I really don't know where to begin. I had a very, very good time at the 4th Street Fantasy convention this weekend. I expected it would be good. When I looked around at the first panel and realized that I wanted to get to know every single person in the room I knew it would be good. And when I found myself staying up til 5am talking even though I'm a sleep-needing creature, I knew just how good it was. I met lots of lovely people (many of whom are now on my friends list), but for the most part I won't mention them by name because I know I'd leave out at least one person I would want to acknowledge. (So if you're reading this, and we talked during the weekend, please assume you're one of them--and if I haven't found your LJ, please leave a comment and let me know who you are.)
A bit of background on the convention: Fourth Street Fantasy was a convention held in the 90s, and it ended just around the time I might have started coming if I had heard of it. This year lydy decided to bring it back, and got others who also remembered it fondly to help her. The other bit of background: if you're familiar with conventions, you are probably used to the idea that there will be programming (panels and movies and such). Fourth Street's programming is such that only one thing is scheduled to happen at any given time, so that everyone attends mostly the same panels. This is, as they pointed out, very good conversation fodder.
I think I'll let this be a somewhat disjointed post, both because I'm still pretty sleepy and because if I wait until I have time to make it a good, polished piece, I'll have forgotten anything I wanted to say. But I think there are still good bits--in particular, I realized several of the things I like about conventions AND had an insight on my relationship with my sister. (And I think I got all the typos out, but if you see something that just doesn't seem to make sense, feel free to point it out. Unlike most of my posts, this one has been written over more than a 24-hour period and has suffered from less sleep and more caffeine than usual.)
Some of the good parts from my point of view:
Beyond the givens--panels of interesting people talking about interesting things--one of the things I like about conventions is I tend to lower some of my barriers. During my daily life I do tend to protect myself from overinvolvement by filtering out people whom I might quite enjoy talking with if I gave it a chance. But here, I found myself looking around the room during the first panel and wishing I could get to know every person there well enough to be on hugging terms with them (not because of the hugs, though hugs are nice, but because of the level of connection that implies to me).
badger2305 summarizing coffeeem: "Wikipedia is the children's nonfiction section." (The panel discussion had turned to Wikipedia and what it was good for despite its reputation, and Emma was telling us what a good place the children's nonfiction section is for a layman's overview of any subject you're starting to research.)
One thing that I noticed time and again was that this was just the right size convention for my tastes. There were enough people there that I think we achieved critical mass for always having at least one (usually many) interesting conversation(s) going on somewhere, but few enough people that I was able to get to know a decent proportion of the people there. I really liked that, and yet I'm a little sad that the only way to keep it that size will probably be to put a cap on the number of people who can enroll. I'm envisioning all the people like me who would have loved it, who might not get to go if there's a cap--yet if it became huge it would really lose something. For one thing, you really couldn't have everyone attending the same panel!
Oh, and I don't always wear a white headband and black jacket. :-) Friday night I was wearing them just because that's what I had on (with a tank top and jeans), and at some point it occurred to me that if I wore the jacket and headband the rest of the weekend, people would have an easier time placing me, so I did. (I.e. "Oh, the one in the jacket--yeah, I remember talking with her last night" etc.) I think it worked, so I may do something like that again.
At one point I looked around and realized one of the things I like about this sort of gathering is the level of enthusiasm in the conversations. Almost everywhere you turn you can see people talking about things they're excited about, with people who either are also excited about the same thing or are willing to share the teller's enthusiasm. Then it dawned on me that that's one of the elements that makes my relationship with my sister (Katie) so strong: it's not just that we have similar tastes and communication styles and a lot of shared background, it's also that when one of us finds something exciting, the other immediately mirrors that excitement. (Our conversations can get very bouncy sometimes.)
I'm looking forward to telling Katie about that, and I'm also looking forward to giving her the copy of Sorcery and Cecilia I bought for her in the dealer's room. It has been a favorite of ours for years (I think she's the one who discovered it and told me to read it in the first place) and as of this weekend each of us has a copy inscribed to her by Caroline Stevermer, one of the authors (I'd have asked Patricia Wrede too, but I didn't see her again after I bought the books). [Since writing that but before posting, I did get a chance to tell Katie.]
At some point I realized that another reason I liked this convention so much is that it was a controlled dose of the best parts of being in college: talking and reading and exploring ideas. Parties, too. And staying up late, I suppose. Etc.
