Norwescon 2017 Report
I am back from my first ever con experience! Many thanks to Mrs. Pep for getting me a full Norwescon membership for Christmas, watching the kids on Friday while I went solo, and agreeing to bring the entire not-very-nerdy family along on the weekend. To my surprise, everyone wants to go back again next year, so the con organizers must have done something right. Some quick background and highlights first, then overall thoughts on the convention.
As I understand it, Norwescon is the largest (and oldest?) convention in the region; I imagine CA has one or two that are bigger, but probably nothing else comparable until the denser parts of the Midwest. The con runs for four days, hosts the Phillip K. Dick Awards, and seems to pull in a few big name guests to go with the already crowded bunch that lives out here. (A surprising number of SFF writers and artists call the Northwest home.) Seattle is already a city well known for letting all types be who they gotta be, so pair that with fandom’s costume tendencies and we get a pretty crazy assortment. I felt wildly under-dressed, with no kilt, no costume, no Victorian Era accessories, and no sword. Oh well.
On my own, I went to a few panels and roamed around a bit; I went home in the evening rather than staying to party. I enjoyed seeing both Django Wexler and Nancy Kress at worldbuilding panels, then watched a presentation about Pluto from three eminent scientists. All were interesting, plus I got to see hitherto unknown authors (Carol Berg and others) and learn about yet more books I must someday read. Saturday was more crowded, mostly with kid friendly stuff. The best hour was probably spent in a small writers’ workshop with Nancy Kress; she was teaching the under 12s the basics of narrative construction. Hopefully my kids finish up the stories they started. After that, we joined in a Frankenstein’s monster activity where the kids dismantled and reassembled stuffed animals, pirate training, a miniature painting session, the costume masquerade, Nerf gun battles, and probably more. Oh, and we watched Ted Sturgeon paint. That was cool. Between those, the art show, and the dealer’s room, we didn’t even have time to hit the open gaming. Sunday was an egg hunt and I sat in on a discussion of vintage gaming.
My single biggest takeaway from the weekend is: Cons are better as a group. I had more fun with the family than I did wandering by myself, though time alone was time spent doing things I wanted without worrying about the kids. Before the internet, cons were probably the best way to see far flung nerd friends and meet new people. I haven’t been very active in the SFF community lately, so I have few friends to search out, nor did I feel like trying to meet new people; this made parts of Friday a little lonely. I’m sure everyone would have been friendly and welcoming had I been outgoing, but I wasn’t up for it. Having the wife and kids around later did away with any such loneliness, though it did occasionally cramp my style. Next year, I will probably run on a similar schedule, but expect the weekend to be the more interesting.
Next takeaway: the wide variety of species in the Nerd Kingdom. I already knew that my slice of dork-dom is highly specialized, but the con just drove that home. SF fans who dig politics and economics are not endangered by any means (especially among authors), but the fact that I would rather analyze the GDP of fictional galactic empires than dress up and carry fake weapons marks me as a peculiar sort. Also, and I say this without judgment, my wife was appalled to read about the 5-2-1 rule that all con goers were asked to follow. (Each day of the con get 5 hrs rest, 2 square meals, and take 1 shower.) “Do these people need to be told this??” I suppose the biggest difference is that my main side gig is being a jazz musician; SF is like a side job to the side job, so I didn’t put nearly as much preparation into the con as many did. Maybe if I wasn’t busy with music I would spend more time with costumes and games. Life is give and take.
I suppose that’s most of my report. We all had a good time, want to go back next year, and might even get a little crazier when we do. The wife, at least, wants to get her hands on a painful looking dress with lots of hoops and ruffles. I was very happy to meet some authors. Maybe next year I will prepare some friends so I have a posse to hang out with; wouldn’t that be something. Anyway, thanks con planners and volunteers, we really enjoyed it.