I had a lovely time at Escapade in Ventura Beach, CA. It was my first ever con. It's a multi-fandom one, but all slash. I've wanted to go to a con since I started writing fanfic in 2000, and this is consistently the one that looked the best to me. Some random thoughts/notes:
* It was lots of fun to go. It probably would have been more fun with a friend.
* Most people were there with friends. Most had been to this con before (it was the 15th year of Escapade). I think I may have been the only person whose first con it was. Notwithstanding all that, everyone was very friendly. I did have to make the first move, but people were very receptive and inclusive.
* I kind of jumped in with both feet. I had never been to a con before and I suggested panels and ended up leading two. They were:
X-Men: Queer Subtext and Slash
The X-Men's mutant powers have often been used as analog for the position of homosexuals in society. Mutants are born into "normal" families but begin to exhibit differences at adolescence. They "come into their powers" much as gay men and lesbians come out. Mutant kids are scared to realize what they are; they are rejected by society; they're often kicked out of their homes. The comics have sometimes really played with the queer parallels and subtexts (e.g. the Legacy Virus as stand-in for HIV) and sometimes ignored it. With an openly gay director, the movies gave new life to queer subtext in this fandom. How does the issue of canonically subtextual queerness inform X-Men slash? Does it enhance or interfere? Would their status as outsiders make mutants more accepting of queer folk, or less so? What analogs in real life are there for this phenomenon?
Let’s Talk About Research, Baby!
What kind of research do you do when writing fanfic? What besides canonical sources is important to you? How much of what you research actually gets into the story? Of what doesn't show up in the story, how do you feel it affects your fiction? In reading fanfic, what is it important to you that the author gets "right"? What would really bother you if the writer didn't research it first?
* I loved the panels. There were plenty of panels I wasn't interested in, but the ones I went to were just my kind of thing. Panels about writing techniques, about the meaning of slash and fandom, about trying to understand how fannish communities work and how they change, about our interaction with the larger society. I found the people who attended them really smart, insightful, and interesting. I watched out for the phenomenon that a friend of mine had mentioned from another con, of one person kind of dominating the panel and hijacking it, but that didn't happen. I saw people who definitely could have done that, but I found that the facilitators were generally really skilled at keeping the conversation going, keeping it on topic, and keeping it interesting.
* I enjoyed leading panels. I co-led the one on research and was just blown away by how seriously people who attended take the research part of this fanfic enterprise. I thought I was just a weirdo for the research I do for fanfic. I might be, but there were 10 more weirdos in the room and some of them even weirder than me :-). My X-Men panel went well, too, and it was fun meeting X-Men fans I hadn't known, as well as a couple of writers whose works I did know.
* There was a lovely early morning write-fest. I wasn't sure what a write fest was :-) and brought my laptop in case we were going to be writing. As it turned out it was a discussion of writing technique and very fun.
* There were plenty of people there with whom I had really nothing in common and very little to say beyond pleasantries. I don't watch TV and many of them are into slash of TV shows pretty exclusively. Also a whole lot of them wanted to just kind of moon over the actors in whatever source medium they write/read slash for, and that's so not my interest in this stuff. I don't say this as a criticism of the con at all, but a comment on how my fannish interest intersects with but are not those of the attendees as a whole.
* I paid careful attention to what people looked like, after being told that people at cons look really weird! I thought most people looked supremely normal - a variety of clothing, ages, body types. Not very different from what I'd see in any mixed group, e.g. on the subway, except that there were very few men and a larger proportion of white people than I'm used to (but I often find the latter when I leave NY). A few people had unusual appearances - strange colored hair, more piercings than one usually sees, costume-like clothing. Nobody was in full leather; nobody had a shaved head; in general I didn't think appearance was outrageous. It was less extreme than your average gay pride festival. Lots of people did have thematic tee-shirts, as did I.
* I had never seen vids or heard filking. I loved the filking. I got bored with the vids. There were 26 in the vid show - I left at intermission. 4 or 5 vids would have been enough for me, at least in one sitting. I think I will enjoy the rest of them when I watch them, but I'll watch a couple at a time.
* I was really pleased with the facilities and surprised (pleasantly) by what the con fee bought. For $100 we got all the programming, two meals, snacks and soft drinks at all times throughout the weekend, a $5 coupon for the dealers table, a "swap meet" where I got a bunch of books and tapes, a cd of the vid show, and a bunch of little freebie thingies - pins and pens and pads, etc.
* I started a new fanfic series on the way there and felt really inspired by the con to write. I worked a little on it each night before bed, and have about 5000 words written.