Have you read the review? Okay, good. WSE is a fun convention. There are a ton of events, and quite a few people (though not as many as I was expecting–perhaps due to registration problems?). If you’re bored at WSE, it’s your own damn fault, because there’s plenty to do.
But I had more fun at Origins Game Fair last weekend.
That’s nuts, right? I’ve been mulling it over in my head and trying to figure out why I enjoyed Origins more, and I think it comes down to this: at Origins, I’m appreciated. I do panels and sit at my table in the Author Library. I get to hobnob with other writers, getting advice and even compliments on my stories. I sell copies of anthologies and sign them with personalized notes. I meet lots of new people and spend quality time with friends I only see once or twice a year. New projects are proposed, discussed, and considered. I went away from it feeling excited about new prospects, flattered that other writers (and editors) enjoyed my work, flush with new and promising friendships, so inspired that I was ready to sit down at my computer and pound out chapters. I finished the weekend exhausted but also excited, feeling like the horizon was limitless and the future was bursting with potential.
Also, I really enjoy the Smithees (bad movie awards), even though this year I only got to attend for a couple of hours.
In comparison, at WSE, I did no panels, and sold no books. The idea was to have a relaxing vacation weekend. I hung out with the same people I always hang out with, almost every weekend (whom I love, don’t get my wrong, otherwise I wouldn’t hang out with them). But other folks I’ve known for years (but rarely see) failed to recognize me or greet me by name. Other people would have an entire conversation with my friend, who is admittedly far more memorable than I am, being a magenta-haired Amazon with a penchant for nudity, without so much as glancing at me. I tried to shrug it off, but it bugged me. Even in my nicest, most creative outfit, I was overlooked–people just aren’t excited about a steampunk Buddhist nun, I guess. I got some attention wearing my TARDIS lolita outfit, but ultimately I came away from the weekend feeling overlooked, forgotten, unappreciated. I was just another face in the crowd, just another forgotten peon nobody cares to remember.
But at Origins my talents were appreciated, even celebrated. I didn’t even have to dress up to feel at home. At WSE, I felt constantly judged. I wasn’t thin enough, wasn’t a good enough costumer, wasn’t outgoing enough to make new friends. At Origins, I could relax. I was in the company of people who, like me, are introverts who live in the worlds inside their own heads. These people laugh at my jokes (even my very off-color ones). These people remember me. These people get me.
There was also an element of “been there, done that” at WSE. Steampunk conventions are all fairly similar. I’ve been to a lot of them. Though each has its unique features, they’re starting to blend together a bit. WSE’s unique feature was lots of musical performers, that’s its shtick, but I wouldn’t have paid money to see any of those bands except maybe TMWWNBBFN. I also paid for an Eli August album, but I’ve seen them live several times and they gave me free (delicious) blueberry wine, so they earned it. The dealer room was 90% the same as the dealer rooms at other conventions. The art show had the same artists. The panels covered the same topics covered at every steampunk convention. The Miss World Steam Pageant was new, but I don’t really like pageants–they feel like meat markets to me, so I avoided it.
Now obviously these are generalizations. I didn’t have a completely miserable time at WSE. And many of the things that bugged me were my own damn fault–I assume that everyone is judging my costumes and my weight and my shyness but really, most of that’s all in my head. The thing is, I’m not sure it matters. At Origins, I didn’t have to push myself to meet new people; I wasn’t terrified of being judged. I didn’t have to force myself to be outgoing; I was eager to make friends. I didn’t have to bite my tongue when a silly comment came to mind; I just let my mouth run, and didn’t worry about whether the other writers thought I was a total goofball. (Because I am.)
I gave Dragon*Con two chances, so I’m going to give WSE two chances and attend again next year. This time, I’d like to volunteer to do panels or something else that will keep me busy. I’m happier, apparently, when I’m involved in the convention and a part of the action, rather than a bystander. I’m not good at being part of the audience anymore, I think. Maybe I’m spoiled. When I’m in an atmosphere where I’m appreciated and my talents are showcased, I don’t feel shy or nervous. I shine. When I’m in an atmosphere where I feel overlooked and ignored, I wither. I don’t think I’m alone in that, either, so I’m hoping this post will get supportive comments from others who feel similarly.
I’m already comfortable with my place on the Airship, but maybe I just need to find my place in the broader steampunk world. Or maybe I’ve done enough steampunk conventions, and I should cut back on them to do more writing conventions, since that’s where I seem to be happiest. I don’t know. Food for thought.