I’m back from Ad Astra! It was, like last year, exhausting and great.
I branched out this year in the number and type of panels that I did. Last year I felt that I was dipping my toe into the water, and stuck to safe topics – what is it like to be a writer, who are my favourite villains. This year I was a little more adventurous. I signed up to be on the Identity and Diversity panel as well as Mental Health in Fandom, even though I was scared they’d be a little too intense for me. Turns out that the panels with lively discussion on an important and meaningful topic are actually my favourites! Who’d have thought? I definitely want to do more of this in the future, now.
I also was super pleased and surprised to see how many people on the different panels WANTED to hear about autism. When it was relevant (and on 3 of the 5 panels, it was) I mentioned in my introduction that I write a blog about representations of autism in science fiction, but almost in a sort of apologetic way, like I didn’t want to go on about that the whole panel if people were interested in other things. Instead, people were interested! Really interested! Like 50% of the Big Bang Theory panel and 50% of the Mental Health panel turned into people wanting to talk about autism, which was amazing. And then I realized that I shouldn’t have been surprised. This is fandom, after all. I’ve heard it referred to as “the world’s largest Asperger Syndrome support group”. My special power is not that I have it, but that I talk about it and have been talking about it for a while now, and doing the research so I can talk about it even more and in more detail.
I also ended up recommending Meda Kahn and Luna Lindsey (among others) to people on the Identity and Diversity panel and they actually wrote it down. So this satisfies my life goal of continuing to promote Meda Kahn everywhere.
(To do for next year: Prepare longer list of people to recommend. At EVERY panel.)
Unfortunately I didn’t manage to branch out very much in my other con habits. I’m still trying to figure out how to do conventions as anything other than “do the panels and readings that I was assigned, go to maybe 1 or 2 other things and wander around a little, but mostly just hide in my room between assigned things recharging from the sensory overload”. Figuring out how to balance my neurological needs with my desire to participate more fully, and how to socially approach people in general, is still a work in progress.
Related to that – Amal El-Mohtar, Michael Matheson, James Bambury, Charlotte Ashley, and others! HI! I saw you around (except for Charlotte who I thought I was going to see at a panel and then didn’t) and went, “There’s that person! I should say hi to them!” and then didn’t. But I think you are great! Maybe I will see you and go “There’s that person!” again next year! That would be excellent.
This sort of thing is really great, I think. Definitely worth the travel and the con crud. I think I need to do it even more than I am doing.