In my impressionable, younger years, I got into something that a lot of teens have trouble with: anime. You know, Japanese animation? Comics and movies and other pop culture, too. I was into it. I loved it. I tried to teach myself the language and bought up piles of subtitled VHS tapes of cartoon shows from Suncoast Video (back when Suncoast Video was a thing).
When I was in college, I discovered that tons of other people were passionate about this stuff, too, and gathered for conventions to celebrate the media that we loved. Like me, lots of these people also liked to sew and create costumes as well. Upon attending my first convention in 2000, a large Baltimore gathering called Otakon, I was hooked. There was something about the energy and enthusiasm of my fellow attendees that just made me feel like I was home.
Without fail, I attended a handful of these events up and down the east coast every year. Even as recently as last weekend, I stopped into a music and gaming festival with a heavy Japanese pop culture influence (this one was called MAGfest) and I even wore a costume that I’d sewn specifically for that event.
But I think I learned something this weekend, which I spent almost exclusively in the hotel lobby bar or at friends’ room parties: I just don’t go to anime and gaming conventions for the actual convention anymore. It turns out, I go for the friends who I see a few times a year, almost exclusively at events like this. These conventions seem to draw a younger, more energetic audience than my 31 year old, affected-by-chronic-pain-and-fatigue self. I bought a pass for this event but only attended a few minutes of one panel and about half of a documentary that sounded interesting (but really wasn’t).
Because of my mediocre health, I was barely able to walk around the convention floor and see the vendors selling crafts, games, and toys or the free play arcade of classic games, indie games, and music and rythym games. I spent most of my time either standing and leaning against a bar table and talking to friends or sitting down in a seat at the bar and talking to friends.
I’ve been learning what does work for me lately, however. I’ve been swapping out anime conventions for literary and genre book-focused conventions. These work both as fun events full of guests and friends who I enjoy seeing but also as conventions that contribute to my own professional development. I leave these events, having attended panels and lectures and workshops, with a huge boost in enthusiasm for my own projects as well as the writing of others.
It looks like the next event I’ll be attending will be RavenCon in Williamsburg, VA. It’s a convention that celebrates the genres of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. I’m looking forward to spending the weekend with friends, learning new skills, and coming away from the event with new ideas and enthusiasm. I hope I’ll see some of you there!