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POINT OF VIEW: After the Con

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The Rainbow Space Magic virtual con ended yesterday, and I’m feeling that weird post con mix of elation and let-down.

It was wonderful to see many of my fellow authors and readers, and to spend time moderating a couple topic panels, and to hang out in the reading panel with Angel Martinez and Rory Ni Coileain. The read and the discuss aspect of the RSM reading hours is one of my favorite things about the con.

I really miss in person cons, though. The ability to meet somebody and grab a coffee with them at the hotel Starbucks, or to bump into them in the elevator and make small talk with them on the way down to the con floor, is something that’s hard to replicate online. There’s just something different about actually being there.

It’s also harder to engage fully when all your house chores await you, just beyond the edge of your glowing screen.

But in the interim, virtual cons are what we have, and they’re way better than nothing. They do offer a few advantages over the traditional con. One, you can attend in your underwear, and no one is the wiser (as long as you don’t get up on-cam). Two, folks who wouldn’t normally be able to go because of physical issues, money issues, or location can attend – so you can get a great mix of folks. And three, you can do many more of them for the same reason, if yo have the time and energy (literal and emotional bandwidth too).

I think so far of the virtual cons I have attended, the con that had the best analog for a face-to-face experience was Nebula Con. They used zoom to great effect, creating a bunch of always-open rooms where you could pop in on conversations at will, and they even had a bar where a handsome bartender would show you how to mix drinks.

For RSM, we were a bit more modest. We had Discord rooms for discussion after each panel – for those who don’t know what Discord is, it’s basically a chat application – and we had a zoom room for face-to-face interaction at lunchtime on both days. Although not well attended, we had a great conversation in Zoom each day, and it helped fulfill my need for that real person contact.

I’m always both inspired and a little depressed after a con. Part of that is meeting so many wonderful authors with so many great ideas. There really is a wonderful diversity in the queer speculative fiction community, and so many different kinds of stories being told. There were lots of “I wish I had that idea myself“ moments, and lots of mutual admiration going around.

For me, cons are a field day for imposter syndrome. When you start to realize how many wonderful, bright and shiny stories, concepts, and authors are all around you – ideas you didn’t have – It can make your own work feel like dull, ugly rocks that no one will want to play with.

On the other hand, cons can also be a place to refill your own idea well, offering you new ideas and new ways of looking at things that can power a renaissance in your own writing.

The other downside is the let-down of it all being over. Especially for the folks who created the con – a nine-month-long endeavor to put together something that we hope will be wonderful and creative and affirming.

There is a sense of relief, as the work is finally all done except for the autopsy. But it’s also sad because it’s over. And at this point we still don’t know when we can see your friends in person again.

And then you look around and realize there’s laundry to do, floors to clean, work to accomplish, and oh yes, writing to be pounded out on your keyboard. At least virtual cons spare us that long plane trip home.

So, until the next con beckons, it’s back to the daily grind, and the hunt for bits of inspiration from the last one.

To my reader and writer friends… how do you feel about post-con letdown? About in person vs. virtual cons?

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