My son's been to three science fiction conventions, and he is seven months old. What's strange to me is that a few months from now we'll be in London, and probably not attending many cons. Cons have been a part of my life for the past nine years, ever since I graduated from Clarion West and went to my first WorldCon in Philadelphia (the Millenium PhilCon). That was where I met the other members of my writers group, Critical Mass, and where Nalo Hopkinson sneaked us into the Hugo Losers Party (the hardest party to crash at a WorldCon).
Cons are where I got the chance to reconnect with my Clarion West classmates and instructors and meet other writers and aspiring writers. Over time, there was a regular group of us who'd share hotel rooms and go to events together.
This last con I went to was MileHiCon, in Denver, and the experience really has changed over the years. Seven and eight years ago, I'd drive up to the con with Daniel Abraham and share a room with him, Carrie Vaughn, Mike Bateman, and whomever else didn't have a place at the last minute. (Piling as many people as will fit into a room is a long-time con tradition. It allows cash strapped writers to save money.) We'd choose one evening to go to the Tattered Cover Bookstore and then head back to the room for a readers' circle, which was an event that we'd sort of come up with spontaneously. We'd all cram into the hotel room and each of us would read a piece, either a story that had been published (or not) or a fragment of a novel. For once, we didn't offer critiques, only applause. That readers circle included, over the years, me, Daniel, Mike, Carrie, James Van Pelt, Brian Hiebert, Aynjel Kaye, Karen and Barry Fishler, and countless others I can't remember because the readings would go into the wee hours of the morning.
This year was different. The past few years I've paired the con trip with doctors' appointments for Trevor and stayed with friends rather than at the con hotel. Daniel's not always come (though he was there this year). Mike Bateman did not attend because he has a newborn and the swine flu's circulating in Colorado. Brian Hiebert had a stroke over the summer - a big shock to all of us. It was caused by a congenital deformity in the arteries to his brain. He hadn't recovered enough to be there. Karen and Barry, who live in the Pacific Northwest, did not travel out to attend. Aynjel Kaye has fallen off everyone's radar (come back to us, Aynjel! I'll never forget your reading of "Sisters and Sirens"). Carrie is now a big name - she still spends time with us because she's cool like that, but she's got an ever growing fan base and her own late night program every year. Jim Van Pelt attends with his family. The readers' circle is history, and has been for several years.
I attended with my mother, who helped watch my son. That was a lot of fun, showing her the con-culture, and she was an enormous help. On Saturday night after a day at the con, we drove back to Boulder, handed my son off to Trevor, and returned to spend time with Connie Willis in the bar and see Carrie's program.
Obviously, times change. What's bittersweet for me is that for the next three years, I won't see how times continue to change. Not that I regret our decision to move to the UK. That'll be its own adventure. But leaving the American southwest means leaving these friends and colleagues, for a few years at least. They all know they've got a place to stay if they're doing research on Britain for a novel, though. ;-)