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September 9, 2013

I’ve mostly recovered from my four days at #Lonestarcon3, this year’s WorldCon. It was my first WorldCon and my first big con of any kind. All the others that I’ve attended have been writer’s conventions – I’ve gone explicitly in my capacity as an agent and heard pitches, met authors, done workshops and critique sessions. My role at WorldCon was a little less defined. I had a client there – the lovely, talented, and amazing Emma Newman, who I was meeting for the first time – and there were other DMLA clients there (so many, actually, that I kept seeing people across the floor and thinking “Hey! ONE OF US.”).


I had a few main goals attending WorldCon:

1. Get myself out there as an agent of scifi/fantasy and urban fantasy

2. Meet editors AND authors of these genres

3. Hang out with my awesome client

4. Meet other people – other authors, bloggers, etc- in the industry, as I’m still fairly new (even though I’m with an established agency).

Overall, I’d say I accomplished my goals and had a great time. I met John Scalzi, Chuck Wendig, John Hornor Jacobs, Adam Christopher and his wonderful wife Sandra, Cassandra Rose Clarke, Robert Jackson Bennett, Andrea Phillips, Maurice Broaddus, Kay Kenyon (KAY KENYON!), Martha Wells, Elizabeth Bear (ELIZABETH BEAR!). I’m 100% sure I’m leaving people out. I met editors from Tor, Del Rey UK, Angry Robot, Orbit. I met The Hound. (I met the Hound.) I strengthened my relationship with some and started relationships with others. I hung out with Emma, who is one of those people who somehow exceeded my expectations for fabulousness, and we had lovely conversations about her books, books in general, the industry, the future. (Over steak. Because, why not.)

Generally, though, as someone attending my first con, I felt… I don’t know, alienated? I ended up hanging out with the friends I’d made the first day basically the whole weekend.  The programming didn’t speak to me and I spent a lot of time either in the coffee shop in the lobby of the hotel or… the bar in the lobby of the hotel. I attended an excellent panel moderated by Mary Robinette Kowal (MARY ROBINETTE KOWAL) (see my p.s at the end of this post) about language in fantasy that was hugely interesting, and Paul Cornell’s Just A Minute, and the Tor and Angry Robot presentations. I attended some of the parties, including the excellent Drinks with Authors event.

I can’t really put my finger on why, when I went home, I didn’t feel an immediate longing to attend next year. For one thing, though I met several unagented authors and have a pile of manuscripts to read,* I didn’t feel that there was a way of putting myself out there as an agent other than introducing myself to people. And having never attended a WorldCon before I don’t know if there has been, in the past, a programmatic way of putting agents and authors together. I registered as an agent, and I know I wouldn’t have necessarily been asked to be on any of the programming. But I would have liked to meet more authors. And is this something that I just needed to try harder at, or is this a hole in the programming? I don’t know the answer to that. If I had tried harder to socialize I think I would have come home with alcohol poisoning.

For another thing, the “diversity thing” that has been discussed at length and admirably by people much smarter than I am – it was a thing. It was a palpable thing that I could feel walking through the con. I mean, I’m a white, straight, cis woman, and I’m fairly young, and I definitely feel like I got glared at because I was walking through the dealer hall not buying anything. When really, I spent enough money to get there and no, I’m not going to buy scifi art, since that’s not what I’m into. This was a super, super white convention. And yes, it was a little older, and I don’t necessarily think that older = bad. After all, some of my very favorite people fall into the “graying” demographic, which I find is a bit of a pejorative term. I don’t think age is a problem with WorldCon- I think it’s attitude. The attitude of “I’m not going to go out of my way to welcome you, because you don’t like the same things I like, and you like your things in a different way than I have traditionally liked my thing.”

