In February of this year, my friend, Mike Plested, said “Jay, you should go to WFC this year.” I replied, “I can’t afford to go to WFC.” He said, “It’s in San Diego this year.” I said, “I can afford to go to WFC this year.”
Membership was purchased and I got more out of this weekend than I could have anticipated. This will not flow in chronological order, it’s just going to flow out of my brain as I think of it.
I knew going in there would be a fair number of established authors and a large number of new and up-and-coming authors. My expectation was to meet some fellow authors and perhaps bump into an established author or two. Boy was I wrong.
On the first day I met Terry Bisson. I knew his name, but had to look him up as to why. He had written the novelization of the Fifth Element. Terry was great to talk and Mike and I even went with him to breakfast with Lorna T. Suzuki on Saturday morning. I talked to Terry each morning and it was some great and insightful conversation for both of us. Lorna was also full of some great advice for self-publishing and was very excited about her movie deal.
On Thursday I had met the person now know as ‘the creeper’ and I didn’t like him much so avoided him for most of the con. I’m sad to see so many had their con affected by his presence. I had more interaction with him than I would have liked, but someone told me the first day. “You’ll meet seven people the first day and you’ll see them every day over the con.” That was quite a true statement.
On Thursday I also happened to be standing by the gazebo talking with a couple of people and L. E. Modesitt, who happened to be walking by, stopped and said “hello.” We had a great conversation with him and it was great to see him excited about his projects. So much so that he was nearly late to a panel he had to get to due to talking with us.
At the Aussie party I remember being able to get a beer. My first of the convention. It was to be my only that evening as there was a crush of people at that party. I stood near the wine table and Greg Bear got stuck in traffic. I introduced myself and tried desperately to not have a fan moment. As we stood there talking about how many people were at the con, David Clark, a long time friend of Greg’s stopped by and started talking with us. They shared many stories about conventions all through the years. Even L. E. Modesitt stopped and joined us for a few minutes. I’m so glad I didn’t drink much because I really enjoyed talking with them and they seemed interested in what I had to say.
So much so that the following day, Greg Bear and his wife, and David Clark and his wife came and sat with us during lunch from the con suite.
I will say now, by this point I was happy with my con experience. Just meeting Terry, L. E., David, and Greg made up for the price of admission. They made me feel welcome.
Then I ran into Robert J Sawyer. I must say that based on multiple interactions with him over the weekend, he really is the nicest guy in sci-fi publishing.
On day two I started wearing an LED name tag. This garnered a lot of attention. One author from a panel even stopped me afterwards to say, “I wasn’t distracted by your name tag, but that’s F*cking brilliant. Why didn’t I think of that?” Myself and Mike, both wearing our LED name tags, became known as the Bobbsey twins by some of the con goers. Whatever helped people to remember me. It was a great conversation starter. Even Robert Silverberg had to stop and read our name tags and it garnered a smile from him.
I was lucky enough to run into all of these authors multiple times and each time they were pleasant and fun to talk with. I, as I said, did my best to contain my fan excitement of running into these authors and the conversations rarely came to their works and instead I got an insight to their con experiences, shared stories of past events, and enjoyed their company.
Mike and I also had the pleasure of not only running into Mike Stackpole, but pulling him aside for an interview for Get Published. I was going to just sit and listen, but when you’re talking e-publushing with and e-vangelist it’s hard not to participate. We not only did the interview, but we sat for a good time after just talking about the con and the con experience and the future of self publishing.
Beyond meeting people who’s name I knew, I also got to run into authors who I was familiar with, but not with their work. So many that it would be impossible to name them all. Suffice to say it was great meeting each and every one of them.
I had a great time meeting the folks of Nightshade books. They had brewed some beer for their book launch party and I had the best pumpkin ale I’ve had in a LONG time. Meeting them and the crew from Eraserhead/Bizarro books was a blast. A fun crew!
I also attended the ‘Sleepover of the Gods’. N. K. Jemisin was a fun, energetic host. I’m lucky to have met her.
Now to the meat and potatoes of my con experience. I got to meet Anita and Brian Hades from Edge. Mike knew them from previous cons and I had a great time talking with them about the anthologies they had out, their e-book strategy, the ability of a smaller press to make changes that the big companies are currently unable to make. I spent a good deal of time meeting many of their authors, going to the readings, and enjoying the Edge party. Both Brian and Anita made me feel like part of the family and it was so wonderful to get to know them as well as a couple of their editors Jaym Gates and Erika Holt.
Beyond meeting Brian and Anita, I had a great time meeting their authors. With the exception of one, they were all very professional and great to meet and talk with. If the people mentioned earlier in this post are the old guard, the folks from Edge are the new guard and they have begun to establish their place in the publishing industry. I would name names here but I’m confident I’d forget someone, but do go over to Edge, pick up an anthology and you won’t be disappointed. The readings were so much fun. I’m glad to have met you all.
At this point I’m gushing. I’m nearing tears because it all went by so fast and I had such a great time. The people who ran the convention did a great job with getting things set up, feeding so many of us, and keeping the con running as smoothly as it could.
Although it was my intent to try and pitch my stories ideas to as many as possible, I decided at the last minute that I would instead enjoy my time at the con. I didn’t take pictures. I didn’t bother an author for his/her autograph (except for the bundle of authors at the Edge table) and I did my best to maintain a professional front. Inside I was giddy and doing cartwheels. I don’t think I had a geekgasm at any point and was even told by some that if I hadn’t told them this was my first con, they wouldn’t have known.
Now to some sage advice:
1) Don’t be ‘that guy’ and if you get called out on being ‘that guy’ know when to say when.
2) Get some rest when you can.
3) Don’t start out gushing when you meet an author. Just relax, and be yourself. Let the conversation flow and you’ll make them feel more comfortable and it’ll make your experience that much better.
4) Don’t lead out with “I’ve got this great story/book/idea/etc” when you run into an agent/publisher/author. Again, refer to #3. Relax. Be yourself. Enjoy yourself.
I think stopping myself from trying to pitch unsolicited material to publishers and agents was the best call I made because I felt no pressure to find someone and I didn’t have any awkward moments. I just plain had a good time. This is most definitely something I will be doing again in the future.
To everyone I met at WFC2011, you ROCK! If I didn’t find you in twitter, please come find me. I’m @jrmurdock. I’m J.R. Murdock on facebook, and obviously you found my website.
Until we meet again WFC. WOO WOO!
P.S. If I did not include you in this post, I am sorry. I met so many wonderful people it was hard to keep track. Next time I will need to write more down.