Ad Astra was the first SF convention I’ve attended, but only the first of many to come. It could have started better—the first person I met at the hotel was well-known anthologist John Robert Colombo, only to learn that neither of two stories I’d submitted for Tesseracts 14 had made the cut! I also met his co-editor Brett Alexander Savory later, but the rest of the weekend had more than compensated for the initial blow to my ego.
An SF convention can be a little strange at times (or maybe I just have to get in touch with my inner Klingon), but whether you’re a fan or a writer of SF—and writers are among the biggest fans—it’s a great way to learn about the genre and learn about the craft. I got a kick out of panel sessions like “Putting the Science in Science Fiction” (how much technical info do you really need?) and “Genre Crossing” (the perils and pluses of a romance novel in an SF setting, or an SF mystery). I also got practical knowledge from “How To Get An Agent” and “An Editor’s Dream”. But the biggest draw is being able to meet the best authors in the biz. I’ve met and interviewed Robert J. Sawyer a number of times, and Canada’s most successful SF writer is just as great a guy as you hope he’ll be. I also had a chance to snag a few minutes with Peter Watts, James Alan Gardner, Karl Schroeder, David Nickle, Douglas Smith, Adrienne Kress, Ian Donald Keeling, and Dan Falk. You really don’t get opportunities like that anywhere but a convention, and the registration fee is dirt cheap. So if you’re a convention novice like I was, Google the dates of the next con anywhere near you and take that step. You’ll be hooked.