Convention season is kicking off! I’ve already been to my first one this year, the fabulous Dutch Comic Con, and this weekend it’s EasterCon in Birmingham. A highlight of last year for me was attending New York Film and Comic Con, where I signed ARCs of GILDED CAGE every day. Ah-ma-zing.
Until 2016, I’d never been to a con before – but now I’ve found them, I love them! YES, they can be intimidating. It feels like everyone there knows everyone else … and you don’t. YES, they can be loud and full of crowds. BUT if you’re someone who feels like part of a wider books and/or genre community, attending a con will be a fantastic experience. And the easiest way to help with the nerves if you’re new is to go with a friend.
I’m speaking on panels at two cons this summer – YALC and NineWorlds – and will be attending several more just for the love of it: a day at EasterCon, hopefully a trip to Helsinki for WorldCon, and then FantasyCon in October. If you’ve not atended one before, here’s why you should consider going:
- Fangirl/boy – You’ll get to see authors and creators (games, TV, movies, art and more, depending on the profile of the con you attend) you love, in an environment where you can get close to them. Big cons attract big name writers all in once place, rather than trying to catch them as they pass through individually on book tours. Have you seen the amazing lineup for this year’s YALC (YA LitCon)? VE Schwab, Laini Taylor and more… And they’re an opportunity to catch and support emerging writers, too, who aren’t yet at the book-tour stage of their career.
- Love your community, and yourself – One thing I always notice about cons is the body positivity. Cons can be amazingly accepting and celebratory environments, even – and especially – with cosplay. You’ve never seen all that a wheelchair can be turned into, until you’ve been to a con! In Utrecht, I met a glorious crossplay Xena Warrior Princess who used a walking frame. Self-acceptance and self-expression is at the heart of the con-going mentality, and all cons should have a robust access and non-harassment policy, and be happy to address any concerns or questions you might have.
- Shop – Support small creators and find the most amazing, one-off things. I can never resist burning a bit of cash at cons. At Dutch ComicCon I came away with an adorable amigurumi Totoro from HotCuteGirlyGeek (see the pic above!). At London Film and Comic Con last year it was a Game of Thrones leather bracelet and a Toothless (How to Train Your Dragon) hairbow. Con t-shirts are always on point. You won’t find this stuff in shops, folks, and it’s all made with love.
- Learn – One of the things I loved about book cons was the author talks. Everything from worldbuilding to the craft of writing. I found them inspiring, and you can get a personal response from a writer whose work you admire. Now I’m published, I’m sometimes on the other side of panels, up on stage. And I can tell you authors really do take time to prepare and want to be as helpful as they can. If you’re nervous about asking a question, you’re not alone – at least half the authors up there will be nervous about answering!
- Try out new things – I’ve never read graphic novels before, but at Dutch ComicCon, where I was a guest author last month, I chatted to the fabulous graphic novels buyer of the American Book Centre and came away with two recommendations. I’m currently reading the super-dark MONSTRESS. You might find your next new fave author/game/artist/fandom….
One less happy note: cons often feel very white. The community has a long way to go on improving this, but there are many folk out there working hard. On initiative I love is Con or Bust, which raises funds to send fans of colour to SFF conventions. If you want to donate, or to see if they’ve a membership going for a con you’d like to attend – they have the UK’s NineWorlds and many US conventions – then check out their website.
It’d be awesome to see you at a con this year. If you’re going to any of the ones I’ll be at – YALC, NineWorlds, EasterCon, WorldCon and FantasyCon – then give me a shout on twitter!
PS If you’ve any more questions about the con-going experience, I can recommend Sam Magg’s fabulous The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy…