November in Oregon can only mean one thing to a science fiction geek —

ORYCON!

Orycon is our local annual geekfest, a weekend gathering chock full of nerdie goodness for fans and professionals of all speculative fiction persuasions.

Artists display and sell their wares in the Art Show, bringing in money and promoting their work either by direct sale or the Sunday afternoon art auction. An art-oriented track of programming offers information on their business practices as well as practical application of skill.

Gamers can park in the gaming room for the weekend, not seeing the light of day except for meals and the occasional Red Bull run.

(Oregon has an annual gaming convention, too — Gamestorm.)

Not just a role-playing game haven, there are multiple games available, giving folks a try-before-you-buy opportunity.

And if you’re into the business of gaming (i.e. writing for the industry,) you’re in the right place! There’s a separate track of programming for that too.

Add in programming for politics, science and costuming, toss in a sprinkle of award ceremonies and nightly dances with a dash of children’s arts and crafts, and you have a conglomeration of Geekiness that runs the full spectrum.

If none of those trip your trigger, there are panels about television shows, an amateur “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” show, and two rooms of nothing but videos.

Or you could sit in the lobby and watch all the funny people go by. (Think of the character sketches you could write!)

Why do I attend every year?

The writing panels, of course! Where else can I go to learn different creative techniques, writing business information and play around in a workshop or two? College is expensive, and you know the old adage — “Those who can’t, teach.”

* At Orycon, I hear directly from the mouths of people working in the industry, not academics who haven’t ever published their work.

* Over the years I’ve learned how to negotiate contracts, write a charter for a space colony and the care and feeding of horses.

* This year I attended panels on the ethics of publishing, battlefield violence and the importance of having a safety net when becoming a full-time writer.

I also tried my hand at flash fiction in a workshop (and failed, sigh…Practice, practice, practice!)

The best part is that “aha!” moment when something a panelist or audience member says sparks an idea.

This year’s inspirations included a couple of ideas for flash fiction stories, adding an instance or two of post-traumatic-stress-disorder to my current manuscript and a plan to change my main character’s motivation to a slightly better fitting view for her.

Yeah, I’m a speculative fiction geek. Though I write lesbian romance, the majority of my novels aren’t in regular space and time.

That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t receive a lot of useful information from a SF convention if I stuck to contemporary lesbian romance.

A quick and dirty class on how to handle a horse or the decline and fall of a civilzation can come in handy regardless of the time period in which you’re writing.

And it’s CHEAP!

I mean, c’mon! I’ve already purchased my membership for next year’s convention. It was only $30!

That’s thirty bucks for almost forty hours of potential panels. (Orycon panels begin at 10am and can run as late as midnight or one in the morning depending on topic.) Who can beat that?

It’s even better if the convention is held in your hometown.

In my case, it’s only a few minutes away by public transport. I pack snacks and lunch, splurge for dinner at the hotel (or at the convenient shopping mall across the street) and head home at the end of the day.

Trust me

Have I ever steered you wrong? Wait! Don’t answer that!

Go to Google and plug in the search term “science fiction conventions” to see what pops up. Most conventions have their own websites.

Many will also have their programming schedule up a couple of weeks before their convention date, so if you find one in your area, check back when the convention is closer for more information.

Keep in mind that cons also charge more as their start date nears.

If it’s possible, see if you can locate past convention websites and check out the programming — like Orycon 36 versus Orycon 34.

If past tracks look like something you’re interested in, purchase a convention membership as soon as possible to avoid an inflated rate.)

Bring a notebook or a laptop! I take notes at every conference I attend and review my notebook on an annual basis.

This year I had several hours between panels on Saturday — I ended up easily getting my day’s word count by parking next to a handy electrical outlet in a meeting foyer area.

But most of all, have fun!


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