Balticon 42 Reflections (Part 1: What are those kids doing here?)

So, over Memorial Day weekend the wife and I brought the kids to the annual convention of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society better known simply as Balticon.

This is our third year in attendance. Science Fiction literature, Science, Fantasy, original fiction and even music. Each year has been more enjoyable and fulfilling than the last. This is a weekend that we look forward to all year. All of us. Even the kids. Especially the kids. Yes, my 16 year old son and 14 year old daughter are really the driving force for this outing.

For many of the panels, mine were the only kids in sight. Not the only kids at the convention, of course. Plenty of young people gaming and in cosplay. Not many (any) in the Science Panels and just as rare in the the Podcasting panels where we spend much of our time.

Over the last few years genre podcasting has become something of a virtual Greenwich Village. It is a place for risk taking, edgy creation and the free sharing of ideas and talent. The community developing around this new market is particularly tight-knit and supportive of each other, finding “cons” like Balticon and Dragon*Con rare opportunities for in-person socializing and collaboration.

My son and daughter were 14 and 12, respectively, the first time we went to Balticon. Being more outgoing, my son found the game room and made friends. My daughter clung pretty close to my wife and I. We’re the introverted ones. Really more like spectators than participants. It was a pretty big deal for us to muster the courage to say “hello” and gush a bit on a favorite author (Tee Morris) and Podcaster/Essayist (Mur Lafferty).

Last year, we were a bit better and had actual conversations with very cool people like Steve Eley, Matt Selznick, J.C. Hutchins, Michael Mennenga and Evo Terra.

When this year rolled around we consciously committed to be more like my son and step out of our shells. We spend countless hours over the course of the year listening to these people read their stories, talk about their lives and keep us informed on the latest in geekdom. It was such a waste not to engage with them in person when the chance presented itself.

It wasn’t easy. Getting out of your comfort zone never is. Then again, it is where the biggest rewards are.

This is going very long, so I want to wrap up. The point of all this talky-talk is to thank the wonderful group of podcasters who treated us so well, AFTER providing us with countless hours of entertainment. I think the following fragment of an email I sent to Soccergirl after bringing my 14 year old daughter to her very ‘R’ rated show, helps to explain:

"I'm a conservative person by nature. OK, maybe I should say introverted,
not conservative. My kids, however, really are not and I think that is a
gift. I've always told them that "just putting it out there" reaps far
greater rewards than playing it safe. Even if it is very difficult for
me to demonstrate that personally.

So, there you go. It was kind of like Steve Austin upping somebody's
clearance. The kids are in a new ball park now. Whether they choose to
take risks in the same way you did, or just carry with them how exciting
it was to see someone be emotionally brave, they're probably better off
for the experience."

I could have written very similar sentiments to George Hrab, Mur, Tee and many others who have inspired and enriched us.

I found this particular post very difficult to write, not emotionally or anything like that. I just had a lot to say and I didn’t know how to structure it. Oh, well, there it is.

— Icepick

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