Posted by: culturescouse | August 25, 2014

What I learned from Nine Worlds and LonCon3

So, I’ve rather neglected this blog and I’ve made a resolution to myself that I’m going to be better with it. It’s not going to be difficult – two posts three years ago isn’t much to beat!

There may be a slight change in direction though. There’ll still be theatre (there’s ALWAYS theatre in my life) and other bits of culture, but I’m also going to include some book reviews. I think. Who knows what I’ll end up doing?

But to start, here’s a post about the two major conventions I attended this summer. My LonCon didn’t quite turn out as I had expected, for reasons I shall not go into here (but which involved crippling pain and a hospital stay), but I enjoyed what I saw, and as a first time attendee of a major, residential con, I thought a post about what I learned from my experiences might be useful. So here goes.

1.) Whenever possible, stay in the con hotel. I know it’s not always possible, but it makes such a difference. I didn’t stay in the con hotel for Nine Worlds, partly because I made a very late decision to go and therefore the con’s allocation of rooms was well sold out, but mostly because my friend and I found we could stay in the travelodge down the road for the whole convention, for less than the cost of one night in the con hotel. And because I was also going to LonCon, I wouldn’t have been able to do Nine Worlds if we hadn’t stayed in that travelodge. And it was fine, but it was a pain having to plan travelling time, and worrying what I could do with my case on the Sunday and, most importantly, not having somewhere on site to escape to when the con became overwhelming. Do not underestimate the need for somewhere to escape to!

LonCon was slightly different, in that it was held in a convention centre and therefore there was no con hotel as such, but our hotel was close by and the relief of knowing I could be back in my hotel room within about 15 minutes was massive. There was also less sense of missing out on things because I wasn’t on site.

2.) Stay the final night. The programme may say everything’s winding up in the afternoon, but actually there’ll be things happening well into the evening, and having to leave to catch your train/coach/whatever is really annoying. Also, you’re going to be exhausted after a con weekend, so why not take that extra day to start your recovery?

3.) Plan for breaks. Oh dear god, plan for breaks, because otherwise you are going to collapse at the end of the first day from hunger and exhaustion. I did not plan for breaks at Nine Worlds. I very quickly realised that I needed to. And it’s difficult, because there are already so many panels that you can’t make it to, and you don’t want to miss anything else, but you really, really have to. By the time LonCon came around, I was much more relaxed about missing things so I could go and get something to eat, or just get some space (or look round the dealers’ hall), and it did make a difference to my experience.

4.) The creators are fans too. I did actually know this before I went, but one of the things I loved about both conventions was the way that all those people that people like me had gone to see were fanboying over others, or attending other panels because they wanted to hear what was being said. It made me feel properly part of a community, and it was great to be able to just strike up conversations in the bar or wherever and suddenly realise you were talking to a published author or comic artist. The creators being fans is actually one of the things I love most about genre in general, and it was great to see it in action.

5.) Don’t worry about keeping up with your friends. People have different interests, so there are going to be panels you want to see that your friends don’t. It doesn’t matter. No-one’s going to judge you for turning up on your own and it’s actually a great way to meet new people. On the final day of Nine Worlds, I didn’t see my friends once, but it didn’t change my experience of the con. In fact (and nothing against my friends here at all), the Sunday was actually my favourite day, because of the things I did and people I met, and I came out of both Nine Worlds and LonCon with new people to follow and speak to on Twitter. Of course, there’s also nothing wrong with sticking with the people you came with, if that’s what you want to do. Remember – no-one’s going to judge you.

And I think that’s a good point to end on, because one of the greatest things I learned from both cons is that as an SFF fan, I’m part of a community and, judging from Nine Worlds and what I saw of LonCon, that community is friendly and inclusive. I know not everyone had the same experience of LonCon as I did, and the fact I was only there for a day and half may have helped that, but Nine Worlds was one of the most inclusive atmospheres I have ever been part of. There was no judging, and people felt able to be open about who they were and what they liked. And I loved that.


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