Friday, November 8, 2013

Convention Etiquette for Writers


Decades ago, when he was guest of honor at Philcon -- it may even have been his first goh gig -- William Gibson, then new to the literary superstar biz, said to me, "When I get home, I'm going to have to lie down in a dark room for a day with a damp cloth over my ego, until the swelling goes down."

Anybody who's ever been a writer guest at a science fiction con knows what he meant.  It's a very intense experience.  You put a great deal of time into being both modest and impressively intelligent. The latter because you want to be sure the con committee are getting good weight after spending rather a lot on your room and airfare, and the former because you want the fans to think well of you.  If you fail at either, you'll feel bad about yourself afterward.  But even if you succeed, you've just spent three days presenting an unrealistically shiny version of yourself.

You really do need to decompress afterward.

But you can make things easier on yourself.  If you're a guest, a panelist, or in any other way a participant a one of these things, you should:

1.  Be polite.  This includes not hogging the microphone on panels.

2.  Don't drink too much. 

3.  Don't try to take advantage of the event.  I was told once of a guest of honor -- no name was given me -- who immediately upon moving into his hotel suite had the hotel send out all his clothes to be dry cleaned at the con committee's expense.  They paid, but I was reliably informed that he was never invited to be goh at a science fiction convention again.  Because the people who  put such things on talk to each other.

4.  Suffer fools gladly.  Because -- not always or even usually, but often enough -- there will be fools. I am thinking of course of the fan who wanted me to explain to him why he'd never heard of me.  At least six times during that convention he sought me out to articulate how well-read he was in genre and how clueless as to my existence.  I'm sure that my not telling him off will count in my favor when the Day of Judgment comes.

Of course there does come a time (I am thinking of the fan who explained to me at great length how much he hated something I'd written -- and then kept coming back to apologize for having said and then sidetracking himself into repeating his original rant), when you have to kindly, even lovingly, explain that the point has been made and that he should find a new object to fixate his derangement upon.

In such cases, however, it's considered bad form to recommend a substitute writer by name.

And this weekend . . .

Today through Sunday, I'll be chillin' at Chillcon.  Which is what my son's friends used to call the Philcons held in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, before they got so discouraged with the event that they stopped coming.

Here's my schedule:


10:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Three (1 hour)
[Panelists: Michael J. Walsh (mod), Allen Steele, Gregory Frost, Darrell Schweitzer, Michael Swanwick]

    The standard science fiction "future" of the past, which came
    complete with can-do engineers in space suits conquering the
    universe, is now based on fiction more than 50 years old.  How valid
    is this vision of the future
Sat 12:00 PM in Plaza III (Three) (1 hour) DO YOU REALLY WANT TO LIVE IN A UTOPIA? [Panelists: Edward Carmien (mod), Tobias Cabral, Alexis Gilliland, Michael Swanwick, Ian Randal Strock] People may claim that they are happy in fictional utopias but on closer inspection, the happiest utopia seems inherently flawed. Because utopian happiness rarely generates the drama necessary to drive a story, does this mean that all fictional utopias have fundamental problems 1:00 PM in Plaza IV (Four) (1 hour) WHO IS AVRAM DAVIDSON, AND WHY ARE THEY STILL TALKING ABOUT HIM? [Panelists: Michael J. Walsh (mod), Darrell Schweitzer, Michael Swanwick, Gardner Dozois] The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction said of him "He is perhaps sf's most explicitly literary author." Discover the works of one of science fiction's unique geniuses Sat 3:00 PM in Executive Suite 623 (1 hour) READING: MICHAEL SWANWICK (1655) I'll be reading the first chapter of Chasing the Phoenix, my new Darger & Surplus 
  novel.  But it functions as a stand-alone story, so that's okay.

6:00 PM in Plaza V (Five) (1 hour)

[Panelists: Darrell Schweitzer (mod), Michael Swanwick, Gardner Dozois, Tom Purdom, Andrew C. Murphy]

    Fred Pohl, who passed away on Sept. 2nd of 2013, was a writer who
    also was a member of the first Philcon. He wrote GATEWAY, edited
    GALAXY magazine and in his later years a popular award-winning
    blogger ("THE WAY THE FUTURE BLOGS").  He was also one of science
    fiction's grand masters.  We will remember his life and work

And that's all!  If you're going to be there, be sure to say hello.

Above:  Yes, that's not this year's Philcon logo.  But it looked nifty, so I went with it.


1 comment:

David said...

Very good advice. Thanks for posting it.