With DragonCon coming up this weekend--which I have not attended in about four or five years, despite it being only about a hour away from where I live--it's got me thinking about the world of science-fiction conventions and the role of "fantasy" and "fiction" in our lives.
I used to go to sci-fi conventions more often. The Sci-fi Summer Con I promoted my book at last June was probably the first con I've attended since aforementioned 4-5 years ago. DragonCon, from my memory, is overwhelming--it is spread out between 4 adjacent hotels in Atlanta. It was a toss up between whether I would do an author panel at this one, or try to get a booth for the Decatur Book Festival since it is also this weekend. But I did Decatur last year, to lackluster results, although it's a great book fest if you can ever get out to it. Also, since DragonCon is a hub for filmmakers and movie people too, it's a networking opportunity for my husband as well.
Plus, it's free to do the DragonCon author panel, besides the cost of attending the con for a day. It's over $500 to get a booth at the Decatur Book Festival. So, minimal budget wins.
But DragonCon get me thinking about how the impact of fantasy on our lives. When people go to these cons, it is like stepping onto a whole other planet, or alternate reality. People tend to forget themselves, which is the point, probably...they transform into this other element, whether it's the characters they dress up as, or getting star-struck by the invited celebrity guests, or immersing themselves in the role-playing games.
On the one hand, it's a whole level of fun you don't normally get. It's like Halloween arrived early, only with more expensive but exotic loot. You can be someone else for a day, and unlike online RPG games, you actually interact with people face to face. It's a bizarre line between anonymity and identity, as it's really you instead of a pixelated version of you, but you can put whatever name you want on your attendee badge and explore this realm of fanatics without giving away who you really are.
On the other hand, it also makes it a little scary. I've seen some people become so enthralled with their fictional personas, so enamored with the temporary escape that these sorts of cons offer, that they can become desperate to keep the fantasy going. It starts to become a substitute for real life, because yes, real life sucks sometimes (or a lot, depending on what you're going through). But when you wake up in the morning, it's reality you wake up to, not the fantasy. For people who can't find the proper balance, it can become self-destructive. You hope people going to these cons can make the distinction between reality and fantasy, but you never know.
I guess I point this out because my writing in the fantasy genre ties into it, a little bit. Books are a temporary escape from real life as well, although I hope in the process the readers learn something from what they read. At least no one can go trolling the characters in a book.
So here's hoping to a good weekend, a short reprieve from reality into the jungles of fantasy, and maybe we'll all walk away with a little more knowledge and some fun memories.