The question came up on Twitter today: Are cons worth the time and money?
Opinionated though I am, it’s not an easy question to answer. So here’s a quickie list of the pros and cons garnered from a scarce four years of con-going experience:
1) Networking. I’ve met lifelong friends through Cons. I’ve also made excellent business contacts, both in the writing business and otherwise. I’ve met a lot of really excellent people.
2) Fun. If it’s a good con, and you find your groove we’re talking Disnelyand-or-better level fun, not going-to-the-movies-because-you’re-bored level fun.
3) Vacation. This is different from fun. You can have fun at home. But a vacation is a break from reality, and Cons are definitely a place where many of the normal rules of reality don’t apply (but politeness rules do still apply: don’t be an asshole). It’s good to shake up your picture of the world from time to time, and a good con will do that.
4) Education. A well-run con will have programming in which you’ll learn new skills, get exposed to new ideas, and walk away with a slightly swelled brain. From the learning, not the cocaine.
5) Writing time. I’ve finished two novels and written several short pieces at cons.
6) Sex. If you’re looking for it, you can find it.
1) Expensive. Anywhere from $200 to $1000 for the weekend, depending on travel, hotel, food, and how creative you are with budgeting and buddying up. That doesn’t even get in to what you can spend in the dealer’s room.
2) Culture shock. If you haven’t been to one before, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see or hear things that offend you. Your boundaries are going to get stretched too. No matter how laid back you are, someone’s gonna push your boundaries. This is more interpersonal shock than culture shock, but if you don’t enjoy personal stretching, this could be a minor negative.
3) Con Crud. You’ll get sick–cons are petri dishes. Plan a couple days for recovery. Also, you know that thing called “sleep?” You won’t get any.
4) Sex. If you’re not looking for it, it can still find you. And follow you around. And not take anything but “you’re creeping me out, go away” for an answer.
5) Bad cons. Some cons just suck. They’ve been run by the same people for too long. They’re afraid of being edgy. They’re insular. For whatever reason, they’ve lost their spark. When this happens, it’s *depressing* as well as a waste of time and money. It’s hard to know when you’re going to run into one of these, but you’ll run into ’em.
6) Con fatigue. If you love cons, you’ll go through parts of your life when all the wonderful things about cons just aren’t enough to be worth the bother. Maybe you’re a writer at a point in your career where the panels are too elementary but you’re not ready for high-level networking. Maybe you’re transitioning from fan to pro. Maybe there’s a cultural divergence, and you just don’t fit at your local con. Maybe you’ve had a death in the family and, this year, the whole thing seems stupid. Or, maybe you’ve just gotten all you can out of the con experience and it’s time to call it quits for a few years, or forever.
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Those are the things to weigh. A great con can literally be life-changing, just by virtue of the people you meet. A bad con is just annoying and will make you feel surly and stupid. Most are somewhere in between.
Anyone have comments or opinions on cons? Chime in in the comments!