Updated: Feb 27, 2022
Last weekend, I attended #connooga in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It was a multi-fandom gathering where I was a vendor for At Fault, the first in the Fault Lines Series, a five-book science fiction saga. Once I decided to just be myself, which you can read about in Part 1 of my Conning The Con blog series, I realized this crazy space could be fun!
Here I am with a costumed friend and with Juanita Grohman of Uber Drakes games - enjoying the moment every time!!!
Remember fun? It's that thing we do, not in front of a screen locked away in our homes, but with other human beings!
No one can deny that these last two years have been horrible for humanity. In addition to the losses of life around the world nearing 6 million - that's almost a holocaust - this season has also been damaging to the humans who have survived it. We've had to shut one another out for the health of one another. And while the measures have helped our public physical health, the scar these protections have left on our collective mental and spiritual health is notable.
We are meant for connection.
I have a confession to make. I play a game. And believe me, this really is a confession. Nobody assumes looking at a middle(ish)-aged professional woman that she would waste time with such things. I love playing all sorts of games, but there's one game that I play, by myself, on a phone, with no interaction, and-- admittedly--sometimes in front of another screen of whatever show happens to be on in the background that I also likely don't care about! My little game is to the mind what anesthesia is to the body: NUMBING.
Y'all that there is a snapshot of my Forge of Empires, Industrial Age village with a Viking Settlement in the distance. Forge Of Empires - The game's forums and info sites are called, "FOE," as in, "the enemy!" It doesn't even hide itself! It is the enemy of connection and interaction and emotion - the things that are the very makings of humanity.
I have two stories for you!
1 - I used to teach programs all around the country with my books. One of the questions I would ask the students at the beginning of my presentation was, "What is your favorite memory? Don't tell me. Just put it in your head." I would give them a couple of minutes and then take answers from people around the room, allowing students to share their greatest memories. I don't know how many events I did over the years. Maybe a couple hundred give or take. And I don't know how many students I was in front of (Kindergarten through Adult). Thousands easily; I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say over 10,000. Not once. Not one time that I asked that question (which was almost always with a new group) did I ever have a single person tell me that their greatest memory was of them alone with a screen.
2 - I taught math (I share your surprise) for a year in Maryland. The classroom I was in was an interior room with no windows. During some rough weather, we had a power outage and I had to take my group of middle school students to the cafeteria to wait out the outage. Now, my classroom wasn't an 80's afterschool special every day, but I did have a desk thrown across my room once. One of my students threw another student through a wall in a hallway. I spoke to more than one 13-year-old girl about her fear that she was pregnant. And I had more than one student who had lost a sibling to violence or drugs. While it may be hard for some to understand, this excursion to the cafeteria in a building with no power posed real challenges. When we got to the room, I had no idea what to do with them! I asked if anyone had a library book and a young lady provided me a Mike Lupica sports story. I don't even remember what the book was by title, but it was about baseball. I didn't make a show of it, but I just sat at the front of the group and started to read from page 1 of the story. It was less than five minutes before the 29 students had gathered around, hanging silently on every written word, hungry for the simplicity of story-sharing with their fellow classmates. The story was a tool to connect us all.
I say it again:
We are meant for connection.
Well, Con Nooga 2022 pulled me out of my hermit shell of the last two years. It was people, like real, live, moving, not freezing, not buffering, three-dimensional PEOPLE, gathered together! Far more than I could ever experience in front of the FOE, I witnessed and participated in PLAY all rooted in stories!
A batman ran around the room carrying a cartoon bomb! There were shouts going back and forth in the large hall. I never did make out the words, but somebody would yell from one side while another answered the call from a different part of the massive room. They were strangers connecting over a fandom they shared together. One visiting fan was abruptly swept away when his friends had him arrested by a fully-armored transport trooper.
The "Real Mik," as I came to call him, visited and allowed me to gush over the fact that I was meeting a "Mik" at the end of my first day. (He actually spelled it "Mic," but allowed me the coincidence, nonetheless!) He later brought over Kate - a real Kate and just as lovely as could be! Mik and Kate, in At Fault, are the Captain and Executive Officer of the Cityship Tatsu IV. I was positively giggly over the good omen!
An excerpt from At Fault and me with @AdventureMic_ and @K_Thompson87 (Instagram Handles).
And then, there were the costumes. The lengths these fans went to in order to participate in play were extraordinary. Many didn't even speak for fear of breaking their illusions. Some sweat the day away in full armor. One young lady walked through on stilts while another manipulated a fully operational, massive, mechanical dragon suit.
Just a few snaps of those who visited in costume.
An earlier version of this blog did not include these great photos of the HAND-BUILT Dinosaur described above. This beauty is a family project with kids and parents joining to build and operate this awesome creature. Thank you, fourracc00ns (Instagram), for reaching out and sharing your amazing art!
I'm so glad I got to come out and play with everybody at the con! It was an affirming reminder that stories connect and that those connections are best shared in person and with other people! It is for that reason that I am asking all of you to participate in my 4.14.22 campaign.
Those who have been following as #thefaultlinesareforming know that the book releases on April 14th, 2022. I have a goal of moving 10,000 of this book in its first quarter, but I need your help to do that! I'm asking you, therefore, to do 4 things and, by the 14th of April, spend $22 to help grow this fandom as big as the many enjoyed at Con events around the country and world! I can only ask for your help and I'm asking now:
1 - TELL A FRIEND! A real friend. Text, call, email, or--even better--tell them in person . . . because don't you want to be able to share in person as you both dig into the story together?
2 - POST ABOUT IT! I'll make this simple, you can just share the link to the book trailer on any one of your social media platforms. I had to watch it myself about 1200 times over the course of Con Nooga! Here's the link and the trailer!
3 - GROW AMAZON'S TRAFFIC! Visit the book's product page on Amazon and add it to your wish list! You'll help increase the clicks on the book and also increase its ranking on various Amazon bestseller lists! (I would love for you to review it, too, but you won't be able to do that until it ships on April 14th!)
4 - BY THE 14TH OF APRIL, BUY THE BOOK, FOR $22 (4.14.22)! At Fault is already available for preorders and we are working to have this new human saga in the hands of as many people seeking connection, interaction, and emotion as possible. Isn't that you? Get the book by visiting AtFaultBook.com or finding it directly on Amazon with the link here:
Let's Share Stories.
Let's Be Human Again!
Be Gloriously Human,