This post is a little meandery, I realize. Since this was my first WorldCon, I don’t have a wealth of comparisons to draw to what they could have done differently. But one of the most consistent pieces of feedback I’ve seen from people about why they consistently attend WorldCon is that it’s an annual opportunity to see their friends and colleagues. And I’d like to point out that you don’t actually have to buy a pass to WorldCon to do this – you can just get a room in the conference hotel, maybe double up on roommates, and hang out in the hotel bar. #BarCon is a thing that happens alongside every major con, and WorldCon is going to start losing people to it if the culture doesn’t change.

P.S. This post was written before the kerfuffle about Mary Robinette Kowal’s Surprise!Disqualification from the Best Novelette category at the Hugos, and the disgraceful way it was handled. Reading that story and the emails she exchanged on the subject reminded me of running elections in high school clubs. It’s a little unbelievable that every WorldCon committee does the Hugos a different way – it seems like the administration of the major award in SFF should be, you know, consistent???

*(more manuscripts. I have MORE manuscripts to read. *SOB*)

6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 9, 2013 6:09 pm

    The attitude of “I’m not going to go out of my way to welcome you, because you don’t like the same things I like, and you like your things in a different way than I have traditionally liked my thing,” is one of the biggest problems in Fandom. No one has the right to tall anyone that they’re doing their fandom wrong, and there’s no right or wrong way to be a fan *sigh*

    Glad you had a nice time hanging out with Emma, though, she’s lovely! 😀

  2. September 9, 2013 6:18 pm

    @Hierath she IS lovely, right? I think that this kind of attitude is a problem in fandom, largely, but I’ve never encountered it in quite this way before.

  3. September 9, 2013 7:00 pm

    Maybe that has changed and the fact that I’ve been to…I don’t know…eight worldcons and scads of local cons has made one of the “in” crowd (I learned some time back that I’d been “approved” by the SMOFs as a “good guy”—based on what criteria, I have no idea) so I don’t see things that maybe I should. My first convention was the local one in 1982 and we walked into opening ceremonies knowing absolutely no one. We ended up sitting on the floor and Rob Chilson introduced himself and immediately began telling who was who and introducing us around. We’d neither of us felt so welcome anywhere that way before. I’ve heard that things have changed and I’ve seen some behavior that caused me a raised eyebrow or two, but…

    Didn’t hear about the Kowal kerfluffle. Sounds like typical SMOF nonsense.

  4. September 9, 2013 7:29 pm

    It was lovely to meet you in person at last, Jen!

    I do agree that WorldCon doesn’t seem geared towards using agents (or editors, or publishers) who attend for any particular kind of panel or workshop that might be of use to either yourselves or authors who are looking to get their work out there. There might have been a couple of generic “how to get published” panels, but I didn’t really notice. Likewise there were no pitch sessions (although I’ve heard those aren’t great), or any “meet the agents” mixers (could be a good idea?).

    I’ve heard World Fantasy is a little different and is more about professionals meeting up to discuss work, although I’m not sure whether that puts off new writers who are looking for potential representation. Stacia is coming to WF in Brighton this year so she’ll be able to report back. She was also in Chicago last year, and while the programming was a little better in 2012, again there didn’t really seem to be much for agents to do other than discuss work and projects with existing clients (which is a useful thing in itself, especially if agent and client live in different countries!).

  5. September 10, 2013 8:26 pm

    Yes! Ditto! This was my first Worldcon as well, and while I feel like I socialized a ton, it was largely with the friends I made on Day One. I left the con feeling vaguely dissatisfied. An organized writer-agent event would have been very appealing.

  6. May 18, 2014 8:11 am

    Thanks for the post! 🙂 I googled this while researching whether to go to Worldcon in London this year (2014). I’m an aspiring SF-crime author, but none of the programming listed on the website appealed to me, my novel isn’t in a state where I can start networking/seeking an agent, and I’m not a short story writer – so no markets there.

    Many people from my writing groups were going and I felt I was missing out. Sounds like – for someone who sees conventions as purely a networking/marketing opportunity – it’s worth giving it a miss.

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