As you read this, the Dragon Awards come barreling down upon us like a freight train. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t think that I’ve ever really gotten over the whole Hugo Awards thing from 2015. I know I should, and a better person would, but I’ll be the first to admit to being a spiteful man who had been through too much in his life to easily forgive personal attacks.
That being said, it’s Dragoncon weekend and I won’t be there. Why? Well for multiple reasons, but the main one is there are just too many people.
Like many authors, I don’t do too well around large groups of people. Now, I’ve been in front of a few hundred people to over a few thousand at one time without problem. How, you might ask? Because I’m not in the middle of said crowd with wall-to-wall people crushing down on me. I’m on the outskirts, looking in.
I’m not quite certain where this dislike of large crowds came from. When I was in high school and college I had no issue with concerts, sporting events, or even a pep rally. It was just a thing that I was going to, no big deal. Even while in the Navy I was okay with being crammed in a tiny space with a bunch of other people and nowhere to go for weeks on end.
Nowadays I hate being in the middle of any group larger than 15. I’ve spoken with many other authors who feel the same way and I’ve started to wonder if being an author requires them to be anti-social. I know most authors are not the, uh, easiest to get along with (“cantankerous old bastard” is the term used most often) but is it because we’re just curmudgeonly by nature or is it something else? Is it that we are required to live in worlds of our making for so long that when we delve out into the “real” world we turn sour because the real world sucks?
I’ve dealt with this feeling for years, personally. I watched Back to the Future Part II when I was younger and damn it all to Hell I wanted my flying Delorean! It’s 2017 and the best we got is a fidget spinner so yeah, I’m severely disappointed with the way our “future” is going. To counter this I got back into novels where the future is hopeful and promising.
Perhaps this is why I’m not a fan of the trend in YA for dystopian futures? It’s almost like the authors are telling kids “don’t dream because while you may have two hot hunks chasing you the future sucks”. Many authors in the MGC are in the same boat, eschewing dystopia for a more hopeful future. Not all, though, but most. I think it’s a common thread between us that we all write about brighter futures because that’s what we want.
(ed. note: while Jason prefers heroic space operas, he has dipped his toe into some dystopian features, so he’s not truly innocent in this… but we do know that he’s really wanting to avoid falling into this trap)
Coming back full circle, though, I think that this is why I love the idea of Dragoncon and, relatedly, the Dragon Awards.
Fans go to most conventions to meet their favorite authors and actors. Dragoncon provides both, but also provides an atmosphere which takes any fan back to a time of hope and celebration. A person can dream again at these cons. It’s… refreshing to see that in a time of volatility we can still come together and have fun.
The Dragon Awards seem to celebrate this, allowing fans to vote midst a wide voter pool and celebrate what they actually like. For famous authors and not-quite-there-yet authors alike, the chance for a coveted Dragon is affirmation that not only is their stuff read, but it is popular at one of the largest conventions around. It’s a chance for the dreamers to see their stories honored, no matter what their beliefs are. It can put together guys like Larry Correia and Eric Flint and say “Both of you are worth celebrating.”
It’s a dreamer’s dream come to life. I, for one, will join in on the celebration from afar.
Enjoy your Dragoncon, everyone. Hoist one for me.
Jason is re-releasing his first ever novel, Corruptor, on September 8, 2017. The sequel, Devastator, will be coming out in November. In the meantime, he wants to show off the cover for Wraithkin’s sequel, titled Darkling. He’s weird like that.
Another possibility is that writing is an option for people with an anti-social bent. My father has never tried writing, but dislikes crowds, too. An ancestor who moved West until he died might have shared the same dislike. One way to read the myths about Vulcan/Hephaestus is a loner who felt more at home with his forge than people, so this is hardly a new phenomenon. The key thing is the ability to be away from crowds, whether it’s hammering out metal, or clearing land on the frontier, or on a tractor in the middle of a field, or at a desk writing a story.
I doubt I’ll ever go to Dragoncon because it’s in downtown Atlanta. I’ve nothing against Atlanta besides it being a city, and there are interesting places to see there, but it’s a city. That weighs more on me that the infamous Atlanta traffic. I just don’t care to be in a crowd.
Having driven through Atlanta at (anything but) rush hour… good idea. That made Chicago seem not quite so bad. Yeah, I said something almost nice about Chicago. But only almost.
pfff. I’ve been in Atlanta traffic a few times. DC beltway is worse, L.A. is worse. besides, when you go to DragonCon you drive twice: into Atlanta, then out.
“Another possibility is that writing is an option for people with an anti-social bent.”
Certainly true for IT, and software / hardware developers in particular; we’d rather deal with machines than people. We might be able to handle presentations, or might not. And my tolerance for crowds has gotten less as I grow older.
I feel the same about crowds. I know exactly when that switch flipped for the whole avoidance to large groups of strangers. I was working the door of a pub during a street Jazz festival…. I couldn’t abandon my post. There was nowhere to go. Since then I can only handle crowds in small doses.
Funny about creatives being the same way, I know quite a few that can’t deal with large groups of people. “It’s too peoply out” is the expression.
