Cons are not, obviously, my natural environment. Raised mostly without a television. Don't read fiction (much-- a few special requests from close friends). Not particularly interested in dressing up in costumes and my life is interesting enough that pretending to be a dead guy (vampire or zombie) really wouldn't be an upgrade.
But my lovely wife writes and serves on the group that sets up our local convention, Orycon. So I go and, by dint of being published and knowing a little about things that often make their way into fiction (violence and bad guys) I wind up on panels. It's also fun because I get to see friends (Steve and Kai post here sometimes; Bart is always a treat and a few others...) and meet people.
Secretly, I enjoy being the grumpy guy who doesn't read fiction. Perspective.
I have friends here, but I never feel like I fit in. Very much an outsider. That changed a little this time, and that was a big insight: For the last couple of years, Bart and I have been having fun, talking about shared experiences-- two outsiders. This year, Bart brought a special friend and I found a critical mass effect. Two of us are two outsiders... three of us and I started to feel like a separate group. Started looking at the 'others' a little harder, a little less sympathetically. I am far more polite as an outsider on my own than as a member of an outgroup... Good to know, good to feel.
The 'put into words' award: Sometimes you find the line between person and monster when you cross the line. That never makes it right, but crossing the line once is recoverable.
Experimented with a way to teach and explore violence, letting groups of people imagine/create societies to solve problems...and in the process they discovered ritual murder and raiding; war cultures and war for cultures where that is not natural; brainstormed ways to deal with those who become good at war; and decided how to deal with those who broke the social rules...mostly without losing the person as a resource.
Had a very powerful cognitive dissonance at one point: There is a panel about writing across identity lines. Authors are often nervous about writing different cultures, races, genders and classes. They are afraid of getting it wrong, whether wrong is defined as stereotyping or unrealistic details. The people on the panel were good, sincere and experienced. I think I was on the panel as someone who had spent time blending and coexisting with other cultures.
The moderator cautioned newbie writers to actually talk to people of the group they wanted to describe, "If you don't, you are working from things you have only read, which might be second or third hand from other people who have only read about the problem."
Hit me at two levels, the first is that I think this is what has happened in most fiction with fight scenes and crime and motivations and a dozen other things. Very few writers have ever sat down with a bookie in Little Italy...almost all have seen The Godfather, and other movies derived from The Godfather.
The second is that almost every reference mentioned by the panelists was (with only one exception I remember), fiction. Hmmm.
Good time, met some good people. Some time with good old friends. Lunch with Steve Perry. Dinner with Mike Shepherd Moscoe. Kai, Mark, Sonia, Bart, Nisi and some new friends. A few people seen in passing: Mary Rosenblum, Leah, CS Cole...