It was the best of cons. It was the worst of cons. We were all in Heaven. We were all in Hell. We were volunteers at the Phoenix Comic Con over the 2011 Memorial Day weekend. At least, that was the experience of this volunteer moderator this weekend.
The best aspect of moderating, in my opinion, is getting to hear someone talk about their passions. They aren’t always what you think they are. And it certainly isn’t always what their panel or session is supposed to be about!
For instance, not all zombie creators are passionate about zombies. Max Brooks certainly is, but Dean Lorey is more excited about his more recent creative endeavors. And some authors resist using the zombie label all together. But more on that later….
Audience participation helps, even when it changes the topic from what was planned. I’m not sure what Horror Metrics was intended to be about. Heck, the panelists, Yvonne Navarro and Jeff Mariotte, weren’t sure either it was the “husband on a stick’s” idea and he was in Romania. We, and that includes the audience winged it, and had a great discussion about writing about what scares you. Unfortunately, I never did get to ask whether either of them wrote at night.
A similar situation occurred with the Mixing Paranormal with Other Genres panel. The interesting point there was that none of the authors really set out genre-bending books. In fact, Kris Neri, Gini Koch, Allyson James and Jordan Summers, didn’t always set out to write books in the primary genres they were classified in. They just wrote the stories they wanted to tell and the publisher assigned the labels. Labels that sometimes made no sense. On the other hand, sometimes the seeming mislabels can be a blessing in costume because readers of some genres, like romance, will cross aisles to find authors they like while others (horror, sci-fi) tend to be more reluctant to do so, especially if it means wandering into the romance section.
Most of the panels and guests dealt with fiction. Writing it. Drawing it. Being it.
One panel, Heather Hoffman and ARMS (Arizona Research and Mediumship Society), actually explores the reality and metaphysics of hauntings and other paranormal activities rather than dealing with fiction. One of the key lessons from that session was that there really are some wackos out in the desert and they are potentially dangerous. Ghost hunting is not the same as treasure hunting or the Lost Dutchman’s Mine would have been found long ago.
Being a volunteer at the Phoenix Comic Con is a fascinating way to experience the event.
You may not get to do everything you want to do. I missed my photo-op with Bruce Boxleitner because they were always when I had panels. As disappointing as that was, the trade-off was having to dig in and learn about topics that I ordinarily wouldn’t have explored, like zombies.
Being a volunteer is also exhausting. Yes, the shifts are only supposed to be 4 hours long. The truth is that Volunteer badge puts you, not exactly in the spotlight but onstage all the time. People talk to you. They seek you out with questions. They expect you to be knowledgable and cheerful. So you try to be. From the moment the doors open in the morning to the moment they close at night. It give a whole new meaning to the term “long weekend”.
Is it worth it?
Absolutely. No one experiences a con quite like a volunteer.