Okay, as I write this, I have to admit that I haven’t had the adventure yet.
For the first time in years and years, I am at a convention. It’s a fan convention; a convention that celebrates the power of the nerd and the power of storytelling. It’s NerdCon: Stories, and it’s taking place at the Minneapolis Convention Center, about two miles from my front door. (Seriously, I can step out my front door, take a left and walk right to the Convention Center’s main gates.)
This is the inaugural year for NerdCon: Stories, the brainchild of Hank Green, half of YouTube’s popular VlogBrothers (the other half being his brother John Green, author of such critically acclaimed young adult novels as The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns), and co-creator (again with his brother John) of VidCon, the world’s premiere online video conference/convention which has been hosted annually since 2010. Assisting Hank with the creation of NerdCon: Stories is Patrick Rothfuss, author of literary genre favorites The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear (the first two installments of The Kingkiller Chronicles).
From the moment we could speak, we’ve been telling each other stories. And since then, our stories have defined and created us. Every human society that wants to behave different first has to change the stories they tell. They story was – and remains – the key to the marvel of human progress. Stories in songs, in books, on the stage, around the campfire. Stories drove the evolution of human language and fostered the massive burst of creation that accompanied it.
NerdCon: Stories isn’t just about written stories, and doesn’t limit itself to authors as featured guests. It also has musicians who tell stories, podcasters who tell stories, actors who tell stories, even a puppeteer! There will be no readings (although there will be signings), but there will be panels, with titles such as “Telling the Truth”, “Hearing is Believing: Stories You Consume with Your Ears”, “Tropes, Misinformation, and Stereotypes: How to Identify & Avoid When Writing Outside Your Experience”, and “Honing Your Craft – Embettering Your Word-Doing”. People involved with the popular podcasts “Welcome to Night Vale” and “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” will be there. On the mainstage there will be bouts of spontaneous storytelling by the featured guests, discussions on what storytelling means to featured guests, poetry, music, slapstick, and other random (and not so random) acts of hilarity. There will be open mic sessions, where attendees can share their own stories. (I don’t believe there will be officially sanctioned campfires, though.)
But if I must be honest – and why not, this is my Gimbling! – I’m going for the authors. Featured guests at NerdCon: Stories include writers that I have admired for years, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever be able to meet any of them. Of course, Hank and John Green will both be there, and Patrick Rothfuss (full disclosure – I’ve met him twice already), but also Mary Robinette Kowal (author of Shades of Milk and Honey and the other volumes in The Glamourist Histories, and the upcoming, newly announced Ghost Talkers), Lev Grossman (senior writer and book critic for TIME magazine and author of The Magicians trilogy, soon to be a television series on the Syfy Network), Paolo Bacigalupi (author of the extraordinary The Windup Girl, and other ethics-driven novels such as The Doubt Factory and the recent The Water Knife, among others), John Scalzi (social media agitator pie-loving wizard and author of the Old Man’s War series of books, as well as the novels Redshirts and Lock In, to name a few), and – oh, be still my heart – Jacqueline Carey, author of my favorite epic fantasy book of all time, Kushiel’s Dart, and all the books set in Terre d’Ange that came after, and the Sundering duology that had me rethinking good and evil, the wonderfully conceived urban fantasies such as Santa Olivia, and so many more….
At NerdCom: Stories these and other incredibly talented authors (Rainbow Rowell, Holly Black, Jacqueline Woodson, Nalo Hopkinson …) will be hosting panels and speaking on panels, participating in spontaneous storytelling, sharing what stories mean to them, and participating in signing sessions. If I can witness even a fraction of these things with only a few of these people (Matt de la Peña, Maggie Stiefvater, Téa Obreht ….), I will consider myself a very, very lucky nerd indeed.
Humans are Narrativores. We live on stories. What’s more, we need healthy stories so we can thrive as individuals and mature as a society.
So what if I may very well be the oldest attendee there? So what if I will feel like a klutz as I fumble with my new tablet in order to snap a few (probably blurry and uncentered) photos of the goings on, and perhaps – dare I say it – a selfie or two with a personal hero (if I don’t chicken out)? Who cares that the conference will be thick with glorious Nerd Fighters (the fandom surrounding Hank and John Green), of whom I haven’t had much interaction with since my daughter shifted her focus to comic books and cosplaying? (I still believe wholeheartedly in DFTBA*, though). What difference does it make that I’ll be attending stag, and will need to get back to house and home each night after the festivities are over, like Cinderella fleeing after the ball? And honestly, who cares if it will probably take me three days to recover from a two day conference? I’m damned lucky that Hank Green and Patrick Rothfuss chose to have the first NerdCom: Stories in my hometown, so I could actually afford to attend. It was an incredible stroke of luck that not too much else was going on this weekend with my family, so my absence will barely cause a blip on the radar at the home front. I’m incredibly excited about what might happen but also am completely confident that I will be satiated with what will happen. And regardless of what happens, I’m going to completely, utterly, and unabashedly enjoy myself.
So I’ll catch you on the flipside, good buddy, because this won’t be the last you’ll hear from me about my time at NerdCom: Stories. But for now, at least for a few days, this is Sharon Browning, intrepid adventurer, signing off.
* DFTBA = Don’t Forget to Be Awesome, the rallying cry of Nerd Fighters everywhere