This year, I had to choose between a small writer's conference, the one Mike Black mentioned on Monday, or a convention: they both took place the same week. And it wasn't just any convention: it was Comic Con. Mecca of all things pop culturish. A place where people wait in line for days, not to get a cheap TV for the family at Christmas, but just to hear the actors from Community or the cast and crew of Twilight.
In other words, this:
I've gone to Comic Con since 1997, with my husband who writes and draws and publishes a graphic novel. I've seen it double in size, change from a show primarily about comic books to a show that seems to be, more and more, about the products derived from comic books.
A convention is to celebrate, to bring you closer to your favorite pop culture objects or creators. MacWorld is a convention. Comic Con is a convention. A conference is a quieter affair (outside of bar hours, anyway). It's meant for people to gather and learn from each other. A convention is for shouting your joy at the top of your lungs, while a conference is for active listening, inquiry, exploration. People don't remember, but there was a Pro Con conference before Comic Con every year, where working professionals shared information and experiences. Gone the way of the cool, free chotchkies, I'm afraid. Now it's 100% Convention.
I chose the conference even though Joel McHale was at the convention.
Because listening to Bob and John and the guys talk about what really happens on the streets of Detroit or the depths of "the Bureau" fuels my writer's imagination. Because listening to working professionals explain how cops are trained to avoid tragedies like mistaking austism for belligerance helps me write better crime fiction. Because if I wrote for a hundred years, I would never come up with a character as fascinating as retired Senior Lead Officer Kathy Bennett, whose talent and humanity warm up any room.
Because looking at real crime scene photos reminds me that it's not all about clever plots and tricking the audience. Crime fiction is the space where we work out our relationship to real crime. To foget that real victims suffer is to risk writing with facile manipulation instead of warmth, and truth.
So this year I left the costumes and the expensive pizza and the celebrity sighting to the kids. Next year, maybe they'll be set in different weeks, so I can attend them both. Because I've got an inner geek, the same as everybody else!
What do you geek out about?