Confluence 2015 Recap

Last weekend, I attended Confluence, “Pittsburgh’s Premier SF/F/H Literary Conference,” organized by Parsec, Inc , a collective of fantastic writers, readers, and fans in the Three Rivers area.

Running since the mid-to-late 20th Century, Confluence distinguishes itself by being one of the few literary conventions in the Midwest—and perhaps the only one offering an annual speculative-fiction-themed musical spoof. Past performances include Dune: The Soft Rock Opera and 20,000 Leagues of Music, leading up to this year’s Super Smash Opera.

Confluence offers many components I’ve found typical of Midwest SF conventions: filk concerts, an art show/silent auction and dealer’s room, video room, book readings and signings, a great con suite, and lots of panel discussions on topics of interest to readers, writers, and—I discovered this time—gamers. As with other conventions, Confluence hosts writing workshops for those with pen and paper or laptop with them, but they also do something else unique (or at least better advertised): Kaffeeklatches and literary beers, which are informal times for attendees to have small-group discussions with panelists—including ones as notable as Tamora Pierce.

Overall, Confluence is one of my top three conventions, though I have to admit I’m biased. It has a special place in my heart as my home con, the first one I attended at the end of the Alpha Writing Workshop for Teens (also organized by Parsec). Unfortunately, the workshop no longer feeds into the convention for various reasons that I hope will eventually get resolved.

The first cardinal rule of conventions is the 5-2-1 rule: 5 hours of sleep, 2 actual meals (outside of the con suite), and 1 shower per day of the convention.

The second cardinal rule is probably DBAD. Most conventions list their policies, now including explicit anti-harassment policies, in their program book. They’re worth reading and following.
But the third cardinal rule is this: A convention is what you make of it.

It’s just as easy to have a mediocre time at a con as it is to have a blast. It’s best to spend your time doing things that you know you like, things that will stretch you as a person, and things that fulfill your purpose in attending the convention. Toward that end, I had a great time checking off my Confluence to-do list:
1. Spend time with old and new friends
2. Buy J. L. Gribble’s Steel Victory
3. Watch Super Smash Opera
4. Learn stuff in panels

It was a complete success. Besides getting into a discussion of the creepiest Doctor Who episodes just before being abandoned in my hotel room, I bought way too many books, caught both the play and Mikey Mason’s concert, and attended panels and readings all three days.

Panels of interest included discussions on diversity in fiction in “Not Just Anglos” and “Disability in SF,” a genre bending Kaffeeklatsch, “Does Fantasy Need to Acknowledge Physics,” as well as “7 Things An SF/Fantasy Novel Always Includes.” Throughout the next few weeks (assuming my blog works as I think it does), I’ll discuss more of my thoughts on some of the panels.

In the meantime, I’ll close with a plug for Steel Victory, which was an excellent read over the past few days. As I told Twitter, “Oh, great, now I have another author on my must-read-everything-they-publish list.” At least it’s someone as sweet as J.L. Gribble. She let me in on her plans for the next couple books, and I look forward to buying them at Confluence over the next few years.

Overall, it was another great Confluence. I’m hoping to be a panelist there next year; they’ve got writers, editors, astronomers, and solar cell experts, but no wind tunnel engineers yet as far as I know. Time to be the first.

And past time to get a plane ticket for DragonCon…

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