How to enjoy a SciFi con?
August 31, 2006 12:04 AM   Subscribe

Of SciFi con behavior and solo female travelling...

So I'm off to my first SciFi con in a few days - it's a relatively small con with 2/300 [that's hundred]attendants, but at a really swank hotel [4 star] and with guests you'd actually recognize. The con is a 4 hour trainride each way for me and I'll be staying at the con hotel for the 3-day duration. I'll also be travelling alone and will know no one there.

Now, this is a two-parter: I know the golden rule of any con is shower, shower, shower - that isn't a problem. I also know to follow basic social ettiquete and not, you know, embarrass myself. I was wondering if any MeFites could share gems of wisdom about cons/etc. that'd really help me maximize my enjoyment there?

Also, being a 20-something female travelling alone for the first time, I'd also be interested in any tips on keeping myself un-murdered etc. for the three days in a strange city [even if I don't plan on leaving the hotel the whole trip - did I mention 4 star means 4 star facilities too?]. I've asked for my room to be closest to the elevator/reception desk and the hotel [or so they say] have obliged. I neither drink nor do drugs, so plan to have full reign of my senses. If you have any travel tips for someone in my situation, I'd really appreciate it.

So I'd like to know what makes a con for you, how to enjoy it to the full and not be known as the "werid" one.
posted by Chorus to Society & Culture (37 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Expect to be hit on a lot.

As to being "the weird one", don't sweat it. They're all weird ones!
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:09 AM on August 31, 2006


My aim at cons is to be known as the "weird" one, which is pretty hard considering how weird we all are.

Expect attention - I'm not being stereotypical, you're just a single female - it's the norm.

I can't think of any extra special precautions that would be any different to when you're alone anywhere. Obviously, lock your door, make sure your valuables are in a safe place, and soak up the experience!
posted by liquorice at 12:24 AM on August 31, 2006


Having some friends of people you know ahead of time to meet up with for things like meals helps. OTOH, maybe that's just a comfort zone that tends to prevent me meeting the friends I don't know yet? :)
posted by -harlequin- at 12:26 AM on August 31, 2006


Teresa Nielsen Hayden of Tor has re-posted some semi-random bits of advice for writers attending their first SF convention that may be helpful for you. There are some good comments on that post, too.

My favorite bit of that advice applies pretty well to life in general. Even in a smallish con, if you tend to be introverted, it's easy to get overloaded. Thus:
Another sign of trouble is that you suddenly realize that all your friends hate you, you're having an awful time, you've made a fool of yourself in every conversation you've been in so far, and you should never have come to the convention. This is definitely a sign that you should go back to your room and take a nap. When you wake up, things will be better.
posted by sculpin at 12:35 AM on August 31, 2006 [1 favorite]


The absolutely key things (from my limited experience):
- remember to eat and drink
- take a break when you feel overloaded. Unless you really want to spend 3 days indoors, going out into the city is often a good way to do this. Don't forget to take off your badge.
- if you aren't naturally outgoing and you want to meet people, volunteer as a gopher/tech crew/whatever.
posted by crocomancer at 12:52 AM on August 31, 2006


crocomaner's advice about volunteering is a good idea, as long as you can make it plain that you want to volunteer in a way that means you don't get to miss the big things going on at the con.

remember, a 4* hotel will (should) have good staff - so ask the concierge for good and safe places to go in the city, interesting attractions and the like. if this is your first time out in the big wide world on your own, then i'd definitely recommend taking a quiet con morning or afternoon and exploring a bit. Travelling alone can be quite liberating.
posted by humuhumu at 1:55 AM on August 31, 2006


You're at a SciFi con. Whatever happens, you are going to meet people weirder and with less social skills than yourself. Just take it easy, see cool stuff, meet people, and yes, expect to get hit on.

Make up a boyfriend if you don't have one, and work him into conversations :)

Have fun!
posted by tomble at 2:48 AM on August 31, 2006


i was going to post the link from making light, but sculpin beat me to it. pretty much covers everything. and, yeah, volunteer.

have fun. cons are fun!
posted by sdn at 4:33 AM on August 31, 2006


Never been to a SciFi Con but words of wisdom from an early 21st Century philosopher come to mind:

"You have the pick of all these men that don't know how to please you."

Have fun!
posted by ASM at 4:33 AM on August 31, 2006


/derail: "shower, shower, shower"?
posted by bonaldi at 4:56 AM on August 31, 2006


Triumph The Insult Dog Canine Philosopher Versus The Star Wars Nerds, a battle of epic proportions.

Or something like that.
posted by willmize at 5:01 AM on August 31, 2006


Follow all the rules a single female should always follow. Be careful about ending up alone with a strange guy in an isolated place, for example. He may be dressed as a cute, fuzzy, lovable character from your favorite episode, but he's still a desperately lonely boy with online-only social skills.

And be careful not to be taken advantage of in other ways, too. Don't be left running the booth while everyone else is watching the coolest presentation at the show.

