A Very Atypical ConFusion Report

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 8.442% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

The con reports at ConFusion were almost unanimously glowing – people reporting having glorious times.  And I think it was, in the objective, a pretty damned fine convention.
I, unfortunately, had a really wobbly time at it.
Partially, that’s because I think ConFusion is starting to gel in a really nice way as a literary convention, slowly metamorphosizing into the ReaderCon of Michigan.  The con was packed with more authors than ever before, coming from a wider range (I think in part due to last year’s attendance of Cat Rambo and the relocation to Michigan of up-and-coming author Saladin Ahmed, which spread the word), and the literary track was good enough that I kept getting annoyed that I had to go to my own panels.  Why should I be on my boring ol’ panel when there were more interesting ones to see?
(No worries.  I did what I could to make my panels lively and interesting and full of zombie whale jokes.)
That’s good – for ConFusion, for Michigan, for pretty much everyone involved.  The problem was, for me, that I felt like I was doing a spectacularly bad job of balancing career and personal life.
See, the thing about ConFusion is that I’ve been going there for five years and have achieved what I refer to as Con Critical Mass – when you can’t walk across the hotel lobby without running into at least two people who you need to catch up with.  These are often con-buddies, which is to say that you see them twice a year and follow ’em on Twitter the rest of the time, and you want to say hello because – cons being what they are – if you miss this ten-minute conversation now, you won’t see them for another six months.
So there’s a ton of beloved pals I want to hug and say “hi” to and see how they’re doing.  That’s one end.
On the other end, we have a bunch of new writers I’ve never spoken to before.  And not only is there the whole “You should network with writers!” pressure in my brain as an author – I’m not saying this is what I should do, but it’s what every fucking writer-blog tells me I’m at a con to do – but I find writers fascinating.  I don’t get a whole lot of time in my real life to spend with people who get jazzed about debating the future of publishing, or who can give me gossip on what it’s really like to hang with The Legends of Science Fiction, or who’ll just understand what it’s like when you know how this story is going to go but you’ve taken five stabs at the opening scene and you just don’t know where to fucking start the ball rolling.
Problem is, since ConFusion is, as I mentioned, packed with newer writers, I don’t necessarily know them that well.  And I’m stupidly fucking shy at cons; if I’m introduced or greeted, I’ll chat your goddamned ear off.  But even if I have met you seven times over, if I see you sitting at a booth with two other strangers and you’re not waving me over, I’ll go, “No, she won’t remember me, and even if she does she won’t want to talk to me” and I’ll sit in the corner and meep.  So that’s a form of con-stress.
(An example of how bad I am: There’s one Very Famous Writer who, even though I have met him several times and he’s perfectly nice to everyone and he’s even been my mentor at a fucking writing workshop, I cannot approach him.  I’m convinced he doesn’t want to hear from me every time… right until he says hello.  This is how stupidly freezing I am about such things.)
So the pattern of ConFusion was this:
* Spend ten minutes working myself up to actually go over and hang with the one person I know, who is surrounded by a group of two to three new writers who I’d like to meet.
* After too much sweat, insert myself sideways into said conversation.
* Just as I start to get involved in some interesting discussion of writing, an old con friend sees me across the room and runs over to hug me.
* Try to insert old con friend into current discussion of writing.  Fail magnificently.
* Now must choose between blowing off old con friend or walking lamely away in mid-discussion that I’ve inserted myself into.
So the whole con, I felt this strange tension wherein I was either dismantling old friendships or walking away from create new ones, and I didn’t feel like I was ever making the correct choice or understanding how to manage this properly.  Essentially, ConFusion was a perfect storm of social anxieties all colliding.
This doesn’t happen at, say, WorldCon, because everyone who’s there is a writer and if I happen to see you, well, we’re gonna be discussing what the fuck Twitter means for writers.  And it didn’t happen at PenguiCon, because PenguiCon is not really a lit-con and as such I could just hang and doof out.  But at ConFusion, I felt very caught between two worlds.
Worse, I kind of needed to hang with the writers to hang with the writers.  As it turns out, many of the folks I’d hoped to get to know better with gathered on Saturday night in an impromptu hotel room party, which I didn’t know about because I was off snuggling my sweetie for two hours and thus missed the information-train.
So I dunno.  Jim Hines was writing about his Post-Con Neuroses, and not only do I share his issues, this is one of my own.  I felt bad at ConFusion because I wasn’t bonding with new people and I wasn’t spending the right amount of time with the old people, and as a result it led to a rather stressful time where I just had to spend all of Sunday trying to recover.
(Though I’m told by people who’ve seen me that I looked fine.  One person said I even looked “relaxed.”  I can fake it, man, when I have to.)
Even now, I’m a little worried about posting this in public, because as regular readers will know, I’m in a state of heavy depression and flux in my personal life, and trying to work out some new anti-depression meds (which I usually eschew, but hey, it’s bad this time) and therapy – all of which certainly didn’t help the con any.
But I dunno.  I hope Penguicon will be better.  And I don’t know whether anyone else deals with this, or how they do, but man, I know I do experience it and I need to work it out.

4 Comments

  1. Siobhan Carroll
    Jan 31, 2012

    I experienced the same thing at WFC. I suspect this will be how cons are from now on. OTOH, one of the “new people” I met was you, so there’s an upside to circulating. 🙂

  2. Megan Rose Gedris
    Jan 31, 2012

    Everything you said about ConFusion is how I feel about Penguicon. I’m thinking about making this year a “forget about work and have fun at the con” year, but I also know I probably can’t/shouldn’t do that.

    • TheFerrett
      Jan 31, 2012

      If you need to give me a secret hand signal to “Go away, Ferrett, there’s real comics people here,” we should probably work it out now. 🙂

      • Megan Rose Gedris
        Jan 31, 2012

        But man, you ARE one of those people I especially look forward to seeing every year.
        Really my goal should just be to stop making NEW friends. 😛
        Besides, thinking about it now, most of the fun times happen after the boothing and panels are closed up for the night and I’ve found a comfy chair in the ConSuite close enough to the free Woodchuck .

All Comments Will Be Moderated. Comments From Fake Or Throwaway Accounts Will Never Be approved.