The Hidden Benefits of Conventions

As you’ve probably figured out from the filler over the last few days, I did the convention thing for the first time since midway through college. An hour on the trolley each way, a whole lot of standing in line… an experience. Then my muse suggested that instead of, or possibly along with, discussing the blog-fodder topics I managed to squeeze out, I discuss the overall utility—the part that isn’t just getting together with a bunch of complete strangers and the occasional Big Name to discuss a mutual love of all things fandom (let’s face it, if I want that alone, I usually just stick to the internet where my feet won’t hurt and I won’t feel like not a good enough fan) and admire the skill and fortitude of the people who showed up in costume.

All right, then, what did I get out of this?

Interestingly, most of what I learned wasn’t actually the topics of the panels, and not just because a lot of them, being my areas of interests to begin with, covered things that in large part I already knew. Yes, I learned some things about the comic artist’s approach to world-building, added two shows to my “to watch at some point” list because of panels that touched on them, took a full page of notes on forensic psychology… you get the idea.

But then there was the other stuff I learned. The incidentals, if you will, the meta-panels. On Thursday, I got some insight into the mindset of rock band groupies and anyone who’s ever gone “He smiled at me!” (Granted, I imagine they for the most part weren’t hoping that the next phase was opening a dialogue. I’m a card-carrying geek), and acquired a new hero from the interaction between a television actress and a girl of about twelve at the end of a panel. On Friday, I learned some things about crowd control, and solidified my understanding while in a line I never got to finish on Saturday (which, in turn, helped me realize that there are some lines it’s more disappointing to never reach the front of than others). Saturday, the reminder that even the people it takes me five minutes to get up the nerve to engage in conversation have people whose mere autograph in someone else’s hands will get them to squeal themselves—and some more thoughts on taking advantage of the lengths that people will go to for what they want. Sunday, a reminder that there are attitudes out there that I just can’t articulate my annoyance with.

There’s a lot to be said for convention-going. Yes, you have the chances to show your chops with a sewing machine, to measure dedication to a fandom; you’re walking around for however long you’re present with what is practically a beacon that says “I am socially safe to vocally enjoy this particular hobby around (mostly),” and it’s not making a target of yourself to the anti-nerd contingent. But there are also the secondary bonuses—the chances to people-watch, to look at microcosmic versions of greater patterns. If you bring a notepad, you’re just as likely to use it on topics that have nothing to do with the world-building or the character design or the life and times of this producer you’ve loved the online writings of. And that, I think, is one of the best parts.

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