Dragon*Con Part 2: Networking for Nerds

In my previous post, I mentioned the two sides of Dragon*Con: on the one hand, there’s the uber-science fiction convention with a dealer’s room, hundreds of panels and discussions, art galleries, and all sorts of other craziness.  On the other hand, there’s the party.  Nerdy Gras, as it has become known.  But what they have in common is this: getting together and having a good time surrounded by your fellow geeks.  For four glorious days in Atlanta, weirdness is the norm.

And of course, there’s all sorts of weirdness.  Really, the only unifying theme is that all of it falls under the banner of what mainstream society might consider “geek”.  There’s sci-fi and fantasy geeks, gaming geeks, roleplay geeks, cosplay geeks, writing geeks, science geeks, computer geeks… you  get my point.  If you’re a geek and you’re at Dragon*Con, you are surrounded by your people.

As for me, I was hoping to get a chance to network with the writing crowd, much like I was able to do at NASFIC.  The chance to hobnob with successful writers, to hang out among people who embarked on this crazy dream and are actually doing it, is great.  Of course, Dragon*Con is a much different beast than NASFIC– larger, much more chaotic, and in general less conducive to actually meeting the panelists and guests.  Nevertheless, several authors and editors from NASFIC were coming to Dragon*Con, including Matt Rotundo, Gray Rinehart, and Mary Robinette Kowal.  Also coming: one of my favorite authors of all time, Brandon Sanderson. His books are great, but the main reason I’m such a big fan is a podcast called Writing Excuses, which he co-hosts with Dan Wells and Howard Tayler, and which I’ve raved about before.

I got to indulge my writing jones for the first time on Friday afternoon, when Brandon gave a reading from his new novel, Way of Kings… and then from his children’s series Alcatraz, and finally from a book called Scribbler that he’s working on for next year.  I mostly sat there in awe.  The man has released three large fantasy novels this year, and has plenty coming down the pipeline.  He is a MACHINE, and his writing is getting progressively better.  This is even more impressive because his work was dang good to start with.

A short while later, I attended Mary Robinette Kowal’s reading of her novel Shades of Milk and Honey.  Matt Rotundo and Gray Rinehart were there, so already it felt like a NASFIC reunion. After the reading ended, Mary was immediately caught up in various conversations, but I hung out, waiting for a chance to say hi. Around that time, I looked toward the back of the room and saw a man sitting by himself who looked vaguely familiar. I did a double-take, peered at his badge, and realized it was Dan Wells, co-host of previously-mentioned podcast Writing Excuses and phenomenal horror writer!

Feeling only a brief twinge of anxiety, I walked up and introduced myself, and proceeded to chat with him about Writing Excuses, his upcoming book (Mr. Monster, due out September 28th!), and even had the chance to ask him some questions about living as a writer. After a few minutes, the crowd had thinned enough that the only people still left in the room were Mary, Matt, and a few other professional writers who were all friends of Mary’s. Dan went up and join them, and I did so as well, even though, much like at NASFIC, I was feeling far too professionally unqualified to be standing there.

It was about 6:30 in the evening at that point, so talk turned to dinner. The introvert in me (which, let’s be honest, is the vast part of the brain) was screaming that it was time to head for the hills. In fact, almost every fiber of my being was twinging that I needed to leave, that it was awkward for me to be here, that this wasn’t my place.

But for possibly only the second time in my life (the first time being at NASFIC), I fought that urge. I didn’t blush and bow out. I stood my ground as introductions were made, and then as the group filtered out the door, I asked Matt, “mind if I tag along?”

He didn’t, of course. Every professional writer I’ve met has been extremely down-to-earth and friendly. Which was, how a short while later, I found myself having dinner at a table with Dan, Matt, and his wife. Mary was also in the group, as were Leanna Renee Hieber and Alethea Kontis, although thanks to the over-crowded restaurant they had to sit at a separate table. Later, after Leanna and Alethea had to leave, Mary joined us at our table for dessert, and so I sat between Dan, Mary, and Matt over a shared slice of cake, chatting about the con and quizzing them about what it’s like living out West (Dan lives in Utah, Mary lives in Portland, Matt lives in Omaha). Not only did I get a lot of useful information and make some new friends, I also– and I can’t really over-emphasize how important this is from a personal perspective– didn’t give into my introvert’s natural urge to flee at the first opportunity. I’m slowly coming to the realization that networking and talking with fellow writers and fellow geeks is really, really fun and I want to do it more. The long-delayed budding of a seed of extroversion? I suspect it has a long way to go. But it’s a start.

Part 3 here.

Also, I’ve finished uploading my Dragon*Con pictures. The full collection can be found here.