The Same Thing, Only Different   Leave a comment

Most of the fiction I read is sci-fi or fantasy, and this has been true almost from the time I first learned how to read. Tom Swift books featured prominently among the books given to me as birthday and Holiday gifts. My interest in the genre expanded when I joined the Science Fiction Book Club in high school. Having access to the SFBC put a very important book in my hands: The Hugo Winners’, an anthology edited by Isaac Asimov. The introductory material he wrote to preface each story revealed to me a thing called science fiction fandom, generally referred to as “fandom” by those on the inside, a literary subculture that held regular gatherings – conventions – for the sake of the genre long before Star Trek rendered such things newsworthy. The very idea drew me, and I wondered what it would be like to find myself in a gathering filled with people who read – and wrote – the sorts of things that fired my imagination.

Near the end of 1975 my family relocated to Phoenix, AZ. Going from a small farm town to a large and rapidly growing city was one hell of a shock, but good things did come of it in the end. Among these was the discovery, a year or so later, of a bookstore in nearby Tempe that catered to the sci-fi/fantasy crowd. (I believe it was called The One Bookstore. I can no longer find references to it, and so may not have that right.)  On one of my first visits I found a flyer on the counter for something called IguanaCon, which turned out to be the Worldcon for 1978. Something I’d been reading about was about to take place in my new back yard. I signed up, and attended the first of what would end up being dozens of “cons” that made up a major element of my life from 1978 to the early ‘90s. Only the decision to return to school and complete a degree finally knocked me out of the habit. Once the habit was broken my attendance became sporadic, then died away completely.

That changed again in 2011 when I embarked on my independent publishing venture. I attended TusCon 38 in November of that year, to get a feel for the whole con thing again after so long. I knew I would need to reconnect with fandom to help promote my work. It was a strange but good experience, being back after so many years, but I was still just a fan. I had fiction in the works, but none of it was published. That changed in June of this year with the publication of The Luck of Han’anga. The first con to take place after the release of my novel was CopperCon 32, held this past Labor Day weekend. I attended of course, and had a very different convention experience.

The drive to Avondale was long, hot, and dull. Arrival and check in echoed every convention I ever attended in the past. The people milling about were just the sort of folk I remembered being drawn to such an event, though few of the faces were familiar. I’d volunteered to be on a couple of panels, and had a signing and a reading scheduled. The last two items were a risk, being unknown, but what the hell? Got to start somewhere, and so I arrived with thirty copies of the novel (and ten of Olcott’s Skies) in my baggage. (Also a box of bookmarks to give away.) It felt good just being there, and I enjoyed the memories that were nudged to the surface. I’d once been a part of the organization that founded CopperCon (the Central Arizona Speculative Fiction Society), and if memory serves was actually on hand when it all came together. I do know I attended the first ever CopperCon. It seemed more than appropriate to be an author at a con for the very first time, at a con with which I shared a little history.

From what I saw of it, CopperCon 32 went quite well. It was much smaller than I remembered, but I understand the event has had some hard times and is now staging a comeback. The first panel was on the subject of creating alien characters, and I ended up with only one fellow participant, Gini Koch (author of Alien in the Family, among other books). We hit it off well and led an interesting discussion with plenty of audience participation. The next day (Saturday) I gave away bookmarks as I took up space in the dealer’s room for the signing, along with Saul Garnell (author of Freedom Club). I sold but a single copy, and signed it. It was an eye-opener for the buyer to learn that his was the first ever copy of my book to be autographed. Of course, it was grand moment for your’s truly, as well! I spent the rest of Saturday meeting people, indulging in long and interesting conversations, then turned in early in order to be well-rested for the reading the following morning.

The reading turned into the only speed bump I encountered that weekend. It was scheduled for 10am Sunday morning, a time slot I accepted without thinking. I should have known better. In my more active fannish days I was always up until the wee small hours of the night, and not fully conscious again until late the next morning. This is typical of con-goers, and so my audience consisted of a single person. The rest of the convention was consuming brunch. Not exactly what I had in mind. The person who showed up sat and chatted about self publishing for half an hour, and that was that. This would have rendered Sunday morning an outright disaster, except that while waiting for my last panel discussion I ran into the fellow who bought the book the day before. The first words he uttered after I said “Good morning” formed a question on the timing of Book Two’s release. I said it would be later in the year, and suggested facetiously that he read slowly. Too late. He’d stayed up the night and read my book straight through. Apparently he liked it. I’d be hard pressed, just now, to say what blew my mind most that weekend, signing a book for the first time or having a new reader get so caught up he stayed up all night to read the entire book.

Okay, no, that’s really a no-brainer, isn’t it?

So after one last panel, on authors using the social media (in the company of authors Deborah Baudoin and Mark Rude), I packed up and made the long, hot, boring drive home to Tucson. I felt pretty good along the way, though. Being in a familiar situation, but playing a very different role, was enlightening. My first time at a con as an author had not been  perfect, but I gained valuable experience and made new friends. It bodes well for future events.

Posted September 8, 2012 by underdesertstars in Books and Writing

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