Monday, May 27, 2013

WisCon (edited a few hours later)

Did I mention, I went to WisCon this year?  We left Friday morning, and got back a couple hours ago.  It's my first time, so I was asked often about my experience.  Was I having fun?  I still don't know how to answer that.  The question doesn't really make sense to me.  I succeeded.  I had appropriate social interactions with strangers.  I attended things.  I asked questions that were mostly not stupid.  I took notes.  I made it through and then got us home again.  I successfully evaluated my abilities, removed myself from situations I couldn't handle, and took appropriate measures to take care of myself.  But conversations with strangers, no matter how well handled, are a kind of performance.  I had a task to do, and I could be pleased at doing it well, but without context, without any familiarity, without the expectation that we would ever have a conversation again, there was no connection.  People rotated in and then out again.  Any ground I might have gained at dinner, in advancing a friendly relationship, was lost when dinner was over and everyone regrouped.  It was a profoundly lonely experience.

And the conversations were few.  There was one dinner organized for newcomers to meet and socialize, but other than that, the opportunities were up to me to create.  There were parties every night, all of them with a theme.  Here is a party for queer people who like Dr. Who.  Here is a party for people who want to meet representatives of a magazine.  And, of course, no one would kick me out if I attended a party about an upcoming issue release, even though I haven't heard of it, nor am I interested, but there's a big difference between "not kicked out," and "invited."  And if I found a party I had some connection to, I would still be spending the evening approaching strangers, attempting conversation, and then regrouping and doing it again.  I had enough energy to try the first night.  After that, I mostly stayed in my room after programming was over.

When people asked me if I was having fun, it meant that I should be having fun.  It meant that there was fun to be had, fun I was missing.  I didn't understand.  What was I supposed to be doing that I wasn't?  What was I missing?  

I'm being a little glib.  I do understand that many people come to WisCon and find themselves surrounded, not by strangers, but dear and familiar faces.  That they have a place to meet up in person with people who are otherwise only around virtually.  I also know that some people can forge meaningful connections while waiting for a slow elevator.  Some people find meeting new people, even if only for a night, maybe especially only for a night, freeing and thrilling and lots of fun.  Some people don't need or want those connections.  I also know that the con is designed for a fandom that I do not entirely inhabit.  And so even a newcomer, alone, might find themselves at home in the Queer People Love Time Lords parties and viewing parties and panels.  It's not that there wasn't any fun to be had.  I just didn't have the tools to have it.

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