This past weekend, I was the editorial guest of honor at Capclave 12, a literary science fiction convention held in the Washington D.C. area. Capclave is an old-school con—no masquerade and little hallway cosplay, no film or anime tracks, but tons of talk about books books books stories and authors and editors. So I fit right in!
Capclave is relatively small—a few hundred attendees—but is very professional, and the con attracts significant guests. Next year’s guest of honor, for example, is George R. R. Martin, who needs no introduction. There were also important guests this year: Michael Dirda of the Washington Post—the rare “mainstream” book reviewer who loves SF and writes about it frequently—appeared for example. The dealers room was quite nice—independent presses and bookstores were represented, as were gaming stores, and jewelry and apparel operations. And every attendee got a goodie bag with a free book and magazine of some sort, plus coupons to local shops. (Most smaller cons don’t do a goodie bag, so it was a pleasant surprise.)
Capclave is also a good convention to attend for anyone who aspires to be a writer, as editors and major writers appear, and there are panels oriented around writing and publishing, workshops, and plenty of time to make friends, or even, *gulp* to network. One advantage I had as guest of honor is that nobody tried to pitch me their manuscript. The only way I’m buying anyone’s novel is if they move to Japan, learn Japanese, publish in that country, and get famous over there, after all. I pity other editors who might make an appearance though!
Capclave also features parties every night, and the con is convenient to Washington D.C. tourist attractions and a decent little strip mall with a number of fast casual restaurants if one tires of hotel fare. It’s definitely worth attending, and perhaps even flying out for.
I had a great time hanging around with the author guest of honor John Scalzi (an early supporter of All You Need Is Kill and horror author Brian Keene (a lover of Otsuichi’s ZOO), and other writers as well. I gave a writing workshop on idea generation to a fully packed house, gave a solo panel about Haikasoru, where I gave away copies of Belka, Why Don’t You Bark? My sister even attended the convention, because, as she said, she “wanted to see people being nice to you.” She also brought cookies.
And treated nicely I was! In fact, here’s the ultimate symbol of honor, a handmade glass ornament made especially for me. Check it out:
As you can see, it’s Cthulhu from the stories of H.P. Lovecraft (I’m a Lovecraftian!) seeking enlightenment under the cherry blossoms, with a bottle of sake. Or perhaps it’s spinal fluid. John Scalzi received a similar gift based around some of the themes of his novels.
So definitely check out some old-school SF conventions if you have any in your area! They can definitely be as fun as an anime or manga convention, even if you’re not the guest of honor. (Though I also recommend working your way up to guest of honordom if you can.)