I've been attending cons for some time now, and I've learned that each has a feel to it, rather like the books we all go to talk about. Some are dignified and others comical. Some cater to readers and others to writers. In some the small-time writer feels ignored as the "big guns" waft through the crowds and toss out comments about bidding wars for their next book. In others there's a real feeling that we're all in this together.

What's fun to contemplate for me is the dominant conversation at a con. Mystery cons have the somewhat creepy conversational theme of killing people: how to do it, how to get away with it, how to discover who did it. In corners of the appropriate hotel we discuss poisons (most effectively with Luci the Poison Lady), how to smuggle a gun through an airport, how to hide a decomposing body, how to quickly disable a victim, etc. These are conversations that are wholly unsuited to any other venue; your friends do not want to know how much you know about violent death.

At the Historical Novel Society Con last weekend, I noted a different hum in the conversation. Here are writers enamored of a particular place, person, or event in history. As one walks through crowds or past pairs of chatting acquaintances, it isn't murder she hears, but history that is alive and well. The passion evident in discussions of Napoleon's intentions for Russia or Cleopatra's true feelings for Antony might make one think that these people still breathe, still matter to the world, though we know they're long dead. To those of us who write about them, they do.

I've never been to any other type of con, but I can imagine that each has its own aura. Sci-fi must be a real stitch!

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Comment by I. J. Parker on June 20, 2009 at 12:20am
There are a lot of deplorable fads among historical novel readers and writers.
Comment by Dana King on June 19, 2009 at 11:42pm
Funny you should mention sci-fi. I have read--I forget where--that they operate on somewhat of a caste system. The writer whose blog I read was delighted at her first mystery conference because of how friendly everyone was, ragrdaless or whether they were readers, entry-level writers, or big names. Apparently sci-fi conference aren't like that. That's a shame, because I agree with you: they should be a blast.

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