RETRO POST: My First Con: It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This

I am on an Internet Vacation this week. I promised one old post and one new post each day while I was on vacation. This is the sixth of my old posts. It was originally posted back on April 21, 2007. I brought this one back because I can’t believe how incredibly fortunate I was when I attended a science fiction convention for the first time, and even though it was five years ago, I still remember it well.

What started out slow turned into something completely unexpected. I’ve just gotten home (10:30 PM) after having one of the coolest experiences of my life. I’m so in awe that I’m not certain I can describe this coherently, but I will try.

 Pinch me to see if I am dreaming...I didn’t do much for most of the morning. I wandered around the convention, and mostly felt a bit out of place. There were lots of people in costumes, the source of which I could not identify. There was also a great deal of smoking going on which surprised me, but which shouldn’t have, I suppose.

Finally, at 1 PM, I headed into the first of three four sessions in which I was interested. This first session was a moderated interview with the Ravencon Guest of Honor, Robert J. Sawyer. Now keep in mind, Rob Sawyer is big time, and I have read six or seven of his book and enjoyed them all. His latest book, Rollback was serialized in ANALOG and I read each part with avidity and could not wait until the next one came out. So it was he who was being interviewed and the interview was being recorded for a podcast. It was very interesting, and at times, funny. When it was all over and as people filtered out, I summoned the nerve to introduce myself to Rob. I walked up to him, shook his hand, and said, “Hi Rob–” I was about to say my name when he looked at my badge and said, “Jamie Rubin. Yes, Michael Burstein said you might be coming here. It’s very nice to meet you.” We chatted for a moment and then he added, “Listen, several of us are getting together at 6 PM for dinner, why don’t you join us.” I accepted at once and was utterly and completely–oh forget it, words can’t describe how I felt, but it was awesome!

Riding this high, I headed over to the restaurant for a gab session with Edmund Schubert, who is the editor of Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, and he is the editor who bought my story “When I Kissed the Learned Astronomer” for that magazine. It was awesome. For an hour I was surrounded by several writers and Ed and I talked about writing. At one point, he told me that if I wanted to submit another story, I didn’t have to go through the slush pile. He told me to let him know and he would give me the email address to the managing editor and I could send her the manuscript directly. Ed introduced me around the table as a writer from whom he’d just bought my first story. We really hit it off!

When the hour was up, it was back to a session with Rob Sawyer. He did a reading from Rollback and what surprised me about the reading was that he did it with expression; that is, he did the voices of the characters, the intonations, inflections, all of it. It was very well done, actually. He picked a good section of the story to read from. And interestingly, to me, he did not read from the book, but instead from a PDA that he uses for such things. When that was over there was a question and answer session. This was immediately followed by my fourth event of the day, the Rob Sawyer book signing, which took place in the same room. I hung back until most people had their books signed and then I walked up with my book, as well as a copy of ANALOG that contained Part I of Rollback. Rob greeted me, signed the book and magazine, and reminded me that we were meeting and 6 PM for dinner.

I had some time to kill so I headed for the bar to watch some of the Yankee game. On the way there, I opened up Rollback to see how Rob signs his books, and I was terribly pleased by what he inscribed:

For Jamie — Fellow Writer! Best wishes, Rob Sawyer

Did you see that: fellow writer! I felt as though I would burst at this point.

At the bar, I met a nice couple were not there for the convention but who asked me what it was all about. I did my best to explain, and we watched the Yankee game together for about an hour. They even bought me a beer, and when I tried to buy them a drink before I left, they wouldn’t allow it.

At 6 PM, we met for dinner; we decided to eat in the hotel restaurant. We got a big table and were seated. It will be virtually impossible to tell you everything that went on in the 2 hours we sat there for dinner; but I’ll tell you this, I sat there, eyes like saucers, just drinking it all up. I sat toward one end of the table. On my right was Rob’s wife Carolyn Clink. On my left was Edmund Schubert, and sitting across from my was Ed’s partner in crime, fantasy writer David B. Coe. (He and Ed were hilarious together.) Rob sat next to David. Everyone introduced themselves and when I introduced myself, Rob told everyone that I had just sold my first story to Ed; that led to some congratulations and people asked what the story was about so I had to describe it. The rest of the evening was conversation about the business of writing, for the most part, and I drank it all in. At one point, Rob was describing the editorial acceptance process at TOR and said, “So, for example, if the editor decides that he wants to buy Jamie Rubin’s first book, he would go to Tom Dohertey and…” Every now and then Ed or David would lean to me and whisper, “Are you getting all of this?” How could I not love every minute of it!

The truth is that after this evening, if I never sold another story again, what I have done would have been worth it. Everyone at that table treated me like a writer and for the first time, I felt like a writer. More than anything, this encouraged me to stop delaying and start writing! When we parted, David Coe said to me, “Hopefully when you’re back next year, you’ll be telling us all about the sale of your first novel!” I can’t thank Ed and Rob and David enough. They were extraordinarily generous, going out of their way to make me feel like one of them. For me, it was as though I were allowed to sit in the back room with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope; or that I was invited out on the town with Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada after a game. The feeling I had driving home from Richmond was a high like I’d never felt before. It really doesn’t get any better than this!

In addition to Ed and Rob and Dave’s kindness, I think I also have Michael Burstein (aka mabfan) to thank. Rob said that Michael mentioned that I would be there, and I suspect that without his introduction, I would not have had the same kind of experience as I ended up having this evening. Thanks, Michael!

So my first con was an unparalleled success and I’ve congratulated myself again and again on finally decided to go to one of these things. I gained enormous insights into writing, into fandom, into the business of writing, far too much to process in one evening but all of which is invaluable.

I look forward to attending another one soon.


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