Just back from Dragon*Con late last night and as usual the day after a big con, I’m sleep deprived, elated and let down all at the same time. Sleep deprivation is obvious, of course – who sleeps at a con before it becomes an absolute necessity? You might miss something! Elated because of the fabulous people met and wonderful contacts made. Our booth included incredible authors like David B. Coe/D.B. Jackson, Faith Hunter, Kalayna Price, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Diana Peterfreund, C.L. Wilson, Jennifer St. Giles, Deidre Knight, John Hartness, James Tuck, Elaine Isaak, and Tracy Akers. Many, many books sold out, including THIEFTAKER by D.B. Jackson and the first novel (and sometimes others) in about every series. I wished I’d brought more BAD BLOOD! I know I wasn’t the only one kicking myself for being conservative. Let down because now I have to get back to real life. Although there’s certainly something to be said for being back at home sleeping in my own bed. No superheroes or Fembots from Austin Powers wander through my living room, but I’ll just pretend my dog is a wookie and make do.

But none of this is in the spirit of the Magical Words articles, so let me do a short piece on con etiquette. Before I begin, it must be noted that overwhelmingly people are sensible about this (especially our wonderful MW readers), but perhaps you can gently point others in the right direction if you know anyone to whom this applies.

First, bathe. No, seriously. I know how much there is to see and do. It’s tempting to skip right over personal hygiene, so I’m here to tell you: THIS IS NOT OPTIONAL. This has been a public service announcement.

Second, while your creativity and workmanship should certainly be on display in your costuming (I’m a special sucker for the obscure or the surprising, like zombie-hunter Beaker), your body should not necessarily BE the costume. For example, a bumper sticker across your boobs does not a costume make. Not in my book, anyway. Your mileage may vary. I’d like to be able to bring my son. He’d love Dragon*Con. I don’t necessarily want to introduce him to the Playboy channel. Y’know?

Third, if you’re going to panels (and that’s a wonderful thing, particularly for aspiring writers), please note a few things:

-When you raise your hand to ask a question or make an observation, plan out what you’re going to say and don’t ramble on into an essay. I say this not to be cruel, but kind. Other people have questions as well and are there to hear what the panelists have to say. The more time you spend framing your question or ranting your favorite rant, the less time there is for everyone else to get their questions asked and answered. (Note: panelists are not exempt from this and should do their best to be succinct so that other panelist can have their say and as many questions as possible can be answered for the audience.)

-Do not shout out a follow-up question, but give someone else a chance and raise your hand again so that if everyone gets one chance, you can then have another.

-Do not ask questions that are really queries and for which the response would apply only to your work. For instance, “I have a fantasy featuring a fanged, pointy eared, green alien creature with cat-like tendencies in a polyandrous culture solving mysteries, curing the common cold and making a mean mimosa. Can I send it to you?” The answer, “Well, I’ll take the mimosa.” Anyway, you get the point. Panels are not the time and place for querying, though you can certainly approach the pros afterward for their cards. Once you’ve got those, feel free to query via their guidelines and mention that you met them at X-Con and enjoyed what they had to say on panel YZ.

-Likewise, author signings are not the time to tell the writer about your book, but a great chance to convey how much you’ve enjoyed theirs. However, if, you’re going to ask a couple of quick, concise questions, it’s courtesy to buy a book and support them as they’re supporting you.

-Unless an author, agent or editor is doing the peepee dance (yes, I said it), there’s almost never a bad time to tell someone how much you appreciated something they wrote or said on a panel. We like hearing that what we’ve said has mattered to someone.

Again, overwhelmingly people were amazing and the exceptions were few and far between, but they certainly stood out, and not in the best possible way.


14 comments to Con-etiquette

  • sagablessed

    One would assume these things are understood. However, common-sense…isn’t. Sorry you had to suffer the vices of fools.

  • It was wonderful seeing you, Lucienne, as always. As I said during the weekend, I love the fact that you’re writing (and enjoying so much success in your writing career) because it gives us the chance to hang out with Writer-Lucienne. Agent-Lucienne is terrific, and we love her, but it’s great fun to hang with Writer-Lucienne, too, ‘cuz she’s a hoot.

