All across the world from the United States to Europe, Australia, and more, large groups of readers and writers of the science fiction and fantasy genre gather together to experience and talk about all that is weird and wonderful about the books they love. Some conventions are huge with tens of thousands of attendees and others are smaller local affairs of a few hundred. Both types are incredibly useful as an author and offer much both as a resource for writing material, a writing conference to learn your craft, and a place to hang out and talk about your love for Star Wars or Dr. Who without getting odd looks from your mother. One of the reasons I choose to be a science fiction and fantasy author, besides the fact that I love the genre, is that it has a well-established circuit of literary conventions.
The conventions have different “tracks” within them. This is a series of programming at the convention that ties in with certain people and interests. Sometimes there is a separate charge or area for the different tracks, but often the programming is left wide open allowing the attendee to enjoy what interests them.
This is where I usually hang out. The writing track is a mini writer’s conference within the convention. Panels and workshops about the writing craft, tropes in the genre, how to market your books, and readings by established authors or up and coming writers are featured. This is also where the podcasters and movie buffs hang out.
A filk singer is someone who takes a well-known song and gives it new lyrics, in this case, of a science fiction or fantasy nature. It is sort of like fanfiction for musicians. The better-known filkers are set up to perform throughout the evenings to provide exposure for their art and to provide entertainment to the attendees. It is common to see people with folk guitars lounging around the commons of a convention on any given day.
Attendees who wear costumes and groups of people that enjoy creating them have been a big part the science fiction community for as long as I remember. You’ll see people dressed as Jedi knights, in star trek uniforms, and many other pop culture icons. Usually, if you ask politely, they are happy to stop and pose for a picture with you. On Saturday night, there is often a masquerade ball where the costumes are judged and prizes are awarded based on their creativity.
Science fiction attracts a large number of engineers, doctors, and other professionals who come to let out their geek side for the weekend. Most conventions will feature lectures and presentations by these scientists that rival ones I’ve seen at JPL and other institutions. These are talks about the planets, new technology, mathematics, physics and a host of other subjects. As a science fiction author, I find these to be gold mines of information that I can later use in my stories.
Another track that I am very much a part of, the artist track consists of the vendors in the dealer room that sell all sorts of science fiction related items from books to soft goods, jewelry, and much more. There is also an art show where 2D and 3D art is on display and for sale in a boutique to the attendees. Before I became an author, I was a dealer of jewelry for around twenty years. I sold Celtic and Science Fiction themed jewelry in the dealer rooms or more recently, my prints of Scifaiku Poetry in the art shows. I still book tables for my jewelry and books from time to time, but these days I’m more often in panels or giving presentations in addition to my readings.
I consider these conventions to be a “leg” of my author platform and every bit as important as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I attend several each year and always see a bump in my online sales along with the books I sell at the event. It also proves to be a great place to network. I find new authors to interview for my blog, guest posters, and people to interview me in turn.
While you certainly can book a table to sell your books at the convention, I found that joining a writing guild and sharing a table proves to be more beneficial. That way you get time at the table to do signings, but you also can get away to enjoy the panels and other fun events of the convention. The guild I belong to is Broad Universe, a writing guild that promotes women writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. It is a national writing guild and we host tables and readings at most of the larger conventions in the United States. However, there are many other guilds represented at the various conventions. As an author, you simply need to check out what is available in your local area and move forward from there. If you are attached to a small press, often times they will host a table for their stable of authors too.
Science Fiction Conventions are fun! The creative energy in the place is like nothing I’ve experienced anywhere else. If you haven’t been to one, find a smaller local one and get your feet wet. Release your inner geek. Beyond selling books and doing readings of your work, you might find a place where you can relax and chat about your favorite books and movies on a level you have never experienced before.