Ellen Klages' comment regarding people who think writing short stories is easier than/training for writing novels: she said (this is paraphrased) that muralists and scrimshawers both create visual art but nobody expects a muralist to "graduate" to scrimshaw, or vice versa!
And it seems that asking good questions at panels is a good way to be noticed, and it seems that there are people who think I ask good questions. I am feeling quite warm-and-fuzzy pleased and rather bewildered at the number of people (more than zero!) who have said they liked the questions I was asking.
One of the panels included a discussion of the kinds of gems you can find when you have just the right background to get the references in what you're reading. I said I sometimes wished authors would provide a recommended reading list so I could get more of them, but someone (I think it was matociquala?) said she looks at the hidden items as gifts to the people who recognize them. I like that a lot. When I look at it that way, I don't feel I need to get all the gifts, I can happily just enjoy the ones I have and look forward to whatever others come my way later.
Quick timeline of con for me, with very little tense agreement:
Miss opening ceremonies, make it there in time for the first panel discussion (getting from a cool idea to its story) and the second (on fiction that carries a deliberate message or moral, and how people feel about that). See pentacon, tanithk, caoilfhionn.
Have supper with kitlizzy, caoilfhionn, and her Fest friend Dana at Ruby Tuesday's at MOA. (Their chardonnay sangria is yummy, it has mango.) Return for elisem's party with readings and stuff. matociquala's reading of her story "Orm the Beautiful" was very good--it's a good story and she read it well. Admitting to C and K that I was both enjoying talking to them and relieved that because they were there I had a safety net of people I knew and could easily talk to. Being brave enough to initiate conversations with people I didn't know: truepenny (about her Narnia essay on The Problem of Susan) and mrissa (because I said I would) anyway. Saw Peggy O'Neill and talked with her as well.
Missing most of the first panel (on the use of drafts), helping reorganize the room ("This room arrangement has been a first draft" - Ellen Klages), second panel (on the "chewy bits" of stories), lunch with caoilfhionn, kitlizzy, and gxdm at food court at MOA (seeing these wonderful people I don't see often!).
Panel on advice from new writers. Skipping a panel that looked good (the topic was "structure") because I didn't want to get paneled out. Being able to help three friends at once by doing something that didn't even inconvenience me--everybody wins! Finding out that an old friend really is an old friend and not (as I had feared) a former friend (I'm so glad!). Shadow Unit panel! Left when they announced there would be spoilers, nice that they would split the panel time to spoiler-free and spoiler.
Dinner with brooksmoses, suzanne, apostleoferis, karenthology, jenett, Kelly, barondave at hotel restaurant. Decent food, great company. Dealer's room. Sorcery and Cecilia with the old cover art! "Food, Fashion, and Fornication" panel. Leslie (oursin, I think) up out of audience onto panel because of her study on history of sexuality. Talking with cloudscudding, seabream, todfox, Kelly, apostleoferis. Staying up til all hours talking with them, Kit being the one who stayed longest; talking about polyamory and our relationships. Talking with Seth and with braddr. Good snacks in the consuite and free wireless. Lying down to sleep at 5:15am with the alarm set for 9:15 and being glad I had a room there for the night (apostleoferis and I split a room for the Saturday).
Getting up easily because of not wanting to wake my roommate. Bagels and spread and wonderful fruit in the consuite for breakfast. Leaving the first panel (on writing in the negative space) because I don't want to know who's an untrustworthy narrator until I find out in the course of the story. Going up to the consuite to have more fruit and catch up on LJ but mostly chatting instead, straight through lunch.
Two panels I enjoyed the most, or at least got bounciest about: lies writers tell themselves, and "Stuff." Front row seats! Taking over an hour (I think) to accomplish my stated objective of getting out of the panel room and up to the dead dog party, because of talking first with Kit and Reesa, then vgqn and apostleoferis. Nibbling at con party, then going out to eat after all. Book geeking with dd_b and seabream, with frequent pen loans from braddr. (Might have to read at least one Lensman book after all, also definitely Anthony Price.) Back to dead dog party and talking with vgqn some more, seeing seabream's tiny tiny laptop, talking with Mris and company, talking with Kit and gryphynshadow about project (and what a compliment!).
Being complimented by Jennifer on the questions I was asking (warm fuzzy feeling). Keeping a list of books and notes. Seeing Lynne. Book signed by Caroline Stevermer, referenced my tattoo that she didn't know about (pentacles). Book gateways. Being with people whose Venn circles of books read don't overlap mine by as much as I'm used to. Telling pameladean about my new favorite character in the Secret Country trilogy.