I’ve been going to conventions a long time now, certainly long enough to have the occasional bum one. The event that you turn up to feeling out of sorts and where you never manage to engage with the event. Where you linger on the periphery while everyone else is having a ball or trawl the dealers tables too many times just for something to do or sit through a programme item you have no interest in or stay in your hotel room until the biscuits run out or spend hours out exploring the environs of some dismal district of a town you would never otherwise have chosen to visit. I’ve not had many conventions like that, but they do happen. And sometimes you ask yourself why you go to them at all.
Well, it’s the people, obviously. The old social networkings is brilliant for keeping up to date with friends, but nothing beats the Saturday night conversations that encompass everything (yes, I went to Fantasycon and had excellent conversations about football and songwriting, bite me!) and swallow the hours. Nothing beats seeing one friend win an award and then hearing that another has sold their first story, and being equally pleased about both. Nothing beats HAVING to break your own limit on how many books you were going to buy because there are so many beautiful, intriguing ones there and the people selling them are so persuasive. Nothing beats those truly original thoughts that spark out of those long conversations:
SOUND EFFECT: A long, lazy, snuggly, underwater yawn.
VO: “And when Cthulhu wakes up, all his friends wake up. Hastur, the rag doll. Blind Azathoth, the carved wooden bookend in the shape of an abomination. And all of Shug-Nigurath’s thousand young on the mouse organ wake up too.”
Everyone looks at the found “thing” that has been placed before Bagpu… Cthulhu. The “thing” screams in unimaginable, mind-shattering terror.
But there’s more. It’s the creative boost too. The recharging of the writing cells, the topping up of the story tanks. And there’s the occasional shot of nitrous to the mix too, the belt that sends you home fizzing with ideas, with the knowledge how to fix this story, how to complete that one, and the germs of five or six more.
At FantasyCon this year, my nitrous came afterwards, when I read a story from Patrick O’Leary’s new collection from PS, The Black Heart. I love O’Leary’s work but he is published so disparately that I miss a lot of his stories when they come out, so this was a must-have for me. And on the homeward journey it was my first choice for inflight reading. Spurred by James Morrow’s introduction, I picked a beautiful, gentle story called “The Dreaming Bird”, that would have enchanted me enough on its own even without the *incredible* four-page paragraph at its heart that encompasses much of the tragedy of modern living in one gorgeous feat of writing skill. After I finished the story, I closed my eyes and enjoyed the simple act of thinking about what I’d read.
And I stepped off the plane with such renewed ambition you wouldn’t believe. And that’s why I go to conventions. They heal the writer’s soul.