Finished my first convention in…three years? Four? It went very well, except for the parts when it didn’t, such as when I totally swore at one of my childhood heroes.
Arisia is an established science fiction convention located in Boston. As far as organization, it’s easily the best one I’ve ever attended. The site was in a large high-end hotel, and as far as I can tell, the hotel belonged to the convention for four days. Every room and conference center on the first floors seemed to have something going for Arisia attendees. Management and organization was spectacular; they ran me through registration and I was set up in under an hour (a Very Big Deal for an Artists’ Alley participant), and there was always someone around to ask me if I needed anything.
I recognize that other people who have different experiences might have other opinions, but accessibility and security seemed excellent. I was located in a hallway below the escalators, but I had a lot of traffic from persons using wheelchairs and other mobility devices as the hallways were wide (approx 10′) and the elevators were about 50 feet away. Security wore bright yellow vests and was a highly visible presence.
And holy shit, Arisia might be one of the most welcoming conventions I’ve ever attended. Keep in mind that I was chained to a table for 48 hours and wasn’t a direct participant in events, but everything seemed set up to reduce outsider stress. There were multiple gender-free spaces, and labels that you could print out and attach to your badge to help clarify speech with strangers. A very nice Trans woman said to me that Arisia is the only place where she feels at home, which is both wonderful and heartbreaking.
Now, on to the part of the story where your narrator, the Performing Monkey, embarrassed the everlovin’ crap out of herself.
I’m got serious social anxiety, but it’s the weird kind where I’m perfectly fine with other people when I’m on stage. After the curtains come down, though, I’m a wreck. Total basket case. I’ll spend hours second-guessing myself, and it never ends! I still feel shitty for things I did in the second grade.
(I’m mad at the Internet. It promised me this nice, peaceful career where I never needed to meet anyone, but noooooo, if I want to get my name out, I have to leave my room and talk to people and add to this cumulative stress-ball that I’ll be pushing around until I die. Thanks, Internet!)
Whatever. I look classy in a suit, so I dressed up like an Agent and set up my table and had a really good opening day. I met online friends in meat-space for the first time, met a lot of great folks who have been long-time fans of the comic, and talked myself up to a bunch of strangers.
One gentleman from the Dealer’s Room circled by several times and kept picking up Digital Divide. He’d put it down and wander away. Finally, on his fifth pass, he said, “This has over a hundred good reviews on Amazon, so I’m going to take a chance on it,” and purchased a copy. Reviews matter to authors for many reasons, but word-of-mouth encouragement for skeptical buyers is a big one, and it’s nice to see the outcomes of reviews in action.
I got to meet Lawrence M. Schoen, who is a Classy Fellow About to Make Waves. His book, Barsk, the Elephants’ Graveyard, comes out tomorrow and I’ve already preordered my copy.
After Artists’ Alley closed, I thought it had been a great day. I hadn’t said anything stupid, and had generally remembered how to sell myself to strangers.
Then I went to the bathroom and found that my fly had been open the entire time. This is how I roll (see: fig. 2, Katamari Damancy).
Anyhow. Nothing to do but jump into Day 2!
Again, Day 2 went great. Probably better than the previous day! I sang! I danced! I sold stuffed koalas and rationalized glowing clownfish! I checked my fly so many times that I’ve probably been reported to Security!
Lots of AGAHF readers were there. Lots. And here’s the thing-they were all smart. Like, scary-smart. Authors. Lawyers. Doctors. Engineers and mathematicians. One was doing medical research on the viral vectors of STDs; another was analyzing freakin’ quarks. Thank you all for saving us from ourselves and/or helping ourselves kill each other more humanely.
(One of my highlights of the convention came when two long-time readers brought their teenage daughter, who is also a long-time reader. They asked if she wanted a Speedy plush, and she said “No!” as she shook her head violently, panic in her eyes. This is honestly the only sensible reaction to having anything to do with that rat bastard.)
And I met a childhood hero!
Remember the gentleman from the Dealer’s Room who bought a copy of Digital Divide? Well, apparently he read and enjoyed it, as he was recommending it to his customers. A woman wearing a vintage-style Elfquest shirt came to my table and purchased a copy. I started talking about Elfquest, about how amazing an influence it was on me when I was growing up, what a fantastic storyline…
Which is when she stepped to the side so I could read the nametag of the fellow behind her. Richard Pini. Co-creator of Elfquest.
To which I responded, “Oh, what a pleasure to meet you,” like any sensible adult in a semi-professional business setting would do.
Hahaha, no. I shouted, “OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE!” instead.
(He laughed and said it was one of better parts of the convention. Apparently this wasn’t the first time he had been sworn at by a stranger in public. I hereby propose that all creators must wear a headband with their name and an icon of their most recognizable creation at all times in public settings; I’ll take to wearing a glowing clownfish for the team if it makes this happen.)
To sum up: Arisia, good! Boston, cold. Brain status was okay, but must get around to mastering the ability to dress myself and not swear like a drunken sailor.
I’ll try to get back there next year.