I just had a brief twitter exchange with Kurt Busiek that started because I saw him tweet something and I randomly remembered that he had been at WorldCon and on my “hope to meet” list. I’ve been a fan of Kurt Busiek’s work for as long as I’ve been aware of it, entirely thanks to my older brother Max and his interest in Astro City. I can’t say I’m a wild fanatical fan. I don’t own any Astro City comics. I can’t remember a lot of the character’s names. I mostly think of issues in terms of the characters and events that they’re an analog for, like the one that was people on folding chairs on the roof of the apartment building watching the fight with !Galactus in the distance. The one about the shark in the subway and the reporter is harder to high concept, but it’s one that’s stuck with me. I mean, I don’t actually remember much of the sequence of events in the story at the heart of the story. But the process of the reporter trying to report on it, and the conclusion… it’s just such a great tale.
Anyway, my exchange involved me replying to his tweet about the party saying that I wished I could have stayed later myself and maybe met him (we had an early flight the next day; I did not seriously rate my chances of getting into any exclusive parties on Saturday night very highly back when I booked the hotel and the flights, so did not think it would be worth the added expense of staying through Sunday).
And while I’m sincere about this—I had wanted to meet him, and would like a chance to in the future—I’m not exactly kicking myself over it, nor had I been craning my neck around the crowd to spot him.
There are always moments when I’m at a con and I’m wishing I were a smoother operator, socially. There are moments when I feel like I should be out there, meeting people, making connections. They rarely last long and they even more rarely go anywhere. But I do meet people at cons, people who do all manner of interesting things (whether they realize how interesting they are or not). Some of them are a kind of a big deal. Some of them will be. They’re all a big deal to me, though.
Some people think that if they can just make the right personal connection with the right person at the right time, it will change their life. They’ll be invited to some project, they’ll find a powerful patron, I don’t know. Things will happen.
The fact is that I have made connections at cons that have changed my life, but mostly they’ve changed my life by giving me this connection. I’ll sit down at a table with someone by chance because there’s an open seat and we’ll start talking and now we’re friends. I’ll see someone who looks like they need someone to talk to and they do and now we’re friends. I’ll be introduced to someone because we’re all going to lunch at the same time and now we’re friends.
And sometimes being friends with someone means that I do, indeed, have an opportunity that I might not otherwise, but more often it’s the opportunity to see something a bit before everyone else does or the opportunity to make a new friend than anything else.
At WorldCon, I was very pleased to very briefly meet Larry Niven (less pleased that it happened when I wasn’t wearing my glasses; I might have seen him a hundred times after that and never known it). I was very pleased to have met George R.R. Martin. My first meeting with John Scalzi (at this year’s WisCon) was pretty much the both of us hurriedly apologizing as we frantically raced down a hallway in opposite directions, me to meet a friend and him to find a facility of a particular sort.
But you know what? I’m really, really, extremely pleased that Jack and I had dinner with S. Qiouyi Lu after a quick Twitter confab when neither of us had plans one evening. We’d been on some panels together before, and while that was really the extent of our previous in-person interactions, S. is the kind of person you just immediately want to get to know better.
I’m really, really pleased that when all the con suite tables were occupied, we picked one that was mostly empty and wound up sitting next to M., a person who I later learned already followed me on the social mediums and with whom we became instant friends. Sitting there was easily the best decision we made all con. We kept bumping into each other throughout the weekend, in part I think because we all like finding quiet, out of the way places to sit. But M. is hilarious (“the ones who walk away from omelets”) and an endless font of interesting information, and best of all, is currently planning to come to WisCon next May.
I’m super pleased to have finally attended a con with Rose Lemberg and Bogi Takács, to have finally met these people I have long considered friends in person, to attend their events and cheer them on.
I was over the moon to get to see Mary Anne Mohanraj, my friend and sometimes fan, up on stage with George R.R. Martin, roleplaying the part of er freaking Wild Cards character. I mean, the whole stage was packed with authors, many of them giants and I’m including Mary Anne in that number, but she is my friend, and this didn’t make it exciting because I’m friends with someone who hangs out and writes in a shared universe with all these other genre literary celebrities, it’s exciting because my friend gets to do this amazing thing.
I’m glad to have met my new friend Hampus Eckerman, who gave me a tiny bottle of aquavit and another friendly face to look forward to if we make it to WorldCon 75 in Finland.
My very good friend Crystal Huff, being one of the co-chairs of that con… well, I’m not going to say she hasn’t ever helped open a door for me, or that I’ve never tried to do the same. And she’s certainly very good about making sure we know where to get the Finland freebies. But mainly what she does for us is she’s happy to see us, and we’re happy to see her. That’s friendship.
Sumana Harihareswara is someone I think of as my oldest con friend, though I don’t know what the precise definition I’m using for that. But I called her my “fairy conmother” to someone this weekend, in order to explain our relationship. She seems to make connections the way most people make carbon dioxide, and we don’t often spend as much time hanging out as I would like. We certainly didn’t this year (I had a pretty debilitating injury that kept me tethered in one place for much of the end of the con, though I appreciated her updates on where she was hanging out), though we certainly did spend more time together than we have in years.
This is how you do a con right: you make friends. You be with your friends. You keep yourself open to friendship. I know a lot of people reading this are probably feeling like I’ve just pronounced them doomed to never do a con right. I know. It’s not easy making friends, especially when it seems like everybody else around you already is friends.
But honestly: a lot of them feel the same way. And will be thrilled to have somebody to talk to about it if you’re the one who admits it. One of the best tips I can give you for making friends at a con is: be a friend. Offer friendship to people. And be willing to accept it in return.