The Pros and Cons of Cons

AggieConBoothI intended to write this last week but why that didn’t happen will shortly be clear…

On April 4-6 I was invited to join Roxanne Rix, sister of fellow local author Gretchen Rix, at AggieCon in College Station, TX. Roxanne is Gretchen’s publisher and sales rep and offered to share some of her booth space with me. AggieCon is the oldest and largest student-run multigenre convention in the United States so I was excited at the opportunity.

Every Con has a primary focus and AggieCon’s is more about fantasy, gaming, and cosplay than books and literature, so we found the weekend a bit of a hard sell, although we both ended up doing fairly well. The vendors selling costume accessories, toys, and games were the big winners. As much as anything I found the weekend a fascinating opportunity to study people most would describe as “non-mainstream.” If you personally know any writers you know we are always looking for an interesting personality trait, mannerism, phrase, etc. to tuck into a novel. We study people’s clothes, listen to how they talk, watch their body language, and generally be as nosy as possible in as discreet a manner as possible. I didn’t sell out of my books but I sure did come away with some great notes for future characters!Cosplay

The weekend was running along smoothly until Sunday morning, when both Roxanne and I contracted food poisoning. Our best guess is the only thing we ate in common: the scrambled eggs on the hotel’s breakfast buffet. Sunday passed in a haze of misery for both of us. We managed to get ourselves home Monday late morning, although it required swapping off drivers even on the 2 hour drive. Lesson learned by me: avoid the breakfast buffet when the hotel is full of mostly younger folks who can’t afford the buffet price.

Other lessons worth passing on? Sure, always…

1. Cons change over the years so always check to see what a Con’s current “flavor” is to help decide if it’s a good place to sell books
2. Even a Con without huge literary traffic is still fun and an interesting place to do research
3. Some people are extremely creative and BRAVE when it comes to costumes
4. You’re never too old to have fun — we loved seeing some of the “older” folks (*cough* our age *cough*) wearing costumes and enjoying the heck out of themselves

AggieConHorsesScience fiction conventions aren’t just about booths and merchandise and old TV shows and new role-playing games. They’re about people, particularly a category of people who are often bully magnets at school (or home). They’ll never wear a suit and tie. They cherish their Star Wars Action Figure collections and lovingly handmade costumes. They don’t understand why everyone wants them to be “normal” or “just grow up.”

At Cons these misfits find a place where they DO feel at home. They meet others who also don’t fit into the expected cookie cutter lifestyle that “society” deems acceptable. All these gentle souls, for at least one weekend, aren’t alone and isolated. More than one attendee told us the same thing — at a Con they can be happy just being themselves.

The most important take-away for me from the weekend was a big reminder that life is too short not to have fun and be happy, so find people who are offbeat in the same area you are and go for it!



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