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Turning up the heat on pros at cons

Having had a few days to mull over my recent time at Balticon, I have to say that there are some writers who really shouldn't go to conventions. While pros go to conventions to promote their works, most of the other people fall into different groups--the book lovers, the gamers, the costumers, the media fans, and those convivial souls who just like to schmooze with like-minded folk. The dealers' room is always full of all of the above. A lot of these people go to conventions for the programming. Basically, a group of "pros" (i.e., published authors) sit behind a table and expound on a topic, which can be advice to writers (e.g., how to get an agent, how to write action scenes), what are the best/worst/most underappreciated works of a given set (e.g., fantasy books of the 20th century, the works of Robert Heinlein, etc.), some scientific conundrum (e.g., can humans ever live in space), or almost anything else you can think of (e.g., why we still need librarians).

The audience listens, presumably learns, and eventually gets to ask questions. Sometimes panels are more spirited than others. Some moderators are better than others at giving all the panelists a chance to talk. But no moderator can stop someone who is bound and determined to be a jerk from getting his way. Some panelists have gotten bitter at only publishing in small presses or in small magazines and want to rail against the state of publishing; some have gotten so successful, they now think they're God's gift to the genre; some have no real knowledge of the topic, but don't let that stop them from laying down the law to the rest of the panel; some are just plain hung over. At bigger conventions like Worldcons, I have been sadly disappointed in learning the ugly truth about writers I had admired for years. I have walked out of panels saying to myself, "Well, that's one writer whose books I'll never buy again."

I can only conclude these folks either never had the ability to look at themselves from other people's perspectives, or if they did, they've lost it. We all have egos, but most of us have some perspective, too.

Sometimes a little distance is a good thing.

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 29th, 2007 04:15 pm (UTC)
I had the same basic experience and thoughts, just at WisCon this past weekend. You forgot to mention the "uninvited panelists", those audience members who see fit to hijack a panel and sometimes refuse to give it back. That happened a lot at WisCon, more than I recall happening at other conventions, so maybe your audiences were a bit more polite and self-aware.
May. 29th, 2007 04:26 pm (UTC)
No, sadly I've seen that behavior, too. I didn't mention it because I don't see it as the same kind of self destruction. Most of the time the audience jerks aren't marketing themselves or their work; they pay their $40 or $50 to have a place to spout off. And the sign of a really good pro is one who can shut that kind of jerk up without seeming in any way ungracious.

There were a couple of wannabe writers at Balticon who insisted on "asking questions" that were simply pathways to mention that they've written novels, but they tend to be less common than the merely opinionated.
May. 29th, 2007 07:10 pm (UTC)
Ahem. You did not succeed in making me sad that I didn't get to Balticon...

Actually - I enjoy hanging out and chatting with friends. And every once in a while, there's a panel that makes me go, "Wow!"

But ever since I was left moderating a panel with Drunk Famous Pro, my love for the panel life has waned...
May. 30th, 2007 03:00 pm (UTC)
Well, we missed YOU, even if you didn't miss us! Some time you will have to tell me the name of the DFP.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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