your area? Check this link to get you started. Do a Google search too. Are you in or near the Pacific Northwest? Here’s the link to Norwescon and Orycon, the annual conventions in SeaTac and Portland, Oregon. Maybe I’ll see you there!
Does anyone else have convention experiences they’d like to share? Cons they’d like to suggest for others to look into? Click below and fill us in! I’d love to hear from you!