Wednesday, November 02, 2011

World Fantasy Convention 2011: Etiquette

I'm at the airport terminal armed with only an iPad so bear with me in this link-less and unedited post.

As difficult as it is for some readers to believe, I'm shy. I'm a wallflower. I'm someone who's socially inept. It doesn't help that while I do know English, I don't get to use it as often as I'd like to, as evidenced by me sometimes speaking too quick or eating some of my words.

Enter WFC2011. Arguably to get the most out of it, you have to socialize. What's exciting isn't so much what happens in the program, but what takes place in the area such as parties, meetings, or simply meeting people. For example, one striking moment was at the Convention Lobby on Wednesday evening, the night before the "real" start of the convention. I stumbled across a conversation between Michelle Sagara (whose resume is too long to list) and Na'amen Tilahun (bookseller for Borderlands Bookstore and author) and the back-and-forth between the two was so engrossing and articulate that it could easily have been its very own panel as they talked about topics like book covers and Catherynne M. Valente's Palimpsest.

There is a certain etiquette required when talking to people. Part of the appeal of World Fantasy Convention after all is the ratio between professionals to fans: Neil Gaiman can theoretically walk up on stage and not be swarmed by a mob (there was a long line for Gaiman's signing however that it had to be extended another day). So being the first-timer that I was, I wanted to preserve this atmosphere.

Suffice to say, I didn't behave like the WFC 2011 Creeper ( But in the past, at least in the Philippines, I've made various social faux pas, either in local conventions or social events. So I let my inner insecurity rule in this case, better to be safe than sorry. For example, I saw Robert Silverberg and Greg Bear, but I didn't introduce myself. Who was I, after all? On the other end of the spectrum, I was more than happy to wave and call Jaym Gates and Wendy Wagner, friends I frequently chatted with over Twitter. For the most part, I struck conversation with people whom I thought would recognize me. It actually took a lot of courage on my part to introduce myself to Ted Chiang when he was at hotel reception, waiting for his ride to the airport.

Of course some people were absolutely awesome. Ellen Datlow, a good friend, introduced me to everyone, including setting up a dinner with Holly Black and K. W. Jeter. Shawna McCarthy, someone whom I had never met with before the convention (and was one of the Guests of Honor), was equally amiable and introduced me to various people as well. Rina Weisman was accommodating and easily one of the heroines of the convention.

There were people you meet online but when you meet them in person, are twice as wonderful as you expected them to be. Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman were lively and humble and pleasant. Mur Lafferty took the time to look for me and invited me to join her for dinner. Jaym Gates remained accessible and pleasant despite the shit she had to go through during the event. Kate Elliott was intelligent and accommodating. Danel Olson treated the contributors to 21st Century Gothic out to dinner which involved a tour and a graveyard visit (and cake!). And nothing can replace having a chat with Theodora Goss, Mary Robinette Kowal, Juliette Wade, and Karen Lord.

The Dealer's Room was equally impressive. I met some publishers and they offered to give me free copies of the book they were selling (for review, of course). I declined since this was one of the few times I could support them by paying for their books.

There was some interesting discussion all over the place and people were amiable. Some invited me to join their group when they saw that I was alone (sometimes I had to decline though as I was heading for another appointment or catching up on sleep). There were some discussions that I was interested in joining but didn't; they had already started talking and I might be intruding on a private or intimate conversation (a younger me might have risked it, but he was also a jerk). Also met a lot of my crushes (literary or otherwise) but as I said, professionalism, appropriateness, and don't be like the WFC2011 Creeper.

Part of my personal insecurity was the need to be useful. The convention layout was unorthodox to say the least (The Prisoner was something a lot of people referenced...) so a few times, I escorted friends around the hotel to get them to the place they needed to be (I was one of the first people to arrive at the hotel and apparently one of the last to leave, so I was familiar with the grounds). I also helped Prime Books setup their stall on Wednesday. Then there's Twitter and the #WFC2011 hashtag, and I helped whenever I could. (I was dependent on the less-than-optimal hotel WiFi however.)

Perhaps the most difficult part of the convention was arranging to deliver a copy of Budjette Tan's latest issue of Trese to Neil Gaiman. I tried lining up for his signature but the line was simply too long (I wanted to participate in the other authors's book signings) and I was instructed by one of the volunteers to leave my backpack elsewhere. Etiquette being what it was, I didn't want to run up to Gaiman during one of his panels. After tweeting to my friend, however, that I might fail in this particular request, I ran into Gaiman after he had just finished a conversation with someone else. Gave him the books and went on my way.


Ellen Datlow said...

Charles, Thank you for the magazine you brought me-I'm so sorry I couldn't get Neil the magazines for him but relieved you got them to him anyway. I finally got to talk to him for about 10 minutes right before the banquet but I wasn't even sure that was going to happen.
I'm glad you had fun and I thank you for being a gentleman and escorting me back to my hotel a number of times.

Harry Markov said...

You remind me a lot of how I was on the con I visited this year in the UK. It was pretty much the same kind of situation with me. I'm used to typing rather than speaking, so I did really maintain a low profile.