If you have a talent, use it in every which way possible. Don't hoard it. Don't dole it out like a miser. Spend it lavishly, like a millionaire intent on going broke.
No Such Convention 2014
The schedule reveals that the room should have been clear of panels for the last couple of hours, but a quick check with the organizers reveal that "Feminism in Cosplay" had been moved so that they could use a projector their room lacks. The room they usurped is just as lacking, which is apparently not an issue. Having moved once, they are not about to shift rooms easily.
Daniel pops his head in and asks if this is the "Monsters You Don't Know" panel. They hiss at him that they'll be done in a few minutes, which he relays to me with a shrug.
"I don't want to be the straight, white male here, but they need to learn their place. Specifically, not in the room where I should be setting up my panel. Ideally, in any other room but the ones that are booked."
A few people leave at the behest of the con staff, though only enough to block the door and prevent my sending in more people to ask when they will be vacating. An older gentleman and his daughter loiter by the entrance and I convey my assurances that we are moving with all due haste.
When I entered a few minutes late, I inform remaining in the room that they are forced to stay as Daniel will be blocking exit. They seem copacetic about this, as do they about the several minutes I spend fumbling with cables that do not work.
I get partway through my panel, just touching on the potentially causes of the Mothman in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, when the lights go out. I wave my arms goofily, thinking the lights are on a sensor, but then I hear the shouting. I open the door a crack and realize every main light is off, with only the emergency lights to guide us. I move to open the door more to get what illumination we can, but Julia, a small teenager who is likely the unofficial vice president of my imaginary fan club, informs me that she is panicking and, if we have the door open, someone could come in to kill us. I close the door again, pointing out that only my laptop prevents us from sitting in darkness. While this is fine mood lighting for a lecture on things that go bump in the night and though I can probably wing it without my notes, it is a bit dim.
Half the people in the room take out cell phones and set them to spotlight me, which is the coolest thing to happen to me in a while. I ramble on about cryptids and the paranormal for a few more minutes, since I technically need neither a visible audience nor a topic to get a fine ramble brewing. By this point, I've researched so much that I know more about the Mad Gasser of Mattoon than I do my deceased grandmothers.
I remind myself to speak slowly and confidently, as my reaction before most audiences (at least those I can see) is to regurgitate as much half-digested information as quickly as possible. Audiences tend to dislike being vomited upon. During my panel the night before on local myth, I sped through an hour and a half worth of material (including a real serial killer wrapped up with a cult and a legally haunted house) in a bit over forty minutes, then assumed the look of a startled fish until someone threw me another subject. My family came to that panel, including my three out of six of my niblings, since my brother and sister-in-law were celebrating the birth of the sixth (little Adalynn, on whom I gleefully and preemptively blamed my poor performance that night). Given the presence of small children, albeit one's related to me, I felt the need to tone down the carnage, telling them to avert their eyes when I show pictures of brutally abused patients and a deer half-eaten, supposedly by one of the local Bigfoots.
I don't get much further into my planned remarks when someone from the convention pops their heads in and says we all have to leave immediately, that the building is being evacuated. In a flash, Daniel is standing by the door, handing out my business cards to those who are exiting. A man asks whether my books are serious and I assure him that they are about as serious as my talk had been, which is to say that the topics might be somber but my delivery isn't.
Perhaps infected by Julia's concern, I scan around for the presence of freaked out or gun-wielding people. Aside from staff ushering people to the doors and the merchants packing up, the worst I sense is a subdued excitement that something is happening, mixed with irritation from the vendors that they had to lose out on an hour of sitting bored.
The man from my talk stops by my table and begins asking questions about my series. Just as I am about to reiterate that we really ought to be going, he says he would like to buy one of each.
"Sir, please take as much time as you need. Did you have any further questions I could help you with?" I say. Honestly, it will be at least another half hour of helping Amber move her art into a locked room. No need to rush simply because we are being evacuated.
The next morning, I check my email and see that I have acquired new followers on Twitter and I have an email from a man asking if I am going to be reprising my aborted panel. I ask the staff of the convention whether that might be possible and they gladly give me a room to fill out their lost programming.
As much as they take out of me-I do a lot more planning for my panels than may seem evidence in my terror at an audience and I did published Find What You Love and Let It Kill You in part to have something new to sell-I love working cons because of the sense of community. Irrespective of little beyond a tweet the night before, a woman dressed as Kaylee Frye from Firefly asks me to sign her tablecloth and then makes Amber a button out of one of her business cards. I am frequently beset by people who, if not specifically interested in my books, are at least keen on the genre which I write. When I visit the game room to check things out and stretch my legs, I walk out with slices of pizza, candy, and bottles of water happily handed to me for no reason other than that I was there. The only less than excited vibes come from the college students, some of whom seem to think the con-goers are interlopers due for a snubbing.
The con-goers people feel exiled from the core of their daily lives and so cling avidly when they encounter people who genuinely understand them. For a few days, they can be someone else: themselves, unguarded. Year, they are wearing candy corn horns and gray face paint, but they are much more themselves than they can be at school. They do not have long to affiliate and they can't waste a moment caring about anything but their shared interest. They get to belong and I get paid to be a small part of that. What could be better?
Soon in Xenology: Wedding planning. The perils of poverty.