But the most important rule is: if a group of you go out together, don't be the one wearing the red shirt.
posted by pracowity at 5:02 AM on August 31, 2006 [1 favorite]


Sleep 5 hours a day, eat two meals a day. Minimum. If you start to feel overwhelmed, go back to your room. Go outside for half an hour, even if it's only to sit in the courtyard of the hotel.

Don't worry about being 'the weird one'. There will always be someone weirder than you at a con.

You will get hit on. (Hell, I get hit on, and I'm over 40, married, and usually have at least one of my kids with me at the con.)
posted by jlkr at 5:03 AM on August 31, 2006


I must say, this whole "You *will* be hit on" is a surprise. I'm not naieve enough to think that there won't be gentlemen there to make eyes at, but it seems most answers contain: you *will* get hit on. Which is kinda worrying.

Now I know it's because the M:F ratio at these things will be 10:1 or something... but really? Getting hit on that much?

I'll keep quiet about that brief stint as an E3 booth babe then...



[Yes, that was a joke]
posted by Chorus at 5:11 AM on August 31, 2006


Carry Mace. Yes, that was a joke too.
posted by SpecialK at 6:11 AM on August 31, 2006


I went to a tech school and the ladies there had a mantra: 'The odds are good but the goods are odd.'

Best of luck.
posted by waxbanks at 6:14 AM on August 31, 2006 [2 favorites]


The showering comment relates to the phenomenon of "con funk" I believe (obsessive convention goers that don't pay attention to their hygene).
posted by cowbellemoo at 6:19 AM on August 31, 2006


Dork Tower had a couple of sequences which were relevant. On hygiene (5 successive strips) and on weirdness (six strips).

There will always be someone weirder than you, either a cosplayer, or a furry, or a gamer, or a SMOF, or someone. (I was a gamer; my fannish friends put up with me.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:28 AM on August 31, 2006


Bring an absorbing book with you - I find that when I feel overwhelmed or just wanting to get away, I can sit and read for a while and be transported away mentally. It's really refreshing.

I'm not sure if you're planning to wear a costume. I haven't been hit on too much in plainclothes, but wearing an attention-getting costume was exhausting and not something I want to repeat.

About not being the "weird one" :) - the most important thing I can think of is to make sure that you keep your conversations participatory for everyone involved. I've been in a lot of frustrating sci-fi fan conversations where the other person goes off on a huge monologue and I'm left standing there fidgeting and waiting like half an hour to speak. Ask questions and encourage the other person to talk too - it makes for engaging and memorable chats.
posted by cadge at 6:31 AM on August 31, 2006


I've learned that hot chicks in chainmail bikinis tend to get more attention than they bargain for (true story). So if you're not comfortable with that, don't wear it.

I'm a guy, so I have a different read of the situation, but my impression is that the people at an SF con are probably safer to be around than the average person off the street.
posted by adamrice at 6:58 AM on August 31, 2006


If a certain big name author and anthologist is going to be there, you really should take some mace. See here.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 6:58 AM on August 31, 2006


I notice you have no location data in your profile, but assuming you are going to a city in North America or Europe, you aren't going to end up mudered unless you are one of the most unlucky people ever. Don't follow strange people down dark alleys and watch your drink. You'll be fine.
posted by dame at 7:17 AM on August 31, 2006


You'll be fine. I've traveled alone a lot as a 20-something female, and I've never been raped, murdered, beat, robbed or anything else. Most of us aren't.

You may get hit on, but it's not like you'll be surrounded by a circle of hundreds of men jousting (or telling anime jokes or whatever) and you won't be able to escape. You'll be OK on that front, too.

Don't worry. You've already taken all the precautions you need.

Have a great time.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:22 AM on August 31, 2006


If a certain big name author and anthologist is going to be there, you really should take some mace.

Wow. My first thought when I read the question was to say "Just stay away from Harlan and you'll be fine," but I quashed it, thinking "You haven't actually seen him in action since 1968. We were all a lot younger then, and those were crazy times." But lo, he's still a dick! Stay away from Harlan!

And you will be fine; conventions are apparently as much fun as they were back in the Stone Age when I was attending them (and a member of LASFS).
posted by languagehat at 7:32 AM on August 31, 2006


If this is the kind of con I am assuming it is (with the books and the authors) bring a box to mail all your clothes home in. This will save space for precious merch and freebies to enjoy on your ride home.

As for safety.. con nerds are easier to deflect than paper arrows. You'll probably meet a lot of nice people. If you don't drink you have basically nothing to worry about.
posted by shownomercy at 8:07 AM on August 31, 2006


Sorry, didn't mean to scare you with the 'you will get hit on' comment. You will, but it's usually in a very relaxed fashion. I've never had a problem with the flirting going farther than either one of us is comfortable with. There are guys who go to cons to have wild monkey sex with whoever they can, but most guys are willing to stop. And if not, you can almost always walk away. (FWIW, I have no concerns about letting my 14yo daughter loose at a con during the day. I keep a closer eye on her after dinner, but she still rambles.)

Which con are you going to? Somebody here will probably know someone who's going.

(I will say that it's a good idea to stay away from HE and ESR if you can.... )
posted by jlkr at 8:08 AM on August 31, 2006


Second all the advice about not remaining in the hotel complex. Get some fresh air. Feel grass beneath feet.

