First of all, I need to tell you that I straight up just Googled the word “been” because it looked so weird and wrong when I typed it that I had a sudden wave of worry about whether maybe I had hallucinated the word entirely. Turns out I didn’t, so ten victory points for me.
I went on vacation last week! Hooray! Every August we go out to Indianapolis for GenCon, which is a massive tabletop gaming convention. When I say massive, I’m talking like…60,000+ attendees. It’s crazy.
You’d think it would be an introvert’s worst nightmare considering the vast sea of humanity that 60,000 people represents. And in some respects, that’s accurate. There are parts of GenCon that would send most introverts screaming for the hills. But, in other respects, a place so packed with people can also be very introvert-friendly. It’s incredibly easy to be anonymous in such a large crowd, and the background babble of thousands of voices becomes almost soothing and brook-like after a while. You’re also in the middle of nerd Mecca at GenCon, which can be really liberating. Whether you’re a board gamer or an anime cosplayer, a steampunk enthusiast, a Star Wars fan or someone who is into feudal Japanese culture, it’s not like anyone is there to pursue NON-nerdy interests so there’s not really a ton of judgemental bullshit. I mean, there are always assholes, and GenCon is no exception, but by and large there’s a pervasive attitude of what I like to think of as Nerdmaste – ie: the nerd in me recognizes and respects the nerd in you.
GenCon is NOT a relaxing vacation. It’s a ton of walking (I averaged like 3.5 miles a day), Indianapolis is as HOT AND MOIST AS SATAN’S TAINT in August, and all that social interaction tends have a high mental cost for some of the less humanity-tolerant among us (aka: me). There’s also usually a lack of sleep which compounds over the course of the con. When it comes to sleep deprivation, the drop-off from “oh gods, so tired” to fucking Chernobyl-esque radioactive melt-downs is real quick for me, and there’s basically no middle ground. So, while staying up until 2:30 in the morning playing games and drinking beer with friends is definitely a good time, it’s also something that I end up paying a heavy cumulative brain tax for.
This year it was an especially busy con for me because I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to just kind of float along behind my husband or hide in the crafting rooms like I have in past years. I went through the events schedule and picked some games that looked interesting to me (more on those in a future post. WHEEE, look at her try to plan ahead! It will all end in flames, I’m sure of it), bought tickets for them, and played them even though no one I knew was going to be playing with me. That admittedly was not easy for me to do, but I’m really glad I did it.
Another thing I did this year that I really enjoyed was volunteering for a couple shifts at the Worldbuilders booth. Worldbuilders is a charity founded by one of my favorite writers, Pat Rothfuss. They raise money for great organizations like Heifer International and Mercy Corps, both of which do a lot of good for many people in need. A Twitter friend had given me the heads-up that Worldbuilders was looking for some people to help sling merch (all the proceeds of which go directly to the charity) during the convention and I jumped at the chance to get involved. The Worldbuilders folks were all nice and working the booth gave me a chance to chat with a lot of people I probably would never have otherwise talked to.
Working at Worldbuilders also brought about an opportunity to meet another of my very favorite writers, Scott Lynch, which was VERY exciting. During my first shift at the booth, someone picked up a copy of Lynch’s first book, ‘Lies of Locke Lamora‘, and when I commented how much I loved the book, the person reminded me that Lynch was going to be doing a signing at GenCon the next day. I bought a copy of ‘Lies‘ after my shift and managed to be one of the first few people in line for the signing the next day.
Scott Lynch, for the record, is the coolest. He rounded the corner headed for the signing table, saw a bunch of us standing in line and said “wow, are you guys all here for ME?” When we all said yes, he came over and went down the line, shaking everyone’s hands and making chit-chat with the dozen or so of us that had accumulated. That was super cool. Then, when the woman in front of me in line had like four books for him to sign and wanted to have her picture taken with him, he was not only accommodating but seemed genuinely happy to do so. He just struck me as a really humble, authentic person and it totally made my day.
Then it was MY turn to have my book signed, and I went into complete fan-girl choke mode. Like, the most I could get out was “Mark…with a K…” when he asked me who I’d like the book personalized for. All I really wanted in that moment was to tell him how his public honesty about his struggles with depression and anxiety really meant a lot to so many of us who fight similar battles, but how the fuck do you broach that subject, you know? There’s no good segue from “how do you want this book made out” to “hey, thanks for admitting that you’re fucked in the head, because it gives the rest of us who are fucked in the head some much-needed hope and perspective.” So…yeah. I couldn’t say it, but I was beaming those thoughts at him super hard while I was standing there, so maybe he caught a little ripple of them. I hope so.
Stay tuned for a post about the actual games I played at the con, coming up just as soon as I can get caught up on sleep and work.