Pre-Convention Decisions

I’d decided, before attending this con, that I was going to do some things a bit differently this time around. I’d also decided that there was stuff I wasn’t going to let bother me. As it panned out, I did do some things a bit differently, but not all that I’d planned. I also, for the most part, managed to avoid being bothered by the potentially bothersome things.

On the “things to do differently” side of the fence, I’d planned on the following:

  • Be less of a slave to programme items.
  • Play it by ear instead of scheduling all of my time.
  • Get involved with more fannish things.
  • Don’t do tech.
  • Volunteer as a gopher or for the green room.

On the “things to avoid being bothered by” front:

  • Attending and sharing a room with my ex-girlfriend, and the assumptions that would lead to from other congoers.
  • Nerves, shyness and introversion.
  • The inevitable mood-crashes as a result of lingering recovery issues (I’ll explain briefly later, for the uninitiated).
  • The inevitable brain-failures as a result of lingering recovery issues (See above).
  • My regrettable “out of touch-ness” with current SF literature (brief explanation later, etc…)

But just listing these doesn’t quite cut it, so I’ll explain in a bit more detail

Be less of a slave to programme items

Every time I’ve been to an Eastercon, I’ve seen all the awesome and on the programme and have ended up bouncing from one program item to the next. Which is all good, but it does have downsides. Everyone I know who’s been to a lot of cons says that it’s not the programme that makes the con, but the socialising that goes on around it and the catching up with folks you know from previous cons. If you’re in panels the whole time, you don’t get the chance to meet with anybody new or make the connections that everyone says the cons are about.

This is one that I managed, just about. I spent more time out of panels and chatting with folks, but still didn’t get much by way of an “I’ll speak to these people again” vibe, except for a few folks around the masquerade… more of which later!

Play it by ear instead of scheduling all of my time

I absolutely managed this one. I started out planning which programme items I’d be interested in, but in the end I made my decisions a lot based on where I was and what I felt like at the time. Did I miss some good panels? Absolutely. But did I go to some that I might not otherwise have thought of, and learn new things as a result? Certainly. I have developed a bit of a liking for a fairly random approach to these things as a result of going to a couple of BarCamps over the past few years. I’d like to go to more… in fact, I’d love it if there was an SF unconference I could go to, although I have no idea what I’d speak about. Then again, that’s half the fun of unconferences – nobody knows what to speak about and everybody’s winging it.

If I can stand up and hold a room’s attention for 20 minutes with some doodles and a stream of consciousness ramble about a topic I know passably well, then anybody can do it.

Get involved in more fannish things

First, I’d better explain what I mean by “fannish things”. There are a bunch of arcane conventions that SF fandom has built up over the years, and (as far as I can tell) the only way to get to grips with them is to throw yourself in. So I went to a few more panels where the people at the front were just other fans, talking about being fans or about topics they knew and understood. I’ve always been able to listen to people talking about things they know and are passionate about, and it usually doesn’t matter what the thing is – I just like seeing the passion and enthusiasm that comes with it.

As well as that, there are con staples that have been going on for years that I’ve generally not got involved with as they were “not my thing”. This time, though, I was there with my ex-girlfriend. We’d booked two years previously, whilst still together, and are still friends.

Beth is a bit of a costume nut, and I wanted to make sure she still enjoyed the con, despite any awkwardness. We’d agreed before that we’d take some costume that had originally been made for a LARP, but which had barely been used due to players killing the NPCs the costumes were for from a distance. For the few days before, Beth had been basically recreating most of the cloth parts of the costumes, and I’d been reworking a lot of the non-cloth bits and the electronics.

The plan was to wear it for an hour or two as “hall costume” on saturday night, which basically means wandering around in the costume… but it wasn’t exactly “walking around & socialising” gear. I can hardly breathe in mine. Neither of us can talk, and I can’t hear as it covers my ears with neoprene. Neither of us can sit down sensibly either. So we decided, at the eleventh hour, to do the masquerade instead. It was a bit panicky, as part of Beth’s costume kept breaking and I wasn’t sure if the batteries in mine would survive. Because we decided to enter at the last minute, we also didn’t have any “presentation” planned, and that’s one of the categories you get graded on if you’re going for prizes. I wasn’t actually after prizes, though, so I didn’t mind. We were well recieved all the same.

But, getting involved in the masquerade did lead to me actually meeting a few folks (helped by the fact that Beth kind of knew one of the other participants anyway) and having a few folks around to chat to when we bumped into them later on in the con.

I’m actually vaguely inclined to do such things again at future cons. In a fit of ignoring traditional gender roles, I can actually use a sewing machine pretty well and know a bit about how to put a costume together… as well as knowing my way around the use of workshop tools and electronics. The masquerade seems like it’s actually a pretty decent way to meet folks. If for no other reason than having to spend an hour or two backstage in an enclosed space with the rest of the participants!

Don’t do tech

This one isn’t actually a new one. I took this approach two years ago as well, and it served me pretty well. The first eastercon I went to, I was a tech volunteer. Because I actually know a fair bit about stage lighting, I ended up getting stuck in tech and spent a lot of time on the top of the tower at the back of the main hall. First, I find that kind of thing to be both fun and stressful. I was trying to avoid stress, so I had to avoid tech. Second, I found that whilst a tech volunteer, I missed too much of the rest of the con… and because everyone doing tech is so busy, I didn’t really get to know anybody else who was doing it.

Volunteer as a gopher / in the green room

I failed utterly at this one. No excuses – I just didn’t find the time. I didn’t let that failure bother me too much, though. Next time, maybe.

Things to not be bothered by…

I mostly managed these. Sharing a room with Beth turned out to not be too awkward, although I do get the feeling we were getting tarred with the “couple” brush a fair bit. Still, it’s not like I was there to pull (“going on the pull” is alien to me – it’s not how my brain works).

As for nerves, shyness and introversion… well, they were out in full force, but I think I did okay with them. I dealt with introversion by taking quiet time every once in a while to recharge and recover before I broke myself. I dealt with shyness by occasionally just deciding to go for it and talk to people anyway. I didnt do that very often, but I did do it… which is progress. As for nerves? Well, I’m not sure how I dealt with those… but I seem to have managed it. I even spoke up in a panel item or two.

The rest of the “things not to be bothered by” all go hand in hand, and re
late to my not being in a very good state at this time last year, and still only being about 80% recovered. To cut a long story short, about a year and a half ago, I suffered very badly from stress and an extreme case of chronic insomnia. Coupled with pre-existing (and finally diagnosed) Seasonal Affective Disorder and a particularly stressful time in my life, my body and brain basically declared “Enough! You are stopping now!” by effectively killing my ability to function as a human being for a couple of months. I’m mostly recovered, but a couple of symptoms remain:

First, I have no reserves. I go straight from wide awake and active to falling over and unable to string a sentence together. I do not pass go. I do not collect