It’s been less than twenty-four hours since Emerald City Comic Con and my brain is still buzzing. I have a bad habit of putting off the convention post-action summaries, only to try pulling out the memory-threads one by one weeks later when they’ve gone stale and dry, so this time I’m getting it down while everything is fresh, with a bit of a meditational on what I got to learn. It’s also a bit of a musing on depression, anxiety, and what those things can do in this line of work.
Normally conventions take a lot out of me. I’m a pretty introverted person, and especially with a big con, there’s a leech-like drain on my energy that lingers for weeks afterwards as I crawl for cover and the silence of solitude, but this one was a doozy for a number of reasons, and I’m still humming.
There’s really two reasons that I—personally—attend conventions. The first is the face-time with fans, and the second is face-time with the friends you have in the industry and the people you’ve wanted to meet. Anyone who has written professionally will tell you that this is a seriously lonely job, and one where a sense of fulfillment and external validation are both rare and in short supply. Even introverted humans are still social creatures, and anybody who tells you they need no approval or opinion from other people is either in denial (often), lying to you (rarer), or a psychopath (something to the tune of less than 2% of the population). ECC2018 gave me more of both than I’ve gotten in awhile.
I had two panels on Thursday, one with my fellow AR authors Jay Posey, Sean Grigsby, Carrie Patel, “Writing lessons from gaming” that went great. Being in a room full of people asking good questions is energizing for me. Scary, sometimes, but energizing. There’s a hundred blogs I could write on the intersection point between video games, tabletop Gaming/playing, and writing fiction. Now I have another hundred more.
But on the subject of good questions and fan interaction, this was the audience of the evening panel I moderated called “How to write what you don’t know.”
That was the room before it filled up. There were 160 people in there. On a Thursday at even a big convention, this is insane. It was my first time as a moderator, and my panelists were Melissa Olson, Paul Krueger, T.Jane Berry, Carrie Patel, and Tristan Palmgren. I think I’m spoiled. This panel was a big deal for me, in part because it was my idea, but also because the subject is important to me. Unless we work exclusively from within our experience and areas of expertise, writing good fiction always requires research. Given that our society is in the middle of seriously examining what looking through others eyes means, it’s by definition going to be hard. The further afield you need to go from your own experience, and the more earnest you are in doing respect to others lived experiences, the more nerve wracking this process can be.
This could be a blog post all by itself, so I’ll keep it brief, but in addition to getting to know my fellow panelists better than I did at the start (which is always a reward), I walked away genuinely better educated about something that matters to me. That’s like an adrenaline shot straight to the heart for me. Just, y’know, without the gigantic needles and the infection risk. The audience asked really good questions. My panelists gave really good answers. It was everything I’d hoped and more.
^These two guys, man. These two guys are the best.
Two more big touchtones: one was the Worldbuilders party that Patrick Rothfuss’s charity puts on, jumping from con to con. I was a volunteer this year along with Sean Grigsby, and mostly this involved helping with setup, running and picking up heavy things, and then getting to experience the party afterwards. This event was a needed boost to my optimism about people in general. When you work alone and have only the (terrible, shitty) news to keep you company, it’s really easy to forget how good people can be when they’re given incentive and opportunity. I met people I’d only really known by proxy or from the internet in person, and got to have some enlightening, solid conversations about everything from the industry to chicken attacks (if you find me at a con sometime, ask me about attack-roosters. I have stories).
^Spoilers, Chuck Wendig is as awesome in person as he is online.
The other was hanging out with Drew Hayes. Drew is the GM of Authors&Dragons, the biweekly D&D podcast I’ve been part of for the past two years along with Steve Wetherell, Robert Bevan, & John Hartness. Drew is an upbeat, hilarious, and frighteningly gregarious human, and over the weekend we had several meet ups with local-to-Seattle A&D fans who came out to the bar to drink with us and shoot the shit. If we can’t get all of us at cons in the future, I think this is gonna be the MO going forward, and now that this website is set up it will be easier for me to stick info on that here. Meeting with your fans is like being introduced to an extended family you didn’t know about, and when you do this for a living, it can be a form of sustainence that gets you through the long lonely workdays when only Twitter keeps you company (and Twitter, while I love it, is kindof a loud psychopath). I forget that sometimes. I need to not do that.
Some of the Angry Robot crew with me above. You couldn't ask for better companions in the booth.
This brings me to the last bit of this. At the start I said that it all sort of ties in to a musing on depression and anxiety and imposter syndrome. I was diagnosed with anxiety several months ago, though in retrospect it’s pretty apparent to me that I’ve been dealing with it for years. It’s almost certainly the source of the depression that I’ve been fighting off all of my adult life, and going to be around other creatives always reminds me that it’s not an uncommon affliction in this line of work. It is very, very easy to fall into a trap of thinking that not only is your loneliness a function of whatever the bad brain-shit is telling you is wrong with you, but that you’re isolated in that experience. And so you pull away. You listen to the terrible quiet voices that curl around you deeper in the suffocating dark. Dramatic? Sure, but also true. Being around other people in this sort of environment was a needed reminder that not only am I not alone in my experience, but in experiencing it. There are people to reach out to. Familiar echoes in the black who can help you pull yourself back. If not all the way back to good, at least to cognizant of the fact that the little voice is a liar.
And it is. It always is. Nothing so bleak and terrible could be right at all times. Not in the way it claims. For it to be so, a lot of good, proven things would have to not exist.
And they do.
And they will.
Until next year, ECCC. You were a ball. Up next, I’ll be at Norwescon, and I hope to see you there. Never be shy about coming over to say hi. Seriously, don’t. Creator or fan, what we have is each other.