Arisia: My favorite con keeps getting even better

The upside to the recent convention cancellations here in New York is that I’m free to honestly name my favorite fan convention. It’s Arisia. And I can say that loud and proud without worrying I’m the only Red Sox fan in a Yankees bar.

I really look forward to MLK weekend every year. I’ve been adopted by a tribe of 4,000 people with whom I’m totally at home. The guy you see at the Westin wearing my face (and my dad’s hair) is the legit me. It’s like all I do 361 days a year is roll-play, then I spend four days being myself. Considering the whole concept of Arisia is roll-playing, I understand just how fucked up that sounds, but I don’t care. I love the people I met at Arisia. I love reuniting with others on the East Coast con “circuit” with whom I’ll be hanging out at another hotel bar in another city in another month. I love the costumes. I love the cult movies. I love going to the dealers’ room and buying a book by an author who I know I’ll soon run into and be able to get his or her signature (I’ve recently retired the lipstick bit after acquiring an enviable collection). I love finding craft-made cufflinks or watches or bill clips which I can purchase for roughly the same price as corporate stooges pay for theirs at Men’s Wearhouse. But most of all, I love the panels.

I missed Arisia last year. Without going too deep into my tales of woe, I had a shitty year and a half, financially and otherwise, but mainly financially. That truest version of me who shows up at Arisia is an epicure and bon vivant, one who celebrates both vice and virtue as essential elements of living fully. That kind of free-spiritedness is an expensive hobby, and I just couldn’t keep up appearances. I might have been able to attend Arisia 2014, but I wouldn’t have actually been there.

It looked like 2015 was going to be another miss but, just this past Thursday, I got the call I’d been waiting for since two Julys ago. Nothing I can formally announce at the moment, but it looks like I’ll very soon be back in the chips. Considering the timing of the call, there was very little thought involved in how and where I was going to celebrate.

I have some small regret that I wasn’t able to commit to attending Arisia 2015 until the day of, because I had to decline the invitation to return as a program participant. But no tears. For the first time, I was able to attend Arisia in a completely unstructured manner. I didn’t have any panel or reading commitments. I didn’t have the luxury of the green room to hide out in. I didn’t have to get anything delivered or copied or signed for. I could just hang out. And so I did.

And this turned out to be the most productive Arisia ever for me. I even sold a couple copies of Mighty Mighty, but that’s almost beside the point. There were no scheduling conflicts between the panels I was assigned and the ones I wanted to attend. There was no jealousy about “I know more about this-or-that than so-and-so — the nerve of putting him on that panel instead of me!” I didn’t have to speak at all. So I got to listen.

There were at least three or four standout panels I had the privilege of sitting in the back and listening to. And I do mean “standout”. There was nary a wasted microphone. The people on the panels were all deserving of the honor and delivered sage advice which I hoarded in my notebook.

Going forward, instead of vlogging con reports, I’ll be drilling down into specific panel topics in occasional (monthly?) video segments which will be called “Distilled Wisdom”. The first, coming soon, will be on writing fight scenes. Watch this space.

Meantime, I’m going to get back to work on short stories that I hope to get placed in upcoming anthos and start the serious grind on Augie. Playing in the background, at least one publisher is taking a long look at Pitch Ribbons. I’ll let you know as that develops.

Wow. I went on a lot longer than I intended to (or had time for). I don’t tend toward introspection so sorry I got lost in the unfamiliar territory. Hope to see you at Arisia 2016 at the very latest!

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