I have been going to RadCon off-and-on since 2009 (RadCon 5A). For perspective, I was 24 or 25. I hate math. It is safe to say that I usually have a good time; usually encounter people I don't want to see and many more that I do. I cannot be certain what years I attended, some memories are erased in all forms (including my own photographic evidence). It has spanned one husband, three boyfriends, four cats, about 7 different "homes" across three states, and half a dozen hair colors.
I usually wear an assortment of home-designed costumes, thrown together from bits and pieces I buy in shops along the way. Below, RadCon 5B in 2010.
Some of my favorite events at RadCon have always included the Writing Panels, the two-night rave/dance on Friday and Saturday nights and the IGNITION FIRE SHOW on Saturday Night. The room parties were (until this most recent year) my favorite part of any and every evening at RadCon. I have had Toxic Waste, Cthulhu Goo and Mad Marmot, slurped down sour gummy worms floating with dry ice, had Klingon Blood wine and a tasty shot called Butt Stallion (BUTT STALLION!). I have given more money than I ever had to drinks (which in turn goes to, usually, some kind of charity or to fund another convention), vendors and hotels.
I have met authors and writers and editors and readers--and crazy Russian women who yell at you in the hallway and then try to sell you her book. I have learned writing tricks, tips, coveted software, websites and hooks. I've followed many of these authors on social media ever since (I'm far too shy to legitimately network). I've attended as many "How To Worldbuild," "Outline versus No Outline," "Where Do You Get Your Ideas From," and "X Author Tells All" panels as I could stumble to (from drinking or sore feet, they both happen at conventions). This past year (RadCon 7something) I attended "To Outline or Not To Outline" and "Self Publishing 101."
I have bought trinkets--bits of bones, feathered gloves, skirts and corsets from some of my favorite ladies in the world (Jane with Seams like Magik and Michelle from Damsels In This Dress). I've played card games and board games and role-playing games with friends, old and new, and even some strangers...
It's a party convention, that's true--at night, the upper level of the Red Lion is loud with people drinking and conversing. I have been one of those loud, drunk people... and I have been the quiet, sober one (and going forward, that's probably going to be me!). It is also a convention that promotes local authors, encourages and educates with panels like "Introduction to Japanese," "How to make thrift store costumes" (which is an amazing skill to have), "Tea with the Dutchess" (there is actual tea and actual biscuits and..!), there are random readings by authors you may not know you love yet. You can bring books to have signed by favorite authors! You can buy art or art prints! You can buy costumes! You can make friends if you're so inclined!
I have danced with hundreds of other crazy kids, or in small room parties with great DJs. I've been welcomed by strangers with glowsticks who made me feel at home. I've danced by myself or with men, women and some I never knew, or needed to know. I've been thankful to have a great experience most of the time. I understand conventions are a difficult beast to wrangle. I have volunteered on convention committees in the past (in pretty low-responsibility positions), and I have seen people bust their asses year-round for one or three day conventions. There are always going to be hiccups, things that get lost in the cracks, issues that are not dealt with the way they should be--
But a convention is another life. It is a chance to be someone else (and perhaps, yourself) for a few times a year. Now more than ever--we need these bastions of seclusion and education. We need writing panels to teach and inspire all authors, of all ages, of all walks of life--and any other panels. We need culture and arts, humanities, more than we have ever needed them. We need strong security, strong ConCom, strong fans, to make a strong convention.
We need Science Fiction and Fantasy, and authors and costumers, makeup artists, thrift store costume queens (and kings), that drunk you see every year (but as long as you see them, they, they are still alive!), that shy girl in the corner, that person running as Vice-Chair or Co-Chair of something-to-do-with-RadCon-or-another-Convention-who-hey-don't-they-also-work-at-a-local-school-or-something? We're all people. I've had some trouble in the past before, and people I will always hate and never forget, that's just life.
I am thankful that this past RadCon I was able to move around freely, to not see anyone I didn't want to see (with a few eerie doppelgangers that caused my heart to skip a beat and maybe reach for a baseball bat), to connect briefly with friends--old and new--with the understanding that some of these people are "convention friends and family." Most of these people, even if we live in the same damn city, I may only see out-of-town at conventions. I may know people only by face, or by a moniker (I struggle to remember Princess' real name, or that one guy who works security who always says hello and WHY CAN'T I EVER REMEMBER HIS NAME). But for a few nights a year--we are all varying shades of drunk, sober, silly, loud, shy, nerdy, angry--family.
See you next year, Space Cowboy.