Over the weekend of April 5th – April 7th, I was the publisher guest of honor at the annual Conglomeration media convention held in Louisville, Kentucky. I had a great time, of course. Who wouldn’t enjoy being toted around on a sedan chair by a group of like-minded geeks? My senior editor, Janet Harriett, accompanied me, and the con staff treated her like a bonus guest of honor. I wasn’t about to share my sedan chair, however. Sorry, Janet.

I had a third member of the Apex family with me at Conglomeration — Rachel Khosrowshahi. This was Rachel’s first convention. She’s long been a fan of science fiction literature (she’s more a fan of any good writing and doesn’t care what genre label it wears), but until she came across Apex Publications and shared lunch with me, she was not aware that genre fan conventions were a thing.

Naturally, when she admitted this, I took the opportunity to brag immediately about being a guest of honor at an upcoming event and invited her along. She said “yes” and I said “cool” and I resumed my bragging. Rachel is a very patient person.

We get to Louisville, check in at the hotel, and make the walk to registration. People are smiling and waving at us — some I know, most I don’t. The registration folks were gracious and sweet and did a nice job of making Rachel feel welcomed after I told them she was a “con virgin.”

And Rachel’s first impression after going through registration and walking around with me for a few minutes? “Wow, everybody is so nice!”

And you know what? She’s right.

Later that day, she attended her first panel… a mess of a thing with mismatched panelists held at 9PM on a Friday (veteran con attendees know this as “panel purgatory”). Six people sat in the audience. Five people sat on the panel (Full disclosure: I was one of the panelists). Afterward, Rachel was amazed that a room full of people sat together in a hotel meeting room on a Friday night to discuss publishing trends in a semi–intelligent manner. Naturally, after having done dozens and dozens of panels in my career, I felt this one had been a bust. But Rachel pointed out that some smart points had been raised and that smart civil discourse had happened, so it wasn’t all bad.

And you know what? She’s right.

I know Rachel’s experience with the people and panels of Conglomeration is colored by honeymooner glasses. The first hit is always the best. But, I also know that Rachel’s experience and enthusiasm is something that many of us need to remember, because most of us felt that way at one point. I see too much hand wringing, bellyaching, and discontent within fandom conventions and on the Internet.

Rachel made me realize that we have a great thing going: these conventions. People are nice. And these weekend social gatherings are a rare opportunity to meet people emotionally and intellectually invested in the same type of things that you care about.

Having one shot at life sucks, so it is imperative that you have fun during your singular mortal flyby.

Jason Sizemore
Publisher/Editor
Apex Magazine

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