Less a Fraud

So I’ve recently escaped Dragon Con in Atlanta, and as such have spent the past few days trying to catch up on work emails and sleep and writing and the like. Having sufficiently done that, I feel like it’s time for a little reflection.

Dragon Con was only my second proper SFF convention, my fourth convention ever. I went to the first Escapist Expo back when that was still a thing–before that magazine tanked. Then I went to Animazement in Raleigh, because it was there and I wanted to buy stuff, more or less. I also attended ConCarolinas in 2014, where I met and had dinner with the great George R.R. Martin, which remains one of the highlights of my life despite it being extremely awkward and my not really knowing at all what to say. Of those three, Animazement was by far the largest, hovering somewhere around 10,000 attendees, if I recall rightly.

Dragon Con 2016 had almost 80,000 attendees.

That’s crazy. 

If you’ve never been, it’s so large that it inhabits I think four hotels in downtown Atlanta: the Westin, the Hyatt, the Mariott, and the Hilton. It’s spread out along a few blocks of downtown so the whole city is magically transformed and it’s just wall-to-wall Harley Quinn cosplayers and lightsabers for as far as the eye can see.

And while I did take my lightsaber with me for the express purpose of fighting Kylo Ren cosplayers, I went to work, and working at such a convention is to be almost a part of a different species. You’re on your feet all day, bound to a schedule, bound to perform at booths and to turn up for panels, as well as all manner of social engagements and the like. It’s hectic. Sure, it’s hectic for the attendees, too, but it’s a vacation, right? I didn’t have the luxury of sitting in line for hours to meet Alex Kingston–as much as I really wanted to do that. And sure, I wish I could have stayed up until 3 AM partying with all the cool kids, but I didn’t because I’m super old and fell asleep at about 1 in the morning. Whee.

But what I did get was to meet authors, most of them because of my employment with Baen Books. I got to meet Timothy Zahn, whose Star Wars novel Heir to the Empire was the first book I ever bought. Hell, I got to have brunch with him (and many other authors from Baen’s stable). I got lost in downtown Atlanta, and was helped to safety by Kevin J. Anderson, whose Jedi Academy books my father read to me when I was little, and whose Dune prequels defined a whole period of my life. I broke bread with writers like David B. Coe, and had drinks with Charles Gannon and Mike Williamson. I met my friend Sonia Lyris in the flesh for the first time. I am a little sad I missed Christopher Paolini. Eragon was a big deal for me in elementary school and I’d have dearly loved to meet him.

I also met Anne Sowards, the editor over at Ace who nearly bought my book before it went to DAW, and we had a brief but lovely conversation, and I’m very glad I braved the parade grounds to meet her.

And the truly great thing about all of this is that the experience made me feel “like an author,” if such a feeling can be said to exist at all. I spent a little time talking craft with my fellow writers and no one checked me for being a newcomer, a neophyte. I was taken seriously and welcomed into the fold without pomp or exception. It was marvelous. Marvelous because until now I’ve felt like I’m not really an author, not yet. I’m just some guy who sold some book he wrote that’ll come out in like a year and a half. But my whole experience has been very self-affirming, very validating. I guess I’ve felt like I was kind of a fraud until now, saying I was an author but without a book to show for it. I feel less so now, having been welcomed so heartily by so many.

I feel very welcome, and I’m happy to be here.

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