ReaderCon: A Completely Different Con Experience

I have been to many conventions, from trade shows to gaming shows to fan shows to huge media and speculative fiction extravaganzas that have everything including the kitchen sink. This last weekend was my first ReaderCon, which I would have to call a “Speculative Fiction Literary Convention”. What I got was rather close to what I expected; a LOT of the genres examining themselves, comparing work, expounding theories, throwing out advice or criticisms, and a smattering of informative talks on procedures or sciences that can help the writer create realistic fiction.

What you’ll find at ReaderCon: First, less than 1000 people attended, though it seemed like more due to the small venue. The attendees ranged from readers to writers of all ages, experiences and expertise. There were numerous editors present, and a smattering of “experts” with laudable credentials. There were a few publishers in the house, though very few from large publishing houses. One thing I did not expect was that there was not a single literary agent to be seen, and not a single lecture, talk, or rant about literary agents! This surprised me; usually where there are writers and publishers, there are agents, but this element seemed absent, or perhaps I was not looking in the right place. Since I am currently shopping for an agent, this was slightly disappointing, but I was so immersed in the rest of the experience that the feeling quickly washed away in a sea of information.

I’ve always felt that a little self-analysis can go a long way, whether you are a person or a genre, but it seems that others do not think so, and I must admit that there was a lot of value in what was brought forth in that regard. These presentations, I felt, often devolved into competitions among the panelists as to whom was better read, educated, or insightful with regard to the subject. There were a few how-to talks that were good; specifically “How to make Science sound like Science” was informative and straight forward. I found the information lectures, especially the postmortem tutorial (during which only one attendee fainted) and the lecture on symbiosis (even though I am a biologist, and the information was not new to me, it was well done and the lecturer was enthusiastic) particularly enjoyable. For me, however, the most enjoyable portion of the entire convention was the opportunity to meet up with some of the best authors in the business during the coffee klatch sessions, and to listen to some readings of authors I have met and even shared work with. Faces from previous conventions cropped up at every turn, and there were a lot of “I know you from somewhere” moments, that were usually resolved, but sometimes not to the befuddlement of all. Great advise was given and received, and I walked away much richer for the experience.
Next year, perhaps I will volunteer my services for the panel discussions, though I think I will steer clear of the “Genre Self-Analysis” ones… You’ll have to look for me in the audience for those.

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