Aphelion Issue 239, Volume 23
May 2019
 
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Hello and welcome to the May 2019 issue of Aphelion!

One of the benefits of running Aphelion has always been getting to meet new writers— both online and out in the world. There's a special joy to be found in discovering the works of people who create whole new worlds of reading pleasure. It's been my privilege to become acquainted with quite a sizable number of people with incredible talents, who then proceed to take the world by storm, so to speak. An extremely special and satisfying example of this is meeting people at conventions. While I can't afford to go to very many, the ones I do manage to attend are smaller, more intimate, and allow fans to meet and mingle with the attending pros and up and coming new writers. They also allow the new writers to have conversations with the pros.
 
Now, I'm not going to name-drop. That would feel too much like bragging, to me. I will say that because of the nature of these smaller conventions, the experience of attending one is almost always fun. They're sort of self-selecting. If someone discovers they enjoy that sort of relaxed social atmosphere, they tend to come back. If they don't have a good time, they tend to choose some other convention to go to. "Think of it as evolution in action," as the saying goes.

So if you want to give convention life a try, you can do a web search for cons in your area. The Southern Fandom Resource Guide is one of the best examples of this for where I live. As an aside, I only had to type two words into Google to find the link I just posted. Try searching your own area to see what you can find. I'm fairly sure it's a safe bet that other countries who have conventions will have similar online lists as well.

Now, if you've never been to a convention before, you may well wonder what goes on at one. I'll to use very general terms to describe con life, because each convention has its own variation of con activity. 

Usually, it goes something like this: The core con staff members check into the hotel, or wherever the con is to be held, a couple of days early. They start co-ordinating with the venue staff to get the function rooms ready. Tables and chairs, perhaps a special large room for vendors, signs to explain what's going to go on in the function rooms, that sort of thing. Then, usually the day before the convention is set to open, some of the guests arrive, and some of the vendors, and most of the rest of the con staff. Some of the non-guest attending pros also like to arrive a day early--especially if they have a long drive or have to fly in from a long way away. Con staff and volunteers start helping the vendors get set up. More folks arrive and check in. Staff start setting up the con suite, if there is one, and people who aren't part of all that sit around and chat, or read, or whatever they would normally do to relax when they're away from home. Sometime that evening, some folks head out to grab a bite to eat, or if the hotel has a restaurant, eat there. People who drink adult beverages congregate somewhere to do that, or in their rooms, or maybe not at all.  Then the next day, more people check in, more people meet up, more conversations, people begin going to the registration desk the con staff have set up to get their convention badges, and somewhere, usually around 3 PM, the first events of the con start happening. Some cons have an Opening Ceremonies in a large room where as many people who wish to can gather. The convention guests are introduced, and the attending pros, and the artists, and some of the big-name fans, too. Discussion panels, games, outdoor demos of lots of different stuff happen all thoughout the afternoon and evening. Then people usually grab a bite to eat again, visit the con suite, partake of adult beverages, and have yet still more interesting conversations. Sometimes there will be room parties. Sometimes there will be book release parties. Sometimes, groups from other conventions are there to strike up interest in their own cons. And eventually, people sleep. About 9 AM the next day, everything starts all over again and goes late into the night. On the last day of the con, events usually start at 9 AM again, but wind down to end between noon and 4 PM. Some conventions have Closing Ceremonies, some don't. All through the day, people are checking out of the con venue. Some cons have an official "after the convention party," some don't. Some guests and pros and attendees stay another night at the hotel just to be able to go to the after party. They check out and leave the venue the day after the con ends. The last day is always rather bittersweet. Everyone had had a great time, but they all know this might be the last time they see some of their friends for at least a year. Or at another convention somewhere else, sooner or later. Or, sadly, for some people, this may be the last time they and their friends will ever see each other. My own "con family" has lost friends over the years. Ill health, age, tragic accidents take some of us. Others simply can't afford the expense, or they move far away, or lose interest in going to cons. Many reasons, so that's why saying goodbye to the people you've met is so very important.

There are a few rules to follow in order for everyone to have a good time at a convention. Number one, hygiene is important! In a hotel, the shower and bath is covered by the bill you pay. Towels and soap and shampoo are provided free. So is hot running water. No one is going to have a good experience at a con if someone there has ignored bathing. And if you can afford to go to a con, you can also spring for some deodorant, too. That's just good manners.

Rule two: Most conventions have a 3 to 5 book limit for getting them autographed! This is to give as many people as possible a chance to get their books signed by their favorite authors. Most authors spend a few moments with every single fan asking for an autograph. Most autograph sessions are scheduled to last an hour at a time, then the writers can either take a break, or go participate in discussion panels, or other con events. Bringing 75 books to get signed is bad manners if you try to get them all signed in one go. 3, 4, maybe 5, then go back to the end of the line and wait your turn again. The thing to do if you have a lot of books you want autographed is to POLITELY ask the author if they are willing to sign so many, and if so, make arrangements to meet up with them when they have time to spare. One further point about autographs--it is ALWAYS bad form to interrupt someone when they're trying to eat a meal. No exceptions here. Well, the only exception I can think of is if you run into someone in the con suite and ask them if it were possible for you to meet up later when they have more time.

Rule three, always remember that your favorite writers, artists, musicians, whatever, are only human. They might have a hangover from the night before, they might be hungry because they're scheduled to too many panels in a row for them to go eat something, they might have just had an argument with their significant other, or their agent, or a fan who was rude--they might be having a bad day for many different reasons. While it is possible they might not be as nice a person as their work led you to believe, usually, if they appear grumpy, chances are that there is something else going on of which you can never be aware.

Rule four, if you do find that you have a problem, the thing to do is quietly find someone on the convention staff, and tell them about it. They will need to know in order to try to make sure no one else has that same problem. It might not be quickly accomplished, but once they know, the con staff can make plans to remove or solve that problem for everyone in the future.

All right, it's about time I shut up and let y'all get to reading the new issue of Aphelion! Enjoy!

Dan


ON THE COVER

Title: The planetary nebula ESO 378-1

Photo Credit: ESO