Asta moving too slowly to escape the lens of SFRevu.

True Confessions of a Con Virgin
By Asta Sinusas

Asta is both a columnist covering the Canadian SF scene for SFRevu and a regular review contributor. Recently she joined the NYC publishing ranks at St. Martin's Press where she's working in publicity. Though I've known her for several years, and though I've always known she was sweet, bright, attractive and literate, I had no idea she was a con virgin. Well, the 2001 Worldcon was certainly a good place to take care of that! - Ernest Lilley

I'd never been to a Science Fiction con, although I've been a fan for several years. Now that I've joined the working ranks as a publicist, though, I decided it was time for me to get my feet wet. A Worldcon only two hours from my home was too good an opportunity to pass up.

Somewhat apprehensive about going to my first con, I asked for advice from some regular goers. This is what they told me:

  • wear comfortable shoes – there’s a lot of walking

  • bring water – you don’t know where the nearest supply will be

  • use a backpack – it makes it easier to carry items and keep your hands free

I had planned for a weekend in Philadelphia, a place I thought was a metropolitan center. They made it sound like I was preparing for a month long trek across the Sahara! 

Veterans clued me in about the treasure trove called the dealer’s room (leave your credit cards at home), the wondrous artifacts that would appear in the art show (leave all financial instruments at home), the many tracks of panels and the program book that would become my bible. Be prepared for people in costume, one whispered, even outside of masquerading hours. I thought I was ready for it all.

I entered the main convention hall, registered, got my program guide and dutifully sat down to plan my day. There was too much choice! How unfair could the convention planners be to schedule more than one thing that appealed to me at a time? However, plans for lunch overrode any injustice, and I met a friend who was coming for the day, at the designated location and time. Over lunch, I could see one panel in particular intrigued him.

We returned to the con and started going through the dealers’ room to while away time. My mistake. My friend, a fan since first edition Heinleins, had never been to a con and it seems there were a few L. Sprague deCamp books there that he didn’t already possess. It was the better part of an hour before I finally pulled him away. A few minutes into the “Under-Plundered Mythologies” panel, I asked in a low voice if he was enjoying the discussion. “I envy you” he replied solemnly, “because you get a whole weekend of this.”

Needless to say, I soon found myself immersed in panel after panel, so overload eventually occurred. I spent some time recuperating and perusing and lusting back in the dealer’s room. I also attempted to kick back in my hotel room (wouldn’t give up the Loews Hotel art deco décor for a closer walk from the con hotel) and ended up getting involved in Steven Coonts’s Saucer (due out in March 2002). It was a tough decision, but I finally tore myself away and went on a docent tour. I’m glad I did, because I got to see science fiction art in a whole new light and extended my visual vocabulary beyond, “I like it, “ or “I hate it.”

I ended up not going to the Masquerade or Hugos, (dinner plans led me astray) but instead concentrated on party hopping through all the different bid suites. I attacked the night like a general, party list in hand, making sure I got to each and every gathering. Then I realized it wasn’t the room, it was who was in them that mattered. However, if I had to pick a favorite, it would be the 2012 Chichen Itza bid suite and their preparation of that famous Mayan delicacy - ice cream frozen with liquid nitrogen.

It wasn’t just that I met a lot of new people over the weekend, but that I got to spend a lot of time furthering the acquaintance of friends I see all too infrequently. Back in reality, my brain is still attempting to sort through the mad jumble of images and ideas.

I am sure there is life outside parties and panels and when they start to lose their luster, I will venture into other areas of fandom like gaming, filking or junkyard wars.  In the meantime, I am looking back with fondness and wonder, but looking forward to the next one with a more cautious and practiced eye, a con virgin no more!