It is funny how technology that allows us to sit in our dark caves, hermitages and hiding places rather than venture forth into the "real world" can actually enable us to become even more connected. Not just in terms of how many people we have on our friends lists, how many Tweets we follow or how many are following us, or the number of entries we have in our address book or phone book - but real, face-to-face, in-your-face connectedness. Some have complained that e-mail, chats, blogs and the like have made people feel "invincible" online, and that has prompted a loss of inhibition in terms of what people are willing to say and how they are willing to say it online. While on the one hand that can indeed be very negative if someone chooses to solely spout bile, hate and childish epithets, it can also be extremely positive as an enabler for open expression of ideas, emotions and opinions. It is this quality of "openess" that I think is so incredibly powerful, that makes it possible to connect with others who are likeminded, or are so insanely creative that it creates an atmosphere of mutual admiration and respect.
So, what prompted this post, you may ask? As always on teh intrawebz there can be a bit of a cascade effect from a single event. First I receive an e-mail from the LiveJournal mothership informing me that yogcmarthoth has added me as a friend. As is common for me to do when I receive such transmissions, I go to check out yogcmarthoth to see who has added me to their list (even though I could guess from the name that it might be Cmar, aka DocOperon), and I am greeted with "Cmarkham Horror", which as it turns out is not Cmar's blog per se, but something... else? So I head over to Saint Nickanuck of the Tundra Online Memorial Hospital, which is Cmar's blog, which I proceed to read since I am there and curious about the man who I know thus far strictly from his Tweets.
It is then that I come across a link to some recommended reading about Balticon 41. Now I'm interested in anyone's opinion about our little convention, so I head on over to read Matthew Wayne Selznick's Balticon 41 post-mortem. Go ahead and read it. The rest of this post will still be here when you get back.
No real commentary on the convention itself, see? But the important thing here is that Matt Selznick captures the essence of why people go to cons, and why those of us who are foolish enough to be sucked into becoming a SMOF. If you have spent any time on the SMOFs mailing list, you will see that "community" is one of those things that is important to many of the convention runners on that list... they don't want people to just come to the conventions, they want people to come to the conventions and join the "family"... of course, there are many other human dynamics involved in this than I am going to go into here, but entry into La Famiglia isn't necessarily all that easy. But I digress... the point is that if it weren't for the fact that there is something akin to what Matt Selznick talks about in his post, but between those of us who run these cons, there would be no point. It's a grind, a pain in the ass, and a complete time suck... but somehow the connection that goes beyond camaraderie can energize you even when your ass is seriously dragging.
I've watched alot of Tweets go by from podcasters that I know were at Balticon 41 but I sadly did not get to meet, many of which refer to "missing my tribe" in the aftermath of Dragon*Con. I did not truly appreciate the feeling behind those short messages until reading Matt Selznick's post, and from my own experience as a SMOF I have some inkling of what the "tribe" feels towards its members. Hopefully I'll get to meet more of them at Balticon 42, and let them know in person that I for one am glad that they came.