    And yes, by Monday morning, the elevators were becoming, let us say, fragrant . . . .

  • Oh, one from my own repertoire of been-there, shouldn’t-have-done-that: avoid onions like the plague…unless you’ve got superhuman mouthwash or don’t plan to be up close and personal with anyone for a goodly amount of time. Not really a possibility and closely-packed cons.

  • OakandAsh

    Wow, can I second the motion on the bumper sticker quasi-costume.

  • Lucienne, it was wonderful hanging out with you at D*C.
    I adore Lucienne-the-writer just as much as L-the-Agent.
    This was a great post! And … really? They query you on PANEL? Arrrg. (rolls eyes)

    I was luckey this year (well, maybe not, but anyway) because I had the remnants of the Cold From Hell and could smell almost nothing. Go me. Of course that includes my own self the night the waiter dumped salad dressing all over me. Many hours later, I found a piece of goat cheeze in my bra. I am guessing *I* was aromatic….

    But it was a wonderful con! Hugs to all the MWers who were there!

  • Lucienne, it was great to get to hang out and laugh with you at con!

    We went to the steampunk ball Sunday night, and I was so glad I took my fan with me, not just because it was hot from all the dancing but also because there was a man wandering the dance floor who clearly hadn’t showered since con began. I could ‘sense’ him approaching from six feet away, and every time he passed by, I’d get my fan going to try and clear the air. Peeeww!

  • I’m so sorry I missed the steampunk ball. I adore the costumes!

  • ajp88

    This post speaks the truth. For about 6 years, I traveled to major video game tournaments. The amount of smelly guys who focused entirely on competing and not at all on hygiene or the partying scene, was astounding. Once, driving 5 hours to Chicago, I discovered that one of the guys in my carpool was one such fool. He brought a change of pants to the tournament, and that was all. By the second day, everyone in our hotel room began spraying the air with fragrance whenever he moved positions. Two days later, on the drive back, I thought about dumping his body on the side of 94.

    Bathing at a convention, whatever the focus, is a must.

  • Vyton


    Thanks for this informative post. Good advice for any meeting. Do you think that some of those folks who projected their presence may have seen no need to change the habits of a lifetime just for a con?
    Congratulations on everyone’s successful Dragon*Con.

  • Yeah, you’d think the first one would be self-ex (sorry, my term for self explanatory), but I’ve been to many fantasy/sci-fi/gamer cons and I think, as has been mentioned on here before, a person could make a mint selling personal hygiene bags to con-goers. There’s been days when I’ve sworn that game rooms were actually gym locker rooms in disguise… O_O

    I’m a nervous person by nature when meeting people, so much so that I carry a deodorant stick with me in my bag when I’m running games. Never let ’em see you sweat…or smell you for that matter. 😉

  • Vyton, I think in some cases it’s that. In others it’s nerves or the urge to draw attention without the knack for doing it right. It can be a tough thing. (And really, it was only one panel at Dragon*Con where this came up, and it was late, so that might have been a factor, though it’s happened at other cons as well.)

  • Lucienne, next year you should come with us to the ball. It was super-fun! There was a guy dressed as a drunken duke in a mixture of bright sherbet colors, and he kept leading anyone he could catch in these weird conga lines. I just loved him.

  • Wayne McCalla

    Sounds like everyone had a good time even with the occasional etiquette problems
    And for me, being a fan and not an author or anything even approaching one, I go to panels to hear the panelist speak, not the 2-3 minute buildup to your question that was already covered five minutes into the panel…

    Been to plenty of cons and have had people in the audience during numerous panels throughout a weekend, that by day 2, you cringe anytime they open their mouth to ask a question…

    Will definitely be there next year…

  • […] Hartness, James Tuck, Elaine Isaak, and Tracy Akers.  I also wrote a post over at Magical Words on Con-etiquette, partially inspired by the con.  Here are some snapshots for your viewing pleasure. […]