This weekend I’ll be at the Westin Waterfront Hotel in Boston, MA for Arisia 2017. For those not in the know, Arisia is a huge science fiction, fantasy, fandom convention, and it’s known for having a wide, eclectic draw. You’ll see everything from Trekkies to Game of Thrones fans to anime cosplayers to hard sci-fi geeks and science nerds to crafters. In short, it’s a great con. I highly recommend it.
I also have the pleasure and privilege of being a guest panelist. Below, you can find my scheduled panels along with a brief description of each. And below that, my Top Ten Bits of Advice for surviving the con.
Hope to see you all there!
2:30pm in Otis: Writing Swordfights and Hand-to-Hand Combat
This is a HANDS ON, HOW TO WRITE THE THING panel. Ideal panelists will be martial artists trained in the art of reach weapons or hand-to-hand fighting. Panelists do not need to be authors, but they must feel comfortable articulating why fights in popular culture, such as books or movies, may or may not have been realistic. We'd like panelists to brainstorm and come up with a brief outline, with helpful links to blog articles or other resources you'd like to recommend, so we can create a downloadable resource for attendees. This is a good chance to recycle those old blog articles you wrote!
7:00pm in Marina I: Powerful Personal Projects
When you're paid to be creative, it can be hard to leave time and room for personal creative pursuits. Creatives discuss how to balance personal creative works with paying work and what they gain from following their passion.
10:00pm in Alcott: Pitch Mania! A Competition for Your Story
Bring your the first page of your story to our Arisia pitchapalooza to read aloud until one of the judges says 'stop!' Learn what people who read stories for a living think of your story, get some feedback, and learn from the mistakes and triumphs of your fellow writers. The winner will be determined by the panel of judges from all of the first pages that are read all of the way through.
11:30pm in Alcott: How to Write Hot Sex Scenes (moderator)
Whether you like it saucy or tender, how your characters 'do it' can reveal much about their personality. How do you set up a viable sex scene? How can you use unresolved sexual tension to increase conflict? And how can you portray the many alternatives which exist in SF/F, not just same-sex or poly-pairings, but also shifters, aliens, and incorporeal beings? Our panelists will discuss the mechanics of sex and foreplay, as well as how to get 'in the mood' to write hot sex scenes. 18+ only.
10:00am in Burroughs: Worst. Plan. Ever!
Clueless Legions Unearthed and Exposed! Total Party Kill! Many of us are guilty of sitting around a table and throwing out a really terrible idea that the group then gets behind! Mayhem and chaos ensue! Where do these plans come from? Why do reasonable people forget basic logic when playing a character with super powers and high explosives? How can a GM rescue a game when a bad plan threatens a T.P.K.? Join the fun as our panel shares some of their worst plans ever!
4:00pm: Portal Fantasy: Are We Still Going Through?
From _Alice in Wonderland_, Narnia, and Oz to _The Talisman_ and _The Magicians_, what is the ongoing appeal of sending denizens of our world into others? How do we avoid turning these narratives into white savior/outsider tropes, which are problematic and abundant? Why, given the magic of the other world, would any protagonist choose to go back to mundanity?
Okay, and now without further ado, here are my (in no particular order) survival rules for surviving the con.
1. Never Eat Anything at the Con Suite. Never. Not ever. Never
First, I want to clarify that the staff for con suite does an AMAZING job of putting out a tasty spread. They really get better and better each year! My advice has zero to do with con staff and everything to do with the fact that every year, dozens of con-goers fall to con crud in the aftermath. Steering clear of communal food is a good way to avoid Patient Zero.
The fact is: communal food bowls/plates/dishes are just that. Communal. Everyone has their hands in them. Everyone. Even those people who should've stayed home sick and didn't. So my advice is: unless it's individually wrapped or you witness the staff putting it out, you're better off skipping the con suite unless you want to come home with con crud. If you have antibodies of steel, then go for it.
2. Respect Other Fandoms
It’s okay to not like a fandom. We all have fandoms that we dislike, but we also have fandoms we love, and hearing someone trashing our fave fandom is never a good feeling. So don't be that person. You can engage in discussion and critique, but keep it polite and non-inflammatory. We can all admit that saying, “You know, I felt the pacing in Firefly was somewhat slow, and I couldn’t get into it” is a little easier to swallow than “Firefly sucks! Worst. Show. Ever!”
3. It’s Okay to FanGirl out, but Be Respectful
So, it might happen that you see the object of your fangirl desires in the hall or on a panel. It’s okay to approach that person, but be respectful—of that person, of their space, of their time. If it looks like they’re hurrying to the next panel, don’t stop them. Likely they will have a signing time. Check the program for that. If they are standing around, make sure you approach with respect. Say “excuse me” and “would you mind if...” and be okay if the answer is no to a picture or an autograph.
4. Don’t Touch Anyone Without Consent
Costumes are not consent. Ask before touching, be polite, and be respectful if the answer is no.
Also, understand that some cons, like Arisia, have a zero tolerance policy regarding harassment. If you're caught harassing someone (and yes, unwanted touching is most certainly harassment), you can be ejected.
Familiarize yourself with Arisia's Code of Conduct here.
5. We're Here for a Conversation, Not a Monologue
Remember: everyone has opinions. Yours matters too, but not to the extent where you feel the need to talk over others or monopolize the conversation. It’s okay to get excited, but have self-awareness. If you’re really bad at knowing when you're being disruptive or trying to take over the panel by over-commenting, bring a wingman. Have her tell you when you’re talking too much/being disruptive.
6. Don’t Assume Gender ID, Racial ID, etc
You. Never. Know. So when in doubt, ask and be polite about it. A good script might be, “Excuse me, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what are your preferred gender pronouns?” Most folks appreciate being asked rather than being misgendered, for instance. Also, take note that some people will be wearing buttons or ribbons announcing their preferred pronouns. And please, always, use their preferred pronouns!
7. Eat, Drink, Stay Hydrated, and Please Shower.
Self-care is important, even at the con. If you’re the kind of person who forgets to do these things out of excitement or just plain forgetfulness, bring a wingman. Or set alarms on your smartphone. And please, for the sake of those around you, do shower.
8. Go to All the Things (Within Reason)
It’s easy to go all hella crazy and try to go to every little thing. Choose your plan of attack wisely, but leave time for meals, showering, sleeping, and decompressing. Most cons will have a “quiet space,” so even if you’re sharing a room with a bunch of friends, there’s always somewhere to go to just chill and relax.
Again, a wingman is invaluable for those folks who have trouble remembering to take time for self-care. In a pinch, cell phone alarms will do as well. Don't be afraid to take time for you.
9. Try Something Outside Your Comfort/Knowledge Zone
Don’t know about string theory? Go to a panel on it! Want to know more about writing that novel? Experts wait to answer your questions! Go to something you’ve never gone to before. Your next passion might be waiting in Arisia's hallowed halls. And when you're attending these panels, don’t be afraid to ask a “dumb” question. Panelists love what they do, and they are looking to talk to you.
10. Have Fun!
A lot of us are introverts, so we know how hard it is to have fun and relax in social situations. We've all been the odd man out, and we've all felt awkward or stupid or too shy to approach. Hopefully, knowing that the rest of us are just as geeky and nerdy and fangirling out as you, I hope, will be a bit of a balm to soothe frayed introvert nerves.
If you've enjoyed my con survival guide, please share on social media. It's good for cons in general. Never miss an update! Join GIE's mailing list here.
Until next time, my pretties, keep defying gravity!