You're under no obligation to absorb the energy of hundreds of overexcited shut-ins under the same roof.
No matter how weird it is in there, being outside occasionally will help keep it in perpsective.

Think of yourself as acting out the end of Logan's Run or THX 1138.
posted by Phred182 at 8:11 AM on August 31, 2006


it seems most answers contain: you *will* get hit on

You are probably used to getting hit on and know how to handle it. What the answers should say is that you will get hit on utterly ineptly. And that may be a very different experience. However, most of the guys there are too unsure of themselves to push it if you make it clear you're not interested. In fact there will probably be a fair number of guys there who will gaze at you longingly from across the room but not actually hit on you because they're simply terrified of you. If you want to have a little fun, go up and talk to one of them; they are generally not dangerous and you'll probably make the con for them, if they don't choke on their own tongue first.

As for Ellison, a friend of mine (female) was actually scheduled to sit next to the man at a signing at Worldcon, but he didn't show. After she saw what happened later at the Hugos, she felt she had dodged a bullet.
posted by kindall at 8:19 AM on August 31, 2006


These are such great answers and assurances everybody, really yawl've helped calm me a lot [and okay, made me laugh too!]
posted by Chorus at 8:38 AM on August 31, 2006


Uh oh, I killed it...
posted by Chorus at 9:50 AM on August 31, 2006


SF Con Survival Kit for Neo-fans

Have fun.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:06 AM on August 31, 2006


When I was a young female attending conventions, I used to get hit on a fair bit. (I blame it on some of my female warrior-type costumes in those days...) I ended up having to devise a handy way to "detangle" myself, as I was way to polite to tell some of the more socially-challenged male fan-boys to get lost.

a) either I would obviously keep referring to my watch and then would mention that I have a panel that I have to catch. Alternatively, setting my digital watch alarm to go off every so often would also give me a handy reason to excuse myself

b) I used to have friends who would recognized when I was besieged by potential "puppy-dogs" and would come up to me and cautiously remind me of some panel I wanted to attend. If I was genuinely enjoying myself, I would mention that I had changed my mind; if not, then I would thank them for the reminder and then excuse myself.

c) wearing a ring and referring to one's partner/mate/boyfriend/etc, can also ward off some of the more pushy advances.

Other tips:

Don't give out any detailed personal contact information; if you truly want to keep in contact with a fan you've met, give them a disposable email address, such as Gmail or Hotmail, instead of your address or phone number.

Be sure to eat well; many con hotels often have a great breakfast buffet which can go a long way to keeping you energized for most of the day. Remember to keep some small portable snacks with you for when you are stuck in some of the line-ups such as for autographs, etc. A muffin/granola bar and a bottle of water or juice can end up really being a life-saver at times.

Good luck and have lots of fun!

~ Jade Dragon
posted by Jade Dragon at 10:59 AM on August 31, 2006 [2 favorites]


Generic con advice: Watch your badge. Depending on the con, it may be anywhere from a huge pain to very expensive to downright impossible to replace. If it's one of those pin-on badges, tie it to something, those pins are useless.

Try to bone up a bit on the layout of the area immediately surrounding the con. Is there public transportation nearby? A park? If the hotel is posh and near the 'downtown' there will be much to see nearby. I second the concierge, they know everything and get paid to know what you're thinking before you think it.

Generic safety advice, know where you are and who is with you at all times. Its easy to get distracted and confused in any unfamiliar environment, just keep your wits about you and take your time. You'll never see it all, don't try. Better to enjoy where you are then miss out on something because you're thinking about what panel you have to rush to next.
posted by Skorgu at 11:29 AM on August 31, 2006


While the safety advice here is all practical and I recommend it, I feel I've got to stress:

Cons aren't especially dangerous places, certainly not any moreso than any other instance of being away from home and among strangers. Disentangling yourself from a conversation with someone socially awkward is the worst thing likely to happen to you.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 11:51 AM on August 31, 2006


I've never been that deep into fandom, but my feeling of the cons I've been to is that they try (and generally succeed) to be safe places, for the people who are looking for it. People want to make sure that 14-year-old who hitchhiked in from the next state is OK, after all, or else they won't come back to help run the con next year.

As liquorice alludes, an SF con is one of those places where being the weird one isn't exactly a handicap, and you're unlikely to be that weird compared to people who have been honing their weirdness in various ways for decades. I wouldn't worry too much: concentrate on having a good time; make sure you get enough sleep, water, and food; don't lose your return ticket.

[On preview, after gaving gone to bed to wait for mefi to come back to life, what everyone else said.]
posted by hattifattener at 12:08 PM on August 31, 2006


The official activities are fun but to fully experience a con, go to the room parties. drinking is not required.
posted by bleary at 6:39 PM on August 31, 2006


You're a twentysomething female planning to do a lot of showering at a scifi con?

My advice would be LockTheDoor, LockTheDoor, LockTheDoor ...
posted by WCityMike at 7:20 PM on August 31, 2006 [1 favorite]


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