Christmas Day, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna. Trying to leave after the 1000 Mass. The crowd got locked as people tried to come in as we were leaving and jammed the main doors. Ever since then crowds make me very, very uncomfortable. I can address large groups of people, but crowds but me. I like small groups, medium-sized groups also make me uncomfortable, and I avoid crowds to this day. I need an escape route.
As I get older, I lose my ability to “People” well. I can handle something impersonal like going to Disney with the Dragonette, but having to interact with more than a small group of friends is exhausting.
I think it does have to do with how much of our lives happen in our heads. I’m not a writer, lacking the skill to put the worlds in my head down on paper in anything resembling coherence, but I’d rather be in a corner with a book than in a crowd being social.
I’ve been to DragonCon, and it was absolutely awesome. Just about anything geeky you like? Yeah, there are panels on that! I got to meet people I’d only known online, got to see lots and lots of wonderful costumes, from the incredibly amazing technical challenges to ones that owed more to a healthy self-image, personal trainer, and body paint than fabric…
But the foyers(s) are only possible to move through via Brownian motion. And after a while, that got to be too much for me. I ended up finding the smoking areas not because I smoke, but because smokers are pariahs who get avoided by others, and therefore have more space! When I found Baen’s Barfly central, I ended up there for hours, because it was few enough people for my overstimulated brain to handle.
I love LibertyCon. It’s still too many people, enough so that I didn’t even get to meet everyone I wanted to much less stay and chat, but it’s small enough to be fun!
I dislike dystopian YA intensely now, but as a teen, I was fond of the ones I read – mainly John Christopher’s stuff (the Tripod Trilogy is what he’s best known for), maybe because teen life is kind of a dystopia to begin with.
I don’t ever plan to read The Hunger Games, just because the thought of children killing other children is completely repellent to me, but as a teen, I would have been all for it, and would probably have had some candidates in mind.
Yep. I read a few too many late 1980s distopias, YA and otherwise. A lot seemed to be either post-nuclear war glowing wasteland (Z for Zachariah, the Horseclans series, et cetera) or post nuclear-winter (don’t recall). I don’t care for them anymore.
I find it’s the undirected social interaction that tires me. Constrained interaction — social interaction focused on a single topic — is far less taxing. Consider a typical restaurant server — you’ll hear some minor pleasantries like, “How are you today?” and a handful of questions about the food: “Does everything look right?”, “Can I refill your tea?”, “Anything else tonight?”, etc. A waiter asking questions about what I’m reading or my plans for Memorial Day weekend is more taxing than walking through a crowded city or riding public transportation.
My nightmare scenario is the in-law’s family reunion. I know perhaps twenty of my in-laws, but a few hundred people will attend my wife’s family reunion, and let’s just say I have at least two reasons to call most of them relative strangers. Enough of them are extroverts that make the rounds, trying to meet everyone, that it’s hard for me to get any time alone.
One reason I wrote the Shikhari series as YA appropriate is because I’m tired of all YA books seeming to be about 1) dystopias, 2) horribly disfunctional families, 3) something sex related, 4) disease sagas. How about a rowdy adventure where the kids are supported by a happy (aside from teenage temper fits) family where the good kids win and the bad guys get their just deserts?
Release date is about two weeks from now, if my laptop gets back from the shop in time. Otherwise as soon after the ‘puter’s home as is possible.
Awards definitely should be for something you like, rather than what’s fashionable or “in.” (I’m not into fashionable or “in,” anyway. Bores me silly.)
I’d rather write a dystopian future that people actually escape from, and make a better future somehow against long odds — but is that truly dystopian? (Sources vary.)
Antisocial/writers…don’t know about that, as I don’t want to speak for all writers and I know there must be a few here and there that are actually extroverts and draw energy from crowds. (That I am not one of those extroverts? I’ve learned to live with it.) I do know that I’m OK playing music in front of crowds, but I would prefer not to be in a crowd otherwise. Small groups work, ’cause I can actually have decent one-on-one interaction; otherwise, I get frustrated and wonder what I’m doing there.
Good post, Jason.
The Dragons this year are unique in the awards season, in that they have a book nominated that I have actually read. And liked.
That never happens. But it has happened two years in a row with the Dragons, this year and last year. So for that reason alone, I think the Dragon Awards are bringing something unique to the field of Science Fiction and Fantasy.
I, old geezer that I am, spent the day at Fan Expo in Toronto. Tiring, and nerve wracking from the crowds of course, but I did okay. I managed to walk Young Relative into the ground, quite an accomplishment with the knee and the cane etc.
I found myself thinking about how my characters would do in that environment. Fan Expo is a ComicCon type event, all cosplay and characters, comic books, anime, all that stuff. The number of clearly autistic kids was huge. The ones that walk funny, look funny, talk funny, the zoned-out ones, the ones counting on their fingers, they were all there today, dressed up. It was pretty cool, and I felt right at home.
Those kids do not need more post-apocalypse death and destruction bullshit to read about. They need HEROS. They need them badly. They need to read about people rising above, overcoming, people building amazing things and amazing lives. That’s what we should be doing, and its what I will keep trying to do in my own small way.
The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block, and the Creative Brain by Alice W. Flaherty
An excellent book for those considering the peculiarities of the writer’s mind.