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I Met a Young Child Beside a Dead Pony

Back from World Fantasy, and my ears are still ringing from the CZP party. Loud music? No, just several dozen writers, passionate about their work, packed cheek-to-jowl, just trying to be heard over the din. It was moved to the Vice-Presidential Suite of the hotel, but like highway expansion, the traffic always grows to fill the space. Lovely to see familiar faces and to meet some more of the very talented bunch that have accreted around that new cultural nexus in the north.

I've never been to World Fantasy. I had to cancel my trip in '10 because of Andria's and my injuries. As it was, Sandy nearly put the kiebosh on this one as well.

Now, let me just say that I have a VERY hard time at conventions. I feel totally inadequate to talk about anything, since everyone is an expert on genre around me (or at least by comparison), and being a basement-mole-person, I have a natural flight or fight response just by being in an enclosed space with so many strangers who are also giving off all the F or F body queues. But it's so much worse in North America....

Hm... that deserves explanation, because it's already sounding like one of my anti-american diatribes, but here: If you're reading this, you're probably a nerdy kid to begin with, so I'll dispense with all the backstory there. But let me use an analogy which I've unfortunately lost the source of, but have embellished somewhat:

I assert that there are four tables in the archetypical American/Canadian high school: A is where the kids who are popular go, and often they aren't even aware they are popular. They have a sort of easy privilege. Table B is where the kids who want to be popular go. They are always trying to either suck up to the A table kids or insult the B, C, or D table kids. They often end up in middle management, and are generally the section of society that makes life unpleasant for everyone else. D table is where you go when you have serious gaps in your ability to take part in the culture, because you don't speak the langauge, or have developmental problems, or you are abused out of being able to have normal social interactions. Which leaves my table, the C table.

In C table, you are vaguely generally of a social game going on, but you don't really want to participate, and you try to check the "other" box where ever possible. Generally, you are interested in your art or other people's art, strange and beautiful facts, or more likely and unfortunately for the rest of humanity, Monty Python. You are bewildered by B table taunts and bullying, and are often taken advantage of by A table people who want you to do things like their homework, their team organization, or their genetalia. And you often comply, thinking "this is fun".

This is the North American/Dominant Culture Model, and the more you think about it, the more you see that it is holographic and can be applied to any sufficiently large body of people in the world at large. (Please do not attempt to draw parallels to Hogwarts' houses. They do not scan.) They even apply to a group like a convention of C table people. You have the old guard and bestselling at A table, the self-published and angry-to-be-in-midlist crowd in B table, the damaged and socially inept in D table, and, again, the baffled nerds in C table. Where I belong, yet again.

But when I lived in Islamabad, I went to a North American school for three months. It was trying to be something like Rydell High, and you had all the trappings of the four tables. Our yearbook, where all the pictures came from the earliest part of the year shows a typical American school with all the baggage above. Then something happened and 7/8 of all the Americans left, and the school that was left behind no longer had four tables, but maybe 12, or sometimes 2, but usually everyone sat in the grass.

Now, it's five years since my mother died on Halloween, and I haven't taken my annual assessment. I've discovered a lot about myself in the past year, and I've learned my place in the genre fiction world. I have chosen C table, but the difference between High School and the Genre Community is that I chose, it wasn't imposed on me. But I also know this is the North American genre culture, and that there is much world out there that is not like it.

But while here, I feel much less a need to mingle with the other tables anymore. Especially since I got some very strong feelings of distance from B table this time around. Which was always there, but I didn't know it for what it was. But somewhere, on Thursday, it clicked: it's the American culture, which begins in the High School, which I never entirely felt part of.

As for the rest of the assessment, I've got the novella I owed my dad published, and my own high school story published. But I've given the other side of my family's short shrift, and I think it's time to write some of the stories my mother would have wanted to read. But I'm going to concentrate on writing, not mingling this year, or learning like the year before.

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
asakiyume
Nov. 5th, 2012 09:58 am (UTC)
I hope I'll get to read some of what you write.
barry_king
Nov. 5th, 2012 01:57 pm (UTC)
Of course, I would love to be able to bounce text back and forth. I'm just not likely to go on walkabout as much.
rose_lemberg
Nov. 5th, 2012 10:22 am (UTC)
My cons so far have been more about trying to survive pain, and hang out with beloved friends whom I have not seen in way too long. Next year's Readercon is going to be similar, I think.

In your metaphorical breakdown, where do you put people like me? I don't think I fall under the bewildered nerd category, nor am I angry and/or self-published, nor am I bestselling or old guard.
barry_king
Nov. 5th, 2012 01:58 pm (UTC)
I'm of the old-school persuasion that metaphors cease to be useful when they become inapplicable.
peadarog
Nov. 5th, 2012 10:56 am (UTC)
A nice analogy. I wonder if even the A table people at a geek Con would identify themselves as Cs or Ds?
barry_king
Nov. 5th, 2012 02:00 pm (UTC)
I suspect so. It's all context, isn't it? One of the most touching moments of the Con was Ann Vandemeer's acceptance speech, where she looked back on all the writers of the weird she researched. How many were on D table and died broken, penniless, friendless, or some combination thereof. Verklempt, I was.
peadarog
Nov. 5th, 2012 02:02 pm (UTC)
Sounds like a great speech.
barry_king
Nov. 5th, 2012 02:06 pm (UTC)
It was. Other speeches, paraphrased:

Gary Wolfe: (paraphrased, sadly. He's succinct, but my memory isn't), wrapping up the intros and segueing onto the subject of speeches: "And nobody wants to hear them, so I won't.

Lavie Tidhar: "Thank you. I'm uncomfortable being up here, so thank you."
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )