by Joe Wallace
I am a book nerd, it is true. I do have quite a background of sci-fi nerdiness too, so it was only logical that I’d attend Chicon 7 and cover it from a writer/producers/freelancer perspective. I didn’t go to the show thinking I’d find a ton of material for freelancers who specialize in non-fiction writing, but surprisingly enough, I did uncover quite a few resources and seminars non-fiction writers can get useful takeaways from.
Chicon/Worldcon, for those of you who aren’t familiar, is a science fiction convention that is held in a different major city every year. From Helsinki to San Antonio, there are cities the world over vying to host this show that features some of the legends of science fiction. This year’s luminaries included Ben Bova, George R.R. Martin (most recently famous for Game of Thrones now that it’s hit a cable audience) and Joe Haldeman. Neil Gaiman was there to accept a Hugo award for his work on Doctor Who, so you get the idea of how large this convention gets…
I discovered plenty of seminars and panel discussions aimed at working writers, artists, and other creatives; some of the most enlightening sessions covered raising money on Kickstarter, e-publishing, and social media. For a convention that would seem to appeal more to a consumer of books rather than a writer of them, this show offered plenty for the pro or would-be pros in our midst.
If you have never attended a genre-specific convention such as Worldcon (science fiction), HorrorHound Weekend (horror, naturally) or a related program, you might just be missing out on some interesting perspective on the craft and networking opportunities.
I attended Worldcon (AKA Chicon 7) looking for things to write about for Freelance-Zone.com but soon discovered some interesting opportunities as a filmmaker and script writer seeing as how there was an ongoing film festival featuring some high-concept sci-fi material, new projects by up-and-coming hopefuls, and Chicago indie filmmakers trying to make their mark on the scene. There was a whole lot of writing and filming talk going on–very inspirational.
So it was a show full of surprises. Yes, the standard sci-fi convention features were all there including people in costume, raucous after-con parties, and a dealer’s room crammed full of t-shirts and books. But there were plenty of hidden treasures to discover too–freelancers should give serious thought to finding a convention to attend and getting some new angles on their work they might not have thought of before.
Conventions are great networking tools for obvious business reasons, but they also get you out and about among people you wouldn’t otherwise meet–that’s the value of these events for me; the chance to look at what I do in a different way, through different filters, and thinking of new angles for future development.